Full Text Obama Presidency April 28, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech White House Correspondents’ Dinner — Full of Roasts, Jabs & Jokes

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Obama, Kimmel have comedy faceoff at Correspondents’ Dinner

Source: USA Today, 4-28-12

By Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel, right, bragged about high-fiving President Obama during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday night.

President Obama got the first – and biggest laughs at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday night.

He poked fun at some of Hollywood’s top stars, including Kim Kardashian, the cast of Glee and Donald Trump, sending him up with a seemingly serious allusion to the attack on Osama bin Laden, which took place during last year’s dinner.

“My fellow Americans, we gather during a historic anniversary. Last year at this time, in fact on this very weekend, we finally delivered justice to one of the world’s most notorious individuals,” Obama told the audience of journalists and celebs before showing an unflattering photo of Trump on the big screens inside the ballroom of the Washington Hilton….READ MORE

The night LiLo and Kim met Barack and Michelle: Wise-cracking President hosts star-studded White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Comedian-in-chief: President Obama was in fine form Saturday night<br />  and delivered a comedy routine that left the audience in stitches Comedian-in-chief: President Obama was in fine form Saturday night and delivered a comedy routine that left the audience in stitches. No one was safe from mockery, including the shamed Secret Service and likely GOP adversary Mitt Romney.
Source: Daily Mail UK, 4-28-12

  • Journalists, politicians, government officials, and celebrities gathered for the 98th annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington last night
  • Event was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel who joked: ‘Remember when the country rallied around you in hope for a better tomorrow? That was a good one’
  • Late night host jabs president with statement: ‘There’s a term for guys like President Obama. Not two terms, but there is’
  • President Obama lampoons his own ‘hot mic’ incident, the GOP, Secret Service, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and even Hillary Clinton
  • He joked about Hillary: ‘She won’t stop drunk-texting me from Cartagena’
  • Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian were among crowds of A-list celebrities who were invited to dine with Washington’s elite, including Obama himself….READ MORE

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
Running the gamut: The president displayed a range of emotions during the course of the night

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Watch: President Obama at the 2012 White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Source: WH, 4-28-12

President Barack Obama attends the 2012 White House<br /> Correspondents' Dinner
President Barack Obama attends the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

On Saturday night, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attended the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, which was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. The annual event, which has been held since 1920, honors the work of the journalists who report on the Administration and the dinner raises money that is used to grant scholarships to journalism students. The dinner is one of Washington, DC’s most anticipated social events of the year, and the President’s speech, which pokes fun at himself and the coverage he has received from the reporters in attendance, is the evening’s highlight.

Remarks by the President at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner

Washington Hilton Hotel

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Good evening, everybody.  Good evening.  I could not be more thrilled to be here tonight — (laughter) — at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.  This is great crowd.  They’re already laughing.  It’s terrific.

Chuck Todd — love you, brother.  (Laughter.)  I’m delighted to see some of the cast members of Glee are here.  (Laughter.)  And Jimmy Kimmel, it’s an honor, man.  (Laughter.)  What’s so funny?

My fellow Americans, we gather during a historic anniversary.  Last year at this time — in fact, on this very weekend — we finally delivered justice to one of the world’s most notorious individuals.  (Applause.)  Now, this year, we gather in the midst of a heated election season.  And Axelrod tells me I should never miss a chance to reintroduce myself to the American people.  So tonight, this is how I’d like to begin:  My name is Barack Obama.  My mother was born in Kansas.  My father was born in Kenya.  And I was born, of course, in Hawaii.  (Laughter and applause.)

In 2009, I took office in the face of some enormous challenges.  Now, some have said I blame too many problems on my predecessor, but let’s not forget that’s a practice that was initiated by George W. Bush.  (Laughter.)  Since then, Congress and I have certainly had our differences; yet, I’ve tried to be civil, to not take any cheap shots.  And that’s why I want to especially thank all the members who took a break from their exhausting schedule of not passing any laws to be here tonight.  (Laughter.)  Let’s give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

Despite many obstacles, much has changed during my time in office.  Four years ago, I was locked in a brutal primary battle with Hillary Clinton.  Four years later, she won’t stop drunk-texting me from Cartagena.  (Laughter.)

Four years ago, I was a Washington outsider.  Four years later, I’m at this dinner.  Four years ago, I looked like this.  Today, I look like this.  (Laughter.)  And four years from now, I will look like this.  (Laughter and applause.)  That’s not even funny.  (Laughter.)

Anyway, it’s great to be here this evening in the vast, magnificent Hilton ballroom — or what Mitt Romney would call a little fixer-upper.  (Laughter and applause.)  I mean, look at this party.  We’ve got men in tuxes, women in gowns, fine wine, first-class entertainment.  I was just relieved to learn this was not a GSA conference.  (Laughter.)  Unbelievable.  Not even the mind reader knew what they were thinking.  (Laughter.)

Of course, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is known as the prom of Washington D.C. — a term coined by political reporters who clearly never had the chance to go to an actual prom.  (Laughter.)

Our chaperone for the evening is Jimmy Kimmel — (applause) — who is perfect for the job since most of tonight’s audience is in his key demographic — people who fall asleep during Nightline.  (Laughter.)  Jimmy got his start years ago on The Man Show.  In Washington, that’s what we call a congressional hearing on contraception.  (Laughter and applause.)

And plenty of journalists are here tonight.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t congratulate the Huffington Post on their Pulitzer Prize.  (Applause.)  You deserve it, Arianna.  There’s no one else out there linking to the kinds of hard-hitting journalism that HuffPo is linking to every single day.  (Laughter and applause.)  Give them a round of applause.  And you don’t pay them — it’s a great business model.  (Laughter.)

Even Sarah Palin is getting back into the game, guest hosting on The Today Show — which reminds me of an old saying:  What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?  A pit bull is delicious.  (Laughter and applause.)  A little soy sauce.  (Laughter.)

Now, I know at this point many of you are expecting me to go after my likely opponent, Newt Gingrich.  (Laughter.)  Newt, there’s still time, man.  (Laughter.)  But I’m not going to do that — I’m not going to attack any of the Republican candidates.  Take Mitt Romney — he and I actually have a lot in common.  We both think of our wives as our better halves, and polls show, to a alarmingly insulting extent, the American people agree.  (Laughter.)  We also both have degrees from Harvard; I have one, he has two.  What a snob.  (Laughter and applause.)

Of course, we’ve also had our differences.  Recently, his campaign criticized me for slow jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon.  In fact, I understand Governor Romney was so incensed he asked his staff if he could get some equal time on The Merv Griffin Show.  (Laughter.)  Still, I guess Governor Romney is feeling pretty good about things because he took a few hours off the other day to see The Hunger Games — some of you have seen it.  It’s a movie about people who court wealthy sponsors and then brutally savage each other until only one contestant is left standing.  I’m sure this was a really good change of pace for him.  (Laughter.)  I have not seen The Hunger Games; not enough class warfare for me.  (Laughter.)

Of course, I know everybody is predicting a nasty election, and thankfully, we’ve all agreed that families are off limits.  Dogs, however, are apparently fair game.  (Laughter.)  And while both campaigns have had some fun with this, the other day I saw a new ad from one of these outside groups that, frankly, I think crossed the line.  I know Governor Romney says he has no control over what his super PACs do, but can we show the ad real quick?  (Video is played.)  (Applause.)

That’s pretty rough — (laughter) — but I can take it, because my stepfather always told me, it’s a boy-eat-dog world out there.  (Laughter.)

Now, if I do win a second term as President, let me just say something to all the — (applause) — let me just say something to all my conspiracy-oriented friends on the right who think I’m planning to unleash some secret agenda:  You’re absolutely right.  (Laughter.)  So allow me to close with a quick preview of the secret agenda you can expect in a second Obama administration.

In my first term, I sang Al Green; in my second term, I’m going with Young Jeezy.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Michelle said, yeah.  (Laughter.)  I sing that to her sometimes.  (Laughter.)

In my first term, we ended the war in Iraq; in my second term, I will win the war on Christmas.  (Laughter.)  In my first term, we repealed the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” — (applause) — wait, though; in my second term, we will replace it with a policy known as, it’s raining men.  (Laughter.)  In my first term, we passed health care reform; in my second term, I guess I’ll pass it again.  (Applause.)

I do want to end tonight on a slightly more serious note — whoever takes the oath of office next January will face some great challenges, but he will also inherit traditions that make us greater than the challenges we face.  And one of those traditions is represented here tonight:  a free press that isn’t afraid to ask questions, to examine and to criticize.  And in service of that mission, all of you make sacrifices.

Tonight, we remember journalists such as Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin — (applause) — who made the ultimate sacrifice as they sought to shine a light on some of the most important stories of our time.  So whether you are a blogger or a broadcaster, whether you take on powerful interests here at home or put yourself in harm’s way overseas, I have the greatest respect and admiration for what you do.  I know sometimes you like to give me a hard time — and I certainly like to return the favor — (laughter) — but I never forget that our country depends on you.  You help protect our freedom, our democracy, and our way of life.

And just to set the record straight, I really do enjoy attending these dinners.  In fact, I had a lot more material prepared, but I have to get the Secret Service home in time for their new curfew.  (Laughter.)

Thank you very much, everybody.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END                          10:13 P.M. EDT

Obama and Kimmel’s best jokes from the Correspondents’ Dinner

Source: LAT, 4-28-12

Obama winks

President Obama winks as he tells a joke about his place of birth during the White House Correspondents’ Assn. Dinner in Washington. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images / April 28, 2012)

The 98th annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, held Saturday evening at the Washington Hilton, is intended to celebrate those journalists who inform the American public about important events and discussions in the nation’s capital. But the focus eventually ends up being the self-deprecating speech by the president and the subsequent address by a notable comedian. This year was no different, with President Obama and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel cracking wise about Republicans, Democrats, the media and more.

PHOTOS: Stars of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

For a write-up of the event, click here. But to cut to the chase — the best jokes of the evening — keep reading…

On Obama

“Remember when the country rallied around you in hope for a better tomorrow? That was a good one.” – Kimmel.

“What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? A pit bull is delicious.” – Obama.

“I have not seen ‘The Hunger Games.’ Not enough class warfare.” – Obama.

“This is how you know the country’s in bad shape. The president is starving. North Korea is sending him food aid.” – Kimmel on Obama’s weight.

“There’s a term for President Obama. Not two terms.” – Kimmel.

PHOTOS: Red carpet at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

On Romney

“We both have degrees from Harvard. I have one, he has two. What a snob.” – Obama, referring to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“It’s nice to be here in the nice, vast Hilton ballroom. Or as Mitt Romney would call it, a fixer-upper.” – Obama.

“He was so incensed that he asked if he could get some time on the Merv Griffin show.” – Obama on Romney’s response to his appearance with Jimmy Fallon.

On Republicans

“I guess it wasn’t Rick’s year. Rick’s year is 1954.” – Kimmel, referring to candidate Rick Santorum.

“It’s great to see the Gingriches here. I guess that means the check cleared.” – Kimmel on candidate Newt Gingrich and his wife.

“The reason he [House Speaker John Boehner] smokes so many cigarettes is because his tears keep putting them out.” – Kimmel.

On Democrats

“Uggie [the dog] is amazing. He can roll over on command. He’s a Democrat.” – Kimmel.

“We used to march. Now we Occupy.” – Kimmel on America’s weight problem.

“Three Hillaries? That sounds like President Clinton’s worst nightmare.” – Kimmel on Press Secretary Jay Carney knowing multiple Hilary Rosens.

“Four years ago I was locked in a primary battle with Hillary Clinton. Now she won’t stop drunk-texting me.” – Obama.

On the Media

“I’d like everyone to look under their seats. Under each you’ll find a copy of Keith Olbermann’s resume.” – Kimmel.

“What’s black and white and read all over? Nothing anymore.” – Kimmel.

“There’s no one linking to as much hard-hitting journalism as you’re linking to.” – Obama addressing Arianna Huffington.

On celebrities

“If you’re looking for the biggest threat to America, it’s right there — Kim Kardashian.” – Kimmel.

“Everything that is wrong with America is here in this room.” – Kimmel, after listing off the politicians, members of the media and celebrities in attendance.

“Jimmy got his start on “The Man Show.” In Washington that’s what we call a congressional hearing on contraception.” – Obama.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 28, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Discusses Executive Order Helps Veterans and Servicemembers Make Informed Decisions about Higher Education

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama discusses a new Executive Order designed to crack down on the bad actors who prey on our veterans and service members considering higher education.

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address
President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address, White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 4/27/12

Weekly Address: Helping our Veterans and Servicemembers Make Informed Decisions about Higher Education

Source: WH, 4-28-12

President Obama discusses a new Executive Order designed to crack down on the bad actors who prey on our veterans and service members considering higher education.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Helping our Veterans and Servicemembers Make Informed Decisions about Higher Education

In this week’s address, President Obama told the American people about a new Executive Order he signed on Friday to crack down on bad actors that prey on our veterans and service members considering higher education.  Unfortunately these brave men and women are often bombarded by schools that provide false or misleading information about things like interest rates on loans, credit transfers, and job placement programs.  The President’s new Executive Order makes it easier for veterans and service members to make informed decisions about financial aid and paying for college and also takes a number of steps to fight deceptive practices by some institutions.  President Obama will always make sure that those who serve this country get every opportunity they deserve.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
Saturday April 28, 2012

On Friday, I traveled to Ft. Stewart in Georgia to meet with soldiers from the Third Infantry Division.

These men and women have fought with bravery and honor in some of the most dangerous places on the planet.  Some of them didn’t make it back.  But those who did are now fighting a different kind of battle here at home.  They’re looking for new jobs, new opportunities, and new ways to serve.

For many, that means going back to school – and America has a long tradition of making sure our veterans and our men and women in uniform can afford to do that.  After World War II, we helped a generation of Americans – including my grandfather – go to school on the GI Bill.  Now, thanks to the 9/11 GI Bill and the Tuition Assistance program, last year we supported more than half a million veterans and over 300,000 service members who are pursuing a higher education.

That’s progress.  But it’s not enough to just help our veterans and service members afford school – we need to make sure they have all the tools they need to make an informed decision when it comes to picking the right program.

The sad truth is that there are people out there who are less interested in helping our men and women in uniform get ahead and more interested in making a buck.  They bombard potential students with emails and pressure them into making a quick decision.  Some of them steer recruits towards high-interest loans and mislead them about credit transfers and job placement programs.  One of the worst examples was a college recruiter who visited a Marine barracks and enrolled Marines with brain injuries so severe that some of them couldn’t recall what courses the recruiter had signed them up for.

That’s appalling.  It’s disgraceful.  And even though the vast majority of schools do the right thing, we need to guard against the bad actors who don’t.

That’s why, on Friday, I signed an Executive Order making life a whole lot more secure for our service members, veterans and their families – and a whole lot tougher for anyone who tries to prey on them.

We’re making sure veterans and service members get a simple fact sheet called “Know Before You Owe” that lays out all the information they need about financial aid and paying for college.  We’re requiring schools to offer counseling to help students finish their degree even if they have to move or deploy.  And we’re stepping up our efforts to fight dishonest recruiters by strengthening rules about who can come on base and making it easier to file complaints.

When our men and women in uniform succeed, our country succeeds.  They have our back – now it’s our turn to have theirs.  And as long as I’m President, I’m going to make sure that anyone who serves this country gets every opportunity they deserve.

Thank you, and have a great weekend.

White House Recap April 20-27, 2012: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama’s University Tour in Support of Keeping Student Loan Interest Rates Low — Slow Jams with Jimmy Fallon

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: APRIL 20-27, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: “Stand Up. Be Heard. Be Counted.”

Source: WH, 4-27-12

Soldier Ride: Last Friday, 22 injured servicemembers took a spin around the South Lawn – with President Obama cheering them on – as a part of the annual Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride. The Soldier Ride is a four-day cycling event that unites Wounded Warriors and aims to help restore their physical and emotional well-being. The President praised the riders for their strength and dedication, noting, “You ride because you can, and you ride for those who can’t. That’s what this is all about.”

Honoring Never Again: “Awareness without action changes nothing,” the President remarked at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. on Monday. He spoke about honoring the pledge of “never again” by making sure we are doing everything we can to prevent and respond to atrocities and save lives, by spearheading new efforts and utilizing existing ones, including the Atrocities Prevention Board – established by the President to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on the critical mission to prevent mass atrocities and genocide.

Fighting Falcons: The United States Air Force football team was honored with the Commander-in-Chief Trophy on Monday in the East Room of the White House after beating the Army and Navy in 2011 to claim their 18th trophy.

#DontDoubleMyRate: When speaking this week at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Iowa about the importance of keeping interest rates on student loans low so that more Americans can get a fair shot at an affordable college education, President Obama asked college students to tell their members of Congress one thing: Don’t double my rates. While Congress cut the rates on federal loans in half five years ago, that rate cut is set to expire on July 1st. Students are taking on more debt to afford the tuition and fees, and for each year that Congress doesn’t act, the average student with federal loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt.

Slow Jams: On Tuesday while stopping by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, President Obama had a message for Congress: This is not the time to make school more affordable for our young people. He didn’t just say it, though – if you missed President Obama slow jam the news, you can watch it here.

Veterans and their Families Can’t Wait: On Friday, the President and the First Lady traveled to Fort Stewart, Georgia, home to the Army’s famed 3rd Infantry Division. Besides meeting with soldiers and families, the President signed an Executive Order that renews his commitment to fully fund the post-9/11 G.I. Bill in an effort to preserve and enhance the educational opportunities for those who have served, as well as their families.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 27, 2012: President Barack Obama Signs Executive Order Executive Order Helping Veterans and Service Members Make Informed Decisions about Higher Education at Fort Stewart

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Signs Executive Order Supporting Service Members, Veterans, Military Spouses, and Their Families

Source: WH, 4-27-12
President Barack Obama signs an Executive Order at Fort Stewart  (April 27, 2012)
President Barack Obama signs an Executive Order at Fort Stewart in Georgia, April 27, 2012. The Executive Order will help ensure all of America’s service members, veterans, spouses, and other family members have the information they need to make informed educational decisions and are protected from aggressive and deceptive targeting by educational institutions. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Earlier today, I had the great privilege of joining the President and First Lady — along with an amazing 10,000 soldiers, military families, and veterans — at an extraordinary event in Fort Stewart, Georgia, home to the Army’s famed 3rd Infantry Division.

The President and First Lady traveled to Fort Stewart to meet with soldiers and families — and to sign an Executive Order (EO) that will positively impact the educational benefits and opportunities for our nation’s heroes and their families — for a long time to come.

We know from travels throughout the country — and through feedback from veterans, our troops and their families – that education is a big deal. Opportunities provided through educational programs such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill open doors.

And I know that on a personal level. Like many servicemembers, I have used the benefits of the Post- 9/11 GI Bill to further my education — and that of my children.

At Fort Stewart, the President renewed his commitment to fully fund the post-9/11 GI Bill.  With that bill — and the Tuition Assistance program — more than 550,000 veterans and 325,000 service members pursued education last year. Additionally, nearly 38,000 military spouses used their Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) benefit to advance their education.

But sometimes…navigating through the maze of schools and opportunities can be a challenge. Many service members, veterans and families know exactly what I mean.

They go online to try and find the best school that fits their goals; they end up on a website that looks official; they get promised to get connected with a program looks promising. Unfortunately — and all-too-often — our troops and families find themselves dealing with folks who aren’t interested in helping them find the BEST program — but they are happy to take their money. Our service men and women may get forced into making a quick decision. And sometimes recruiters from these schools show up on bases.

As the President said, one of the worst examples of this is a college recruiter who visited Camp Lejeune and enrolled Marines impacted by Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) — the nature and severity of their injuries were so significant, that the affected Marines couldn’t remember the courses the recruiter signed them up for — but that didn’t stop the recruiter.

That’s just wrong.

But practices like that — and so many others — will be coming to an end as a result of today’s order signed by the President.

In short, the EO is designed to combat unscrupulous practices used by schools to gain access to the military/veteran education benefits; it protects the full range of military/veteran education benefits programs, including Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, the Tuition Assistance program, and MyCAA; and, its provisions focus on ensuring students have the proper information, support, and protections they need to make informed decisions about their educational options.

Here’s what the EO delivers for our veterans, military service members, spouses and their families:

  • Provide students with educational and financial information to make informed decisions. The EO  will require institutions to provide prospective military and veteran students with the Administration’s Financial Aid Shopping Sheet (“Know Before You Owe”) to help students understand the total cost and quality of their education, including: tuition and fees, the availability of federal financial aid, estimated student loan debt upon graduation, and  information about student outcomes like graduation rates.
  • End fraudulent and aggressive recruiting techniques on and off military installations. The EO will require that VA and DoD improve their oversight of improper recruiting practices so that they are consistent with the regulations already in place at ED for title IV Federal student aid programs. The Principles of Excellence will also establish and strengthen solicitation rules to reduce access to military bases for bad actors.
  • Ensure support services for service-members and veterans. The EO will provide military and veteran students with clear educational plans, academic and financial aid counseling services with staff that are familiar with VA and DOD programs, and the ability to more easily re-enroll and receive a refund if they must leave school for service-related reasons.
  • Develop and collect service member- and veteran-specific student outcome data. The EO will require DoD, VA, and ED to develop student outcome measures, such as completion rates, and collect data to be made available on Ed’s College Navigator website. DoD, VA, and Ed will also improve data collection regarding which schools veterans are selecting to use their education benefits.
  • Create a centralized complaint system for students receiving military and veterans’ educational benefits. The EO require DoD and VA, in consultation with ED, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and DOJ, to create a centralized complaint system for students receiving military and veterans’ educational benefits to register complaints against educational institutions. Additionally, VA’s State Approving Agencies will receive and process these complaints and share these complaints with appropriate federal and state agencies.
  • Begin the process to trademark the term “GI Bill.” The EO will require the VA to initiate a process to trademark the term “GI Bill” and other steps to curb websites and programs that deceptively market veterans’ educational benefits.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk on stage  after being introduced at Fort Stewart (April 27, 2012)
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk on stage after being introduced at Fort Stewart in Georgia, April 27, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today’s signing by the President is a BIG step forward in preserving — and enhancing — the educational opportunities for those who have served, as well as their families.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President and First Lady at Fort Stewart, Georgia

Fort Stewart
Hinesville, Georgia

12:45 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Hello, Fort Stewart!  (Applause.)  We are beyond thrilled — beyond thrilled — to be with all of you today.  And before I get started, there’s just one thing I want to say, and that is, hooah!

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

MRS. OBAMA:  Did I do that right?

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

MRS. OBAMA:  All right, good.  (Laughter.)  Phew.

I want to start by thanking Sergeant Marshall for that very kind introduction and for sharing his story with us today.  And I want to thank all of you — our men and women in uniform, our veterans and your extraordinary families.  (Applause.)  Absolutely.  For the families, yes!  (Applause.)

One of my greatest privileges as First Lady has been meeting folks like you on bases and communities all across this country.  And I always say this, but I can never say it enough:  I am in awe of you.  I’m in awe of how many of you signed up to defend our country in a time of war, serving heroically through deployment after deployment.  I’m in awe of your families — the spouses who run their households all alone, the kids who step up at home and succeed at school and stay strong through all the challenges they face.  With their service, they make your service possible.

And I’m also in awe of our veterans — (applause) — because I know that your service doesn’t end when you hang up your uniform.  For so many of you, your whole life is a tour of duty, and as you become leaders in our communities and continue to give back to our country, you keep serving.  And like so many Americans, the more I’ve learned about the sacrifices you all make, the more I wanted to find a way to express my gratitude, and that’s — not just with words, but with action.

And that’s why last year Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces.  It’s a nationwide campaign to recognize, honor and support our veterans, our troops and our military families.  And I have to tell you, we had barely even finished announcing this campaign when we were inundated with offers to help.  I mean, so many people wanted to step up and show their appreciation that we hardly knew where to begin.

In our first year alone, more than 1,600 businesses hired more than 60,000 veterans, and they pledged to hire at least 170,000 more in the coming years.  (Applause.)  National associations of doctors and nurses representing millions of health professionals are working to improve treatment for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.  We’ve had TV shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Sesame Street; organizations like NASCAR and Disney — they’re working to share the stories of our military families with the rest of the country.  And these are just a few examples out of thousands all across the country.

So if I can leave you with just one message today, I want you all to know that America does have your backs.  And we are just getting started.  We are going to keep at this.  We’re going to keep on working every day to serve all of you as well as you have served this country.

And the man who has been leading the way is standing right next to me.  (Applause.)  And ladies, I think he’s kind of cute.  (Laughter and applause.)  He was fighting for all of you long before he ever became President.

He’s made veteran’s employment a national priority, with tax breaks for businesses that hire veterans and wounded warriors.  He’s working to end the outrage of veteran’s homelessness once and for all.  (Applause.)  He championed the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which has helped more than half a million veterans and military families go to college.  (Applause.)  And today, with this new effort to ensure that you all get the education you’ve earned, that story continues.

So please join me in welcoming your strongest advocate — your Commander-In-Chief and our President, my husband, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Hello, Fort Stewart!  (Applause.)  It is good to be here at Fort Stewart.  First of all, how about the First Lady, Michelle Obama?  (Applause.)  Hooah!  She is a tough act to follow.  For the gentlemen out there who are not yet married, let me just explain to you, your goal is to improve your gene pool by marrying somebody who is superior to you.  (Applause.)  Isn’t that right, General?  (Laughter.)

Listen, and as you just heard, when it comes to all of you — when it comes to our military, our veterans, your families –- Michelle Obama and Jill Biden have your back.  They are working tirelessly to make sure that our military families are treated with the honor and respect and support that they deserve.  And I could not be prouder of all the efforts that they’ve been making on their behalf.  (Applause.)
It’s a privilege to hang out with some of America’s finest.

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

THE PRESIDENT:   The ‘Dog Face Soldiers’ of the Third Infantry Division!  (Applause.)  Rock of the Marne!  We’ve got a lot of folks in the house.  We’ve got the Raider Brigade!  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the Spartan Brigade!  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the Vanguard Brigade!  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the Provider Brigade!  (Hooah!)  And we’ve got the Falcon Brigade!  (Hooah!)

Let me thank Major General Abrams and his beautiful wife, Connie, for welcoming us.  Abe is doing an incredible job carrying on his family’s incredible tradition of service to our country.  So we are grateful for him.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

I want to thank Command Sergeant Major Edd Watson and his beautiful wife, Sharon.  (Applause.)  I want to thank someone who’s made it her life’s mission to stand up for the financial security of you and your families, somebody who knows a little bit about military families and military service.  And actually, this is a homecoming for her because she spent over three years when they were posted down here — Holly Petraeus is in the house.  I want you guys to give her a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

But most importantly, I want to thank all of you.  I want to thank you for your service.  I want to thank you for your sacrifice.  I want to thank you for your unshakeable commitment to our country.  You have worn the uniform with honor.  You’ve performed heroically in some of the most dangerous places on Earth.  You have done everything that has been asked of you, and more.  And you have earned a special place in our nation’s history.

Future generations will speak of your achievements.  They’ll speak of how the Third Infantry Division’s ‘thunder run’ into Baghdad signaled the end of a dictatorship, and how you brought Iraq back from the brink of civil war.  They’ll speak of you and your service in Afghanistan and in the fight against al Qaeda, which you have put on the path to defeat.

And to the members of the Special Operations Forces community, while the American people may never know the full extent of your service, they will surely speak of how you kept our country safe and strong, and how you delivered justice to our enemies.

So history will remember what you did, and so will we.  We will remember the profound sacrifices that you’ve made in these wars.  Michelle and I just had a few moments at the Warriors Walk, paying tribute to 441 of your fallen comrades — men and women who gave their last full measure of devotion to keep our nation safe.  And we will remember them.  We will honor them — always.  And our thoughts and prayers also go out to the troops from Fort Stewart who are serving so bravely right now as we speak in Afghanistan.  (Applause.)  And I know many of you will be deploying there, too, so you know you’re going to be in our thoughts and prayers.
Your generation — the 9/11 Generation — has written one of the greatest chapters of military service that America has ever seen.  But I know that for many of you, a new chapter is unfolding.  The war in Iraq is over.  The transition in Afghanistan is underway.  Many of our troops are coming home, back to civilian life.  And as you return, I know that you’re looking for new jobs and new opportunities and new ways to serve this great country of ours.

And three years ago, I made your generation a promise:  I said that when your tour comes to an end — when you see our flag, when you touch down on our soil — you’ll be coming home to an America that will forever fight for you, just as you fought for us.

For me, as President, it’s been a top priority.  It’s something I worked on as a senator when I served on the Veterans Affairs Committee.  It’s something I continue to this day.  Since I took office, we’ve hired over 200,000 veterans to serve in the federal government.  (Applause.)

We’ve made it easier for veterans to access all sorts of employment services.  You just heard how Michelle and Jill have worked with businesses to secure tens of thousands of jobs for veterans and their families.  And with support from Democrats and Republicans, we’ve put in place new tax credits for companies that hire veterans.  We want every veteran who wants a job to get a job.  That’s the goal.  (Applause.)

And those of you who want to pursue a higher education and earn new skills, you deserve that opportunity as well.

Like General Abrams’ dad, my grandfather — the man who helped raise me -— served in Patton’s Army.  And when he came home, he went to school on the GI Bill, because America decided that every returning veteran of World War II should be able to afford it.  And we owe that same commitment to all of you.

So as President, I’ve made sure to champion the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  And with that bill — and the Tuition Assistance program — last year we supported more than 550,000 veterans and 325,000 servicemembers who are pursuing a higher education.  (Applause.)  Because a higher education is the clearest path to the middle class.  That’s progress.  But we’ve got more to do.  We can’t be satisfied with what we’ve already done, we’ve got more to do.  We’ve got to make sure you’ve got every tool you need to make an informed decision when it comes to picking a school.  And that’s why Michelle and I are here today.

Right now, it’s not that easy.  I’ve heard the stories.  Some of you guys can relate; you may have experienced it yourselves.  You go online to try and find the best school for military members, or your spouses, or other family members.  You end up on a website that looks official.  They ask you for your email, they ask you for your phone number.  They promise to link you up with a program that fits your goals.  Almost immediately after you’ve typed in all that information, your phone starts ringing.  Your inbox starts filling up.  You’ve never been more popular in your life.  All of these schools want you to enroll with them.

And it sounds good.  Every school and every business should be out there competing for your skills and your talent and your leadership — everything that you’ve shown in uniform.  But as some of your comrades have discovered, sometimes you’re dealing with folks who aren’t interested in helping you.  They’re not interested in helping you find the best program.  They are interested in getting the money.  They don’t care about you; they care about the cash.

So they harass you into making a quick decision with all those calls and emails.  And if they can’t get you online, they show up on post.  One of the worst examples of this is a college recruiter who had the nerve to visit a barracks at Camp Lejeune and enroll Marines with brain injuries — just for the money.  These Marines had injuries so severe some of them couldn’t recall what courses the recruiter had signed them up for.  That’s appalling.  That’s disgraceful.  It should never happen in America.

I’m not talking about all schools.  Many of them — for-profit and non-profit — provide quality education to our servicemembers and our veterans and their families.  But there are some bad actors out there.  They’ll say you don’t have to pay a dime for your degree but once you register, they’ll suddenly make you sign up for a high interest student loan.  They’ll say that if you transfer schools, you can transfer credits.  But when you try to actually do that, you suddenly find out that you can’t.  They’ll say they’ve got a job placement program when, in fact, they don’t.  It’s not right.  They’re trying to swindle and hoodwink you.  And today, here at Fort Stewart, we’re going to put an end to it.  (Applause.)  We’re putting an end to it.

The executive order I’m about to sign will make life a whole lot more secure for you and your families and our veterans — and a whole lot tougher for those who try to prey on you.  Here’s what we’re going to do.

First, we’re going to require colleges that want to enroll members of our military or veterans or your families to provide clear information about their qualifications and available financial aid.  You’ll be able to get a simple fact sheet called “Know Before You Owe.”  Know before you owe.  (Applause.)  And it will lay out all the information that you need to make your own choices about how best to pay for college.

Second, we’re going to require those schools to step up their support for our students.  They need to provide a lot more counseling.  If you’ve got to move because of a deployment or a reassignment, they’ve got to help you come up with a plan so that you can still get your degree.  (Applause.)

Number three, we’re going to bring an end to the aggressive — and sometimes dishonest — recruiting that takes place.  We’re going to up our oversight of improper recruitment practices.  We’re going to strengthen the rules about who can come on post and talk to servicemembers.  (Applause.)  And we’re going to make it a lot easier for all of you to file complaints and for us to take action when somebody is not acting right.

This is about making sure you succeed — because when you succeed, our country succeeds.  It’s that simple.  After all, at the end of World War II, so many Americans like my grandfather came home to new opportunities.  Because of the original GI Bill, by 1947, half of all Americans who enrolled in college were veterans.  And you know what, they did pretty well.

They rose to become Presidents and Supreme Court Justices and Nobel Prize winners.  They went on to become scientists and engineers, and doctors and nurses.  Eight million Americans were educated under the original GI Bill.  And together, they forged the backbone of what would become the largest middle class that the world had ever seen.  They built this country.  They turned us into that economic superpower.

And we can do it again.  We face some tough times.  We’ve gone through the worst recession since the Great Depression, two wars.  But you know what, we’ve faced tough times before.  And all of you know something that America should never forget:  Just as you rise or fall as one unit, we rise or fall as one nation.  Just as you have each other’s backs, what has always made America great is that we have each other’s backs.  Each of us is only here because somebody looked out for us.  Not just our parents, but our neighbors and our communities and our houses of worship and our VFW halls.  (Applause.)  Each of us is here because we had a country that was willing to invest in things like community colleges and universities, and scientific research and medicine, and caring for our veterans.  Each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, had our backs.

This country exists because generations of Americans worked together and looked out for one other.  Out of many, we are one.  Those are the values we’ve got to return to.  If we do, there’s nothing this country cannot achieve.  There’s no challenge that’s too great for us.  There’s no destiny beyond our reach.  As long as we’re joined in common purpose and common resolve, better days will always lie ahead, and we will remind everybody why the United States of America is the greatest country on Earth.

And as I look out at this sea of incredible men and women — (applause) — it gives me confidence that our best days are still ahead.

God bless you.  God bless our armed services.  God bless the Third Division.  God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

And now I’m going to sign this executive order.

(The executive order is signed.)

END
1:09 P.M. EDT

Political Buzz April 27, 2012: House Passes Bill Keeping Student Loan Rates from Doubling 215-195 — Paid with Healthcare Funds — President Barack Obama Promises Veto

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

IN FOCUS: HOUSE PASSES BILL KEEPING STUDENT LOAN RATES FROM DOUBLING 215-195 — PAID WITH HEALTHCARE FUNDS

House Rejects Increase in Student Loan Rates: Moments after an unusual fiery appeal from Speaker John A. Boehner, the House voted 215 to 195 on Friday to prevent a doubling of student loan rates and challenge President Obama over a veto threat. The bill, which would strip $5.9 billion…. – NYT 4-27-12

  • GOP ignores White House veto threat, passes bill to keep student loan rates: Republicans ignored a veto threat and overcame a rebellion by party conservatives to push a bill through the House Friday keeping interest rates on millions of federal student loans from doubling this summer. Lawmakers voted 215-195 to…. – WaPo, 4-27-12
  • House approves student loan bill, paid for with healthcare funds: Setting the stage for another showdown with the Obama administration, Republicans in the House on Friday narrowly passed legislation to prevent a rate hike on student loans — to be paid for with funds from the nation’s new…. – LAT, 4-27-12
  • House votes to extend low rates on federal student loans: The US House approved, on a mostly party-line (215-195) vote, a $5.9 billion bill to maintain low interest rates for Stafford student loans, paying for it by slashing funds for a provision of President Obama’s…. – USA Today, 4-27-12
  • GOP, Democrats make student loans an election-year issue: Both parties are advancing plans to address mounting student loan debt while disparaging the approach of their opponents…. – CS Monitor, 4-26-12

No Time For Old Political Battles

Source: WH, 4-27-12

On July 1, unless Congress acts, interest rates will double for more than 7.4 million students with federal loans. Fortunately, even though they voted just weeks ago in lockstep to allow this increase, Republicans in Congress have come around on the issue since President Obama took it to the American people – claiming they’re ready to step up and stop the rate hike. Unfortunately,  rather than work together to ensure interest rates on student loans don’t double, they have decided to re-fight old political battles, proposing to eliminate the health care law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund to pay for this important reform. This proposal would put women’s health at risk. And fighting old political battles won’t protect students and young people from major rate hikes.

Eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund would have a devastating effect on women’s health and our work to prevent disease and illness. Eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund would mean:

  • Hundreds of thousands of women could lose access to vital cancer screenings.   Prevention Fund resources are expected to help more than 300,000 women be screened for breast cancer in 2013 and more than 280,000 be screened for cervical cancer.
  • Programs that help to prevent congenital heart defects, prevent fetal alcohol syndrome, and promote early identification and intervention efforts for children with developmental delays and disabilities could be eliminated.
  • Tens of thousands children could lose access to immunizations.

These are just a few of the important ways the Prevention and Public Health Fund will help keep millions of Americans healthy. Keeping college affordable for America’s students should not come at the expense of putting women’s health at risk.

The Senate will soon vote on a more viable solution to keep interest rates low and provide students a fair shot at an affordable education, by closing a loophole that allows people making more than $250,000 a year to avoid paying payroll taxes. Congress should find a bipartisan solution to keep rates low without hurting Americans’ health or increasing the deficit. There’s no good reason for interest rates to double for over 7 million students. But Republicans in Congress must prove that they’re serious about setting aside the political fights of the past and actually getting this done.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 25, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on College Affordability & Student Loans Interest Rates Doubling at the University of Iowa

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Speaks to Students in Iowa about Student Loan Rates

Source: WH, 4-25-12<

President Barack Obama Listens to Senior Marissa Boles During a Roundtable Discussion

President Barack Obama listens to senior Marissa Boles during a roundtable discussion with students currently receiving Stafford federal student loans at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, April 25, 2012. Also participating in the discussion were students Blake Anderson, center, Myranda Burnett, Jordan Garrsion-Nickerson and Martin Lopez. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama wrapped up a three-city tour in Iowa today by speaking to students at the University of Iowa about the best tool they’ve got for achieving the American promise: a college education.

This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of everybody who’s willing to work for it. That’s part of what made us special. That’s what kept us at the forefront of business and science and technology and medicine. That’s a commitment that we need to reaffirm today.

Now, here’s the challenge we’ve got. Since most of you were born, tuition and fees at America’s colleges have more than doubled. And that forces students like you to take out more loans and rack up more debt. The average student who borrows to pay for college now graduates with about $25,000 in student loan debt. And in this state, it’s even higher. Americans now owe more on their student loans than they owe on credit cards.

And living with that debt means you’ve got to make some pretty tough choices. It might mean putting off buying a first home or chasing that great startup idea that you’ve got. Maybe you’ll have to wait a little bit longer to start a family or save for retirement. And when a big chunk of every paycheck goes towards loan debt, that’s not just tough on you, that’s not just tough on middle-class families — that’s not good for our economy, because that money that could be going into businesses is going just to service debt.

To make matters worse, interest rates on federal Stafford loans are set to double in July, saddling more than 7 million students with an additional $1,000 in debt. Congress has the power to stop this from happening, however, and as he did in North Carolina and Colorado earlier this week, the President asked students to tell their members of Congress one thing: Don’t Double My Rate.

Raise your voice and reach out to your networks if you agree that student loan rates should not double on July 1.


Learn more:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President on College Affordability

University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa

1:28 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Hawkeyes!  (Applause.)  It is good to be back in Iowa!  (Applause.)  Can folks please give it up for Blake for that outstanding introduction?  (Applause.)  And I want to thank the University of Iowa Pep Band for firing everybody up. (Applause.)

There is some good hospitality here, and I should know.  I spent a little time here in Iowa, spent a little time here in Iowa City.  I’m glad that my hometown of Chicago will get to return the hospitality when your football team kicks off its season at Soldier Field.  (Applause.)

I want to thank a couple guests — first of all, your Congressman, Dave Loebsack, is here.  (Applause.)  Attorney General Tom Miller.  (Applause.)  State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald.  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Matt Hayek.  (Applause.)   The President of the University of Iowa, Sally Mason.  (Applause.)

So I have come to the University of Iowa to talk a little bit about you and some of the issues you guys are dealing with every single day.  Now, I believe that college isn’t just the best investment that you can make in your future — it’s the best investment you can make in your country’s future.  And I’m proud of all of you for making that investment — because it’s never been more important.  (Applause.)

In today’s economy, there’s no greater predictor of individual success than a good education.  That’s at the top.  Right now, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average.  Their incomes are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma. A higher education is the single clearest path to the middle class.

I know that those of you who are about to graduate are wondering what’s in store for your future — because not even four years ago, just as the global economy was about to enter into freefall, you were still trying to find your way around campus, and now, four years later, you’re looking at what it means when you leave this campus.

The good news is, today our economy is recovering.  That’s the good news.  (Applause.)  But I’ll be honest with you.  It has not yet fully healed from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  Our businesses have added more than 4 million jobs over the past two years.  (Applause.)  But there’s still a lot of Americans who are out there looking for a job or at least finding a job that pays the bills and helps cover the mortgage.  There’s still too many families who don’t have that security, that basic middle-class security that started slipping away even before this crisis hit.

But what I want all of you to know is that the degree you earn from Iowa will be the best tool you have to achieve that basic American promise — the idea that if you work hard, if you give it your all, if you’re responsible, then you can do well enough to raise a family and own a home, send your own kids to college, put a little away for retirement.  It’s the idea that each generation is going to have a little more opportunity than the last.  (Applause.)  That’s at the heart of the American Dream.

And I can tell you, as a parent now, when I see Malia and Sasha doing well, there’s nothing more important to me.  And that’s true for American families everywhere, and it’s the hope your parents have for you.  That’s the hope you’ll have some day for your own kids.  And keeping that promise alive is the defining issue of our time.  I don’t want this a country — I don’t want this to be a country where a shrinking number of people are doing really, really well, and then a growing number are barely able to get by.  I don’t want that future for you.  I don’t want it for my daughters.  I don’t want it for America.  (Applause.)

I want this forever to be a country where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  (Applause.)  That’s the America I know.  That’s the America I love.  And that’s the America within our reach if we work for it.  (Applause.)

And this is personal for me —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, Barack!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Applause.)  I love you guys, and I believe in you guys — that’s the most important thing.  I believe in you.  And I believe in your future.  (Applause.)

And I think about my own life.  My grandfather had the chance to go to college because this country decided that every returning veteran of World War II should be able to afford it through the GI Bill.  (Applause.)  My mom was a single mom — my dad wasn’t around — and she raised two kids by herself with some help from my grandparents because she was able to get grants and work her way through school.  And I’m only here today, and Michelle is only where she is today, because scholarships and student loans gave us a shot at a great education.  That’s how we succeeded.  (Applause.)

This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of everybody who’s willing to work for it.  That’s part of what made us special.  That’s what kept us at the forefront of business and science and technology and medicine.  That’s a commitment that we need to reaffirm today.

Now, here’s the challenge we’ve got.  Since most of you were born, tuition and fees at America’s colleges have more than doubled.  And that forces students like you to take out more loans and rack up more debt.  The average student who borrows to pay for college now graduates with about $25,000 in student loan debt.  And in this state, it’s even higher.  Americans now owe more on their student loans than they owe on credit cards.

And living with that debt means you’ve got to make some pretty tough choices.  It might mean putting off buying a first home or chasing that great startup idea that you’ve got.  Maybe you’ll have to wait a little bit longer to start a family or save for retirement.  And when a big chunk of every paycheck goes towards loan debt, that’s not just tough on you, that’s not just tough on middle-class families — that’s not good for our economy, because that money that could be going into businesses is going just to service debt.

And as I said, this is personal for me.  I know something about this, because Michelle and I, we went through it.  And it wasn’t that long ago.  We’ve been in your shoes.  We didn’t come from wealthy families.  We needed loans and we needed grants to get our way through.  (Applause.)

And that meant that when Michelle and I graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt.  When we got married, we got poorer together.  (Laughter.)  So we combined our assets and they were zero.  (Laughter.)  Then we combined our liabilities and they were a lot.  (Laughter.)  So we ended up paying more for our student loans in the first few years that we were married than we paid on our mortgage each month when we finally bought a small condo.  And we were lucky to land good jobs with a steady income, but we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago.  Think about that.  I’m the President of the United States — (laughter) — it was only about eight years ago that we finished paying off our student loans.  (Applause.)

And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy making those payments, because once we had Malia and Sasha, we’re trying to save for their college education even as we’re paying off our own college educations.

So this is personal.  This is at the heart of who we are. We’ve got to make college more affordable for more young people. We can’t put the middle class at a disadvantage.  We can’t price out folks who are trying to make sure that they not only succeed for themselves but help the country succeed.  We can’t price the middle class out of a college education.  (Applause.)  We can’t do it — especially when most new jobs in America will require more than a high school diploma.  Higher education whether it’s at a four-year institution or a two-year program at a community college — it can’t be a luxury.  It’s an economic imperative every family in America should be able to afford.

Before I came out here I had a chance to meet not just with Blake but with a number of other students, and we had a little roundtable.  And the stories they told me were so familiar.  One young man — single mom, she had lost her job.  He was already about $30,000 in debt.  He was only halfway through here at University of Iowa.  Another young woman, her dad had been laid off at Maytag.  They were trying to figure out how to make ends meet.  She’s about to graduate.

Now, what I told them is, you’re making the right decision, because over the lifetime of earnings you will more than earn back this investment you’re making.  But making it more affordable would sure help.  It would sure help.  (Applause.)

Now, I’m going to have a specific request for you.  I’m going to need your help, Iowa, but let me briefly tell you what we’ve already done to try to make college more affordable, because I’m not just interested in talking the talk, I want to walk the walk.  (Applause.)

So before I took office, we had a student loan system where tens of billions of taxpayer dollars were going to banks who were the middlemen on the federal student loan program.  So they were getting billions of dollars in profits managing a loan program where they had no risk because it was all federally guaranteed loans.  So we changed that.

And there were folks in Washington who fought tooth and nail to protect the status quo.  One of them said it would be “an outrage” to change the system where banks are managing this thing.  But the real outrage was letting them serve as middlemen and siphon off profits, while students were working two or three jobs just to get by.  So we kept at it, and we fought and we fought, and today we don’t have middlemen.  That money is going directly where it should have been to — the first place.  It’s going to help more young people afford college.  (Applause.)

And then last fall, I acted to cap student loan payments faster, so that nearly 1.6 million students who make their payments on time only have to pay 10 percent of their monthly income toward loans once they graduate, which means if you decide to become a teacher or a social worker or a guidance counselor, something that doesn’t pay a lot of money, you can still afford to do it because you’ll never have to pay more than 10 percent of your income in order to stay current on your loan.  (Applause.)

And then we decided, you know what, you guys need more information about this whole process.  We want students to have access to a simple fact sheet on student loans and financial aid, so you can have all the information you need to make your own choices about how to pay for college.  So some of you know we set up this new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau to look out for consumers — (applause) — and so they’re now putting out a fact sheet called “Know Before You Owe.”  Know before you owe — which is something Michelle and I could have used when we were in your shoes.

And then what we said was it’s not enough just to increase student aid.  We’ve also got to stop subsidizing skyrocketing tuition, or we’ll run out of money.  So the schools themselves have to keep their tuition lower.  (Applause.)  So we put out the challenge to colleges and universities.  And I’ve told Congress, steer federal aid to those schools that are doing a good job keeping tuition affordable and providing good value, and serving their students well.  And we’ve put colleges on notice:  If you can’t stop tuition from skyrocketing, the funding you get from taxpayers is going to go down.  We’re going to put money into the schools that are doing a better job.  (Applause.)  And we’re going to hold schools accountable.

Of course, as public universities like this one know, states and state legislatures also have to do their part by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets.  (Applause.) Last year, over 40 states cut their higher education spending.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, that’s not good.  These budget cuts are one of the biggest reasons why tuition goes up at public colleges and have been over the last decade.  So we’re challenging states: Take responsibility.  If you can find new ways to bring down the cost on college, make it easier for students to graduate, then we’ll help you do it at the federal level.

So that’s what we’ve already done — helped more families, more young people afford a higher education; offer incentives to states and colleges and universities to keep costs down.  That’s what we’ve been doing.  Now comes the tricky part — we got to get Congress to do their part.  And that’s where you come in.  (Applause.)

There are a couple of things I’d like Congress to be doing this year.  First, they need to extend the tuition tax credit that we put in place when I first came into office, because it’s saving middle-class families thousands of dollars.  They get a tax break when they are helping their kids go to college.  That’s important.  (Applause.)

Second, we need Congress to safeguard aid for low-income students, so that today’s freshmen and sophomores know they’re going to be able to count on it.  We’ve got to make sure the Pell grants are there for people who need them.

Number three, we’ve got to give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work/study jobs over the next five years.  That’s an achievable goal.  (Applause.)  And then most immediately — and this is where I really need you guys — Congress needs to act right now to prevent interest rates on federal student loans from shooting up and shaking you down.  That’s where you come in.  (Applause.)
You see, five years ago, Congress cut the rates on federal student loans in half.  That was a good thing to do.  But on July 1st of this year, which means about two months from now, that rate cut will expire.  And if it expires, interest rates on these loans will double overnight.  And for each year that Congress doesn’t act, the average student with these loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt.  That’s basically a $1,000 tax hike on more than 7 million students around America, including 250,000 students right here in Iowa.

Now, let me see.  I’ll do a quick poll — this may be unscientific.  How many people can afford to pay an extra $1,000 right now?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t think so.  Stopping this from happening should be a no-brainer.  (Coughs.)  It makes me sick just thinking about it.  (Laughter and applause.)  Helping more young people afford college should be at the forefront of America’s agenda.  And it shouldn’t be a Republican or Democratic issue.  This is an American issue.  (Applause.)  The Stafford loans we’re talking about were named after a Republican senator; Pell grants named after a Democratic senator.  When Congress cut these rates five years ago, a majority of Democrats voted for it, but 77 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for it too.

Now, the good news is, the Senate introduced a bill last night that would keep student loan rates from doubling.  That’s the good news.  (Applause.)  And what’s also good news is some Republican senators look like they might support it.  And I’m ready to work with them to make it happen.  That’s good.  (Applause.)

But I’ve got to tell you, the Republicans who run the House of Representatives have not yet said whether or not they’ll stop your rates from doubling.  And they’ve hinted that the only way they’d do it is if they cut things like aid for low-income students.  So let me scratch my head there for a second.  Think about that.  We’re going to help some students by messing with other students.  That’s not a good answer.  How many people think that’s a good answer?

AUDIENCE MEMBERS:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I didn’t think so.  One of these members of Congress — sometimes I like just getting these quotes, because I’m always interested in how folks talk about this issue. You’ve got one member of Congress who compared these student loans — I’m not kidding here — to a “stage-three cancer of socialism.”

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Stage-three cancer?  (Laughter.)  I don’t know where to start.  What do you mean?  (Laughter.)  What are you talking about?  (Applause.)  Come on.  Just when you think you’ve heard it all in Washington, somebody comes up with a new way to go off the deep end.  (Laughter.)

And then, you’ve got the spokesman for the Speaker of the House who says, we’re — meaning me, my administration — we’re just talking about student loans to distract people from the economy.  Now, think about that for a second.  Because these guys don’t get it — this is the economy.  (Applause.)  This is the economy.  This is about your job security.  This is about your future.  If you do well, the economy does well.  This is about the economy.  (Applause.)

What economy are they talking about?  You are the economy.  If you’ve got skills, if you’ve got talents, if you’re starting a business, if companies are locating here in Iowa because it’s got a well-trained workforce, that’s the economy.  That’s how we’re going to compete.  Making sure our next generation earns the best education possible is exactly America’s business.  (Applause.)  Making sure that education is available to everybody and not just the few — that is America’s business.  Our future depends on it. (Applause.)

And then, some of them suggest that students like you have to pay more so we can help bring down the deficit.  Now, think about that.  These are the same folks who ran up the deficits for the last decade.  They voted to keep giving billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to big oil companies who are raking in record profits.  They voted to let millionaires and billionaires keep paying lower tax rates than middle-class workers.  They voted to give folks like me, the wealthiest Americans, an average tax cut of at least $150,000 — and that tax cut would be paid for by cutting things like education, and job training programs that give students and workers opportunities to get what they need to succeed.

Now, does that make any sense?  Does that sound like folks who are really concerned with the deficit?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  How can we want to maintain tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans who don’t need them and weren’t even asking for them?  I don’t need one.  I needed help back when I was your age.  I don’t need help now.  (Applause.)  I don’t need an extra thousand dollars or a few thousand dollars.  You do.

We need to make sure everybody pays their fair share.  How can we continue to subsidize an oil industry that’s making record profits instead of investing in things like clean energy that will help shape our future?  (Applause.)  Do we want to jack up interest rates on millions of students?  Or do we want to keep investing in the things that help us in the long term — things like education and science, and a strong military, and care for our veterans?  Because we can’t have it both ways.  We can’t do all things on the cheap.

And one thing I want to be clear about — because when I talk like this, sometimes the other side, they get all hot and bothered, and they say, he’s getting — he’s engaging in class warfare.  This isn’t about class warfare.  We want every American to succeed.  That’s the point.  I want all of you to be rich.  (Applause.)  I want all of you to be successful.  We aspire to it.  That’s what Americans do.  We work and we hustle, and we study, and we take risks — to succeed.  And we don’t expect a handout.  But we also understand we’re in this thing together, and America is not about just a few people doing well, it’s about everybody having a chance to do well.  That’s what the American Dream is all about.  (Applause.)

You look at this auditorium — everybody who’s here, you’re here because somebody made a commitment to you.  First, your parents.  But it wasn’t just your parents — the folks who decided, you know what, we’re going to set up a public university.  It was the folks who made a decision early on in this republic that said we believe that all men are created equal, that everybody is endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights — those were commitments that were made by previous generations to future generations.

So somebody here had a parent or a grandparent who said, maybe I can’t go to college, but some day my son can.  (Applause.)  Maybe I can’t start my own business, but some day I can picture my daughter starting her own business.  Maybe I’m an immigrant, but I believe that this is the country, this is the place where no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter what your last name is, you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)  That’s what we believe. (Applause.)

That is what we believe.  You and me, all of us — we’re only here because someone, somewhere, felt a responsibility not just to themselves, but to this country’s future.  And now it’s our turn to be responsible.  Now it’s our turn to keep that promise alive.  That’s where I need your help.

I’m asking everybody here, anybody who’s watching, anybody who’s following online — send your member of Congress a message. Tell them you’re not going to set your sights lower.  Tell them you’re not going to settle for something less.  Call them, email them, write on their Facebook page, tweet.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got a hashtag — #dontdoublemyrate.  (Laughter and applause.)  Dontdoublemyrate.  Dontdoublemyrate.  (Applause.)

We asked students at North Carolina, then at University of Colorado to do this yesterday — they got it trending worldwide for a while.  Let’s see if you guys can do even better.  (Applause.)  See how the Hawkeyes can do.  Because we’ve got to keep the heat on Congress until this gets done.  And I need your help to do it.  I need you to be heard.  I need you to be counted.

Now is not the time to double the interest rates on our student loans.  Now is not the time to double interest rates.  Now is the time to double down on starting investments that build a strong and secure middle class.  Now is the time to double down on building an America that’s built to last.

If we work together, with clear eyes and a common purpose, I guarantee you we’ll meet our challenges.  We will rise to this moment.  And the reason I know that is because I believe in you. I believe in you.  (Applause.)  And it’s because of you that we will remind everybody just why it is that this is the greatest nation on Earth.

Thank you, Iowa.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.

END
2:57 P.M. CDT

Campaign Buzz April 25, 2012: Newt Gingrich Will Suspend his Presidential Campaign & Endorse Mitt Romney within the Next Week

CAMPAIGN 2012

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

Newt Gingrich conceded that Mitt Romney would be the party’s  nominee at an event on Wednesday in Cramerton, N.C.

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Newt Gingrich conceded that Mitt Romney would be the party’s nominee at an event on Wednesday in Cramerton, N.C.

IN FOCUS: NEWT GINGRICH WILL SUSPEND HIS BID IN THE GOP / REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION RACE

Newt Gingrich to suspend presidential campaign: Former House speaker Newt Gingrich is expected to suspend his presidential campaign within the next week, according to a Republican operative familiar on the decision. WaPo, 4-25-12

  • Gingrich Decides to Quit Race and Endorse Romney: Newt Gingrich conceded that Mitt Romney would be the party’s nominee at an event on Wednesday in Cramerton, N.C.
    Newt Gingrich told Mitt Romney on Wednesday that he plans to officially endorse Mr. Romney’s candidacy after suspending his own efforts next week, Mr. Gingrich’s spokesman said…. – NYT, 4-25-12
  • Newt Gingrich to exit presidential race: What took so long?: Newt Gingrich said weeks ago that he knew Mitt Romney was the likely nominee. Now, campaign aides say, he is set to suspend his campaign May 1…. – CS Monitor, 4-25-12
  • THE RACE: Quitting presidential race can be difficult, as Santorum and now Gingrich learned: Dropping out is hard to do. It’s been especially hard for Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. Mitt Romney is claiming victory after his Tuesday sweep of five more GOP primaries. Few disagree. He has an insurmountable lead. He’s expected to clinch the…. – WaPo, 4-25-12
  • Gingrich calls ‘May Day’ on his campaign: After last night’s electoral thumping in five states, Newt Gingrich has finally gotten the message. His presidential campaign is over. He should have never have been considered a serious contender for the highest office in the land…. – WaPo, 4-25-12
  • Gingrich to suspend campaign as GOP unites behind Romney: Newt Gingrich will suspend his presidential campaign on Tuesday, according to multiple media outlets, and Rick Santorum will meet with presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney three days later, tying up loose ends as Republicans unite behind…. – LAT, 4-25-12
  • Gingrich set to leave election race: Mitt Romney’s path to the Republican nomination has been cleared further as former threat Newt Gingrich began taking steps to shut down his debt-laden campaign and endorse him. Mr Romney swept five state primaries and immediately turned his sights on…. – The Press Association, 4-25-12
  • Newt Gingrich’s most memorable campaign moments: Former House speaker Newt Gingrich is ending his presidential bid within the next week. He may had had some organizational issues, and he may have only won two states. But Gingrich knew how to make a memorable moment, either with a clever attack line…. – WaPo, 4-25-12
  • Romney moves to consolidate GOP support, court ex-rivals’ backers: Romney targets Obama in primary victory speech Romney senior advisor on road ahead Bachmann’s Take: Tuesday’s GOP primaries Now, the hard part. Mitt Romney, after finally clearing away the competition in the long and winding Republican primary battle…. – Fox News, 4-25-12
  • Romney moves to coordinate campaign with GOP: A day after claiming the title of Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney moved aggressively Wednesday to coordinate with the Republican National Committee to intensify his fight against President Barack Obama. One-time bitter GOP rivals looked to be coalescing behind the former Massachusetts governor.
    RNC Chairman Reince Priebus marked the transition Wednesday by proclaiming Romney the party’s “presumptive nominee.” Romney’s campaign also appointed several senior staff members to work on an informal takeover of the committee’s national infrastructure.
    “We will ensure that our finance, political and communications teams are fully synchronized,” Priebus said. “I am excited that these two top-notch operations will start to integrate and present a unified team to defeat Barack Obama.”
    At the same time, fading Republican contender Newt Gingrich signaled that he would likely follow Rick Santorum out of the race and called on the GOP to unite behind Romney. Aides confirmed that Gingrich will leave the race next week and said he was likely to endorse his one-time rival…. – AP, 4-25-12

Full Text Obama Presidency April 25, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Student Loans Interest Rates Doubling at the University of Colorado Boulder

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama: College Is the Best Investment You Can Make

Source: WH, 4-25-12

President Obama at the University of Colorado Coors Event Center
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on interest rates on student loans at the University of Colorado Coors Event Center in Boulder, Colo., April 24, 2012. (Official White House Photo by by Chuck Kennedy)

If Congress doesn’t act, more than 7.4 million students with federal student loans will see their interest rates double on July 1 of this year. President Obama believes that this is unacceptable: Higher education cannot be a luxury in this country. It’s an economic imperative that every family must be able to afford.

On Tuesday, the President visited universities in Colorado and North Carolina to talk with students about the importance of keeping interest rates on student loans low so that more Americans can get a fair shot at an affordable college education that will provide the skills they need to find a good job, and a clear path to middle class. President Obama also paid a visit to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, which was taping at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he “slow jammed” the news, explaining, “Now is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people.”

During a call with college reporters, the President explained why the battle over college affordability is one he is willing to fight:

 “I’ve always believed that we should be doing everything we can to help put higher education within reach for every single American student — because the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average.  And it’s never been more important. Unfortunately, it’s also never been more expensive.  And most of you guys I’m sure have reported about this and know this — students who take out loans to pay for college graduate owing an average of $25,000 a year. And I know what this is like, because when Michelle and I graduated from college and law school we had enormous debts, and it took us a lot of years to pay off.  So that’s probably why I feel this thing so personally.”

In Colorado, President Obama repeated his call for students to take action and make sure their voices are being heard:

“You need to send a message to your member of Congress. Tell them you’re not going to set your sights lower.  Tell them you’re not going to settle for something less.  You call them, you email them, you write on their Facebook page, tweet.  We’ve got, actually, a hashtag that I want everybody to use — #dontdoublemyrate.”

President Obama talks to patrons at the Sink in Boulder, Colo

President Barack Obama talks to patrons at the Sink turning a local stop in Boulder, Colo., April 24, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)


Learn more:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President–Boulder, Colorado

University of Colorado
Boulder, Colorado

7:20 P.M. MDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Boulder!  (Applause.)  How’s it going, Buffaloes?  (Applause.)  Well, you guys are just happy because school is almost out, isn’t it?  (Laughter.)

Please give Daniel a big round of applause for that great introduction.  (Applause.)  I just saw Daniel over at The Sink.  (Applause.)  I bought some pizza.  And I heard a rumor that Robert Redford used to work there.

AUDIENCE:  Yess!

THE PRESIDENT:  So that’s just a sign — always be nice to your server because you never know where they’ll end up.  (Laughter.)  I will say that I was shaking hands with folks outside and a young woman — she got very excited and spilled yogurt on me.  (Laughter.)  More hazardly, she spilled yogurt on the Secret Service, which you — (laughter) — the agent just stood there, just looking at her.  (Laughter.)

I want to thank the Chancellor of UC Boulder, Phil DiStefano.  Give him a big round of applause for having me here today.  (Applause.)  We’ve got the Lieutenant Governor of Colorado, Joe Garcia, in the house.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank you for being indoors when it is gorgeous outside.  (Applause.)

Now, I’ve just come from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill — (applause.)  I was talking to another good-looking group of students.  Jimmy Fallon and I taped his show there tonight — make sure to tune in.  (Laughter.)  But we saved the prime-time event for Boulder.  (Applause.)

And I’ve come here to talk to you about what most of you are focused on every day — at least you’re supposed to be — and that is studying and college.  Look, college isn’t just the best investment you can make in your future — it is the best investment that you can make in your country’s future.  I believe that.  (Applause.)

And by the way, I just want to say, all of you who have seats, feel free to sit down.  (Laughter.)  Because it’s hot in here and I don’t want folks dropping off.  (Laughter.)  There you go, make yourself comfortable.  Take a load off.  (Applause.)

So I’m proud of all of you for doing what it takes to make this investment in a college education because it has never been more important.

In today’s economy, there’s no greater predictor of individual success than a good education.  Right now, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average.  Their incomes are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma.  Higher education, whether it’s a four-year college or two years at a community college, is the clearest path we’ve got to the middle class.

Now, I know that those of you who are about to graduate — (applause) — you’re pretty cheerful about that, huh?  (Laughter.)  I know those of you who are about to graduate sometimes are wondering what’s in store for your future.  Because not even four years ago, just as the global economy was about to enter into freefall, you were still trying to find your way around campus.  And today, our economy is recovering, but it’s not yet fully recovered from the worst financial crisis and economic crisis that we’ve experienced since the Great Depression.

Our businesses have added more than 4 million jobs over the past two years.  (Applause.)  But there are still too many Americans who are out there looking for a job or trying to figure out how to pay the bills and cover the mortgage.  There are too many folks who still lack the basic security that has always been at the heart of the American promise, but has been slipping away for more than a decade now, even before the recession hit.

But here’s the thing.  I want all of you to know that the degree you earn from Colorado is going to be the best tool that you’ve got to achieve the American promise.  (Applause.)  By far. That basic idea that if you work hard, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, no matter what the circumstances of your birth, if you work hard you can do well enough to raise a family and own a home, send your own kids to college, put a little bit away for retirement.  That idea that each generation has a little more opportunity than the last.

I can tell you that now as a parent.  When I look at Malia and Sasha — sometimes I coach Sasha’s basketball games, and if she scores a basket I am so excited, compared to when I used to score a basket.  (Laughter.)  It’s the hope that all your parents have for you — that your own kids will surpass you; that they’re going to be able to shine as bright as they can imagine.  And that’s the dream that your parents have for you.

And keeping that promise alive, that’s the defining issue of our time.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We believe in you!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I believe in you.  I believe in you.  (Applause.)  I believe in you.

And I don’t want this to be a country where a shrinking number of Americans are doing really, really well while a growing number are struggling to get by.  (Applause.)  That’s not the future I want for you.  That’s not the future I want for my daughters.  I want this forever to be a country where everybody gets a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody plays by the same set of rules.  (Applause.)  That’s the America I know.  That’s the America I love.

It’s a big and bold and generous America.  It’s not a cramped America.  It’s not an America that says, set your sights lower.  And that’s the America that’s within our reach.

You know, I think back sometimes to my own circumstances.  My grandfather had the chance to go to college because this country decided that every returning veteran of World War II should be able to go to school.  (Applause.)  And then my mother was able to raise two kids by herself while she was going to school because she was able to get grants and work her way through school.  (Applause.)  And then I’m only standing here today, and Michelle is only where she is today, because scholarships and student loans gave us a shot at a great education.

We didn’t come from well-to-do backgrounds.  We didn’t have famous families.  But it wasn’t just that we worked hard.  It was also that somebody made an investment in us.  (Applause.)  That’s what America did for us.

This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of everybody.  Everybody who’s willing to work for it, we’ve said, you know what, you’ve got a shot.  That’s what makes us special.  That’s what makes us exceptional.
That’s what kept us at the forefront of business and science and technology and medicine.  And that’s the commitment that we’ve got to reaffirm today.  (Applause.)  That’s what we believe in.

But I don’t need to tell all of you that it’s gotten harder. Since most of you were born, tuition and fees at American colleges have more than doubled.  And that forces students like you to take out more loans and rack up more debt.  The average student who borrows to pay for college now graduates about $25,000 in student loan debt.  Not good.  Americans now owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.

And living with that kind of debt means some pretty tough choices when you’re first starting out.  It means putting off buying your first house.  Or it means maybe you can’t start up that business right away that you’ve got this great idea for.

When I was over at The Sink I was talking to three business majors, and they all had these business ideas.  But it’s tougher if you’ve got all this loan that you’re already thinking about the minute you get out of school.  Maybe you’ve got to start a family a little bit later.  It takes you a longer time to save for retirement.  And when a big chunk of every paycheck goes towards loan debt, that’s not just tough on you.  It’s not just tough on your families.  It’s painful for the whole economy because that’s money that could be going into the economy and could be going into new businesses and could be helping businesses grow.

And I want to point out — listen, I know about this firsthand.  Michelle and I, we know about this firsthand.  This is not something I read in a briefing book.  (Laughter.)  This is not some abstract idea for us.  We’ve been in your shoes.  When we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt, both of us.  That means when we got married, we got poorer together.  (Laughter.)  We added our assets together, and they were zero.  (Laughter.)  And then we added our liabilities together, and they were a lot.  (Laughter.)

We paid more for our student loans than we paid for our mortgage each month when we first bought our small condo in Chicago.  And we were lucky to land good jobs with a steady income, but we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago.  Think about that.  I’m the President of the United States and — (laughter and applause) — so here I am, and we were writing those checks every month.  And that wasn’t easy, especially when we had Malia and Sasha, because at that point, we’re supposed to be saving for their college educations, and we’re still paying off on our college educations.  So I’ve been in your shoes.  I know what I am talking about here.  This is not something that I just read about.

So we’ve got to make college more affordable for you.  (Applause.)  We cannot price the middle class out of a college education.  When most new jobs in America require more than a high school diploma, higher education — whether at a four-year college, at a two-year program — it can’t be a luxury.  It’s an economic imperative for every family in America.  And every family in America should be able to afford it.

As long as those young people are willing to put in the work, as long as you’re willing to study hard and take advantage of this opportunity, then we’ve got to make sure it’s there for you.  (Applause.)

Now, I’m going to be asking for your help, but let me tell you what I’ve already done on this issue, Colorado, because I think it’s important to know that we haven’t just been talking the talk — we’ve been walking the walk — to try to help make college more affordable.

Before I took office, we had a student loan system where tens of billions of taxpayer dollars were going to subsidize banks in the student loan program instead of going to students.  So we changed it.  We cut out the middleman.  We said, why do we need the banks?  They’re not taking a risk.  These are federally guaranteed loans; let’s give the money directly to students.  (Applause.)

And I have to tell you, there were folks in Washington who fought us tooth and nail because they wanted to protect the status quo.  One of them, when they heard that we wanted to take this business away from the banks, they said, this is “an outrage.”  But the real outrage was letting these banks keep these subsidies while students were working two or three jobs just to try to pay tuition.

So we kept at it, and we kept at it, and we won that fight. And today, that money is going directly to where it should have been going in the first place, and that’s helping millions of young people afford a college education.  (Applause.)

And then last fall, I acted to cap student loan payments faster, so that nearly 1.6 million students who make their payments on time, they have the option of only paying 10 percent of their monthly income towards loans once they graduate.  And that means if you decide to be a teacher, or you decide to be a social worker, or you’re going into a profession that doesn’t  pay a lot of money, you still have that option, because you know that your monthly payment will be manageable.  (Applause.)  And that’s important.  (Applause.)

And then we decided we’ve got to make sure every student has access to a simple fact sheet on student loans and financial aid, so you can have all the information you need to make intelligent choices on your own about how to pay for college.  So some of you know we created this new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.  It’s a watchdog for consumers.  (Applause.)  And one of their mandates is to focus on student loans.  And so they’ve produced a website and fact sheets called “Know Before You Owe” — “Know Before You Owe” — which is something I wish Michelle and I knew about, wish we had had.

So we’ve done those steps to help provide you good information and to make sure that we’ve expanded access to Pell grants and student loans.  But that’s not enough.  It’s not enough just to increase student aid.  We can’t keep on subsidizing skyrocketing tuition, or we’re just going to run out of money.  We’ll just run out of money.  (Applause.)

So what I said to colleges and universities is, you guys have to do your parts to keep costs down.  (Applause.)  And I’ve told Congress, steer federal aid to those schools that keep tuition affordable and provide good value and serve their students well.  We’ve put colleges on notice:  If you can’t show us that you’re making every effort to keep tuition from going up, then funding from taxpayers will go down.  You’ve got to make an effort.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to hold colleges accountable if they don’t.  (Applause.)

Of course, public universities like this one also understand that states have to do their part, state legislators have to do their part in making higher education a priority.  (Applause.)  Last year, over 40 states cut their higher education spending.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Not good.  These budget cuts have been one of the biggest factors in your tuition going up.  So we’re challenging states to take responsibility.  We told them, if you can bring — find new ways to bring down costs of college, make it easier for students to graduate, we’ll help you do it.

So that’s what we’ve already done.  We’ve helped families, helped more young people afford a higher education.  We’re offering incentives to states and colleges and universities to keep costs down.  And now, guess what, Congress has to do their part.  (Applause.)  Congress has to do their part.  (Applause.)

They need to extend the tuition tax credit that we put in place when I first came into office that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars.  They need to safeguard aid for low-income students, so that today’s freshmen and sophomores know they’re going to be able to count on it.  Our Pell grants have to be there for students.  They need to give more young people the chance to earn your way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs over the next five years.  (Applause.)

And then there’s something that they’ve got to do right now. They have to prevent the interest rates on federal student loans from shooting up and shaking you down.  And that’s where you come in.  (Applause.)

All right.  Now, five years ago, Congress cut the rates on federal student loans in half.  That’s five years ago.  Not the current Congress, Congress five years ago.  (Laughter.)  On July 1st of this year, two months from now, that rate cut expires.  I want everybody to understand this.  Interest rates on those loans will double overnight, starting on July 1st, if Congress does not act.  And for each year that Congress does not act, the average student with these loans is going to rack up an additional $1,000 in debt.  So this is money out of your pocket.  It’s basically a $1,000 tax hike for more than 7 million students across America  — almost 170,000 students here in Colorado alone.

Now, I just want to see a show of hands because I want to make sure I’m not misinformed here.  How many of you can afford to pay an extra $1,000 right now?  I didn’t think so.  So stopping this should be a no-brainer.  Helping more of our young people afford college should be at the forefront of America’s agenda.  It shouldn’t be a Democratic or a Republican issue.  Think about it.  (Applause.)  This wasn’t a partisan issue in the past.  The Stafford loans, that’s named after a Republican senator.  Pell grants, they’re named after a Democratic senator.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  America!

THE PRESIDENT:  America.  (Laughter.)  That’s what we’re supposed to be thinking about.

Look, when Congress cut these rates five years ago, 77 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for it.  Of course, a couple hundred Democrats voted for it, but that’s okay. It was a bipartisan effort.  Today you’ve got Republicans who run Congress, and they’re not saying whether or not they’re going to stop your rates from doubling.  Some have hinted that they’d only do it if we cut things like aid for low-income students instead. So think about this.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  They’ll say, we’ll keep your rates low as long as we’re messing with folks who need them even more.  Does that make sense to you?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  I want to read a quote.  This is from a Republican congresswoman.  I didn’t really understand this.  (Laughter.)  I’m quoting her.  She said that she has “very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with debt… because there’s no reason for that.”  She said, students who rack up student loan debt are just sitting on their butts, having opportunity “dumped in your lap.”

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  You guys can Google her or what have you, but — (laughter) — now, think about that.  Think about that.  I can tell you, Michelle and I, we didn’t take out loans because we were lazy.  (Laughter.)  You didn’t take out loans because you’re lazy.  You don’t take out loans lightly.  You don’t say to yourself, man, this is great, I’m going to be really in debt.  (Laughter.)  I’m thrilled.  You did it because the cost of college kept on going up, and you’re trying to graduate.

And if these guys were serious about making college more affordable, then they wouldn’t be voting to cut financial aid in their — their budget, if you look at their budget, what it means is you’re going to be cutting aid for 10 million college students by an average of more than $1,000.  They certainly wouldn’t let student rates double overnight if they really cared about this issue.

They say that, well, we’ve got to do it because we’ve got to bring down the deficit.  Now, first of all, these guys ran up the deficit.  (Applause.)  Remember, these are the same folks who voted in favor of two wars without paying for it, and big tax cuts without paying for it.  They just voted to keep billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies to big oil companies who are raking in record profits.  They just voted to let millionaires and billionaires keep paying low tax rates — lower tax rates than middle-class workers.  They just voted to give an average tax cut of at least $150,000 to the wealthiest Americans — folks like me who don’t need it, weren’t asking for it.  And the way they pay for it is to cut things like education and job training that give students opportunities to work and succeed.  So they can’t be too serious about deficits.

I mean, do we want to keep tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans who don’t need them, didn’t ask for them, the country can’t afford it?  Or do we want to make sure that everybody pays their fair share, and make sure that young people are able to afford to go to college?  (Applause.)

Do we want to keep giving taxpayer giveaways to big oil?  Or do we want to invest in clean energy and do we want to make sure that we’re rebuilding this country?  (Applause.)  And make sure that we can keep interest rates on millions of students affordable?  We need to be investing in the things that build America over the long term.  Things like education and science, a caring for our veterans, and a strong military.  (Applause.)  And we can’t have it both ways.  We’ve got to make choices.

In America, we admire success.  We aspire to it.  I want everybody here to do great, be rich, go out and start a business. That’s wonderful.   We work and we hustle, you study hard to get your degree — because you believe in success and individual initiative.  But America is not just about a few people doing well.  America is about everybody having the chance to do well.  (Applause.)  That’s what the American Dream is all about.  (Applause.)

Some of us had parents or grandparents who said, maybe I can’t go to college, but some day my son can go to college.  Maybe I can’t start my own business, but some day my daughter, she can start her own business.  Maybe I’m an immigrant and I won’t have every opportunity, but I believe that in this country, is this place, this is a place where no matter who you are or what you look like, or where you come from or what your last name is, you can make it if you try.  That’s what America is about.  (Applause.)  That’s who we are.  That’s who we are.  (Applause.)
So let me just be clear here.  We need to send a message to folks who don’t seem to get this that “setting your sights lower,” that’s not an education plan.  “You’re on your own” — that’s not an economic plan.  We can’t just cut our way to prosperity.

Earlier generations made investments necessary to build a strong middle class.  Somebody started this university.  Somebody gave us a chance.  Somebody made the investment in us because they helped to forge America’s leadership in things like science and technology and manufacturing.  That’s what previous generations did, and now it’s our turn.  Somebody here might be discovering the cure for cancer.  Somebody here might be getting the formula for fusion.  Somebody here might be inventing the next great American industry.  But that’s only going to happen if we understand that we’re in this together.

And that’s why I need your help.  I’m asking everybody who’s here and anybody who’s watching, anybody who’s following online, you need to send a message to your member of Congress.  Tell them you’re not going to set your sights lower.  Tell them you’re not going to settle for something less.  You call them, you email them, you write on their Facebook page, tweet.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got, actually, a hashtag that I want everybody to use — #dontdoublemyrate.  It’s pretty — everybody, I want you to repeat that.

AUDIENCE:  Dontdoublemyrate.

THE PRESIDENT:  Dontdoublemyrate.

AUDIENCE:  Dontdoublemyrate.  I asked students at North Carolina to do this earlier today and they got it trending worldwide for a while.  So let’s see if you can do better — (applause) — because we’ve got to keep the heat on.  Your voice matters.  You’ve got to stand up.  You’ve got to be heard.  You’ve got to be counted.  You’ve got to tell them now is not the time to double your interest rates on student loans.  Now is the time to double down on the investments in a strong and a secure middle class, and double down on an America that’s built to last.

You, me, all of us, we’re here because somebody, somewhere — starting with our parents or our grandparents or our great grandparents — they made an investment not just in themselves, but in each other and in the future of our country.  And now it’s our turn.  It’s our turn to keep that promise alive.

And that’s what drives me every single day.  I used to — when I was running for this office, I said to people, look, I will not be a perfect man or a perfect President, but here’s what I can do:  I can work every single day as hard as I know how to make sure that you’ve got a chance, to make sure you can live out your hopes and your dreams.  And I’m not about to quit now.  We don’t give up here in America.  We get up.  We get each other’s back.  We help each other get ahead.  We work together.  (Applause.)

And if you all are willing to join me, I guarantee you not only will we stop these interest rates from going up, but we’re going to remind the rest of the world just why it is that America is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
7:52 P.M. MDT

Remarks by the President to College Reporters

Via Telephone, Aboard Air Force One, En Route Boulder, Colorado

4:05 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey, everybody.  Thanks for being on the call.  And first of all, let me apologize if the connection sounds fuzzy.  As was just mentioned, I’m joining you guys on Air Force One.

I’m just leaving North Carolina; I was at UNC-Chapel Hill.  Now I’m on my way to the University of Colorado at Boulder.  And tomorrow we’re going to be at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.  And what we’re doing is going to schools to talk to students directly about the critical importance of the possibility that 7.4 million students with federal student loans would see their interest rates double on July 1st unless Congress steps up and does what it needs to do.

I’ve always believed that we should be doing everything we can to help put higher education within reach for every single American student — because the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average.  And it’s never been more important.  Unfortunately, it’s also never been more expensive.  And most of you guys I’m sure have reported about this and know this — students who take out loans to pay for college graduate owing an average of $25,000 a year.  And I know what this is like, because when Michelle and I graduated from college and law school we had enormous debts, and it took us a lot of years to pay off.  So that’s probably why I feel this thing so personally.

For a lot of working families, the idea of owing that much money means higher education is simply out of reach for their children.  And for the first time now we’ve got Americans owing more debt on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.

The key point here is, is that in America, higher education can’t be a luxury.  It’s an economic imperative that every family has got to be able to afford.  We’ve already taken some important steps to make college more affordable.  So, for example, we extended Pell grants to 3 million more students, and we signed a tax credit worth up to $10,000 to help middle-class families cover the cost of tuition.  We’ve eliminated a major expense for young people by allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s health insurance plans until they’re 26.

But there’s clearly more work to be done.  And that’s why I’m going to colleges across the country.  I want to talk to students right now about how we can make higher education more affordable, and what’s at stake right now if Congress doesn’t do something about it.

So the key point I want to make:  If Congress doesn’t act on July 1st, interest rates on Stafford loans, on student loans from the federal government will double.  Nearly 7.5 million students will end up owing more on their loan payments.  And that would be, obviously, a tremendous blow.  And it’s completely preventable.

And for some time now, I’ve been calling on Congress to take steps to make higher education more affordable, to prevent these interest rates from doubling, and to extend the tuition tax credit that has saved middle-class families millions of dollars, but also, to double the number of work/study jobs over the next five years.

And instead, over the past few years, Republicans in Congress have voted against new ways to make college more affordable for middle-class families, even while they’re voting for huge tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires — tax cuts that, by the way, would have to be paid for by cutting things like education and job-training programs that give students new opportunities to work and succeed.

So the bottom line here is we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.  Making it harder for our young people to afford higher education, allowing them to earn their degrees — that’s nothing more than cutting our own future off at the knees.  And Congress has to keep interest rates on student loans from doubling, and they need to do it now.

And I have to say, from my perspective, this is a question of values.  We can’t let America become a country where a shrinking number of people are doing really well, a growing number of people struggle to get by, and you’ve got fewer ladders for people to climb into the middle class and to get opportunity.  We’ve got to build an economy where everybody is getting a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  That’s ultimately how the middle class gets stronger.  And that’s an economy that’s built to last.

So I’m going to take this issue to every part of the country this year.  I’m going to keep focusing on it until Congress passes legislation to keep interest rates low and to continue to give students the chance to get the college education they need for the jobs of today, but also for the jobs of tomorrow.

And part of the reason I wanted to be on this call is to let you know, very personally, I need your help on this.  I need you all to tell your readers and your listeners why they’ve got to speak up, why they’ve got to speak out.  Let Congress know that they need to do the right thing.  And for those of you on Twitter, use the hashtag #dontdoublemyrate.  That’s #dontdoublemyrate.

Because we don’t want Congress to double the interest rates on so many students.  We need to reward hard work and responsibility.  And part of that is keeping interest rates on student loans low so more Americans get a fair shot at an affordable college education, the skills they need to find a good job, a clear path to the middle class that’s not blocked by a mountain of debt.  And the time to act is right now, and I’m going to need your help getting that message out.

So thanks so much to all of you for being on the call.  And thanks for taking the time to shine a light on this important issue.  And I know that our team is going to be on the phone call after I hang up.  They can answer a bunch of specific details that you may have.

Talk to you soon.  Bye-bye.

END 4:14 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 24, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Woos Student Voters & Pushes Congress to Prevent Low-Rate Student Loans from Doubling

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Asks Students to Tell Congress: #DontDoubleMyRate

Source: WH, 4-24-12

 

President Obama was at the University of North Carolina this afternoon asking students to tell their members of Congress one thing: Don’t double my rates.

Five years ago, Congress cut the rates on federal student loans in half. That was a good thing to do. But on July 1st — that’s a little over two months from now — that rate cut expires.  And if Congress does nothing, the interest rates on those loans will double overnight…. And just to give you some sense of perspective — for each year that Congress doesn’t act, the average student with these loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt — an extra thousand dollars.  That’s basically a tax hike for more than 7 million students across America — more than 160,000 students here in North Carolina alone.

President Obama said that stopping this from happening — and helping more young people afford college — should be a no-brainer because in today’s economy, a college degree is an economic imperative:

In today’s economy, there is no greater predictor of individual success than a good education.  Right now, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average.  Their incomes are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma.

And a college education –whether from a two-year or four-year school – shouldn’t be something that only some families can afford. A good education should be within reach for all students willing to work for it. But tuition and fees at America’s colleges have more than doubled since today’s college students were born, and students are taking on more debt to pay for it.

President Obama has worked to help more young people and their families afford a higher education. His Administration is offering incentives for states, colleges, and universities to keep costs down. And now he’s calling on Congress to do their part, and he’s asking students to help make sure they do.

But I’m asking everyone else who’s watching or following online — call your member of Congress. Email them. Write on their Facebook page. Tweet them — we’ve got a hashtag. Here’s the hashtag for you to tweet them:  #dontdoublemyrate. All right?  I’m going to repeat that — the hashtag is #dontdoublemyrate.

… Your voice matters. Stand up. Be heard. Be counted. Tell them now is not the time to double the interest rate on your student loans. Now is the time to double down on smart investments that build a strong and secure middle class. Now is the time to double down on an America that’s built to last.  


Learn more:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President on College Affordability — University of North Carolina

University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

1:13 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Hello, North Carolina!  (Applause.)  What’s up, Tar Heels?  (Applause.)

Now, first of all, I want to thank Domonique for that unbelievable introduction.  Wasn’t she good?  (Applause.)  You can tell she will be an outstanding teacher.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you, President Obama!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back, I do.  (Applause.)  Love North Carolina.  I love North Carolina.  (Applause.)  I do.  Every time I come down to this state I just love it that much more.  (Applause.)  I said a while back, the thing about North Carolina is even the folks who don’t vote for me are nice to me.  (Laughter.)  I can’t say that about everyplace.  (Laughter.)

Now, I want to issue a quick spoiler alert:  Later today, I am getting together with Jimmy Fallon — (applause) — and the Dave Matthews Band — (applause) — right here on campus.  We’re going to tape Jimmy’s show for tonight — so I want everybody to tune in, make sure it has high ratings.  (Laughter.)  It’s a Dave Matthews fan right here.

We’ve got some wonderful people who are here who are doing a great job for you guys.  First of all, your Governor, Bev Perdue, is in the house.  Give her a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  There she is.  We’ve got your Congressman, Dave Price — Congressman David Price.  (Applause.)  Congressmen GK Butterfield.  (Applause.)  Congressman Brad Miller.  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Mark Kleinschmidt.  (Applause.)  Chancellor of UNC, Holden Thorp.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  It is great to be back on the Lady Tar Heels’ home court.  (Applause.)  This is an arena with some serious hoops history.  I know the men’s team used to play here back in the day.  I just want to remind you right off the bat — I picked UNC to win it all in March Madness.  (Applause.)  Want to point out.  And if Kendall hadn’t gotten hurt — (laughter)  — who knows where we might have been.

I saw McAdoo, by the way, at the airport.  He came by and said hello, which I was excited — so I just want you to know I have faith in you guys.  (Applause.)

Now, it’s always good to begin with some easy applause lines — talk about the Tar Heels.  (Laughter.)  But the reason I came to Chapel Hill today is to talk about what most of you do here every single day — and that’s study, I assume.  (Laughter.)  Higher education is the single most important investment you can make in your future.  (Applause.)  So I’m proud of all of you for doing what it takes to make that investment — for the long hours in the library — I hope — (laughter) — in the lab, in the classroom.  This has never been more important.

Whether you’re here at a four-year college or university, or you’re at a two-year community college, in today’s economy, there’s no greater predictor of individual success than a good education.  (Applause.)  Right now, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average.  The incomes of folks with a college degree are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma.  A higher education is the clearest path into the middle class.  (Applause.)

Now, I know that those of you who are about to graduate are wondering about what’s in store for your future.  Not even four years ago, just as the global economy was about to enter into freefall, you were still trying to find your way around campus.  And you’ve spent your years here at a time when the whole world has been trying to recover, but has not yet fully recovered from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in most of our lifetimes — and that includes your teachers.

Our businesses have added more than 4 million jobs over the past two years, but we all know there’s still too many Americans out there looking for work or trying to find a job that pays enough to cover the bills and make the mortgage.  We still have too many folks in the middle class that are searching for that security that started slipping away years before the recession hit.

So we’ve still got a lot of work to do to rebuild this economy so that it lasts, so that it’s solid, so that it’s firm.  But what I want you to know is that the degree you earn from UNC will be the best tool you have to achieve that basic American promise — the idea that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family and own a home, send your own kids to college, put a little away for retirement.  (Applause.)  That American Dream is within your reach.  (Applause.)

And there’s another part of this dream, which is the idea that each generation is going to know a little bit more opportunity than the last generation.  That our kids — I can tell you now as a parent — and I guarantee you, your parents feel this about you — nothing is more important than your kid’s success.  You want them to do better than you did.  (Applause.)   You want them to shoot higher, strive more, and succeed beyond your imagination.

So keeping that promise alive is the defining issue of our time.  I don’t want this to be a country where a shrinking number of Americans are doing really, really well, but a growing number of people are just struggling to get by.  That’s not my idea of America.  (Applause.)  I don’t want that future for you.  I don’t want that future for my daughters.  I want this forever to be a country where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  (Applause.)  That’s the America I know and love.  That’s the America within our reach.

I think back to my grandfather.  He had a chance to go to college because this country decided every returning veteran of World War II should be able to afford it, should be able to go to college.  (Applause.)  My mother was able to raise two kids by herself because she was able to get grants and work her way through school.  (Applause.)  I am only standing here today, Michelle is only who she is today — (applause) — because of scholarships and student loans.  That gave us a shot at a great education.  We didn’t come from families of means, but we knew that if we worked hard we’d have a shot.

This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of all who are willing to work for it.  That’s what makes us special.  That’s what made us an economic superpower.  That’s what kept us at the forefront of business and science and technology and medicine.  And that’s a commitment we have to reaffirm today in 2012.  (Applause.)

Now, everybody will give lip service to this.  You’ll hear a lot of folks say, yes, education is important — it’s important.  (Laughter.)  But it requires not just words but deeds.  And the fact is, that since most of you were born, tuition and fees at America’s colleges have more than doubled.  And that forces students like you to take out a lot more loans.  There are fewer grants.  You rack up more debt.  Can I get an “amen”?

AUDIENCE:  Amen!

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, the average student who borrows to pay for college now graduates with about $25,000 in student loan debt.  That’s the average — some are more.  Can I get an “amen” for that?

AUDIENCE:  Amen!

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes — because some folks have more debt than that.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen!  (Laughter and applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Americans now owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.  And living with that kind of debt means that this generation is not getting off to the same start that previous generations — because you’re already loaded up with debt.  So that means you’ve got to make pretty tough choices when you are first starting out.  You might have to put off buying a house.  It might mean that you can’t go after that great idea for a startup that you have, because you’re still paying off loans.  Maybe you’ve got to wait longer to start a family, or save for retirement.

When a big chunk of every paycheck goes towards loan debt, that’s not just tough on you, that’s not just tough for middle-class families, it’s not just tough on your parents — it’s painful for the economy, because that money is not going to help businesses grow.  I mean, think about the sooner you can start buying a house, that’s good for the housing industry.  The sooner you can start up that business, that means you’re hiring some folks — that grows the economy.

And this is something Michelle and I know about firsthand.  I just wanted everybody here to understand this is not — I didn’t just read about this.  (Laughter and applause.)  I didn’t just get some talking points about this.  I didn’t just get a policy briefing on this.  Michelle and I, we’ve been in your shoes.  Like I said, we didn’t come from wealthy families.

So when we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt.  When we married, we got poorer together.  (Laughter and applause.)  We added up our assets and there were no assets.  (Laughter.)  And we added up our liabilities and there were a lot of liabilities, basically in the form of student loans.  We paid more in student loans than we paid on our mortgage when we finally did buy a condo.  For the first eight years of our marriage, we were paying more in student loans than what we were paying for our mortgage.  So we know what this is about.

And we were lucky to land good jobs with a steady income. But we only finished paying off our student loans — check this out, all right, I’m the President of the United States — (applause) — we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago.  (Laughter.)  That wasn’t that long ago.  And that wasn’t easy, especially because when we had Malia and Sasha, we’re supposed to be saving up for their college educations, and we’re still paying off our college educations.

So we have to make college more affordable for our young people.  That’s the bottom line.  (Applause.)  And like I said, look, not everybody is going to go to a four-year college or university.  You may go to a community college.  You may go to a technical school and get into the workforce.  And then, it may turn out that after you’ve had kids and you’re 35, you go back to school because you’re retraining for something new.  But no matter what it is, no matter what field you’re in, you’re going to have to engage in lifelong learning.  That’s the nature of the economy today.  And we’ve got to make sure that’s affordable.

That’s good for the country; it’s good for you.  At this make-or-break moment for the middle class, we’ve got to make sure that you’re not saddled with debt before you even get started in life.  (Applause.)  Because I believe college isn’t just one of the best investments you can make in your future — it’s one of the best investments America can make in our future.  This is important for all of us.  (Applause.)

We can’t price the middle class out of a college education.  Not at a time when most new jobs in America will require more than a high school diploma.  Whether it’s at a four-year college or a two-year program, we can’t make higher education a luxury.  It’s an economic imperative.  Every American family should be able to afford it.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen!

THE PRESIDENT:  So that’s why I’m here.  Now, before I ask for your help — I’ve got something very specific I’m going to need you to do.  But, North Carolina, indulge me.  I want to briefly tell you what we’ve already done to help make college more affordable, because we’ve done a lot.

Before I took office, we had a student loan system where tens of billions of taxpayer dollars were going to banks, not students.  They were processing student loan programs except the student loans were federally guaranteed so they weren’t taking any big risks, but they were still taking billions of dollars out of the system.  So we changed it.

Some in Washington fought tooth and nail to protect the status quo, where billions of dollars were going to banks instead of students.  And they wanted to protect that.  They wanted to keep those dollars flowing to the banks.

One of them said — and I’m going to quote here because it gives you a sense of the attitudes sometimes we’re dealing with in Washington.  They said, it would be “an outrage” — if we changed the system so that the money wasn’t going through banks and they weren’t making billions of dollars of profits off of it — said it was “an outrage.”

And I said, no, the real outrage is letting these banks keep these subsidies without taking any risks while students are working two or three jobs just to get by.  That’s an outrage.  That’s an outrage.  (Applause.)

So we kept at it, we kept it at — we won that fight.  Today, that money is going where it should be going — should have been going in the first place — it’s going directly to students.  We’re bypassing the middleman.  That means we can raise Pell grants to a higher level.  More people are eligible. More young people are able to afford college because of what we did.  (Applause.)  Over 10 years, that’s going to be $60 billion that’s going to students that wasn’t going to students before.  (Applause.)

Now, then, last fall, I acted to cap student loan payments faster, so that nearly 1.6 million students who make their payments on time will only have to pay 10 percent of their monthly income towards loans once they graduate.  (Applause.)  Now, this is useful — this is especially helpful for young people who decide, like Domonique, to become teachers, or maybe they go into one of the —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Social work.

THE PRESIDENT:  — social work or one of the helping professions.  (Applause.)  And they may not get paid a lot of money, but they’ve got a lot of debt.  And so being able to cap how much per month you’re paying as a percentage of your income gives you a little bit more security knowing you can choose that profession.

And then we wanted every student to have access to a simple factsheet on student loans and financial aid, so you can have all the information you need to make your own choices about how to pay for college.  And we set up this new consumer watchdog called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — (applause) — and so they’re now putting out this information.  We call it “Know Before You Owe.”  Know before you owe.  It’s something Michelle and I wish we had had when we were in your shoes — because sometimes we got surprised by some of this debt that we were racking up.

So that’s what we’ve done.  But it’s not enough just to increase student aid.  We can’t keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition or we’ll run out of money.  And colleges and universities, they’ve got to do their part also to keep college costs down.  (Applause.)  So I’ve told Congress to steer federal aid to those schools that keep tuition affordable, that provide good value, that serve their students well.  And we’ve put colleges on notice:  If you can’t stop tuition from just going up every single year a lot faster than inflation, then funding you get from taxpayers, at least at the federal level, will go down — because we need to push colleges to do better, and hold them accountable if they don’t.  (Applause.)

Now, public universities know well, and Governor Perdue knows well — states also have to do their part by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets.  (Applause.)  I know that Bev is fighting hard to make tuition affordable for North Carolina families.  That’s a priority for her.  But last year, over 40 states cut their higher education spending.  And these budget cuts have been among the largest factors in tuition increases at public colleges over the past decade.  So we’re challenging states to take responsibility.  We told them, if you can find new ways to bring down the cost of college and make it easier for students to graduate, then we’ll help you do it.

But I want everybody here, as you’re thinking about voting, make sure you know where your state representative and your state senator stands when it comes to funding higher education.  (Applause.)  They’ve got to be responsible.  They’ve got to be accountable as well to prioritize higher education.  (Applause.)

All right.  So helping more families, helping more young people afford a higher education; offering incentives for states and colleges and universities to keep their costs down — that’s what we’ve been doing.  Now Congress has to do their part.

They need to extend the tuition tax credit that we put in place back when I came into office.  It’s saving middle-class families thousands of dollars.  (Applause.)  Congress needs to safeguard aid for low-income students, like Pell grants, so that today’s freshmen and sophomores know that they’ll be able to count on it.  (Applause.)  That’s what Congress has to do.  Congress needs to give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work/study jobs over the next five years.  (Applause.)  That’s what Congress needs to do.

And then there’s one specific thing — and now this is where you come in — there’s one specific thing that Congress needs to do right now to prevent the interest rates on student loans, federal student loans, from shooting up and shaking you down.  So this is where you come in.  I want to explain this, so everybody listen carefully.

Five years ago, Congress cut the rate on federal student loans in half.  That was a good thing to do.  But on July 1st — that’s a little over two months from now — that rate cut expires.  And if Congress does nothing, the interest rates on those loans will double overnight.

So I’m assuming a lot of people here have federal student loans.  The interest rates will double unless Congress acts by July 1st.  And just to give you some sense of perspective — for each year that Congress doesn’t act, the average student with these loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt — an extra thousand dollars.  That’s basically a tax hike for more than 7 million students across America — more than 160,000 students here in North Carolina alone.  Anybody here can afford to pay an extra $1,000 right now?

AUDIENCE:  No!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I didn’t think so.  So stopping this from happening should be a no-brainer.  Helping more of our young people afford college, that should be at the forefront of America’s agenda.  It shouldn’t be a Republican or a Democratic issue.  (Applause.)  This is an American issue.

The Stafford loans we’re talking about, they’re named after a Republican senator.  The Pell grants that have helped millions of Americans earn a college education, that’s named after a Democratic senator.  When Congress cut those rates five years ago, 77 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for it — along with a couple hundred Democrats — (laughter) — including the Democrats who are here.  (Applause.)

So this shouldn’t be a partisan issue.  And yet, the Republicans who run Congress right now have not yet said whether or not they’ll stop your rates from doubling.  We’re two months away.  Some have hinted that they’d only do it if we cut things like aid for low-income students instead.  So the idea would be, well, all right, we’ll keep interest rates low if we take away aid from other students who need it.  That doesn’t make sense.

One Republican congresswoman said just recently — I’m going to quote this because I know you guys will think I’m making it up — (laughter).

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We trust you.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no.  She said she had “very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with debt because there’s no reason for that.”

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m just quoting here.  I’m just quoting.  She said, students who rack up student loan debt are just sitting on their butts, having opportunity “dumped in your lap.”

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  I mean, I’m reading it here, so I didn’t
make this up.  Now, can you imagine saying something like that?  Those of you who have had to take out student loans, you didn’t do it because you’re lazy.  You didn’t do it lightly.  You don’t like debt.  I mean, a lot of you, your parents are helping out, but it’s tough on them.  They’re straining.  And so you do it because the cost of college keeps going up and you know this is an investment in your future.

So if these folks in Washington were serious about making college more affordable, they wouldn’t have voted for a budget that could cut financial aid for tens of millions of college students by an average of more than $1,000.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Absolutely!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  They certainly wouldn’t let your student loan rates double overnight.  So when you ask them, well, why aren’t you making this commitment?  They say, well, we got to bring down the deficit.  Of course, this is the deficit they helped run up over the past decade.  (Applause.)  Didn’t pay for two wars.  Didn’t pay for two massive tax cuts.  And now this is the reason why you want students to pay more?

They just voted to keep giving billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to big oil companies that are raking in record profits.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  They just voted to let millionaires and billionaires keep paying lower tax rates than middle-class workers and their secretaries.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  They even voted to give an average tax cut of at least $150,000 to folks like me, the wealthiest Americans — a tax cut paid for by cutting things like education and job training programs that give students new opportunities to work and succeed.

Now, that’s their priorities.  And that doesn’t make any sense.  Do we want to keep tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans who don’t need them and didn’t ask for them?  Or do we want to make sure that they’re paying their fair share?  (Applause.)   Do we want to keep subsidizing big oil, or do we want to make sure we’re investing in clean energy?  (Applause.)  Do we want to jack up interest rates on millions of students, or do we want to keep investing in things that will help us and help them in the long-term — things like education and science, and a strong military and care for our veterans?  (Applause.)  We can’t do both.  We can’t have it both ways.  We’ve got to make a choice about what our priorities are.  (Applause.)

You know, I’ve said this before, but I’m just going to keep on repeating it:  In America, we admire success.  We aspire to it.  I want everybody to be rich.  I want everybody to work and hustle and start businesses and study your tails off to get there.  (Laughter.)  But America is not just about a few people doing well.  America is about giving everybody a chance to do well.  (Applause.)  Everybody — not just a few — everybody.  (Applause.)  That’s what built this country.  That’s what the American Dream is all about.

A lot of us had parents or grandparents who said, maybe I can’t go to college, but some day my son, he’ll go to college and I’ll be so proud of him.  A lot of us had parents or grandparents who said, maybe I can’t start my own business, but maybe some day my daughter, she’s going to start her own business, she’s going to work for herself.  (Applause.)  A lot of us had parents or grandparents who said, I may be an immigrant, but I believe that this is a country where no matter what you look like and where you come from, no matter what your name is, you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

North Carolina, that’s who we are.  That’s our values. That’s what we’re about.  So, no, “set your sights lowe” — that’s not an education plan.  “You’re on your own” — that’s not an economic plan.  We can’t just cut our way to prosperity.

Previous generations made the investments necessary for us to succeed, to build a strong middle class, to create the foundation for America’s leadership in science and technology and medicine and manufacturing.  And now it’s our turn.  We’ve got to do the right thing.  I want one of you to discover the cure for cancer, or the formula for fusion, or the next game-changing American industry.  (Applause.)  And that means we’ve got to support those efforts.

So if you agree with me, I need your help.  I need you to tell your member of Congress, we’re not going to set our sights lower.  We’re not going to settle for something less.  Now, all of you are lucky, you already have three congressmen who are on board.  So don’t — you don’t need to call them.  (Laughter and applause.)  They’re already doing the right thing.  But I’m asking everyone else who’s watching or following online — call your member of Congress.  Email them.  Write on their Facebook page.  Tweet them — we’ve got a hashtag.  (Laughter.)  Here’s the hashtag for you to tweet them:  #dontdoublemyrate.  (Applause.)  All right?  I’m going to repeat that — the hashtag is #dontdoublemyrate.  You tweet — everybody say it just so everybody remembers it.

AUDIENCE:  Don’t double my rate.

THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t double my rate — it’s pretty straightforward.

Your voice matters.  So stand up.  Be heard.  Be counted.  Tell them now is not the time to double interest rates on your student loans.  Now is the time to double down on smart investments to build a strong and secure middle class.  Now is the time to double down on building an America that lasts.

AUDIENCE:  Absolutely!

THE PRESIDENT:  You — absolutely.  (Applause.)

You and me, all of us here, every single one of us — we’re here only because somebody, somewhere, felt responsibility not just for themselves, but they felt responsibility for something larger.  It started with them feeling responsible for their families.  So your parents sacrificed, your grandparents sacrificed to make sure you could succeed.  But then they thought bigger than that.  They thought about their neighborhood, they thought about their community, they thought about their country.  Now —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  The planet.

THE PRESIDENT:  They thought about the planet.  And now it’s our turn to be responsible.  It’s our turn to keep that promise alive.

And no matter how tough these times have been, no matter how many obstacles that may stand in our way, I promise you, North Carolina, there are better days ahead.  (Applause.)  We will emerge stronger than we were before.  Because I believe in you.  I believe in your future.  I believe in the investment you’re making right here at North Carolina.  (Applause.)  That tells me that you share my faith in America’s future.  And that’s what drives me every single day — your hopes, your dreams.  And I’m not quitting now because, in America, we don’t quit.  (Applause.)  We get each other’s backs.  We help each other get ahead.

And if we work together, we’ll remind the world just why it is that America’s the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

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

END
1:48 P.M. EDT

Campaign Buzz April 24, 2012: Mitt Romney’s Speech After Sweeping all 5 Northeast Primaries — Moves on to General Election Assails Barack Obama in Manchester, New Hampshire

CAMPAIGN 2012

 

 

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

 

Mitt Romney Delivers Remarks in Manchester, NH

 


Source: Mitt Romney, 4-24-12

Location

 

Boston, MA

United States

 

Mitt Romney tonight delivered remarks in Manchester, New Hampshire. The following remarks were prepared for delivery:

 

Thank you Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York!  And tonight I can say thank you, America.  After 43 primaries and caucuses, many long days and more than a few long nights, I can say with confidence – and gratitude – that you have given me a great honor and solemn responsibility.  And, together, we will win on November 6th!

 

We launched this campaign not far from here on a beautiful June day. It has been an extraordinarily journey.

 

Americans have always been eternal optimists.  But over the last three and a half years, we have seen hopes and dreams diminished by false promises and weak leadership. Everywhere I go, Americans are tired of being tired, and many of those who are fortunate enough to have a job are working harder for less.

 

For every single mom who feels heartbroken when she has to explain to her kids that she needs to take a second job … for grandparents who can’t afford the gas to visit their grandchildren … for the mom and dad who never thought they’d be on food stamps … for the small business owner desperately cutting back just to keep the doors open one more month – to all of the thousands of good and decent Americans I’ve met who want nothing more than a better chance, a fighting chance, to all of you, I have a simple message: Hold on a little longer.  A better America begins tonight.

 

Tonight is the start of a new campaign to unite every American who knows in their heart that we can do better! The last few years have been the best that Barack Obama can do, but it’s not the best America can do!

 

Tonight is the beginning of the end of the disappointments of the Obama years and the start of a new and better chapter that we will write together.

 

This has already been a long campaign, but many Americans are just now beginning to focus on the choice before the country. In the days ahead, I look forward to spending time with many of you personally. I want to hear what’s on your mind, hear about your concerns, and learn about your families. I want to know what you think we can do to make this country better…and what you expect from your next President.

 

And I’ll tell you a little bit about myself. I’ll probably start out talking about my wonderful wife Ann – I usually do – and I’ll probably bore you with stories about our kids and grandkids. I’ll tell you about how much I love this country, where someone like my dad, who grew up poor and never graduated from college, could pursue his dreams and work his way up to running a great car company.  Only in America could a man like my dad become governor of the state in which he once sold paint from the trunk of his car.

 

I’d say that you might have heard that I was successful in business.  And that rumor is true.  But you might not have heard that I became successful by helping start a business that grew from 10 people to hundreds of people.  You might not have heard that our business helped start other businesses, like Staples and Sports Authority and a new steel mill and a learning center called Bright Horizons. And I’d tell you that not every business made it and there were good days and bad days, but every day was a lesson.  And after 25 years, I know how to lead us out of this stagnant Obama economy and into a job-creating recovery!

 

Four years ago Barack Obama dazzled us in front of Greek columns with sweeping promises of hope and change.  But after we came down to earth, after the celebration and parades, what do we have to show for three and a half years of President Obama?

 

Is it easier to make ends meet? Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one?  Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more in your job?  Do you have a better chance to get a better job?  Do you pay less at the pump?

 

If the answer were “yes” to those questions, then President Obama would be running for re-election based on his achievements…and rightly so.  But because he has failed, he will run a campaign of diversions, distractions, and distortions.  That kind of campaign may have worked at another place and in a different time.  But not here and not now.  It’s still about the economy …and we’re not stupid.

 

People are hurting in America. And we know that something is wrong, terribly wrong with the direction of the country.

 

We know that this election is about the kind of America we will live in and the kind of America we will leave to future generations.  When it comes to the character of America, President Obama and I have very different visions.

 

Government is at the center of his vision. It dispenses the benefits, borrows what it cannot take, and consumes a greater and greater share of the economy. With Obamacare fully installed, government will come to control half the economy, and we will have effectively ceased to be a free enterprise society.

 

This President is putting us on a path where our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars.  He’s asking us to accept that Washington knows best – and can provide all.

 

We’ve already seen where this path leads.  It erodes freedom.  It deadens the entrepreneurial spirit.  And it hurts the very people it’s supposed to help.  Those who promise to spread the wealth around only ever succeed in spreading poverty.  Other nations have chosen that path. It leads to chronic high unemployment, crushing debt, and stagnant wages.

 

I have a very different vision for America, and of our future. It is an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. Because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hard-working, educated and skilled employees is intense, and so wages and salaries rise.

 

I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents – some successful even beyond their wildest dreams – and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.

 

This America is fundamentally fair. We will stop the unfairness of urban children being denied access to the good schools of their choice; we will stop the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to their friends’ businesses; we will stop the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing; we will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve; and we will stop the unfairness of one generation passing larger and larger debts on to the next.

 

In the America I see, character and choices matter.  And education, hard work, and living within our means are valued and rewarded.  And poverty will be defeated, not with a government check, but with respect and achievement that is taught by parents, learned in school, and practiced in the workplace.

 

This is the America that was won for us by the nation’s Founders, and earned for us by the Greatest Generation.  It is the America that has produced the most innovative, most productive, and the most powerful economy in the world.

 

As I look around at the millions of Americans without work, the graduates who can’t get a job, the soldiers who return home to an unemployment line, it breaks my heart. This does not have to be. It is the result of failed leadership and of a faulty vision. We will restore the promise of America only if we restore the principles of freedom and opportunity that made America the greatest nation on earth.

 

Today, the hill before us is a little steep but we have always been a nation of big steppers.  Many Americans have given up on this President but they haven’t ever thought about giving up. Not on themselves. Not on each other. And not on America.

 

In the days ahead, join me in the next step toward that destination of November 6th, when across America we can give a sigh of relief and know that the Promise of America has been kept. The dreamers can dream a little bigger, the help wanted signs can be dusted off, and we can start again.

 

And this time we’ll get it right. We’ll stop the days of apologizing for success at home and never again apologize for America abroad.

 

There was a time – not so long ago – when each of us could walk a little taller and stand a little straighter because we had a gift that no one else in the world shared. We were Americans. That meant something different to each of us but it meant something special to all of us. We knew it without question. And so did the world.

 

Those days are coming back. That’s our destiny.

 

We believe in America. We believe in ourselves. Our greatest days are still ahead. We are, after all, Americans!

 

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

 

Campaign Buzz April 24, 2012: Mitt Romney Sweeps Northeast Primarie, Wins all 5 — Moves on to General Election Assails Barack Obama in Manchester, New Hampshire Speech

CAMPAIGN 2012

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

Cheryl Senter for The New York Times

As Republicans in five other states voted Tuesday, Mitt Romney addressed general election themes in Manchester, N.H. More Photos »

IN FOCUS: MITT ROMNEY SWEEPS NORTHEAST PRIMARIES, WINS ALL 5 — MOVES ON TO GENERAL ELECTION ASSAILING OBAMA IN MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE SPEECH

Romney goes five for five with New York primary victory: In an energetic speech in New Hampshire after winning Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania, Romney stakes his claim as the Republican nominee…. – WaPo, 4-24-12

After 5 More Contests, Romney Solidifies Lead: As Republicans in five other states voted Tuesday, Mitt Romney addressed general election themes in Manchester, N.H.
Mitt Romney effectively took the Republican Party helm on Tuesday after five primary victories in the Northeast solidified his status as presidential nominee-in-waiting…. – NYT, 4-24-12

  • Tuesday night wins make it official: Romney is the nominee: Romney swept Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Pennsylvania, and is expected to win New York shortly.
    Mitt Romney laid claim to a fiercely contested Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night with a fistful of primary triumphs, then urged all who struggle in a shaky U.S. economy to “hold on a little longer, a better America begins tonight.”
    Eager to turn the political page to the general election, Romney accused President Barack Obama of “false promises and weak leadership.” He said, “Everywhere I go, Americans are tired of being tired, and many of those who are fortunate enough to have a job are working harder for less.”
    The former Massachusetts governor spoke as he pocketed primary victories in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Pennsylvania in the first contests since Rick Santorum conceded the nomination. New York was expected to follow. He delivered his remarks to a national television audience from New Hampshire, the state where he won his first primary of the campaign and one of about a dozen states expected to be battlegrounds in the summer and fall campaign for the White House…. – CS Monitor, 4-24-12
  • Romney Delivers Big Primary Wins, Assails Obama in Speech: Mitt Romney declared that he had accomplished a sweep of five states on Tuesday night and laid claim to the Republican presidential nomination…. – NYT, 4-24-12
  • New York gives Romney clean sweep of Tuesday primaries: By David Meeks Mitt Romney won all five Republican presidential primaries Tuesday, effectively ending the GOP nomination battle. The Associated Press called New York for the former Massachusetts governor not long after the polls closed at 9 pm EDT…. – LAT, 4-24-12
  • Mitt Romney sweeps primaries in five states: Mitt Romney won all five Republican presidential primaries Tuesday night, completing a sweep of contests in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
    Romney boasted more than 50 percent of the vote in all five states.
    In Connecticut, with 90 percent of the expected votes in, Romney led Ron Paul 67 percent to 13 percent. In Rhode Island, with most of the expected votes counted, Romney led Paul 63 percent to 24 percent.
    In Pennsylvania, with nearly all of the votes in, Romney had 56 percent. Rick Santorum, who dropped out of the Republican presidential contest earlier this month, followed with 20 percent of the vote.
    In Delaware, with most of the votes counted, Romney led Newt Gingrich 56 percent to 27 percent. And in New York, with 51 percent of the expected votes in, Romney led Paul 60 percent to 17 percent…. – CBS News, 4-24-12
  • Romney to claim GOP nomination after primary victories: With victories expected in five Northeastern primaries, Mitt Romney prepared to claim the mantle of Republican presidential nominee — though he has not officially clinched the race — and turn his focus to a general election…. – LAT, 4-24-12
  • Romney: ‘It’s still about the economy, and we’re not stupid': As votes continued to roll in for Mitt Romney after five Northeastern states weighed in on the Republican presidential campaign, Romney declared Tuesday “the start of a new campaign” in a victory speech focused exclusively…. – LAT, 4-24-12
  • Once a fierce rival, Rick Santorum hints at Mitt Romney endorsement in Presidential race: Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says he expects to endorse Mitt Romney. Santorum says that he believes Romney is “the right guy” to challenge President Barack Obama. Still, he’s stopping short of an official…. – WaPo, 4-24-12
  • Gingrich plans to ‘realistically’ review campaign: Former House speaker Newt Gingrich said Tuesday that over the next few days he and his wife, Callista, would look “realistically” at the state of his beleaguered presidential campaign, but stopped short of dropping out…. – USA Today, 4-24-12
  • Gingrich says he’ll decide next move in campaign after finishing week of stops: Newt Gingrich says he plans to finish a week of campaigning in North Carolina but acknowledges that he needs to look realistically at where it stands. Gingrich spoke Tuesday night to about 100 supporters in Concord, NC, as he learned that…. – WaPo, 4-24-12

Full Text Obama Presidency April 23, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Honoring the Pledge of ‘never again’ & Saying ‘I’ll be there for Israel’ — Issues New Tech Sanctions on Syria, Iran

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama Delivers Remarks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Obama at Holocaust museum: ‘I’ll be there for Israel’

Source: JTA, 4-23-12

President Obama in an address at a Holocaust remembrance event said he would “always be there for Israel” and defended his administration’s record on preventing atrocities.

Obama spoke Monday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, a few days after Holocaust Remembrance Day. Prior to his address, he took a tour of the museum guided by Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust memoirist and Nobel Peace laureate.

He recounted meeting with a woman at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, when he was a presidential candidate in 2008, who told him that the Jews only had one state.

“I said I would always be there for Israel,” Obama said, and he cited the steps he has taken to isolate Iran because of its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Obama also recounted steps taken by his administration through military and diplomatic action to prevent atrocities in Sudan, Libya, Uganda and Ivory Coast.

The president has come under pressure in recent months for not doing more to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose crackdown on opponents has killed thousands. Obama pledged to keep working with allies to bring about “the end of the Assad regime.”

Elsewhere in his address, however, he said that his commitment to preventing atrocities “does not mean we intervene militarily every time there is an injustice in the world.”

Obama levies new tech sanctions on Syria, Iran:

Source: AP, 4-23-12

Under pressure to stop the Syrian government’s deadly crackdown, President Barack Obama on Monday levied new sanctions on people and entities in Syria and Iran that use technology to target their citizens and perpetrate human rights abuses.
Obama’s announcement underscored the degree to which technology, from cellphones to social media, has fueled popular uprisings in countries throughout the Arab world and at the same time has given autocratic regimes new ways to track dissidents and suppress political dissent.

“These technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them,” said Obama, as he announced the sanctions during a solemn speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

Surrounded by the haunting memories of the Holocaust, Obama spoke broadly about the international community’s obligation to prevent the “madness” of mass killings. And he issued a sharp warning to governments that launch violent crackdowns on civilians.

“National sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people,” he said….READ MORE

 

President Obama Speaks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Musuem

Source: WH, 4-23-12

Today, President Obama spoke at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about honoring the pledge of “never again” by making sure we are doing everything we can to prevent and end atrocities and save lives.

After being introduced by Professor Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, the President spoke of the importance of telling our children—and all future generations—about that dark and evil time in human history when six million innocent men, women, and children were murdered just because they were Jewish.

We must tell our children.  But more than that, we must teach them.  Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture.  Awareness without action changes nothing.  In this sense, “never again” is a challenge to us all — to pause and to look within.

For the Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax at Treblinka and Auschwitz and Belzec, but it started in the hearts of ordinary men and women.  And we have seen it again — madness that can sweep through peoples, sweep through nations, embed itself.  The killings in Cambodia, the killings in Rwanda, the killings in Bosnia, the killings in Darfur — they shock our conscience, but they are the awful extreme of a spectrum of ignorance and intolerance that we see every day; the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human.  These are the seeds of hate that we cannot let take root in our heart.

President Obama has made it clear that “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.” Last year he issued a Presidential Directive to make sure that the U.S.  has the neccesary structures and mechanisms in place to prevent and respond to mass atrocities. He also established an Atrocities Prevention Board to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on this critical mission.  And there’s more work to be done:

Going forward, we’ll strengthen our tools across the board, and we’ll create new ones.  The intelligence community will prepare, for example, the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on the risk of mass atrocities and genocide.  We’re going to institutionalize the focus on this issue.  Across government, “alert channels” will ensure that information about unfolding crises — and dissenting opinions — quickly reach decision-makers, including me.

Our Treasury Department will work to more quickly deploy its financial tools to block the flow of money to abusive regimes.  Our military will take additional steps to incorporate the prevention of atrocities into its doctrine and its planning.  And the State Department will increase its ability to surge our diplomats and experts in a crisis.  USAID will invite people and high-tech companies to help create new technologies to quickly expose violations of human rights.  And we’ll work with other nations so the burden is better shared — because this is a global responsibility.

In short, we need to be doing everything we can to prevent and respond to these kinds of atrocities — because national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people.

President Barack Obama and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel Light Candles
President Barack Obama and Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel light candles in the Hall of Remembrance during a tour of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Washington, D.C.

10:00 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everyone.  It is a great honor to be with you here today.  Of course, it is a truly humbling moment to be introduced by Elie Wiesel.  Along with Sara Bloomfield, the outstanding director here, we just spent some time among the exhibits, and this is now the second visit I’ve had here.  My daughters have come here.  It is a searing occasion whenever you visit.  And as we walked, I was taken back to the visit that Elie mentioned, the time that we traveled together to Buchenwald.

And I recall how he showed me the barbed-wire fences and the guard towers.  And we walked the rows where the barracks once stood, where so many left this Earth — including Elie’s father, Shlomo.  We stopped at an old photo — men and boys lying in their wooden bunks, barely more than skeletons.  And if you look closely, you can see a 16-year old boy, looking right at the camera, right into your eyes.  You can see Elie.

And at the end of our visit that day, Elie spoke of his father.  “I thought one day I will come back and speak to him,” he said, “of times in which memory has become a sacred duty of all people of goodwill.”  Elie, you’ve devoted your life to upholding that sacred duty.  You’ve challenged us all — as individuals, and as nations — to do the same, with the power of your example, the eloquence of your words, as you did again just now.  And so to you and Marion, we are extraordinarily grateful.

To Sara, to Tom Bernstein, to Josh Bolten, members of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, and everyone who sustains this living memorial — thank you for welcoming us here today.  To the members of Congress, members of the diplomatic corps, including Ambassador Michael Oren of Israel, we are glad to be with you.

And most of all, we are honored to be in the presence of men and women whose lives are a testament to the endurance and the strength of the human spirit — the inspiring survivors.  It is a privilege to be with you, on a very personal level.  As I’ve told some of you before, I grew up hearing stories about my great uncle — a soldier in the 89th Infantry Division who was stunned and shaken by what he saw when he helped to liberate Ordruf, part of Buchenwald.   And I’ll never forget what I saw at Buchenwald, where so many perished with the words of Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil on their lips.

I’ve stood with survivors, in the old Warsaw ghettos, where a monument honors heroes who said we will not go quietly; we will stand up, we will fight back.  And I’ve walked those sacred grounds at Yad Vashem, with its lesson for all nations — the Shoah cannot be denied.

During my visit to Yad Vashem I was given a gift, inscribed with those words from the Book of Joel:  “Has the like of this happened in your days or in the days of your fathers?  Tell your children about it, and let your children tell theirs, and their children the next generation.”  That’s why we’re here.  Not simply to remember, but to speak.

I say this as a President, and I say it as a father.  We must tell our children about a crime unique in human history.  The one and only Holocaust — six million innocent people — men, women, children, babies — sent to their deaths just for being different, just for being Jewish.  We tell them, our children, about the millions of Poles and Catholics and Roma and gay people and so many others who also must never be forgotten.  Let us tell our children not only how they died, but also how they lived — as fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters who loved and hoped and dreamed, just like us.

We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen — because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and because so many others stood silent.  Let us also tell our children about the Righteous Among the Nations.  Among them was Jan Karski, a young Polish Catholic, who witnessed Jews being put on cattle cars, who saw the killings, and who told the truth, all the way to President Roosevelt himself.

Jan Karski passed away more than a decade ago.  But today, I’m proud to announce that this spring I will honor him with America’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  (Applause.)

We must tell our children.  But more than that, we must teach them.  Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture.  Awareness without action changes nothing.  In this sense, “never again” is a challenge to us all — to pause and to look within.

For the Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax at Treblinka and Auschwitz and Belzec, but it started in the hearts of ordinary men and women.  And we have seen it again — madness that can sweep through peoples, sweep through nations, embed itself.  The killings in Cambodia, the killings in Rwanda, the killings in Bosnia, the killings in Darfur — they shock our conscience, but they are the awful extreme of a spectrum of ignorance and intolerance that we see every day; the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human.  These are the seeds of hate that we cannot let take root in our heart.

“Never again” is a challenge to reject hatred in all of its forms — including anti-Semitism, which has no place in a civilized world.  And today, just steps from where he gave his life protecting this place, we honor the memory of Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, whose family joins us today.

“Never again” is a challenge to defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security — and that includes the State of Israel.  And on my visit to the old Warsaw Ghetto, a woman looked me in the eye, and she wanted to make sure America stood with Israel.  She said, “It’s the only Jewish state we have.”  And I made her a promise in that solemn place.  I said I will always be there for Israel.

So when efforts are made to equate Zionism to racism, we reject them.  When international fora single out Israel with unfair resolutions, we vote against them.  When attempts are made to delegitimize the state of Israel, we oppose them.  When faced with a regime that threatens global security and denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy Israel, the United States will do everything in our power to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

“Never again” is a challenge to societies.  We’re joined today by communities who’ve made it your mission to prevent mass atrocities in our time.  This museum’s Committee of Conscience, NGOs, faith groups, college students, you’ve harnessed the tools of the digital age — online maps and satellites and a video and social media campaign seen by millions.  You understand that change comes from the bottom up, from the grassroots.  You understand — to quote the task force convened by this museum — “preventing genocide is an achievable goal.”  It is an achievable goal.  It is one that does not start from the top; it starts from the bottom up.

It’s remarkable — as we walked through this exhibit, Elie and I were talking as we looked at the unhappy record of the State Department and so many officials here in the United States during those years.  And he asked, “What would you do?”  But what you all understand is you don’t just count on officials, you don’t just count on governments.  You count on people — and mobilizing their consciences.

And finally, “never again” is a challenge to nations.  It’s a bitter truth — too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale.  And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.

Three years ago today, I joined many of you for a ceremony of remembrance at the U.S. Capitol.  And I said that we had to do “everything we can to prevent and end atrocities.”  And so I want to report back to some of you today to let you know that as President I’ve done my utmost to back up those words with deeds.  Last year, in the first-ever presidential directive on this challenge, I made it clear that “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.”

That does not mean that we intervene militarily every time there’s an injustice in the world.  We cannot and should not.  It does mean we possess many tools — diplomatic and political, and economic and financial, and intelligence and law enforcement and our moral suasion — and using these tools over the past three years, I believe — I know — that we have saved countless lives.

When the referendum in South Sudan was in doubt, it threatened to reignite a conflict that had killed millions.  But with determined diplomacy, including by some people in this room, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation.  And our diplomacy continues, because in Darfur, in Abyei, in Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile, the killing of innocents must come to an end.  The Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan must have the courage to negotiate — because the people of Sudan and South Sudan deserve peace.  That is work that we have done, and it has saved lives.

When the incumbent in Côte D’Ivoire lost an election but refused to give it up — give up power, it threatened to unleash untold ethnic and religious killings.  But with regional and international diplomacy, and U.N. peacekeepers who stood their ground and protected civilians, the former leader is now in The Hague, and Côte D’Ivoire is governed by its rightful leader — and lives were saved.

When the Libyan people demanded their rights and Muammar Qaddafi’s forces bore down on Benghazi, a city of 700,000, and threatened to hunt down its people like rats, we forged with allies and partners a coalition that stopped his troops in their tracks.  And today, the Libyan people are forging their own future, and the world can take pride in the innocent lives that we saved.

And when the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony continued its atrocities in Central Africa, I ordered a small number of American advisors to help Uganda and its neighbors pursue the LRA.  And when I made that announcement, I directed my National Security Council to review our progress after 150 days.  We have done so, and today I can announce that our advisors will continue their efforts to bring this madman to justice, and to save lives.  (Applause.)  It is part of our regional strategy to end the scourge that is the LRA, and help realize a future where no African child is stolen from their family and no girl is raped and no boy is turned into a child soldier.

We’ve stepped up our efforts in other ways.  We’re doing more to protect women and girls from the horror of wartime sexual violence.  With the arrest of fugitives like Ratko Mladic, charged with ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the world sent a message to war criminals everywhere:  We will not relent in bringing you to justice.  Be on notice.  And for the first time, we explicitly barred entry into the United States of those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Now we’re doing something more.  We’re making sure that the United States government has the structures, the mechanisms to better prevent and respond to mass atrocities.  So I created the first-ever White House position dedicated to this task.  It’s why I created a new Atrocities Prevention Board, to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on this critical mission.  This is not an afterthought.  This is not a sideline in our foreign policy.  The board will convene for the first time today, at the White House.  And I’m pleased that one of its first acts will be to meet with some of your organizations — citizens and activists who are partners in this work, who have been carrying this torch.

Going forward, we’ll strengthen our tools across the board, and we’ll create new ones.  The intelligence community will prepare, for example, the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on the risk of mass atrocities and genocide.  We’re going to institutionalize the focus on this issue.  Across government, “alert channels” will ensure that information about unfolding crises — and dissenting opinions — quickly reach decision-makers, including me.

Our Treasury Department will work to more quickly deploy its financial tools to block the flow of money to abusive regimes.  Our military will take additional steps to incorporate the prevention of atrocities into its doctrine and its planning.  And the State Department will increase its ability to surge our diplomats and experts in a crisis.  USAID will invite people and high-tech companies to help create new technologies to quickly expose violations of human rights.  And we’ll work with other nations so the burden is better shared — because this is a global responsibility.

In short, we need to be doing everything we can to prevent and respond to these kinds of atrocities — because national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people.  (Applause.)

We recognize that, even as we do all we can, we cannot control every event.  And when innocents suffer, it tears at our conscience.  Elie alluded to what we feel as we see the Syrian people subjected to unspeakable violence, simply for demanding their universal rights.  And we have to do everything we can.  And as we do, we have to remember that despite all the tanks and all the snipers, all the torture and brutality unleashed against them, the Syrian people still brave the streets.  They still demand to be heard.  They still seek their dignity.  The Syrian people have not given up, which is why we cannot give up.

And so with allies and partners, we will keep increasing the pressure, with a diplomatic effort to further isolate Assad and his regime, so that those who stick with Assad know that they are making a losing bet.  We’ll keep increasing sanctions to cut off the regime from the money it needs to survive.  We’ll sustain a legal effort to document atrocities so killers face justice, and a humanitarian effort to get relief and medicine to the Syrian people.  And we’ll keep working with the “Friends of Syria” to increase support for the Syrian opposition as it grows stronger.

Indeed, today we’re taking another step.  I’ve signed an executive order that authorizes new sanctions against the Syrian government and Iran and those that abet them for using technologies to monitor and track and target citizens for violence.  These technologies should not empower — these technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them.  And it’s one more step that we can take toward the day that we know will come — the end of the Assad regime that has brutalized the Syrian people — and allow the Syrian people to chart their own destiny.

Even with all the efforts I’ve described today, even with everything that hopefully we have learned, even with the incredible power of museums like this one, even with everything that we do to try to teach our children about our own responsibilities, we know that our work will never be done. There will be conflicts that are not easily resolved.  There will be senseless deaths that aren’t prevented.  There will be stories of pain and hardship that test our hopes and try our conscience.  And in such moments it can be hard to imagine a more just world.

It can be tempting to throw up our hands and resign ourselves to man’s endless capacity for cruelty.  It’s tempting sometimes to believe that there is nothing we can do.  And all of us have those doubts.  All of us have those moments — perhaps especially those who work most ardently in these fields.

So in the end, I come back to something Elie said that day we visited Buchenwald together.  Reflecting on all that he had endured, he said, “We had the right to give up.”  “We had the right to give up on humanity, to give up on culture, to give up on education, to give up on the possibility of living one’s life with dignity, in a world that has no place for dignity.”  They had that right.  Imagine what they went through.  They had the right to give up.  Nobody would begrudge them that.  Who’d question someone giving up in such circumstances?

But, Elie said, “We rejected that possibility, and we said, no, we must continue believing in a future.”  To stare into the abyss, to face the darkness and insist there is a future — to not give up, to say yes to life, to believe in the possibility of justice.

To Elie and to the survivors who are here today, thank you for not giving up.  You show us the way.  (Applause.)  You show us the way.  If you cannot give up, if you can believe, then we can believe.  If you can continue to strive and speak, then we can speak and strive for a future where there’s a place for dignity for every human being.  That has been the cause of your lives.  It must be the work of our nation and of all nations.

So God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
10:27 A.M. EDT

Fact Sheet: Sanctions Against Those Complicit in Grave Human Rights Abuses Via Information Technology in Syria and Iran

“Cyberspace, and the technologies that enable it, allow people of every nationality, race, faith and point of view to communicate, cooperate, and prosper like never before.  We encourage people all over the world to use digital media…and denounce those who harass, unfairly arrest, threaten, or commit violent acts against the people who use these technologies.
-President Obama, International Strategy for Cyberspace, May 2011
Twenty-first century threats to human rights require twenty-first century tools to combat them.  This Administration recognizes that some oppressive governments seek to target their citizens for grave human rights abuses through the use of information and communications technology.  In an Executive Order signed today, President Obama authorized a new program of sanctions, aimed at those who facilitate serious human rights abuses in Syria and Iran through such means.

The same Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite communications, mobile phone, and Internet technology employed by activists across the Middle East and North Africa and around the world is being used against them in Syria and Iran, as the world has witnessed particularly clearly in Syria in recent weeks.  The Syrian and Iranian governments are rapidly increasing their capabilities to disrupt, monitor, and track communications networks that are essential to the ability of Syrians and Iranians to communicate with each other and the outside world.

The Executive Order announced today by President Obama establishes financial and travel sanctions against those who perpetrate or facilitate “Grave Human Rights Abuses Via Information Technology” in Syria and Iran (or “GHRAVITY sanctions”) and will:

• Degrade the ability of the Syrian and Iranian governments to acquire and utilize such technology to oppress their people;
• Hold accountable those government officials, companies, and individuals committing or facilitating human rights abuses.
• Send a clear message that the United States recognizes and is committed to combating this new and growing human rights threat;
• Further isolate the regimes in Damascus and Tehran;
• Strengthen international norms against using information and communications technology to commit human rights abuses;
The order authorizes sanctions against persons determined:

• To have operated, or to have directed the operation of, information and communications technology that facilitates computer or network disruption, monitoring or tracking that could assist in or enable serious human rights abuses by or on behalf of the Government of Iran or the Government of Syria;
• To have sold, leased, or otherwise provided, directly or indirectly, goods, services, or technology to Iran or Syria likely to be used to facilitate computer or network disruption, monitoring or tracking that could assist in or enable serious human rights abuses by or on behalf of the Government of Iran or the Government of Syria;
• To have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, those activities; or
• To be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to the order.
We will implement this sanctions instrument consistent with our strong belief in the need to ensure that the citizens of Syria and Iran have access to information and communications technology that facilitates their access to information and ability to protect and organize themselves in the face of oppression.  This order underscores our efforts to help the Syrian and Iranian people pierce through the “electronic curtain” that the Syrian and Iranian regimes have put in place.  The Administration recognizes the importance of preserving the global telecommunications supply chains for essential products and services, and will take great care to ensure the utilization of sanctions does not disrupt transactions necessary to enable the Syrian and Iranian people to communicate.

Given the deplorable and deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and Iran, our urgent priority is to pursue sanctions against those two governments and entities and individuals in those countries helping them to commit human rights abuses.  The order also authorizes sanctions against third-country entities or individuals where they meet the criteria in the order.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 20, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Calls on Congress to Extend Law & Prevent Student Loan Rates from Doubling

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama is calling on Congress to act before student loan interest rates double for more than 7.4 million students, adding an average of $1,000 to their debt.

President Obama is calling on Congress to act before student loan  interest rates

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the State Dining Room, White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 4/20/12

Weekly Address: Calling on Congress to Prevent Student Interest Rates from Doubling

Source: WH, 4-21-12

President Obama believes that we should be doing everything we can to put higher education within reach for every American – because at a time when the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average, it’s never been more important. He is calling on Congress to act before student loan interest rates double for more than 7.4 million students, adding an average of $1,000 to their debt. Congress has a chance to take action on what should be an area of bipartisan agreement to prevent this unnecessary and damaging increase in interest rates and give our young people a chance to succeed in the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Calling on Congress to Prevent Student Interest Rates from Doubling

In this week’s address, President Obama called on Congress to act before student loan interest rates double for more than 7.4 million students, adding an average of $1000 to their debt. Having a college education has never been more important, but it’s also never been more expensive.  While the Obama administration has taken historic steps to provide Americans with a fair shot at an affordable college education, Republicans in Congress have instead prioritized huge new tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.  Congress has a chance to take action on what should be an area of bipartisan agreement to prevent this unnecessary and damaging increase in interest rates and give our young people a chance to succeed in the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hi.  This week, I got the chance to sit down with some impressive students at Lorain County Community College in Ohio.  One of them was a woman named Andrea Ashley.  Two years ago, Andrea lost her job as an HR analyst.  Today, she’s getting certified in the fast-growing field of electronic medical records.  Before enrolling at Lorain, Andrea told me she was looking everywhere trying to find a new job.  But without a degree, she said that nobody would hire her.

Andrea’s story isn’t unique.  I’ve met so many Americans who are out there pounding the pavement looking for work only to discover that they need new skills.  And I’ve met a lot of employers who are looking for workers, but can’t find ones with the skills they’re looking for.

So we should be doing everything we can to put higher education within reach for every American – because at a time when the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average, it’s never been more important.  But here’s the thing: it’s also never been more expensive.  Students who take out loans to pay for college graduate owing an average of $25,000.  For the first time, Americans owe more debt on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.  And for many working families, the idea of owing that much money means that higher education is simply out of reach for their children.

In America, higher education cannot be a luxury.  It’s an economic imperative that every family must be able to afford.  That’s why next week I’ll be visiting colleges across the country, talking to students about how we can make higher education more affordable – and what’s at stake right now if Congress doesn’t do something about it.  You see, if Congress doesn’t act, on July 1st interest rates on some student loans will double.  Nearly seven and half million students will end up owing more on their loan payments.  That would be a tremendous blow.  And it’s completely preventable.

This issue didn’t come out of nowhere.  For some time now, I’ve been calling on Congress to take steps to make higher education more affordable – to prevent these interest rates from doubling, to extend the tuition tax credit that has saved middle-class families millions of dollars, and to double the number of work-study jobs over the next five years.

Instead, over the past few years, Republicans in Congress have voted against new ways to make college more affordable for middle-class families, and voted for huge new tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires – tax cuts that would have to be paid for by cutting things like education and job-training programs that give students new opportunities to work and succeed.

We cannot just cut our way to prosperity.  Making it harder for our young people to afford higher education and earn their degrees is nothing more than cutting our own future off at the knees.  Congress needs to keep interest rates on student loans from doubling, and they need to do it now.

This is a question of values.  We cannot let America become a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of people struggle to get by.  We’ve got to build an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.  That’s how the middle class gets stronger.  That’s an economy that’s built to last.  And I’m not only going to take that case to college campuses next week – I’m going to take it to every part of the country this year.  Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Obama Presidency April 20, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on April 23, 2012 Honoring the Pledge of ‘Never Again’ at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Join the Conversation: Honoring the Pledge of ‘Never Again’

Source: WH, 4-20-12

On Monday, April 23, President Obama will speak at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to commemorate the Holocaust and discuss how the United States is honoring the pledge of “never again” by developing a comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to mass atrocities.

Later in the afternoon, the White House is hosting an event that will offer a more in-depth look at the strategy President Obama and his Administration are working to put in place so that the United States is able to engage early, proactively and decisively in the face of mass atrocities.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  • 9:45 a.m. ET: Watch President Obama’s live on WhiteHouse.gov/live or on Facebook. Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel will introduce the President.
    • To discuss the speech online, use the hashtag #NeverAgain
  • 1:00 p.m. ET: Watch the White House event with Administration officials, student leaders and organizations about how communities across America are mobilizing and playing a role in saving lives around the word.
    • To ask questions for the panel discussions, use the hashtag #WHChat on Twitter.
    • On Facebook, you can ask questions in advance for the panel on our Facebook event page or through the White House Live application.

The agenda for the post-speech event, which begins at 1:00 p.m., includes:

  • A Q&A session with the newly created Atrocities Prevention Board, an interagency group tasked with coordinating the prevention of and response to mass atrocities across the U.S. government
  • A discussion with leaders from influential activist organizations about the work their networks are doing across the country and around the globe to save lives and prevent needless violence.
  • A discussion about how the government can adapt to take advantage of new technology that make it easier to communicate and connect with people around the world than ever before.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 20, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Annual the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride for Veterans

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Welcomes the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride

Source: WH, 4-20-12
President Barack Obama cheers for the Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride
President Barack Obama cheers on participants in the Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride on the South Lawn of the White House, April 20, 2012. The President hosted the sixth annual Soldier Ride, a cycling event to help Wounded Warriors restore their physical and emotional well-being. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama today led cheers for 22 injured servicemembers as they took a spin around the South Lawn as part of the annual Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride. The participants in the four-day event include representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, including two brothers, Erik and Deven Schei, riding a specially-made tandem bike.

In his remarks, the President praised the riders for their strength and their dedication:

And I know you’re all doing this ride for different reasons. Some of you may be athletes looking to get the competitive juices flowing again.  Maybe some of you are trying to see how far you can push yourselves. Some of you are doing it for the camaraderie and the bond that comes when you work hard alongside people who know what you’re going through. Maybe you’re doing it to honor a loved one or a buddy.  But all of you are here because you believe in living your lives to the fullest. You know that each of us has a responsibility to seize the opportunities we’ve been blessed with.  You ride because you can, and you ride for those who can’t. That’s what this is all about.


Learn more:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride

South Lawn

4:38 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Well, good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome to the White House.  Thank you, Ric, for that introduction.  More importantly, thank you for your service and for everything you do for our veterans and our wounded warriors.

We’ve also got here today Senator Tom Udall and Congresswoman Corrine Brown with us.  Thank you all for coming.

This is the fourth time we’ve had the Soldier Ride here in the South Lawn.  And this year, you’ve already covered some ground — 34 miles over the last few days, and another 24-mile ride tomorrow.  So our job is to give you a break, maybe even a little extra fuel, and get you back on the road.

The reason I ask this group to stop by every year is because this is one of the most inspiring events that we have here at the White House.  As Commander-in-Chief, I can’t take sides, but I know the Army is represented here.  (Hooah!)  Navy is represented here.  (Navy!)  We’ve got some Air Force.  (Hooyah!)  We’ve got some Marines in the house.  (Ooh-rah!)  And we’ve got some Coast Guard.  (Applause.)  (Laughter.)  And there’s some folks here who don’t wear a uniform, but who work just as hard and sacrifice just as much alongside you — and that’s our outstanding military families in the house.  (Applause.)

So this is a pretty diverse group.  And I know you’re all doing this ride for different reasons.  Some of you may be athletes looking to get the competitive juices flowing again.  Maybe some of you are trying to see how far you can push yourselves.  Some of you are doing it for the camaraderie and the bond that comes when you work hard alongside people who know what you’re going through.  Maybe you’re doing it to honor a loved one or a buddy.  But all of you are here because you believe in living your lives to the fullest.  You know that each of us has a responsibility to seize the opportunities we’ve been blessed with.  You ride because you can, and you ride for those who can’t.  That’s what this is all about.

And that’s what inspired Chris Carney to hop on a bike and head across country on the first Soldier Ride eight years ago to raise money and awareness for returning troops and wounded warriors.  Chris came up with the idea working as a bartender in Long Island.  And I have to say it’s better than most of the ideas that come out of bars.  (Laughter.)  At least that’s been my experience.  (Laughter.)

Today, there are Soldier Rides all across the country.  They serve as a reminder that all of us can do our part to serve the men and women who serve us.  And I’m glad to see you’re all decked out in the stars and stripes, because I want anybody who sees this ride go by to know that they’re in the presence of heroes.

Some of these guys I’ve had a chance to meet before.  I first met Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Max Rohn when he was in the hospital recovering from a grenade attack in Fallujah that cost him his leg.  And Max I think will admit he was in pretty rough shape at the time.  But the next time I saw him, at a dinner that we hosted here recently for Iraq War veterans, Max had gained 80 pounds — or 40 pounds, and was training for the upcoming Wounded Warrior games.  I offered him two dinners after he finished the first one kind of quick, and he readily accepted.  (Laughter.)  After he finished the first dessert kind of quick, I offered him another one.  He accepted that one, too.  I am positive it is the most anybody has ever eaten in the White House.  (Laughter.)  And now he’s ready to ride.

We’ve also got Captain Leslie Smith here today.  Leslie lost her leg and her eyesight after serving in Bosnia, and this is her first time back on a bike.  She’s going to be riding in tandem alongside Meghan Speicher-Harris, who works with the Wounded Warrior Project.  And it’s good to have them both here.

And then there are the Schei brothers — Erik and Deven.  When Erik enlisted in the Army, Deven made a promise that if anything bad ever happened, he would finish what his brother started.  And during his second tour in Iraq, Erik was shot in the head by a sniper.  So Deven enlisted.  Then two years ago, Deven was injured in Afghanistan.  And now the two brothers ride a specially-made tandem bike, with Deven leading the way.  They’re taking on this latest challenge just like they did every other one — together.

So these men and women, they’re an inspiration.  And it’s also inspiring to meet the families behind them — the moms and dads, and the brothers and sisters, the sons and daughters who are standing by their side through good times and bad.  You’re heroes, too.  And I know Michelle and I look forward to any time we get to spend with military families.

So I want to encourage everybody who sees these riders going by this weekend to go out and cheer, and say thanks, and salute, and show your support.  And as Commander-in-Chief, I promise to do everything I can to make sure that you guys get the care and the benefits that you deserve, that you’ve earned.  All of you have served your country.  That’s why now it’s time for the country to serve you.  That’s what you deserve, and here in America we take care of our own.

So to all the riders here today, we are proud of you.  Your country is proud of you.  And now I’m going to see how you guys do taking some laps around the South Lawn.  But you got to do it on the horn — I don’t want anybody cheating.  (Laughter.)

All right.  On your marks, get set — (the President sounds the horn.)  Hey!  (Applause.)

END 4:44 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obamas Presidency April 20, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Declaration Establishes Fort Ord as a National Monument

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Establishes Fort Ord as a National Monument

Source: WH, 4-20-12

President Barack Obama signs a proclamation regarding the  establishment of the Fort Ord National
President Barack Obama signs a proclamation regarding the establishment of the Fort Ord National Monument, in the Oval Office, April 20, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Herbert)

Today President Obama signed a proclamation establishing Fort Ord, a former U.S. Army Post located in the heart of California’s Central Coast, as a National Monument. It is one of the largest open spaces in the highly developed Monterey Bay area.

The area was once traversed by Spanish settlers traveling from Mexico to San Francisco, and later became a U.S. Army facility. The rugged terrain was perfect for training exercises, and nearly 1.5 million American soldiers who served between World War I and the early 1990s were introduced to the rigors of military service there.

Today, 10,000 visitors each year explore the area’s canyons and grasslands by bike, horse and foot, while scientists flock to the area because of its diverse group of rare and endemic species of plants and animals. In fact, Fort Ord is one of the few remaining places in the world where coastal scrub, live oak woodland and savanna habitats, and vernal pools–shallow, temporary pools of water that teem with insect life–exist in a contiguous, interconnected landscape.

The protection of the Fort Ord area will maintain its historical and cultural significance, attract tourists from near and far, and enhance its unique natural resources, for the enjoyment of all Americans.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Presidential Proclamation — Establishment of the Fort Ord National Monument

ESTABLISHMENT OF THE FORT ORD NATIONAL MONUMENT
– – – – – – –
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION

In the heart of California’s Central Coast, the former Fort Ord encompasses a sweeping landscape of vivid beauty and rich natural diversity. One of the few remaining expanses of large, contiguous open space in the increasingly developed Monterey Bay area, this area is a rolling landscape long treasured for recreation, scientific research, outdoor education, and historical significance. Originating in the Pleistocene Epoch, ancient dunes provide the foundation for this landscape’s unique array of plant and wildlife communities. The area is also notable for its historical significance, including its role in the Spanish settlement of California and in the military training of generations of American soldiers.

Nearly two and a half centuries ago, as Americans fought for independence far to the east, these lands were traversed by a group of settlers led by Spanish Lieutenant Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza. In 1775-1776, Anza established the first overland route from “New Spain,” as Mexico was then known, to San Francisco, opening the way for expanded Spanish settlement of California. The diaries kept on this nearly 2,000-mile journey were used to identify the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, approximately 6 miles of which pass through the Fort Ord area. Although much of the historic route currently passes through urban areas, the undeveloped expanse of the Fort Ord area is likely quite similar to the open landscape experienced by Anza and by the Costanoan (now commonly referred to as Ohlone) peoples who lived in what is now the Central Coast region of California.

The area’s open, contiguous landscape owes its undeveloped state in large part to its role as a U.S. Army facility. From World War I through the early 1990s, the area’s rugged terrain served as a military training ground and introduced as many as a million and a half American soldiers to the rigors of military service. From its origins in 1917 as a training ground for troops stationed at the nearby Presidio of Monterey, Fort Ord had grown into a major Army installation by the beginning of World War II. During the Vietnam War, it served as a leading training center and deployment staging ground. While the former Fort Ord has few remaining historic structures, today thousands of veterans carry the memory of its dramatic landscape as their first taste of Army life, as a final stop before deploying to war, or as a home base during their military career. These lands are an historical link to the heroism and dedication of the men and women who served our Nation and fought in the major conflicts of the 20th century.

Today, this expansive, historic landscape provides opportunities for solitude and adventure to nearly 100,000 visitors each year. By bicycle, horse, and foot visitors can explore the Fort Ord area’s scenic and natural resources along trails that wind over lush grasslands, between gnarled oaks, and through scrub-lined canyons. Within the boundaries of the Fort Ord area, visitors admire the landscape and scenery and are exposed to wildlife and a diverse group of rare and endemic plants and animals. Because visitors travel from areas near and far, these lands support a growing travel and tourism sector that is a source of economic opportunity for the community, especially businesses in the region. They also help to attract new residents, retirees, and businesses that will further diversify the local economy.

Scientists are also drawn here, seeking out opportunities to better understand once-widespread species and vegetative communities, and their ongoing restoration. The Fort Ord area is significant because of its rich biodiversity and important Central Coast habitats, supporting a diverse group of rare and endemic species of plants and animals that are managed across the base through a multi-agency, community-led management plan. It is one of the few remaining places in the world where large expanses of coastal scrub and live oak woodland and savanna habitat, mixed with rare vernal pools, exist in a contiguous, interconnected landscape.

The protection of the Fort Ord area will maintain its historical and cultural significance, attract tourists and recreationalists from near and far, and enhance its unique natural resources, for the enjoyment of all Americans.

WHEREAS section 2 of the Act of June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225, 16 U.S.C. 431) (the “Antiquities Act”), authorizes the President, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and to reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected;

WHEREAS the 1991 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission recommended that Fort Ord cease to be used as an Army installation, and pursuant to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-510), Fort Ord closed on September 30, 1994;

WHEREAS it is in the public interest to reserve such lands as a national monument to be known as the Fort Ord National Monument;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by section 2 of the Antiquities Act, hereby proclaim that all lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States within the boundaries described on the map entitled “Fort Ord National Monument,” which is attached to and forms a part of this proclamation, are hereby set apart and reserved as the Fort Ord National Monument (monument) for the purpose of protecting and restoring the objects identified above. The reserved Federal lands and interests in lands consist of approximately 14,651 acres, which is the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected and restored.

All Federal lands and interests in lands within the boundaries of this monument are hereby appropriated and withdrawn from all forms of entry, location, selection, sale, leasing, or other disposition under the public lands laws, including withdrawal from location, entry, and patent under the mining laws, and from disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing other than by exchange that furthers the protective purposes of the monument.

The establishment of this monument is subject to valid existing rights. Lands and interests in lands within the monument boundaries not owned or controlled by the United States shall be reserved as part of the monument upon acquisition of ownership or control by the United States.

Of the approximately 14,651 acres of Federal lands and interests in lands reserved by this proclamation, approximately 7,205 acres are currently managed by the Secretary of the Interior through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and approximately 7,446 acres are currently managed by the Secretary of the Army. The Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior, through the BLM, shall continue to manage the lands and interests in lands under the Secretary’s jurisdiction within the monument boundaries until the Army transfers those lands and interests in lands to the BLM in accordance with the 1995 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of the Army and the BLM, as amended, that describes the responsibilities of each agency related to such lands and interests in lands, the implementing actions required of each agency, the process for transferring administrative jurisdiction over such lands and interests in lands to the Secretary of the Interior, and the processes for resolving interagency disputes. The Secretary of the Interior, through the BLM, shall manage that portion of the monument under the Secretary’s administrative jurisdiction, pursuant to applicable legal authorities and the MOU, to implement the purposes of this proclamation.

For purposes of protecting and restoring the objects identified above, the Secretary of the Interior, through the BLM, shall prepare and maintain a transportation plan, in coordination with the Secretary of the Army and consistent with the MOU, that provides for visitor enjoyment and understanding of the scientific and historic objects on lands within the monument boundaries that are under the administrative jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior.
The transportation plan shall include the designation of roads and trails for bicycling and other purposes. Except for emergency or authorized administrative purposes, under the transportation plan motorized vehicle use shall be permitted only on designated roads, and non-motorized mechanized vehicle use shall be permitted only on designated roads and trails. The plan shall be revised upon the transfer of lands now under the administrative jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Army to the Secretary of the Interior in accordance with the MOU.

Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to enlarge or diminish the rights of any Indian tribe.

Nothing in this proclamation shall affect the responsibility of the Department of the Army under applicable environmental laws, including the remediation of hazardous substances or munitions and explosives of concern within the monument boundaries; nor affect the Department of the Army’s statutory authority to control public access or statutory responsibility to make other measures for environmental remediation, monitoring, security, safety, or emergency preparedness purposes; nor affect any Department of the Army activities on lands not included within the monument. Nothing in this proclamation shall affect the implementation of the Installation-Wide Multispecies Habitat Management Plan for the former Fort Ord including interagency agreements implementing that plan.

Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to enlarge or diminish the jurisdiction of the State of California with respect to fish and wildlife management.

Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to revoke any existing withdrawal, reservation, or appropriation; however, the monument shall be the dominant reservation.

Warning is hereby given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, injure, destroy, or remove any feature of this monument and not to locate or settle upon any of the lands thereof.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

BARACK OBAMA

Full Text Obama Presidency April 19, 2012: First Lady Michelle Obama Celebrates One Year of Joining Forces Recap

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

First Lady Michelle Obama revealed that 60,000 servicemen and women and their spouses have been hired through Joining Forces employment initiatives

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at Kansas City Southern  Railroad duri

First Lady Michelle Obama at Kansas City Southern Railroad during a Joining Forces event, White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson

On Board with the First Lady: Michelle Obama Celebrates One Year of Joining Forces

Source: WH, 4-19-12

Go behind the scenes as First Lady Michelle Obama travels from Washington DC to Philadelphia, New York City, Shreveport and Jacksonville to honor our servicemen and women and their families. Join us on set at the Colbert Report, on stage with Ellen DeGeneres and on the ground with thousands of nurses and meet the 50,000 person to get a job through the Joining Forces hiring initiatives.

See more:

Michelle Obama’s Message to Military Families: You Do Live in a Grateful Nation

Source: WH, 4-11-12

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden today marked the one year anniversary of the launch of Joining Forces with an event on the South Lawn of the White House, and Mrs. Obama used the occasion to renew her call of action, and challenged all Americans to keep finding new ways to show their support for military families.

The First Lady told the crowd that over the past year, as she and Dr. Biden reached out on behalf of our military families, “not a single person that we’ve talked to, that we have approached, has told us that they could not help — not a single person.  We’ve asked; they said yes.

And the good thing is, is that once people get started, they just keep coming up with new ideas on their own.  We’ll present something, and they double it.  They want to do even more.  They just keep raising their goals even higher.  They just keep figuring out how to get more and more people involved.”

And her message for all military families, is that “you do live in a grateful nation.”

First Lady Michelle Obama at the Joining Forces Community  Challenge event on the South Lawn

First Lady Michelle Obama greets guests following the Joining Forces Community Challenge event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 11, 2012. The event was a celebration for military families and organization leaders who have played key roles in supporting our nation’s troops, veterans and military families over the past year. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

Today’s event also honored the Joining Forces Community Challenge finalists, who Dr. Biden called “inspiring. These efforts aren’t always in the headlines, but they support our military families every single day in real and meaningful ways. That’s exactly what the First Lady and I set out to accomplish with Joining Forces.”

Later today, the First Lady and Dr. Biden will be in Philadelphia, where they will announce a commitment from more than 150 state and national nursing organizations and over 500 nursing schools to further educate our nation’s 3 million nurses so they are prepared to meet the unique health needs of service members, veterans, and their families.


Learn more:

Remarks by the First Lady and Dr. Biden at the Joining Forces Anniversary event

South Lawn

11:13 A.M. EDT

DR. BIDEN:  What a great day for a celebration.  Thank you, General Dempsey, for that kind introduction and for all that you have done to support the Joining Forces initiative over the past year.  I also want to thank Deanie Dempsey, who’s been a wonderful partner and a wonderful friend.  Thank you for your leadership.  (Applause.)

To the Joining Forces Community Challenge finalists who are here, it was great to see you all yesterday, and we’re delighted to have you here at the White House this morning.

One of the best parts of my role as Second Lady is spending time with military veterans and families.  And I’ve traveled across the — as I’ve traveled across the country and the world, I’m always inspired by the strength and the resilience of our military families.

While the troops serving our nation may be only 1 percent of the population, we want to make sure that 100 percent of Americans are supporting them.  Our military families have done so much for our country and each of us can do something in return.  That’s why the First Lady and I created Joining Forces to encourage all Americans to support and honor our military families.

Since we launched Joining Forces a year ago, we have been so inspired by the many ways Americans all across the country are honoring, celebrating and supporting our military families.  Our partners in this effort are businesses, schools, churches, communities and individuals.  The Joining Forces Community Challenge finalists here today are shining examples of what we’ve seen.

Organizations like HeartsApart.org — photographers volunteer their time to take photos of soon-to-be deployed servicemembers and their families.  And so that they can carry their loved ones when they are serving us, these beautiful photographs are printed on waterproof, durable cards that fit perfectly in the pocket of a battle dress uniform.

Programs like GreenCare for Troops, which connects local green industry professionals with military families to provide free lawn and landscaping services while their loved ones are serving our country.

Or the city of Richfield, Utah, an entire community that has supported its local Army National Guard through four deployments since September 11, 2001.  They’ve organized a community-sponsored holiday party for the families of deployed troops.  The local newspaper delivers the hometown paper to deployed soldiers so that they can stay in touch with home.  And the community library ordered children’s books about deployment so that children will understand what their parents are doing while they are away.

These are just a few examples of what is happening all across our country.  If I had to sum up what we have seen since launching Joining Forces in one word, it would be “inspiring.”  These efforts aren’t always in the headlines, but they support our military families every single day in real and meaningful ways.  That’s exactly what the First Lady and I set out to accomplish with Joining Forces.

So please, let’s give a round of applause for all the Challenge winners who are here with us today.  (Applause.)

I am also proud to announce that after the wonderful response this first year, we will start another challenge later this year.  We look forward to seeing more of the creative ways that Americans are giving back to our proud and brave military families.

And now it is my great pleasure to introduce an amazing, young woman.  I met Moranda Hern two years ago when she came to my office to tell me what it was like for her when her dad was deployed to Afghanistan.  She was going through all the challenges of being a teenager with the added burden of worrying every day about her father’s safety.

Moranda’s dad is in the California National Guard, so she didn’t have the support of a military community and she felt disconnected from her peers.  When Moranda met another military teen, she realized she wasn’t alone.  The girls created a support network called The Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs* — to make sure other military girls had a way to share their experiences with one another.  Today the Sisterhood connects military girls through an online community and is expanding nationwide.

Moranda is here today as a military daughter and the founder of an initiative that has made a real difference in the lives of military children.  Now, as you can see, she wears a uniform herself.  She is pursuing her dream of becoming a pilot as a sophomore at the United States Air Force Academy.

I’m so proud to introduce Moranda Hern.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

* * * * *

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you, everyone.  Please be seated.  Welcome.  Welcome to the White House.  And happy anniversary.

I want to begin by thanking Moranda for that lovely introduction.  But she is the reason why we do this.  I mean, enough said.  There are thousands of amazing kids like her all over this country that need to have this light shined on them.  So we are so proud of you, so very proud of you — and the others like you.  So keep it up.

I also want to recognize Tom Brokaw, who has been such an advocate for our men and women in uniform.  He has been amazing. And we are privileged to have him with us today and have his voice out there so passionately on behalf of families and troops.

Of course, I want to thank General Dempsey and Deanie.  They have just been amazing partners.  I think I spend more time with you all than I do my husband — (laughter) — which isn’t bad, isn’t bad, not too bad.  But they have just been tremendous.  And I can’t thank you both enough for what you have done for this country, what you are doing and I know you will continue to do for the rest of your lives.  So we wouldn’t be here without you.

And of course, I want to thank my partner in crime, Dr. Jill Biden.  She is, as you know, a proud military mom, very passionate.  She is really just a tremendous friend, just a true inspiration for me.  This would not be as much fun if I didn’t have her by my side.  And she has done just an amazing job, and we need to give her another round of applause.  (Applause.)

And of course, I want to join Jill in congratulating the winners of the Joining Forces Community Challenge.  We are so happy that all of you have been able to come and travel here to D.C.  And you’ve been spending a little time in the city.  I understand that there was a wonderful reception and roundtable yesterday that I missed, but I hear was just wonderful.  And you’ve been able to get some tours around town.  I hope everybody has been nice.  And there’s going to be a luncheon for you all today.  So, hopefully, the food will be good.

But we are just thrilled to have you in our nation’s backyard to congratulate and honor all that you’re doing.  So thank you again.

I also want to recognize Congressman Al Green who is here. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is here as well.  Thank you both for being here.  And, finally, I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to be here this morning.

We have many people in the audience.  We have our troops and military families here, but we also have government and military leaders, business and nonprofit leaders, leaders from our faith communities, our schools, our hospitals, our veterans’ service organizations and so many others.  And I am thrilled that all of you could be here today as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of Joining Forces.

Now, I have to tell you that when Jill and I first started talking about launching this initiative to honor and support our veterans and military families, we knew that we were going to get a pretty good amount of support, because after all, every American is proud of our men and women in uniform.  So we knew that the emotion was there; we knew that the feelings were there.  So we knew we were going to get some support, because we all want to show our gratitude for their service.

But the outpouring of support that we have seen over this last year — I mean, the hours logged, the services donated, the love and devotion and offers to help that have poured in from every corner of the country — all of that has far surpassed even our wildest expectations.  And that’s a good thing.

And I tell military families all around, that’s really what we want you to know, is that you do live in a grateful nation, and when people are asked on your behalf they are stepping up and they are doing it gladly.  Over the past year, more than 1,600 businesses have hired more than 50,000 veterans and spouses, and they pledged to hire at least 160,000 more in the coming years.  And I know they’re going to do even more than that — that’s just the pledges that we’ve gotten.

Technology and employment companies like Google, Monster and LinkedIn, they have stepped up to help connect veterans with good jobs.  We’ve had state leaders that are passing legislation to make it easier for military spouses to renew their professional licenses and get back to work as their families move from state to state.  And we hope that we’re going to see that kind of initiative throughout the country.

Medical schools are training our next generation of health care providers so that they can better care for our military families.  The Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Treasury, Labor, they have all made groundbreaking announcements to support our nation’s veterans, our wounded warriors, our caregivers and our military spouses.

Associations of doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants and social workers, they’re working to improve the treatment that they provide for Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries.

School professionals are reaching out to our military kids in ways that are so important.  High schools have — with high numbers of military students — are adding more Advanced Placement courses so that these kids have the opportunities they deserve to compete for college.

If you watch TV, you’ve seen all of the activity on the airwaves.  TV shows like “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”, “Sesame Street” — our favorites — (laughter) — and organizations like NASCAR, AOL, Disney, they’re all sharing stories of military families and using those stories not just to shine a light, but to encourage others to serve.

You’ve got wonderful people like Tom Hanks, Oprah, Steven Spielberg — they starred in a series of very powerful PSAs.  And then, of course, the episode that has made me a fan favorite in every household — I am now more popular than the President  — because I was on “iCarly.”  (Laughter.)  There are kids who probably didn’t know I was First Lady, but they know I was on “iCarly.”  (Laughter.)  And that episode — they focused the entire episode on the experience of military children.  It was wonderful.  It really got the message out to young people in a way that we could never do on our own.

So over the past year, not a single person that we’ve talked to, that we have approached, has told us that they could not help — not a single person.  We’ve asked; they said yes.
And the good thing is, is that once people get started, they just keep coming up with new ideas on their own.  We’ll present something, and they double it.  They want to do even more.  They just keep raising their goals even higher.  They just keep figuring out how to get more and more people involved.

A wonderful example is Operation Honor Cards.  It’s a wonderful initiative that asks Americans to honor our military families by pledging service of their own.  And when we first sat down with this organization last year, they set a goal of getting 3 million hours of pledge service from people all across the country.  But then what happened was that by June, they had already doubled that number; and then by November, they hit 10 million hours — just by November.  And today, we can announce that we’re at 21 million hours pledged — 21 million hours pledged — with already 30 million total hours served.  (Applause.)

Now, that’s really the story of Joining Forces.  That’s what we are celebrating today.  That’s truly what is going on through Joining Forces.  It is the story of a wave of support that spreads across this country, and it’s reaching more communities every single day.

But the real impact of Joining Forces over this past year truly cannot be measured just by a list of accomplishments.  It can’t be explained with numbers or hours or dollar amounts.  The true measure of our success lies in the lives that we’ve helped to change — all of us, everyone here — those lives, all those moms and dads out there, all of those sons and daughters, like Moranda, all the grandparents who have felt the love and the support of a grateful nation.

They are heroes like my good buddy, Johnny Agbi — Sergeant Agbi.  He’s quite a character; got to spend some time with him.  He was wounded in Afghanistan, and he’s here with us today.  And thanks to Sears and Rebuild Together, who worked together to refit his house for his wheelchair — and Jill and I got to write on his wall — I hope our signatures are still there.  Are they there?  (Laughter.)  All right, that’s good.  We got to write on his wall.  But thanks to their efforts, Sergeant Agbi can now more easily get in his front door — something as simple as that.  He can now move around his home more freely.  And hopefully, everything feels just a little bit more like home again.

They are spouses like Ann Wells, who Jill and I got to meet.  She’s a nurse who, because of the licensing portability efforts in the states may not have to deal with so much bureaucracy the next time her family moves and she needs to recertify before she can get a job.

They are veterans like Joshua Rassi, from Beaverton, Oregon.  Now, in 2007, Sergeant Rassi joined the Army and was trained as a geospatial analyst — you guys probably know what that is, right?  You Joint Chief types, right?  He was deployed to Iraq, where he was in charge of securing convoys, checking roads for IEDs.  He managed many, many soldiers, communicating detailed information throughout his unit.  But when he left active duty in May of 2010, he couldn’t find consistent work.  He couldn’t find consistent work back home.  For more than a year he was out of consistent work.  This highly trained soldier applied everywhere, but his searches ended in frustration.

Then last September, he went to one of the Chamber of Commerce’s hiring fairs in Portland.  And the Red Cross liked what they saw at this fair.  And within a week, Sergeant Rassi had started a new job with the Red Cross as a lab technician.  And he has been working for six months.  And he is thankful not just for the income, not just because his skills are no longer idle, but because it gives him an opportunity to keep giving back to the country that he loves.

And, as he said — and these are his words — he said, “Part of the reason I joined the military was getting to serve, and at the Red Cross I’m doing the same thing.  My big thing in life is making a difference.”  And that’s how deeply ingrained service is to our men and women in uniform.  That is the greatness that we all feel when we travel the country.  That’s why you guys hook us in.  It is that ethic of service.  It’s that commitment to this country that we want to honor through Joining Forces.

I always say if all of our young people could just get a little dose of what you all have, then they would be just fine.  Just fine.  This effort is about making an impact.  It is about repaying our debt to our veterans and military families.  It’s about giving these heroes the opportunities they deserve.

But I want to be clear that we are not here to pat ourselves on the back.  We’re not here just to throw a nice party or to list our accomplishments.  We’re here to really, truly make a difference for these families who have put everything on the line for all of us.  So while today is certainly a time for celebration, it’s also a time to renew our call of action.  That’s why we’d like to mark the sand with an anniversary, because it’s time to say this is what we’ve done, but there is so much more to do.  It’s time for us to redouble our efforts.

So today, I want to challenge all of you here, and I want to challenge Americans all across the country, to keep raising the bar, just keep raising the bar.  Keep bringing more people into the fold — the fold of Joining Forces, the fold of whatever it is you are doing, keep bringing people in.  Keep coming up with new ideas.

And one message to all of the military families here today and watching around the country:  I want you to know that these are not just words.  We are not giving out empty promises — not on my watch, not on Jill’s watch.  We’re going to keep working until all of our veterans know that when they hit the job market, their skills be rewarded.  We’re not stopping until every military student gets an educational experience that honors their service.  We’re not calling it a day until all of our military spouses can rest assured that the next time their family is transferred, they won’t have to leave their job behind.

And we’re going to keep working.  We’re going to keep persuading.  We’re going to keep driving forward until all of our nation’s military families feel in real and concrete ways the love and support and gratitude that we all hold in our hearts.  That is our simple promise to you.  And it is one of the best things that we all do with our time.

And as Tom said, this is a forever proposition.  This is not a blue state or red state proposition.  This is something that we want to make a part of the culture of the United States of America, that every citizen feels this level of gratitude and finds some way to give something back.  And if we can do our part by shining a light on this effort, then we will continue to do that.

So I want to thank you all for everything that you have done, for leading the way in your communities across this country.  Keep it going.  We are so proud of all of you.  We are grateful.  So God bless you all.  And God bless the United States of America.  Enjoy the rest of your time here in Washington.  (Applause.)

END
11:39 A.M. EDT

60,000 Veterans and Military Spouses Have Been Hired Through Joining Forces Employment Initiatives

Source: WH, 4-13-12

First Lady Michelle Obama greets people in the crowd at Kansas  City Southern Railroad

First Lady Michelle Obama greets people in the crowd at Kansas City Southern Railroad after delivering remarks during a Joining Forces Event in Shreveport, La., April 12, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

It was a great day in Shreveport, Louisiana, yesterday. First Lady Michelle Obama joined the leadership of the Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railway Company in announcing Michael Abitago, Junior as the 50,000veteran or military spouse to have been hired by a company through the Joining Forces employment efforts this past year! Abitago literally left active duty in the Army last Saturday after 4 years of service (including 2 tours in Iraq) and starts work on Monday as a Conductor-trainee. He was hired by KCS in mid-March at a Joining Forces hiring event in Ft Hood, Texas.

And there’s even more great news. A couple of months ago when we first wanted to highlight this event, we had planned on announcing our 50,000hire. But as we approached our visit to Shreveport we had already hit that mark. By April another 8,000 veterans and military spouses were hired. And yesterday, Mrs. Obama revealed the news that the surge in hiring pushed the number of veterans and military spouses hired through Joining Forces to 60,000!

Through Joining Forces, American businesses have not only hired more than 60,000 veterans and military spouses to date,  they have also pledged to hire at least 160,000 more in the years ahead.

More than 1,600 companies have been involved in this effort, including Microsoft, Comcast, Honeywell, Safeway and Sears. JPMorgan Chase and the 40 companies of the “100,000 jobs mission” hired more than 6,000 veterans  — alone – in the January-March 2012 timeframe.

The private sector is stepping up in a real way to support veterans and military spouses. For a full list of companies and their commitments please click HERE.


Learn more:

Brad Cooper is the Executive Director of Joining Forces
Related Topics: Economy, Veterans, Women

Remarks by the First Lady at a Joining Forces Employment Event – Shreveport, LA

Kansas City Southern Railways
Shreveport, Louisiana

1:27 P.M. CDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, hello, everyone.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Michael for that very kind introduction and for his service.  We are very proud of him.  We know he’s going to do well.  And we’re just thrilled to be here — thrilled to be here with all of you.

I also want to thank Dave for his work and his introduction, for hosting us here today, and everyone else here at Kansas City Southern for hosting us as well.  It is really exciting to be here as part of our first anniversary of Joining Forces.

I also have to recognize Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover, who is here.  (Applause.)  Thank you for being here and thank you for your leadership and for joining us today.

Yesterday, we kicked off our tour to celebrate the first anniversary of Joining Forces, which is our nationwide campaign to honor and serve America’s veterans and military families.  And I’m here today in Shreveport to make another big announcement about our effort to hire veterans and military spouses across the country.

And I have a little secret — because the truth is, is that when we started to plan this event a couple of months ago, we had planned on announcing the 50,000th hire.  That’s what this was going to be.  But by mid-March — because we were going to hit that goal by the end of — the middle of the year — but by the end of March we had already hit that mark.  (Applause.)  And then a week later, we added 5,000 more.  And by April, another 3,000.  (Applause.)

So today, I couldn’t be more excited to announce that America’s businesses have hired 60,000 veterans and military spouses in the past year.  (Applause.)  And that’s really the story that we want to celebrate here today.  That’s the story of Joining Forces.  Whenever we have asked Americans to step up, no matter who we were talking to, they have gone above and beyond our expectations — just above and beyond.  And I want these veterans to understand that.  America is stepping up in big ways.

When we looked to America’s health care providers, 135 medical schools, more than 500 nursing schools, more than 3 million health care providers stepped up to improve care for veterans and military families.  (Applause.)

When we asked Americans of all kind to find ways to honor our military families, they answered by serving more than 13 million volunteer hours right in their own communities.  (Applause.)  That’s individual.  That’s all volunteer work.

And of course, when it comes to businesses, when we approached the private sector, when we asked them to follow through on my husband’s challenge to hire or train 100,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013, America’s businesses have overwhelmed us with their response.  So just listen to some of what they’ve done, just some examples:

The Chamber of Commerce held more than 130 hiring fairs for veterans and military spouses all across the country.  The Military Spouse Employment Partnership committed to 20,000 hires.  The American Logistics Association pledged 25,000 hires.  And the International Franchising Association committed to 80,000 more hires.

And just last week, a group of 11 companies said that they would devote 15,000 portable, flexible jobs to military spouses and veterans.  More than 1,600 companies — from Sears and Siemens, to NBC and Disney, to Honeywell and Snap-On Tools — they’ve all joined this effort.  Everyone is stepping up.  And in total, they’ve committed to hiring at least 160,000 veterans and military spouses in the coming years.  And that’s above and beyond the 60,000 that we’re talking about here today.  That’s on top of it.  (Applause.)

So I think it is fair to say that over this past year, this has just been one year’s worth of work.  Over this past year, America’s businesses have truly answered the call to give back to the men and women who have given so much to this country.  And all of these companies are joining this effort, as Dave said, not just because it’s the right thing to do, not just because it’s a patriotic way to show our support, but because it’s good business as well.  That’s important.  This is good business.  (Applause.)

Right here at Kansas City Southern you all are seeing that.  That’s why more than 10 percent of your American workforce has worn our country’s uniform.  That’s why you hired 45 veterans last year alone.  You have made hiring veterans a priority because you know that these folks are some of the most highly-skilled, hardest-working employees in this country.  They have experience that simply cannot be created — or recreated in a classroom.

Today’s modern battlefield means that our 9/11 generation of veterans has served not only as soldiers or airmen or sailors, but as diplomats — they’ve served as social workers, as mediators, as educators.  They’re directing dozens of their peers — so they’ve got the management experience.  They’re executing highly complex, life-or-death missions, and they’re operating some of the most advanced technology on the planet.

Meanwhile, their spouses are getting more done in a day than most of us get done in a week.  They are juggling everything — family schedules, keeping the finances in order, coordinating community drives — because they’re also volunteering outside of their own homes, all while earning degrees or trying to build their own careers.  They are doing it all.

So make no mistake about it, our veterans and military spouses are some of the most able –- and employable -– people in the marketplace today.

But for so long, so many of these heroes have had difficulties finding jobs.  Last year, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was over 12 percent — and that was significantly higher than the general population.  And over the last few years, our nation’s military spouses have struggled to find employment as well, with an unemployment rate that nearly doubles that of civilian spouses.

But we have reason for optimism — because the unemployment rate of post-9/11 veterans has been trending downward for the past 27 months.  (Applause.)  Absolutely.  So while we know that we haven’t solved this problem and we know that there is still a lot more work to be done, we are cautiously optimistic that we’re beginning to turn a corner on this employment issue and so many other issues that impact our veterans and military families.

And let’s remember that these are not simply numbers or plot points on a graph that we’re talking about.  These are not just statistics that we’re dealing with.  These are real lives that we’re talking about — real people with real struggles.  These are families who won’t have to worry about where the next mortgage payment is going to come from.  These are military spouses who can once again add a second income to the family’s finances.  Correct?  We are talking about veterans who can provide for their families and put their skills to use, and who can trust that this country has got their backs.  That’s what this is about.  (Applause.)

And that is really what Joining Forces is about.  That’s why we’ve done this.  It is not about words.  And I said that from the very beginning:  This is not about words or about false pats on the back, this is really about action.  That is one thing I didn’t want to do when we started this initiative, is to have some family member look me in the eye and not feel the work that we were doing.  This isn’t about what’s going on in Washington.  This is about what’s happening on the ground.  (Applause.)  It’s about making a real, meaningful difference for these men and women and families who have given our country so much.  And they’ve done it without complaint.  They’ve done it without hesitation.

So to all of you here at Kansas City Southern and to everyone across the country who has hired our veterans and military spouses, I want to thank you for giving our heroes the opportunities they deserve.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

And this anniversary is about continuing to raise the bar.  We can celebrate a little bit today, but there is more work to do.  So to any company out there that needs dedicated, productive, and highly skilled professionals on their team, I urge you to hire a veteran or a military spouse.  I urge you to do that.  I am confident that they will serve you as well as they’ve served this country.

And also, to all of the veterans and to the military members here — and I know that includes the 30 veterans who were recently hired at KCS –- I again want to thank you for everything that you have done and continue to do for this country.  You all inspire me.  And one of this things that most people cannot do is that they don’t get a chance to visit a military base.  They don’t get to see up close and personal what you all go through over the course of a day, a year, a career.  They don’t see what happens when you come back.  The challenges that you face for the service that you’ve provided.

I feel blessed to have had that honor.  I am not from a military background — Jill Biden is, and she’s been a terrific partner in this effort.  But we committed to be a voice for all of you in this position.  We’ve committed to be a part of telling your story so that other Americans who don’t have that connection, who don’t have someone in the military can really understand the incredible lives you’ve lived and the debt that we owe you as a country for the sacrifice that you have so selflessly made.  We are grateful.

And it is important for you to know that you live in a grateful nation.  Everyone we have asked has wanted to step up.  I think the only reason the connection hasn’t been made is that people don’t always know how to serve, because you all are so doggone competent — (laughter) — that you don’t ask for help, and you’re used to handling it all, keeping it all in, so people don’t always know how best to reach out, how best to provide that support.

But it is not just businesses that are doing this.  This is church groups that are stepping out.  These are teachers and classrooms, and again, nursing students and doctors and social workers.  Joining Forces provides them a platform for help.  We are not doing it; they’re doing it.  And they’re doing it not because of us but because of you and your stories.  And I want you to know that, because sometimes it takes a little time for that support to trickle down.  And we are working — that’s why there is so much more work to do.  We cannot stop until the unemployment rate among our veterans and military families is at zero.  That’s a high goal.  (Applause.)  But that’s how much we need to do.

So I want to thank you all for what you’ve done for this country.  This is a forever proposition.  The goal is that Joining Forces, the concept of it — whether it’s in name or in spirit — is something that becomes a part of our culture as America forever.

So thank you, all.  Good luck to you.  Good luck to your families.  And God bless you all.  Thanks so much.  (Applause.)

END
1:40 P.M. CDT

Remarks by the First Lady Honoring Young Women from Military Families

Jacksonville Naval Air Station
Jacksonville, Florida

6:08 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA: Oh! (Applause.) How are you guys doing? (Applause.) You guys sit down. Rest yourselves. Are you having fun? (Applause.) There is more fun to come. I am thrilled — thrilled — to be here.

I want to start by thanking Maddie for her poise and for introducing me not once, but twice. (Applause.) Well done, Maddie. She is amazing. She’s terrific. Very proud of her, so let’s give her another round of applause. (Applause.)

A few other people that I want to thank. I want to thank Representative Corrine Brown, who’s here, and Mayor Alvin Brown, who are here to — joining us today. Thank you both for your leadership and being here with us.

I also want to take a moment to recognize all of the extraordinary men and women in uniform who are here today. You’re amazing — and your amazing spouses. Yay for the spouses. Thank you for the service that you’ve given. Thank you for the sacrifices that you’ve made. You all are the very best this country has to offer, and I am thrilled that you could join us here today.

And finally, I want to thank our guests of honor, these amazing, beautiful, well-dressed, well-put-together young women we are celebrating here today. (Applause.) And on behalf of myself and my husband, I want to tell you all truly how proud we are of you. We are so proud of you. We are inspired by you, and we are grateful for everything that you do for this country every single day. That’s why we wanted to have you here.

You see, when we talk about how our men and women in uniform sacrifice so much and serve this country so bravely, we’re not just talking about your parents. We are not. We are talking about all of you. We’re talking about our military kids and our military families, because we know that when your parents are called to serve, you all serve right alongside them.

When your parents get that call to pick up and move halfway across the country, you pick up and move right alongside them. And then, just when you finally get settled in, just when you’re feeling comfortable and make friends and start fitting in, what happens? That call comes again, right? And you have to start all over again and make new friends, and settle in, yet again.

And I know that couldn’t be easy. That can’t possibly be easy for you. And I know it’s even harder when your parents are deployed, and you have to keep your spirits up through all those missed holidays, and missed birthdays, and times when you would give anything in the world to have them back home.

And I know that some of you here will be — for you, there will be an empty seat at graduation — I know this. And for some of you, when it comes time for the prom, mom might not be there to help you pick out your dress. Dad might not be there to see you out on your date. And I know that that can’t possibly be easy either.

But here’s something else that I know: Through it all –- through all the moves that you’ve had to make, through all those difficult moments, you all have stayed strong. I have seen it. I’ve seen it in so many kids like you across this country. You all have risen to the challenge.

You’ve become leaders in your schools. You’re excelling in your classes. You’re getting involved in all kinds of activities. You’ve become leaders in your communities, finding all kinds of ways to volunteer and give back. And many of you have stepped up at home as well, juggling activities and homework with chores and housework.

Many of you have had to put on a brave face for maybe a younger brother or sister, even when you were worried. You’ve had to reassure your parents that you were okay, even when sometimes you weren’t.

And you’ve done all of this because ultimately, you understand that your parents are part of something far bigger than themselves. You know that they protect and defend the freedoms that every single one of us holds dear. You know that their service keeps this country safe every single day. And you all are a vital part of that work. You truly are.

By working so hard at school and at home, and doing your part, you give your parents the peace of mind they need to focus on their mission. With your service, you make their service possible. And for that, we can’t thank you enough. We cannot thank you enough.

Now, I know that many of you have never known anything else, right? This is your life. So for you, this is no big deal, maybe. Maybe you think it’s nothing special, because this is just how you’ve grown up.

But I am here today — we are all here today, and we’re doing all of this today — because you should know that this is a big deal. You are special. You all have lived lives that make you incredibly special young individuals.

As military kids, you have learned lessons and had experiences that many people don’t have in their entire lifetimes. You’ve immersed yourselves in all kinds of communities and cultures. You’ve made friends with people from all different backgrounds. And you’ve gained the wisdom and the perspective to appreciate what really matters in life.

You see, unlike a lot of young people, you all don’t take your families for granted, right? A lot of times, you have to work to stay connected to your families — maybe through Skype. It’s a lot of hard work making the most of those precious weeks of leave, saying the things that we don’t nearly say enough to the people we love –- things like “I’m so proud of you,” “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” “I love you more than you will ever know.”

And that’s something that always strikes me about our military families –- how dealing with the challenges of military life actually strengthens your family bonds, rather than weakening them; how spending time apart oftentimes actually brings you closer together. And all of that is part of who you are. And you should know that.

And as you get older, you will see that growing up in a military family has prepared you for life in a way that nothing else can. Because that’s really what life is about –- it’s about weathering all sorts of changes and transitions, and bumps and bruises. But it’s also about savoring the good times, right? Treasuring the people that we love and appreciating the many blessings that come with living in this great country of ours. That’s what all of you do every day.

Like your parents, you all are the very best this country has to offer. You’re role models not just for kids, but for adults and for all Americans who want to see what patriotism, sacrifice and service really looks like. That’s why we’re here.

So I want to thank you all for everything that you do. I want to once again thank your parents for their service to our country.

And now — here’s where the fun begins — I would like to announce that we have a special surprise guest who is about to join us. She is someone that I am proud to call a friend. She’s a tremendous supporter and admirer of veterans and military families. And she’s so amazed by your service that she’s going to put you all on national TV right now.

So are you ready?

AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: So joining us live from the set of her TV show, I’m proud to introduce the one and only Ellen DeGeneres. (Applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: Hi, everybody!

MRS. OBAMA: They’re screaming.

MS. DEGENERES: Hello, Mrs. Obama!

MRS. OBAMA: Hey, Ellen.

MS. DEGENERES: We’re screaming here too! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: What’s going on?

MS. DEGENERES: I hope I’m not interrupting anything.

MRS. OBAMA: No, we’re good. We’re just — good to have you here.

MS. DEGENERES: Good to be there. Congratulations on Joining Forces’ one-year anniversary. Tell everybody what it’s about, please.

MRS. OBAMA: Well, Joining Forces is our national initiative to make sure that all Americans honor our troops, veterans and families. This is the one-year anniversary. We’ve made some amazing strides, and we’re here with some great military kids to give them a special thank you.

MS. DEGENERES: And that’s why I’m there, too, to give them a special thank you. You’ve accomplished so much already. What do you hope to accomplish this year?

MRS. OBAMA: Well, we want to do more. We want to make sure that every American does something. We’re saying — our motto is everyone can do something. It can be something as big as having you on your show, but it can also be helping mow the lawn; it can be doing what you do best, but doing it on behalf of a military family — finding those families within your communities and reaching out to find out what they need.

So we want more of that to go on across this country.

MS. DEGENERES: So that is what you’d say if you — if somebody says how can I help, it’s all the little things. Just call up and say, what can I offer, what’s my specialty?

MRS. OBAMA: Yes. And people can go to our website, joiningforces.gov. And we’ve got thousands of wonderful ideas, suggestions, things that are going on in communities all across this country. That’s a good place to start.

MS. DEGENERES: Great. Great. Now, Mrs. Obama, before we go any further, I think it’s time we talk about the push-up situation. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: You’re still bothered by that, huh?

MS. DEGENERES: Oh! (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Still feeling the wounds of defeat. (Laughter.)

MS. DEGENERES: Let’s just make sure that everyone sees what we’re talking about here. You were here in February, we had a competition to see who could do the most push-ups. I did 20, and you did 25. (Laughter.) Now, let’s just watch the video for a second and then we’ll comment.

Anything you’d like to say?

MRS. OBAMA: I could have done 35. I stopped because I felt bad for you. (Laughter and applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: I bet you could have. I actually bet you could have.

All right, we have to take a break. And we’ll be back with the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and we have a surprise for a few lucky people there. We’ll be right back. I’m going to do some push-ups. (Applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: Oh! I’m exhausted. I just did 53 push-ups. (Laughter and applause.)

We’re back with the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. She’s in Jacksonville, Florida right now with military families. (Applause.) Mrs. Obama?

MRS. OBAMA: Yes! (Applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: Mrs. Obama, tell me who you’re sitting with right now.

MRS. OBAMA: Oh man, we’ve got some great, beautiful young ladies. They’re just gorgeous. You want me to pass the mic? You want to hear from them? You want to hear who’s here?

MS. DEGENERES: Sure, let me meet them.

MRS. OBAMA: All right, we’ve got —

Q Hi, I’m Rachel.

MS. DEGENERES: Hi, Rachel. You excited to be there today?

Q Oh, I’m extremely excited to be here. I’m so honored. I’m here with all my classmates and my family members as well.

MS. DEGENERES: Well, it’s so nice to meet you Rachel. Who are you sitting next to?

Q I’m sitting next to —

Q Hey! My name’s Kianna. (Laughter.)

MS. DEGENERES: Hey, Kianna! (Applause.) Hey Kianna, I love your energy. And your mom is serving overseas right now, right?

Q Yes, she is.

MS. DEGENERES: And how do you stay in touch?

Q My mom calls our house a few times a week, and I always enjoy whenever she calls the house. I love hearing her voice, but it reminds me of her background.

MS. DEGENERES: I bet, I bet. And you’re sitting next to?

Q Hi Ellen. My name is Elise.

MS. DEGENERES: Hi Elise, how are you?

Q I’m good. How are you?

MS. DEGENERES: And your dad is a Navy vet? I’m fantastic, thank you. Your dad is a Navy veteran. What is the best thing about being a military kid?

Q I really think that it teaches you a lot of good characteristics and to have a lot of strength and courage. Because it’s really not easy when you have a family member out in deployment.

MS. DEGENERES: I know, it certainly is not easy, and that’s why you get so much love and support from all of us. We admire your strength and everything that your parents are doing for us. (Applause.)

So my question is, it’s almost prom. You’re looking forward to that, I bet, right?

Q Yes. Definitely.

MS. DEGENERES: Now, Mrs. Obama, I don’t think I’ve ever shown you my prom picture. I just wanted to — I want to show you my prom picture first. (Laughter and applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: That is an excellent picture. Love the dress. Love the dress.

MS. DEGENERES: Thank you very much. That was a tablecloth at one point. (Laughter.) Now, I heard you have a good one too, so I thought I would share yours. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: That split was a little high. I don’t know if I’d let my kids go out with a split that high, so let’s not show this to Malia and Sasha.

MS. DEGENERES: All right. Were you shopping at Pier One or something? (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: You’ve never done the wicker chair shot? That’s standard.

MS. DEGENERES: No, I’ve seen the wicker chairs before but — I didn’t know it was standard.

All right. Well, listen, JC Penny knows that you guys are getting ready for prom. They’re a one-stop shop for all your prom needs. They have dresses, shoes, accessories — even a salon — all at great prices. So they’re giving all three of you a $250 JC Penny giftcard. (Applause.)

And I know there are 300 other students there with you all for the event today who need to get ready for the prom as well. So all of you students who are there in Florida with Mrs. Obama are also getting a $250 JC Penny giftcard. (Applause.)

Thank you so much for your time today, Mrs. Obama. You know I admire you, I think you’re an amazing, amazing woman. Thank you for all that you’re doing. We’re going to put something up on our website if anyone wants to get involved with Joining Forces. And we send our love and our support to all of you there. Thank you so much for all you do. And thank you, again, Mrs. Obama, for your time.

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, Ellen. We love you. This is amazing. (Applause.) Thank you.

MS. DEGENERES: Love you, too. We’ll be right back.

END
6:30 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines April 19, 2012: Secret Service, GSA and Soldier Photos Scandals Comsuming the Obama Presidency

POLITICAL HEADLINES

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Secret Service, GSA and soldier photos overshadow Obama’s message, feed bad public perceptions

(Susan Walsh, File/ Associated Press ) - FILE - In this June 30, 2010 file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee member, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. Sessions told reporters Thursday, the president should take responsibility for the Secret Service, GSA and energy company Solyndra scandals and insist on a government culture in which taxpayer dollars are not wasted. He said, “I don’t sense that this president has shown that kind of managerial leadership.”

(Susan Walsh, File/ Associated Press ) – FILE – In this June 30, 2010 file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee member, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. Sessions told reporters Thursday, the president should take responsibility for the Secret Service, GSA and energy company Solyndra scandals and insist on a government culture in which taxpayer dollars are not wasted. He said, “I don’t sense that this president has shown that kind of managerial leadership.”

Source: AP, 4-19-12

It isn’t Mitt Romney who’s giving Barack Obama fits as the president pivots to re-election mode. It’s those federal bureaucrats carousing in Las Vegas, the Secret Service consorting with Columbian prostitutes and U.S. soldiers posing with bloody enemy corpses.

The scandals are taking a toll. They are distracting embarrassments that are dominating public attention while Obama seeks to focus on difficulties abroad and jobs at home. And they are giving Republicans an opportunity to question his competence and leadership, an opening for Romney in a race so close that any advantage might make a difference.

Even if the Democratic president escapes being defined by these flare-ups, they still feed a story line that can erode public confidence in Washington institutions, fuel a perception of federal excess and frustrate Obama’s argument that government can be a force for good.

The White House response has been textbook — a mix of outrage and deflection.

“The president has been crystal clear since he was a candidate about the standards that he insists be met by those who work for the federal government and on behalf of the American people and for the American people,” says White House spokesman Jay Carney….READ MORE

 

The GSA and Secret Service scandals: A political problem for President Obama?

Source: WaPo, 4-18-12

It’s been a rough few weeks for the federal government.

First, the lavish spending of the General Services Administration on a wild Las Vegas retreat came to light. Then came the Secret Service scandal where a number of agents advancing the President’s trip to Colombia were caught with prostitutes.


WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 18: Members of Bankrupting America dress as a clown and a mindreader as they hand out “resumes” to make fun of a hearing on General Services Administration (GSA) today in front of Dirksen Senate Office Building April 18, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)The question that’s largely been left out of the coverage of the twin scandals — in which new details seem to emerge daily if not hourly — is whether they carry any political danger for the man at the head of the federal government: President Obama.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is starting to ramp up his rhetoric on the subject, suggesting that President Obama needs to take more forceful action.

“I’d clean house,” Romney told conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham on Wednesday morning. “The right thing to do is to remove people who have violated the public trust and have put their play time and their personal interests ahead of the interests of the nation.”

(Romney was more measured on the Secret Service during another radio interview in Ohio today; “We are a nation, after all, under law and the president has confidence in the head of the Secret Service, as do I,” Romney said.)

Romney’s comments come less than 24 hours after White House press secretary Jay Carney addressed the twin scandals. Said Carney:

“The President believes that everyone who serves the American people by working for this government needs to hold themselves to the highest standards of public service. And there’s no point in comparing the singular incidents of one agency to another, but that principle is one he made clear during the campaign that he would bring to the office. It is a principle that he clearly set forth early on his presidency both in the words that he spoke and the actions that he took, and it is a principle, as I think was made clear in the wake of the GSA incident, that he believes should be enforced.”

White House officials note that the GSA Administrator resigned, her two top deputies were fired and four other officials were put on leave in the immediate aftermath of the Inspector General’s report detailing the agency’s wrongdoing — moves that leave little room for Romney to criticize.

Obviously, both scandals are too recent — and the full scope of each remains too unclear — to draw concrete conclusions about what they might mean (or not mean) to President Obama’s political prospects this fall.

But it is worth noting that one of the central pillars of Obama’s election in 2008 was competency….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency April 19, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Yom HaShoah / Holocaust Remembrance Day

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S YOM HASHOAH MESSAGE

Obama pays tribute to Holocaust victims on Remembrance Day: President Barack Obama paid tribute to victims of the Holocaust on Thursday, saying that “on this day, and all days, we must do more than remember. We must resolve that “never again” is more than an empty slogan…. – JPost, 4-19-12

  • Obama issues statement honoring Holocaust Remembrance Day: President Barack Obama released a statement on Thursday honoring the Jewish day of remembrance Yom HaShoah. Hebrew for “destruction,” the word “shoah” is often used in reference to the Holocaust, and Yom HaShoah is the day on the Jewish calendar … – CNN, 4-19-12
  • Obama: ‘Never again’ more than empty slogan: US President Barack Obama joined millions across the globe in commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day. On Thursday the White House published a statement in which the president said “On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, I join people of all…. – Ynet News, 4-19-12

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Statement by the President on Yom HaShoah

On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, I join people of all faiths across the United States, in Israel and around the world in paying tribute to all who suffered in the Shoah—a horrific crime without parallel in human history.  We honor the memory of six million innocent men, women and children who were sent to their deaths simply because of their Jewish faith.  We stand in awe of those who fought back, in the ghettos and in the camps, against overwhelming odds.  And in the year of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, we are humbled by the rescuers who refused to be bystanders to evil.

On this day, and all days, we must do more than remember.  We must resolve that “never again” is more than an empty slogan.  As individuals, we must guard against indifference in our hearts and recognize ourselves in our fellow human beings.  As societies, we must stand against ignorance and anti-Semitism, including those who try to deny the Holocaust.  As nations, we must do everything we can to prevent and end atrocities in our time.  This is the work I will advance when I join survivors and their families at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday.  This must be the work of us all, as nations and peoples who cherish the dignity of every human being.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 19, 2012: White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew’s Speech Presenting the Elie Wiesel Award to Aung San Suu Kyi at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Tribute Dinner

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Jack Lew Honors Aung San Suu Kyi

Source: WH, 4-19-12

On Wednesday evening, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew offered remarks at the presentation of the Elie Wiesel Award to Aung San Suu Kyi at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Tribute Dinner. In the speech, Lew spoke about his own experience as a young man and the importance of the work that Aung San Suu Kyi and the Museum do.

His full remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Good evening.

It is an honor for me to join such a distinguished group of speakers and guests this evening.  I’d also like to add my thanks to all of the board members, contributors, and staff who support the mission of the Holocaust Museum. And I know how much President Obama is looking forward to visiting the museum on Monday.

My father was born in Poland, and his family left their small town at the end of World War I.

Many of his neighbors and relatives were not so lucky. And he made it here to America, a country where he did not need to live in fear. A country where even the son of an Eastern European immigrant could become Chief of Staff to the President of the United States.

As a child, there were constant reminders of how lucky my family had been. I grew up in a neighborhood that was home to many Holocaust survivors, at a time when the Holocaust was something that just wasn’t talked about.  When peoples’ numbers showed on their arm, they would pull their sleeve down.

It is amazing how much has changed.  Today, thanks in no small part to your work at the Holocaust Museum, the Holocaust is something we do talk about.  A child born in America today may never meet a Holocaust survivor, or even a veteran of World War II. But they will always know what happened, and be able to remember and honor those who lost their lives.

Because the Holocaust Museum is not only about commemorating the past. It is about shaping the future. You have always believed that, in the words of Elie Wiesel, “the memory of evil will serve as a shield against evil; that the memory of death will serve as a shield against death.”

With that in mind, it is my great honor to join you for the presentation of the Second Elie Wiesel Award.  As you know, the first recipient was Elie Wiesel himself.  And I can think of no better second recipient than Aung San Suu Kyi.

I say this not only because Daw Suu has lived an extraordinary and courageous life.  I say this because she could have so easily chosen a different path, one of comfort and convenience. She went to university in London.  Lived in countries around the world, including the United States and India.  She knew there were plenty of opportunities for her outside of Burma.

And she knew the risks involved in her decision to advocate for democracy.

After all, her own father had been assassinated by political rivals, four decades earlier. But she stayed in Burma anyway.  For 15 of the first 21 years after she emerged as a leader of the pro-democracy movement, she was under house arrest – and even then, she had a choice. She was offered her freedom, in exchange for exile, and she refused.

Many times, Daw Suu could have decided that she had done enough – that it was someone else’s turn to sacrifice. But she refused to give up. Instead, she continued to inspire the entire world with her faith in non-violent action, and her belief that freedom would ultimately prove greater than tyranny.

For decades, Aung San Suu Kyi’s story has given hope to those who had none, both in her country, and around the world.

And today, even as we gather here, a new chapter in that story is being written. As President Obama put it last November, in Burma we are seeing “flickers of progress.”

President Obama made that statement – and the historic decision to send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Burma – after becoming the first U.S. President to speak to Daw Suu. In that conversation, he wanted to hear firsthand from her, before moving forward with his decision. He was able to hear her views about democratic reform and reconciliation.

They were also able to talk a little about lighter topics – she even gave her best to Bo. And they both looked forward to the day when they could see each other in person.

As President Obama and Secretary Clinton reached out to engage Burma and to encourage the Burmese government to begin the challenging journey to a democratic and prosperous future, they were reflecting a broader vision of America’s role – and our responsibility – in the world.

The President described this vision in his Inaugural Address.

He said, “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to un-clench your fist.”

In other words, as Americans, we recognize that the world’s democracies must stand up when democratic principles and human rights are denied.  But when governments such as Burma move in the direction of democratic reform, they will be met in a spirit of partnership and respect by the United States.  We will match their progress action for action—and offer encouragement and support as they continue down the long and difficult road that lies before them.

Our commitment to that vision is unwavering. We know that the path toward democracy is never easy, and that significant challenges lie ahead, for Aung San Suu Kyi, for Burma, and for our entire world.  But tonight, we celebrate a woman whose dedication to shining a light on injustice and abuse has led to the beginnings of a transformation in her country, and we look toward the future with renewed confidence, and renewed hope.

Thank you.

Campaign Buzz April 18, 2012: Mitt Romney Battles President Barack Obama on the Economy in North Carolina Pre-buttal Speech New NYT CBS News Poll Finds Economy Helping Romney

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

Doubts on Economy May Give Romney Opening, Poll Finds

Source: NYT, 4-18-12

Mitt Romney spoke to supporters on Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C.

John Adkisson for The New York Times

Mitt Romney spoke to supporters on Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C.

Americans see improvement in the economy, but wariness about their own financial circumstances may help Mitt Romney’s campaign, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Mitt Romney: President Obama “Has Failed By the measurements He Set”

Source: Mitt Romney Press, 4-18-12

Boston, MA, United States

“Virtually nothing the President has done, including his stimulus, which protected government but did not encourage the private sector, virtually nothing he has done has made it more likely for people to get jobs. And so, for three-and-a-half years, we’ve had unemployment above 8 percent. He set the measure; he has failed by the measurements he set. You won’t hear that at this convention, but you’re going to hear it at ours, I’ll tell you that.” – Mitt Romney

Remarks
Charlotte, North Carolina
April 18, 2012

Click Here To Watch To Mitt Romney Discuss President Obama’s Failures

MITT ROMNEY: “Virtually nothing the President has done, including his stimulus, which protected government but did not encourage the private sector, virtually nothing he has done has made it more likely for people to get jobs. And so, for three-and-a-half years, we’ve had unemployment above 8 percent. He set the measure; he has failed by the measurements he set. You won’t hear that at this convention, but you’re going to hear it at ours, I’ll tell you that. Now, you’re also not going to hear, at his convention, that he is on track to add almost as much public debt to this country as all the prior presidents combined. Even having been critical of President George W. Bush for the debt he added, which of course was far less than that which is being added by this president. You won’t hear that even though he’s been president for three-and-a-half years, he has yet to propose solutions to save Medicare and Social Security. You won’t hear that he’s the first president in modern history, in any history, to cut Medicare by $500 billion to pay for his vaunted Obamacare. You won’t hear him repeat an accurate statement. I have one… I actually have one in mind in particular, which was from his speech four years ago. I mean listen to this, this is what he said four years ago, and I wish he’d repeat this, and I’m going to change one name at the end. He says ‘Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home’s value plummet. More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit cards, bills you can’t afford to pay and tuition that’s beyond your reach. These challenges are not all of the government’s making, but the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of…’ Yeah, Barack Obama. I changed what word he had in there and put down Barack Obama. Those things he said about the prior administration are absolutely accurate about his administration and that’s why even if you like Barack Obama, we can’t afford Barack Obama. It’s time to get someone that’ll get this economy going and put the American people back to work with good jobs and rising incomes.”

IN FOCUS: MITT ROMNEY’S PRE-BUTTAL TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA IN NORTH CAROLINA — NEW POLL FAVORS ROMNEY ON THE ECONOMY

Scorching talk: Romney, Obama battle over economy: Their battle joined, challenger Mitt Romney savaged President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy on Wednesday while the commander in chief commiserated up close with victims of the recession and warned that Republicans would only make matters worse…. – AP, 4-18-12

  • Doubts on Economy Lending Appeal to Romney, Poll Finds: A rising number of Americans see improvement in the economy, but a persistent wariness about their own financial circumstances is allowing Mitt Romney to persuade voters that he could improve their economic prospects more than President Obama…. – NYT, 4-18-12
  • Romney ‘pre-buttal’ savages Obama on economy, Obama fights back: Romney delivered his scathing denunciation of the president’s policies. Aides dubbed his remarks a pre-buttal to the president’s own, and early-arriving partisans heard a recorded medley of rock music that included ‘It’s Still the Same…. – CS Monitor, 4-18-12
  • Romney hits Obama on economy; president says Republicans would make improving situation worse: Their battle joined, challenger Mitt Romney savaged President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy on Wednesday while the commander-in-chief commiserated up close with victims of the recession and warned that Republicans would only…. – WaPo, 4-18-12
  • Romney offers his pre-buttal to Obama: Stepping up his efforts to directly engage President Obama, Mitt Romney took his campaign to a rooftop in Charlotte on Wednesday overlooking the stadium where Obama will deliver his convention speech this summer…. – LAT, 4-18-12
  • Romney says Obama is ‘in over his head': Mitt Romney slammed President Obama’s handling of the economy in remarks from Charlotte, where Democrats will formally nominate Obama for a second term. Obama is “in over his head, and he’s swimming in the wrong direction”…. – USA Today, 4-18-12

Full Text Obama Presidency April 18, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Jobs, Tax Cuts & Investing in Training American Workers at Lorain County Community College, Elyria, Ohio

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama Delivers Remarks Highlighting the Administration’s Job Training Initiatives President Barack Obama delivers remarks highlighting the Administration’s job training initiatives to help get more Americans back to work and connect unemployed Americans with the skills training needed to find jobs in high-demand, high-growth industries, at Lorain Community College in Elyria, Ohio, April 18, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Herbert)

Obama talks jobs, tax cuts in Ohio

Source: WaPo, Bloomberg, 4-18-12

President Barack Obama told a group of unemployed workers getting trained at a community college that they face a choice in November between steady federal support for education and deep reductions in such programs to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Obama combined his re-election campaign themes with a pitch for government funding for job training and research, saying “these investments aren’t part of some grand scheme to redistribute wealth.” Republicans, he said, propose to “gut” the budget in order to give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans…. READ MORE

President Obama Talks About Investing in Training American Workers

Source: WH, 4-18-12President Barack Obama Participates in a Roundtable with Unemployed Workers
President Barack Obama participates in a roundtable with unemployed workers who are students in Lorain County Community College job training programs, at Lorain Community College in Elyria, Ohio, April 18, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama was in Elyria, Ohio today where he met with students at Lorain County Community College. The President was there to talk about the Administration’s job training initiatives to help more Americans get back to work and connect unemployed Americans with the skills training they need to find jobs in high-demand, high-growth industries, including the Community College to Career Fund. He told the students that taking classes at community colleges and getting new skills doesn’t just benefit students and their future employers but adds economic value to the entire region:

Investing in a community college, just like investing in a new road or a new highway or broadband lines that go into rural communities, these investments are not part of some grand scheme to redistribute wealth. They’ve been made by Democrats and Republicans for generations because they benefit all of us. That’s what leads to strong, durable economic growth. That’s how America became an economic superpower. That’s how we built the Transcontinental Railroad. That’s why we’ve got the best universities and colleges in the world. That’s why we have cutting-edge research that takes place here, and that then gets translated into new jobs and new businesses, because somebody did the groundwork.  We created a foundation for those of us to prosper.

When you take classes at a community college like this one and you learn the skills that you need to get a job right away, that does not just benefit you; it benefits the company that ends up hiring and profiting from your skills.  It makes the entire region stronger economically.  It makes this country stronger economically.

In this country, prosperity does not trickle down; prosperity grows from the bottom up.  And it grows from a strong middle class out.  That’s how we grow this economy.

Learn more:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at Lorain County Community College, Elyria, OH

Lorain County Community College
Elyria, Ohio

2:36 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Everybody, please have a seat.

Well, hello, Ohio!

AUDIENCE:  Hello!

THE PRESIDENT:  It is good to be back here at Lorain.  Last time I was here I had an outstanding burger at Smitty’s.  (Laughter.)  I got my own presidential football helmet at Riddell.  I got a feeling I may need it between now and November. (Laughter.)

It’s also great to be back at Lorain Community College.  I want to thank Bronson for that wonderful introduction.  He is — (applause) — I had a chance to meet Bronson and Andrea and David and Duane.  And I just want Bronson’s wife to know that he gives her all the credit in the world.  So just in case you’re watching — (laughter) — Gladys, he loves you to death.

I also want to thank your president, Dr. Roy Church —  (applause) — your Mayor, Holly Brinda, for hosting us here today.  (Applause.)  I want to recognize my outstanding Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, in the house.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank all of you for coming.

I came here for a simple reason.  In an economy that’s still recovering from the worst financial crisis and the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, the work that’s going on here could not be more important.  I meet business owners all the time who want to hire in the United States, but they can’t always find the workers with the right skills.  You’ve got growing industries in science and technology that have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job.  That makes no sense — openings at a time when there’s still a lot of Americans, including some on this stage, who are looking for work.  So we’ve got to do a better job training more people for the skills that businesses are looking for.

When I met with manufacturers a while back, they said it’s starting to make economic sense to bring jobs back to Ohio, to bring jobs back to Michigan, to bring jobs back to Illinois and Iowa and Indiana, because even if the labor costs are lower there, the workers are better here.  And when you factor in transportation costs, a lot of times it makes sense to insource now, but that’s only going to be true if we can make sure that we’ve got workers who have higher skills and can manage fancier machinery than folks in other places.  And all that starts with community colleges like this one.

So I just had a chance to listen to four of your classmates and hear a little bit about how they got here, where they’re headed.  I talked to Duane, who was laid off at a packaging company, is now learning how to operate high-tech machinery.  Andrea lost her job as an HR analyst, but she’s now getting certified in the fast-growing field of electronic medical records.  David, who in addition to being a truck driver for 23 years was also a Marine, so we know he can do the job — he’s here to retrain for a higher-paying job.  And you just heard from Bronson, who was laid off two years ago, and you heard what he said.  He was at a dead end in his life, and this program — along with his wife — (laughter) — gave him an opportunity.  So he’s going to be learning hands-on machining over the next few weeks, after having already done some of the bookwork.

I have to tell you, when I meet these folks, these folks inspire me, because a lot of them have gone through tough times. Andrea is still dealing with the aftermath of the flood that damaged her home.  All of them have supportive family members.   And it’s hard being out of work.  It’s hard especially when you’re mid-career, when you’re having to change jobs.  And the resilience they show and the determination they show, that’s what America’s about.  That’s our defining spirit.  We don’t quit.

And so the question now is, how do we make sure that all of America is expressing that spirit through making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot?  Because that’s going to be a major debate that we have in this country not just for the next few months, but for the next few years:  Should we settle for an economy where a few people do really well and then a growing number are struggling to get by?  Or do we build an economy where people like Duane and Andrea and David and Bronson, they’ve got a chance to get ahead, where there are ladders of opportunity, where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules?  (Applause.)

And this is not just another run-of-the-mill political debate.  There’s always chatter in Washington.  Folks argue about whether the sun rises in the east and whether it sets in the west, whether the sky is blue.  (Laughter.)  There’s always going to be arguments in Washington.  But this one is different, because we’re talking about the central challenge of our time.  Right now, we have two competing visions of our future, and the choice could not be clearer.  And let me say, those folks on the other side, I am sure they are patriots, I’m sure they’re sincere in terms of what they say.  But their theory, I believe, is wrong.

See, I’ve never believed that government can or should try to solve every problem we’ve got.  I believe that the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history.  I agree that everybody has personal responsibility for their own lives.  Everybody has got to work hard.  Nothing is ever handed to us.  But I also agree with our first Republican President — a guy named Abraham Lincoln – who said that, through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well on our own.

There’s some things we don’t do well on our own.  That’s why we’ve got a strong military to keep us safe.  That’s why we have fire departments because we never know when we might have a fire in our house.  That’s why we’ve got public schools to educate our children.  That’s how we laid down railroads and highways, and supported research and technology that’s saved lives and helped create entire industries.  That’s why we have programs like Medicare and Social Security and unemployment insurance, because any one of us — I don’t care how lucky you are, how rich you are, how blessed you are — you never know, you could face a layoff, or a crippling illness, or a run of bad luck, or a tragedy.

Folks in Ohio know about that.  Nothing is given.  And that’s why we’re helping more community colleges like this one to become community career centers, so folks who are looking for a new job or a better-paying job can learn the skills that businesses need right now.  And that’s good for all of us.

Investing in a community college, just like investing in a new road or a new highway or broadband lines that go into rural communities, these investments are not part of some grand scheme to redistribute wealth.  They’ve been made by Democrats and Republicans for generations because they benefit all of us.  That’s what leads to strong, durable economic growth.  That’s how America became an economic superpower.  That’s how we built the Transcontinental Railroad.  That’s why we’ve got the best universities and colleges in the world.  That’s why we have cutting-edge research that takes place here, and that then gets translated into new jobs and new businesses, because somebody did the groundwork.  We created a foundation for those of us to prosper.

Somebody gave me an education.  I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.  Michelle wasn’t.  But somebody gave us a chance — just like these folks up here are looking for a chance.

When you take classes at a community college like this one and you learn the skills that you need to get a job right away, that does not just benefit you; it benefits the company that ends up hiring and profiting from your skills.  It makes the entire region stronger economically.  It makes this country stronger economically.

In this country, prosperity does not trickle down; prosperity grows from the bottom up.  And it grows from a strong middle class out.  (Applause.)  That’s how we grow this economy. And that’s why I’m always confused when we keep having the same argument with folks who don’t seem to remember how America was built.  They keep telling us, well, if we just weaken regulations that keep our air and water clean and protect our consumers, if we just cut everybody’s taxes and convert these investments in community colleges and research and health care into tax cuts especially for the wealthy, that somehow the economy is going to get stronger — and Ohio and the rest of the country will prosper. That’s the theory.

Ohio, we tested this theory.  Take a look at what happened in Ohio between 2000 and 2008.  It’s not like we didn’t try it. And instead of faster job growth, we had the slowest job growth in half a century.  Instead of broad-based prosperity, the typical American family saw their incomes fall by about six percent.  Outsourcing, rampant; phony financial profits all over the place.  And instead of strengthening our economy, our entire financial system almost collapsed.  We spent the last three and a half years cleaning up after that mess.  So their theory did not work out so well.  Maybe they haven’t been paying attention, but it didn’t work out so well.

And instead of kind of stepping back and saying to themselves, well, maybe this didn’t work so well, maybe we should try something different, they decided to double down.  Instead of moderating their views even slightly, you now have Republicans in Washington and the ones running for President proposing budgets that shower the wealthiest Americans with even more tax cuts — folks like me don’t need them, weren’t looking for them.  And when you give somebody like me a tax cut, there are only two ways of paying for it:  Either it adds to our deficit, meaning it’s not paid for, or you end up — which is what they’ve proposed — gutting investments in education and medical research and clean energy and job training programs like this one.

If these cuts are spread out evenly, then 10 million college students — including some of you — would see your financial aid cut by an average of more than $1,000 each.  Thousands of medical research grants for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer and AIDS would be eliminated.  Our investments in clean energy that are helping to break our dependence on foreign oil and are creating jobs here in Ohio would be cut by nearly a fifth.  By the time you retire, Medicare would turn into a voucher system that likely would not cover the doctors or the care that you need — that would have to come out of your pocket.  Job training programs like this one would be forced to cut back.  Thousands of Americans would lose out on critical employment and training services.  That’s the truth.

When you ask the Republicans, well, what do you say about that, they say, well, no, no, Obama is making this up because we didn’t specify which cuts we’d make.  Well, the reason they didn’t specify it is because they know folks wouldn’t like it.  (Laughter.)  But if you’ve got to cut a certain amount of money  — and they’ve already said they’re not going to cut defense spending, and they’re going with their tax cuts — then you’ve got to go to all the other stuff that’s left over, or else you’re going to add to the deficit.  That’s just math.  That’s not theorizing on my part.

They’ll tell you, well, we’ve got to do this because the deficit is so bad.  The deficit is bad.  We’ve got to deal with the deficit in a serious way, and that means all of us are going to have to make tough choices.  But it’s one thing to deal with the deficit in a way that is fair and asks everybody to do their fair share, and dealing with the deficit as an excuse to do what you wanted to do anyway.

Their argument might fly if it weren’t for the fact that they’re also proposing to spend $4.6 trillion on lower tax rates on top of the $1 trillion they would spend on tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year or more.  That’s their priority. They want to give me more of a tax break.  Now, I just paid taxes, so I’m — it’s not like I love paying taxes.  (Laughter.) But I can afford it.  I don’t need another tax break.

Right now, companies can’t find enough qualified workers for the jobs they need to fill.  So programs like this one are training hundreds of thousands of workers with the skills that companies are looking for.  And it’s working.  And it’s going to help America grow.  I’ve seen it.  Here in Lorain County, 90 percent of people who graduate from this program have a job three months later — 90 percent.  That’s a big deal.  (Applause.)  Why would we want to cut this program to give folks like me a tax cut that we don’t need and that the country can’t afford?

What’s the better way to make our economy stronger?  Give more tax breaks to every millionaire and billionaire in the country, or make investments in education and research and health care and job training — make investments in Bronson and Duane and Andrea and David and put folks back to work?  This is just common sense.

Understand this is not a redistribution argument.  This is not about taking from rich people to give to poor people.  This is about us together making investments in our country so everybody has got a fair shot.  And that will make all of us better off.  (Applause.)

Now, on Monday, nearly every Republican in the Senate voted to block what’s called the Buffett Rule.  Think about this.  The Buffet Rule says if you make a $1 million or more — I’m not saying you got $1 million — let’s say you’re a small business person, you saved, you worked, and after 10, 20, 30 years of working you finally saved up your little nest egg — that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m saying you make $1 million a year.  And we said you should at least pay the same percentage in income tax as middle class families do — as a teacher or a bus driver. (Applause.)  And by doing that, that helps us afford being to say to the 98 percent of families who make $250,000 a year or less, your taxes won’t go up.

This was an idea that was supported by a strong majority of the American people — including nearly half of Republicans.  The majority of millionaires supported it.  And Senate Republicans didn’t listen.  They refused to even let it come up for a vote; refused to ask the wealthiest among us to do their fair share.  Meanwhile, Republicans in the House just signaled their willingness to gut programs like this one that make a real difference in people’s lives — thousands of middle-class families or folks who are trying to get into the middle class.

And my point is the middle class has sacrificed enough over the last few decades.  They’re having enough trouble.  (Applause.)  And as I travel around the country, people aren’t just concerned about their immediate circumstances.  They’re also concerned about our future.  They’re thinking how do we make sure that America stays ahead?  How do we make sure that if somebody is willing to work hard, they can get ahead in this country?

And people understand government is not all the answer, and if they see taxpayer money wasted, that makes them angry.  They know the government has got to be lean and mean and do smart things.  But they also understand we can’t stop investing in the things that are going to create real, lasting growth in this country.  And we certainly can’t do it just as an excuse to give me another tax cut.  That’s not who we are as a country.  We’re better than that.

Everybody here, we’re here because somebody, somewhere, felt a sense of larger responsibility — not just to themselves; to their family, first of all, but then also to their community, also to their country.  Maybe they served like Dave.  Maybe they worked in a local charity.  They understood — like my grandparents understood, like my mother understood, like Michelle’s parents understood — that we do what we do not just for ourselves but also for this larger project we call America.  And now it’s our turn to be responsible.  Now it’s our turn to make sure the next generation has the same opportunities that we do.

And I know we can do it.   And the reason I know is because of the folks I had a chance to meet.  It’s because of you.  You’re working hard.  You’ve haven’t given up.  You’ve gone through some struggles, but you’re resilient.  Ohio is a great example of the core strength and decency of the American people.
You believe in our future.  You believe in this country.  (Applause.)

And if we work together in common purpose, I guarantee you we will make this an American Century just like the 20th century was the American Century.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless America.

END
2:59 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 18, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Statement About Dick Clark’s Death at 82

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Statement by the President on the Passing of Dick Clark

Dick Clark in 1959 By AP

President Obama’s statement on Dick Clark:

Michelle and I are saddened to hear about the passing of Dick Clark. With “American Bandstand,” he introduced decades’ worth of viewers to the music of our times.

He reshaped the television landscape forever as a creative and innovative producer. And, of course, for 40 years, we welcomed him into our homes to ring in the New Year.

But more important than his groundbreaking achievements was the way he made us feel — as young and vibrant and optimistic as he was.

As we say a final “so long” to Dick Clark, America’s oldest teenager, our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends — which number far more than he knew.

Legal Buzz April 18, 2012: US Supreme Court Rules Torture Victim Protection Act Applies Only to Individual, Not Organizations in Azzam Mohamad Rahim v. Palestinian Authority

LEGAL BUZZ


COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

Justices Limit Suits Under Law On Torture

Source: NYT, 4-28-12

In the case of an American killed in the West Bank, the Supreme Court found that only “individuals” could be sued….READ MORE

Full Text of Case Opinion: 4/18/12 – Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority

Supreme Court says torture victim law applies only to people, not organizations

Source: WaPo, 4-18-12

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that a federal law that allows torture victims to sue their overseas assailants does not permit suits against corporations or political groups such as the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The justices said the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 authorized lawsuits only against individuals responsible for torture and killing.

“The text of the TVPA convinces us that Congress did not extend liability to organizations, sovereign or not,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the united court.

“There are no doubt valid arguments for such an extension. But Congress has seen fit to proceed in more modest steps in the act, and it is not the province of this branch to do otherwise.”…READ MORE

IN FOCUS: US SUPREME COURT RULES TORTURE VICTIM ACT APPLIES TO INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE NOT ORGANIZATIONS

Supreme Court says torture victim law applies only to people, not organizations: The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that a federal law that allows torture victims to sue their overseas assailants does not permit suits against corporations or political groups such as the Palestine Liberation Organization…. – WaPo, 4-18-12

  • US top court limits who can be sued under torture law: The US Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a complaint filed against the Palestinian Authority by relatives of an American citizen allegedly tortured in a West Bank prison. The unanimous decision by the nine-member panel effectively…. – AFP, 4-18-12
  • Justices Say Palestinian Authority Can’t Be Sued Over Torture: The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that the family of an American citizen killed during a visit to the West Bank may not sue the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization under a 1991 federal law…. – NYT, 4-18-12
  • Torture victim’s family can’t sue PLO for damages, Supreme Court says: US Supreme Court, in a narrow reading of a federal anti-torture law, ruled Wednesday against a son who sought redress from the PLO and Palestinian Authority for the death of his father, a US citizen, during a visit to the West Bank…. – CS Monitor, 4-18-12
  • Supreme Court: PLO, corporations can’t be sued under torture law: Foreign political organizations like the Palestinian Liberation Organization and multinational corporations cannot be sued for the torture or murder of persons abroad, including Americans, under the terms of a 1991 US anti-torture law…. – Chicago Tribune, 4-18-12
  • Organizations Can’t Be Sued For Torture, High Court Rules: The US Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that organizations cannot be sued for the torture under the Torture Victim Protection Act. The decision came in the case of Azzam Mohamad Rahim, who immigrated to the United States in the…. – NPR, 4-18-12
  • High court limits suits under torture victim law: The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that organizations may not be sued for claims they aided in torture or killings abroad under a law aimed at helping torture victims. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the court’s opinion…. – BusinessWeek, 4-18-12
  • Supreme Court: torture law applies only to people: The Palestinian Authority and PLO cannot be sued under a 1991 US victim protection law over the alleged torture of an American in a West Bank prison, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday, holding that the law only applies to…. – Baltimore Sun, 4-18-12
  • A Supreme Typo: On Wednesday, the Supreme Court reminded us that diction matters, unanimously ruling that by using the word “individual” rather than “person,” a federal statute limited liability for torture committed overseas to individuals…. – WSJ, 4-18-12
  • Supreme Court Says Torture Victim Can’t Sue Palestinian Authority: The family of a Palestinian American killed while in the Palestinian Authority’s custody cannot sue the organization, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday morning. Azzam Rahim, a naturalized American citizen, was visiting the West Bank…. – Huff Post, 4-18-12

Full Text Obama Presidency April 17, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Urges Congress to Increase Pressure on Oil Market Manipulation

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Obama Calls for Increased Oversight of Oil Markets

Source: NYT, 4-17-12

President Obama announced a plan to crack down on oil market manipulation, calling on Congress to increase federal supervision of oil markets and to provide a way for bigger penalties for those who manipulate markets….READ MORE

Cracking Down on Oil Market Manipulation

Source: WH, 4-17-12

President Barack Obama announces a plan to increase oversight and crack down on manipulation in oil markets (April 17, 2012)

President Barack Obama announces a plan to increase oversight and crack down on manipulation in oil markets (April 17, 2012)

Lately, President Obama has spent a lot of time discussing his all-of-the-above strategy for American energy.

The central idea is this: It’s going to take a range of initiatives, from increased drilling to scientific breakthroughs in the development of renewable fuel sources, to put the United States on solid footing when it comes to our energy future.

But one of the reasons that fuel prices can jump unpredictably has nothing at all to do with production or even consumption. There are those who work to manipulate the energy markets for their own financial gain.

And today, President Obama announced a new series of steps to strengthen oversight over those markets — while asking lawmakers to pass legislation aimed at curbing illegal behavior and holding the people who manipulate markets accountable.

At an event this morning in the Rose Garden, the President outlined the reasons for action:

We can’t afford a situation where speculators artificially manipulate markets by buying up oil, creating the perception of a shortage, and driving prices higher — only to flip the oil for a quick profit. We can’t afford a situation where some speculators can reap millions, while millions of American families get the short end of the stick. That’s not the way the market should work. And for anyone who thinks this cannot happen, just think back to how Enron traders manipulated the price of electricity to reap huge profits at everybody else’s expense.

The President’s plan would do five things:

1) Increase funding to increase the number of surveillance and enforcement staff charged with oversight of the oil futures market;

2) Allow the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to upgrade the technology used to monitor the energy markets;

3) Increase the civil and criminal penalties for those convicted of manipulating the oil futures market;

4) Provide the CFTC with additional the authority to limit disruptions in the oil market; and

5) Expand access to CFTC data so that analysts can better understand trading trends in the oil markets.

Read his full remarks here.


Learn More:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President on Increasing Oversight on Manipulation in Oil Markets

Rose Garden

11:27 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Lately, I’ve been speaking a lot about our need for an all-of-the-above strategy for American energy — a strategy that produces more oil and gas here at home, but also produces more biofuels and fuel-efficient cars, more solar power and wind power and other sources of clean, renewable energy.

This strategy is not just the right thing to do for our long-term economic growth; it’s also the right way for us to reduce our dependence on foreign oil right now. It’s the right way for us to put people to work right now. And ultimately, it’s the right way to stop spikes in gas prices that we’ve put up [with] every single year — the same kind of increase that we’ve seen over the past couple of months.

Obviously rising gas prices means a rough ride for a lot of families. Whether you’re trying to get to school, trying to get to work, do some grocery shopping, you have to be able to fill up that gas tank. And there are families in certain parts of the country that have no choice but to drive 50 or 60 miles to get to the job. So when gas prices go up, it’s like an additional tax that comes right out of your pocket.

That’s one of the reasons we passed a payroll tax cut at the beginning of this year and made sure it extended all the way through this year, so that the average American is getting that extra $40 in every paycheck right now.

But I think everybody understands that there are no quick fixes to this problem. There are politicians who say that if we just drilled more then gas prices would come down right away. What they don’t say is that we have been drilling more. Under my administration, America is producing more oil than at any time in the last eight years. We’ve opened up new areas for exploration. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to circle the Earth and then some.

But as I’ve said repeatedly, the problem is we use more than 20 percent of the world’s oil and we only have 2 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. Even if we drilled every square inch of this country right now, we’d still have to rely disproportionately on other countries for their oil. That means we pay more at the pump every time there’s instability in the Middle East, or growing demand in countries like China and India.

That’s what’s happening right now. It’s those global trends that are affecting gas prices. So even as we’re tackling issues of supply and demand, even as we’re looking at the long-term in terms of how we can structurally make ourselves less reliant on foreign oil, we still need to work extra hard to protect consumers from factors that should not affect the price of a barrel of oil.

That includes doing everything we can to ensure that an irresponsible few aren’t able to hurt consumers by illegally manipulating or rigging the energy markets for their own gain. We can’t afford a situation where speculators artificially manipulate markets by buying up oil, creating the perception of a shortage, and driving prices higher — only to flip the oil for a quick profit. We can’t afford a situation where some speculators can reap millions, while millions of American families get the short end of the stick. That’s not the way the market should work. And for anyone who thinks this cannot happen, just think back to how Enron traders manipulated the price of electricity to reap huge profits at everybody else’s expense.

Now, the good news is my administration has already taken several actions to step up oversight of oil markets and close dangerous loopholes that were allowing some traders to operate in the shadows.

We closed the so-called Enron loophole that let traders evade oversight by using electronic or overseas trading platforms. In the Wall Street reform law, we said for the first time that federal regulators will make sure no single trader can buy such a large position in oil that they could easily manipulate the market on their own. So I’d point out that anybody who’s pledging to roll back Wall Street reform — Dodd-Frank — would also roll back this vital consumer protection along with it.

I’ve asked Attorney General Holder to work with Chairman Leibowitz of the Federal Trade Commission, Chairman Gensler of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and other enforcement agencies to make sure that acts of manipulation, fraud or other illegal activity are not behind increases in the price that consumers pay at the pump.

So today, we’re announcing new steps to strengthen oversight of energy markets. Things that we can do administratively, we are doing. And I call on Congress to pass a package of measures to crack down on illegal activity and hold accountable those who manipulate the market for private gain at the expense of millions of working families. And be specific.

First, Congress should provide immediate funding to put more cops on the beat to monitor activity in energy markets. This funding would also upgrade technology so that our surveillance and enforcement officers aren’t hamstrung by older and less sophisticated tools than the ones that traders are using. We should strengthen protections for American consumers, not gut them. And these markets have expanded significantly.

Chairman Gensler actually had a good analogy. He said, imagine if the NFL quadrupled the number of teams but didn’t increase the number of refs. You’d end up having havoc on the field, and it would diminish the game. It wouldn’t be fair. That’s part of what’s going on in a lot of these markets. So we have to properly resource enforcement.

Second, Congress should increase the civil and criminal penalties for illegal energy market manipulation and other illegal activities. So my plan would toughen key financial penalties tenfold, and impose these penalties not just per violation, but for every day a violation occurs.

Third, Congress should give the agency responsible for overseeing oil markets new authority to protect against volatility and excess speculation by making sure that traders can post appropriate margins, which simply means that they actually have the money to make good on their trades.

Congress should do all of this right away. A few weeks ago, Congress had a chance to stand up for families already paying an extra premium at the pump; congressional Republicans voted to keep spending billions of Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars on more unnecessary subsidies for big oil companies. So here’s a chance to make amends, a chance to actually do something that will protect consumers by increasing oversight of energy markets. That should be something that everybody, no matter their party, should agree with. And I hope Americans will ask their members of Congress to step up.

In the meantime, my administration will take new executive actions to better analyze and investigate trading activities in energy markets and more quickly implement the tough consumer protections under Wall Street reform.

Let me close by saying none of these steps by themselves will bring gas prices down overnight. But it will prevent market manipulation and make sure we’re looking out for American consumers. And in the meantime we’re going to keep pursuing an all-of-the-above strategy for American energy to break the cycle of price spikes year after year. We are going to keep producing more biofuels; we’re going to keep producing more fuel-efficient cars; we are going to keep tapping into every source of American-made energy.

And these steps have already helped put America on a path to greater energy independence. Our foreign — our dependence on foreign oil has actually decreased each year I’ve been in office — even as the economy has grown. America now imports less than half of the oil we use for the first time in more than a decade. So we are less vulnerable than we were, but we’re still too vulnerable.

We’ve got to continue the hard, sustained work on this issue. And as long as I’m President we’re going to keep placing our bets on America’s future — America’s workers, America’s technology, America’s ingenuity, and American-made energy. That’s how we’re going to solve this problem once and for all.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END
11:35 A.M. EDT

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