Legal Buzz May 31, 2012: John Edwards Trial Verdict — Edwards Found Not Guilty on 1 Count, Judge Declares Mistrial on Other 5 Counts in Campaign Contributions Corruption Trial


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 2011.



Travis Dove for The New York Times
John Edwards outside the federal courthouse in Greensboro, N.C., with his daughter Cate on Thursday.

John Edwards Verdict: Not Guilty on 1 Count, Mistrial on 5 Counts

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-31-12

A North Carolina jury found former Sen. John Edwards not guilty Thursday on one of six counts in a campaign-finance trial, and declared itself hopelessly deadlocked on the remaining charges, leading the judge to declare a mistrial on those counts.

Edwards, a two-time presidential candidate, accused of soliciting nearly $1 million from wealthy backers to finance a cover up of his illicit affair and illegitimate child during his 2008 bid for the White House, was found not guilty on count 3 of the six-part indictment. That count pertained only to whether Edwards illegally received several hundred thousand dollars in donations from wealthy heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon to cover up the affair in 2008.

Following the verdict, Edwards, who remained silent throughout the trial, gave an emotional speech on the courthouse steps. He acknowledged his moral shortcomings and thanked his children, dramatically pausing when mentioning 4-year-old Frances Quinn, the baby he fathered with his mistress….READ MORE

Edwards not guilty on 1 count; Judge declares mistrial on other 5 counts: John Edwards was found not guilty on one of six campaign fraud charges Thursday, and the jury could not reach a verdict on the other counts, leading the judge to declare a mistrial on them…. – WaPo, 5-31-12

“Thank goodness that we live in a country that has the kind of system that we have.
This is about me. I want to make sure that everyone hears from me and from my voice. While I do not believe that I did anything illegal or ever thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong, and there is no one else responsible for my sins.
I am responsible. And if I want to find the person who should be held accountable, honestly, I don’t have to go any further than the mirror. It is me and me alone.” — John Edwards

  • For Edwards, Mistrial on 5 of 6 Counts: The lone verdict in the federal campaign finance case against former Senator John Edwards came on the third count, which involved donations from the heiress Rachel Mellon…. – NYT, 5-31-12
  • Edwards not guilty on 1 count; mistrial declared on other 5 counts: After 9 days of deliberation, a jury has found John Edwards not guilty on one of six charges of campaign finance corruption brought against him…. – CBS News, 5-31-12
  • John Edwards not guilty on one count, jury deadlocks on others: The jury in the trial of John Edwards deadlocked on five counts, leading the judge to declare a mistrial. They reached a not guilty verdict on one of the six counts. The judge excused the jury but asked to speak again with attorneys…. – Politico, 5-31-12
  • John Edwards not guilty on 1 count, mistrial declared in other 5: Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards was found not guilty Thursday on one of the six counts of campaign finance fraud against him. The jury deadlocked on the other counts, and the judge declared a mistrial…. – LAT, 5-31-12
  • John Edwards acquitted on one count as jury deadlocks on five others and judge declares mistrial: Johnny Reid Edwards, a honey-voiced North Carolina lawyer who parlayed his boyish good looks and inspiring personal history as the son of a mill-worker into a meteoric political rise, was acquitted of one count Thursday in a corruption…. – WaPo, 5-31-12
  • John Edwards whispers to parents, ‘I told you this would be OK’ after mistrial: The jury in the John Edwards campaign corruption trial has found him not guilty on one count and told the judge it could not reach a verdict on the other five counts, it told the court Thursday. Judge Catherine Eagles declared a mistrial on those five counts…. –, 5-31-12
  • John Edwards walks free after chaotic end to corruption trial: John Edwards, the former vice-presidential candidate who wrecked his political career with an extramarital affair, walked free from court on Thursday after a chaotic end to a month-long trial for using campaign funds to cover up his infidelity…. – The Guardian, 5-31-12

Political Buzz May 31, 2012: President George W. Bush Returns to White House for Portrait Unveiling — Barack Obama Hosts his ‘Predecessor’


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 to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.


Luke Sharrett for The New York Times
George W. Bush stood next to his official portrait during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Thursday.


A Gracious and Civil Prelude to a Hanging: President Obama put partisanship aside for a few hours to pay tribute to his predecessor at the official unveiling of George W. Bush’s official White House portrait…. – NYT, 5-31-12

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss: “It’s wonderful to see because so often in American history, you had presidents hiding the portraits of predecessors they didn’t like. In recent years, instead, this has become a rare presidential ritual of national bipartisanship.”

  • Presidential portraits: Bushes, Obamas share rare moment of warmth: Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush returned to the White House on Thursday for a rare shared moment with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
    The occasion was the unveiling of the Bushes’ official portraits, a 50-year old tradition that brings together past and current presidents in the East Room every four to eight years. For the Bushes and the Obama, it was an occasion for humor, graciousness, emotion and warmth…. – Politico, 5-31-12
  • Bush, Obama on stage together share laughs: President Barack Obama shared the stage with former President George W. Bush, the predecessor he often inveighs against, in a friendly White House welcome for the unveiling of the 43rd president’s official portrait…. –, 5-31-12
  • George W. Bush’s White House portrait unveiled in ceremony with Obama: President George W. Bush and Laura Bush were back in Washington on Thursday for the unveiling of the portraits of the former first couple that will hang at the White House. They were joined by President Obama and the former chief….. – LAT, 5-31-12
  • Bush thanks Obama for inviting his “rowdy friends” to portrait hanging: Former President George W. Bush brought a light-hearted tone to the unveiling of his official White House portrait on Thursday, winning over an audience of friends, family and former colleagues with jokes.
    Standing beside his portrait after its unveiling in the White House East Room, Mr. Bush chided the cheering audience to quiet down and thanked President Obama “for inviting our rowdy friends to my hanging.”… – CBS News, 5-31-12
  • Obama praises predecessor as George W. Bush portrait unveiled: In a rare public tribute to his predecessor, President Obama unveiled the formal White House portrait of George W. Bush on Thursday, praising his “strength and resolve” after the9/11 terrorist attacks. LAT, 5-31-12
  • George W. Bush presidential portrait is unveiled. Who paid for it?: Though no longer the ‘haphazard affair’ it once was, the process of creating a presidential portrait like George W. Bush’s is not an easy process. But taxpayers don’t pick up the tab…. – CS Monitor, 5-31-12
  • Bush is back: Portrait event stirs up odd politics: President Barack Obama is welcoming his favorite foil, former President George W. Bush, back to the White House on Thursday for the official unveiling of Bush’s portrait…. – AP, 5-31-12
  • Barack Obama to host George W. Bush at White House: President Barack Obama has made him a foil for more than three years, the man he blames for the “mess” he inherited of an economy in free fall and wars gone astray. But it will be smiles and handshakes…. – McClatchy-Tribune News Service, 5-30-12
  • Obama to pause, salute Bush for a day: President Obama will preside over the unveiling of the official portraits of President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush in a White House celebration…. – The Seattle Times, 5-30-12
  • Odd politics, but tradition: Bush back at White House for portrait unveiling: President Barack Obama frequently bad-mouths George W. Bush’s record as a disaster. So here comes the odd part: Obama is about to proudly preside as Bush’s image and legacy are enshrined at the White House forever…. – WaPo, 5-31-12

Obama Welcomes George W. Bush Back to the White House

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-31-12

Despite frequently blaming his predecessor for the “messes” he inherited, President Obama on Thursday will welcome former President George W. Bush back to the White House to honor his legacy.

The 43rd president and his wife, former First Lady Laura Bush, will be back at their former home for the official unveiling of their portraits, an often uncomfortable presidential tradition.

The White House maintained Wednesday that Obama is looking forward to the event and that it’s “not at all” awkward.

“Look, there are differences… without question, between [President Obama’s] approach and the approach and the policies of his predecessor,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.  “That was certainly the case when, I believe, President George W. Bush had President Clinton to the White House for his portrait unveiling.  And I think it is well-established that those two now-former presidents have a good relationship…. I think there is a community here with very few members that transcends political and policy differences.”…READ MORE

Remarks by President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Former President George W. Bush and Former First Lady Laura Bush at the Official Portrait Unveiling

East Room

1:31 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Well, good afternoon, everybody.  Thank you, Fred, for that introduction.  To President George H. W. Bush and Barbara, to all the members of the Bush family who are here — it is a great privilege to have you here today.  And to President and Mrs. Bush, welcome back to the house that you called home for eight years.

The White House is many things at once.  It’s a working office, it’s a living museum, it’s an enduring symbol of our democracy.  But at the end of the day, when the visitors go home and the lights go down, a few of us are blessed with the tremendous honor to actually live here.

I think it’s fair to say that every President is acutely aware that we are just temporary residents — we’re renters here.  We’re charged with the upkeep until our lease runs out.  But we also leave a piece of ourselves in this place.  And today, with the unveiling of the portraits next to me, President and Mrs. Bush will take their place alongside men and women who built this country and those who worked to perfect it.

It’s been said that no one can ever truly understand what it’s like being President until they sit behind that desk and feel the weight and responsibility for the first time.  And that is true.  After three and a half years in office — and much more gray hair — (laughter) — I have a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the Presidents who came before me, including my immediate predecessor, President Bush.

In this job, no decision that reaches your desk is easy.  No choice you make is without costs.  No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to make everybody happy.  I think that’s something President Bush and I both learned pretty quickly.  (Laughter.)

And that’s why, from time to time, those of us who have had the privilege to hold this office find ourselves turning to the only people on Earth who know the feeling.  We may have our differences politically, but the presidency transcends those differences.  We all love this country.  We all want America to succeed.  We all believe that when it comes to moving this country forward, we have an obligation to pull together.  And we all follow the humble, heroic example of our first President, George Washington, who knew that a true test of patriotism is the willingness to freely and graciously pass the reins of power on to somebody else.

That’s certainly been true of President Bush.  The months before I took the oath of office were a chaotic time.  We knew our economy was in trouble, our fellow Americans were in pain, but we wouldn’t know until later just how breathtaking the financial crisis had been.  And still, over those two and a half months — in the midst of that crisis — President Bush, his Cabinet, his staff, many of you who are here today, went out of your ways — George, you went out of your way — to make sure that the transition to a new administration was as seamless as possible.

President Bush understood that rescuing our economy was not just a Democratic or a Republican issue; it was a American priority.  I’ll always be grateful for that.

The same is true for our national security.  None of us will ever forget where we were on that terrible September day when our country was attacked.  All of us will always remember the image of President Bush standing on that pile of rubble, bullhorn in hand, conveying extraordinary strength and resolve to the American people but also representing the strength and resolve of the American people.

And last year, when we delivered justice to Osama bin Laden, I made it clear that our success was due to many people in many organizations working together over many years — across two administrations.  That’s why my first call once American forces were safely out of harm’s way was to President Bush.  Because protecting our country is neither the work of one person, nor the task of one period of time, it’s an ongoing obligation that we all share.

Finally, on a personal note, Michelle and I are grateful to the entire Bush family for their guidance and their example during our own transition.

George, I will always remember the gathering you hosted for all the living former Presidents before I took office, your kind words of encouragement.  Plus, you also left me a really good TV sports package.  (Laughter.)  I use it.  (Laughter.)

Laura, you reminded us that the most rewarding thing about living in this house isn’t the title or the power, but the chance to shine a spotlight on the issues that matter most.  And the fact that you and George raised two smart, beautiful daughters — first, as girls visiting their grandparents and then as teenagers preparing to head out into the world — that obviously gives Michelle and I tremendous hope as we try to do the right thing by our own daughters in this slightly odd atmosphere that we’ve created.

Jenna and Barbara, we will never forget the advice you gave Sasha and Malia as they began their lives in Washington.  They told them to surround themselves with loyal friends, never stop doing what they love; to slide down the banisters occasionally — (laughter) — to play Sardines on the lawn; to meet new people and try new things; and to try to absorb everything and enjoy all of it.  And I can tell you that Malia and Sasha took that advice to heart.  It really meant a lot to them.

One of the greatest strengths of our democracy is our ability to peacefully, and routinely, go through transitions of power.  It speaks to the fact that we’ve always had leaders who believe in America, and everything it stands for, above all else — leaders and their families who are willing to devote their lives to the country that they love.

This is what we’ll think about every time we pass these portraits — just as millions of other visitors will do in the decades, and perhaps even the centuries to come.  I want to thank John Howard Sanden, the artist behind these beautiful works, for his efforts.  And on behalf of the American people, I want to thank most sincerely President and Mrs. Bush for their extraordinary service to our country.

And now I’d like to invite them on stage to take part in the presentation.  (Applause.)

(Portraits are unveiled.)

PRESIDENT BUSH:  Thank you, sit down.  Sit down.  Behave yourselves.  (Laughter.)  Mr. President, thank you for your warm hospitality.  Madam First Lady, thank you so much for inviting our rowdy friends — (laughter) — to my hanging.  (Laughter.)

Laura and I are honored to be here.  Mr. Vice President, thank you for coming.  We are overwhelmed by your hospitality.  And thank you for feeding the Bush family, all 14 members of us who are here.  (Laughter.)  I want to thank our girls for coming.  I thank Mom and Dad, brother, sister, in-laws, aunts and uncles.  I appreciate you taking your time.  I know you’re as excited as Laura and me to be able to come back here, and particularly thank the people who helped make this house a home for us for eight years, the White House staff.

I want to thank Fred Ryan and the White House Historical Association and Bill Allman, the White House curator.  I am pleased that my portrait brings an interesting symmetry to the White House collection.  It now starts and ends with a George W.  (Laughter and applause.)

When the British burned the White House, as Fred mentioned, in 1814, Dolley Madison famously saved this portrait of the first George W.  (Laughter.)  Now, Michelle, if anything happens there’s your man.  (Laughter and applause.)  I am also pleased, Mr. President, that when you are wandering these halls as you wrestle with tough decisions, you will now be able to gaze at this portrait and ask, what would George do?  (Laughter.)

I am honored to be hanging near a man who gave me the greatest gift possible, unconditional love — and that would be number 41.  (Applause.)  I want to thank John Howard Sanden for agreeing to use his considerable talents to paint my likeness.  You’ve done a fine job with a challenging subject.  (Laughter.)

In the portrait, there’s a painting by W.H.D. Koerner called, “A Charge to Keep.”  It hung in the Oval Office for eight years of my presidency.  I asked John to include it, because it reminds me of the wonderful people with whom I was privileged to serve.  Whether they served in the Cabinet or on the presidential staff, these men and women — many of whom are here — worked hard and served with honor.  We had a charge to keep and we kept the charge.

It is my privilege to introduce the greatest First Lady ever — sorry, Mom.  (Laughter.)  Would you agree to a tie?  (Laughter.)  A woman who brought such grace and dignity and love in this house.  (Applause.)

MRS. BUSH:  Thank you all.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you very much.  Thank you, darling.

Thank you, President and Mrs. Obama.  Thank you for your kindness and your consideration today.  It was really gracious of you to invite us back to the White House to hang a few family pictures.  (Laughter.)  And I’m sure you know nothing makes a house a home like having portraits of its former occupants staring down at you from the walls.  (Laughter.)

This is not the first time I’ve had the opportunity to confront an artistic likeness of myself.  A few years ago, just after the 2008 election, a friend sent me something he’d found in the gift shop of the National Constitutional Center in Philadelphia.  It was a Laura Bush bobblehead doll.  (Laughter.)  He said he found it on the clearance shelf.  (Laughter.)

But I’m flattered and grateful to know that this particular work has a permanent home.  And thanks to the masterful talent of John Howard Sanden, I like it a whole lot better than I do that bobblehead doll.  (Laughter.)

Thank you very much, John Howard Sanden — you’re terrific to work with.  And thanks to Elizabeth and your family who have joined you today.  Thank you very, very much, John.  (Applause.)

And, of course, it’s meaningful to me as a private person to know that these portraits will be on view at the White House, that my portrait will hang just down the hall from my mother-in-law, and that George’s portrait will hang very close to his dad’s.  But what’s more meaningful is it’s meaningful to me as a citizen.  This was our family’s home for eight years.  It was our home, but it wasn’t our house.  This house belongs to the people whose portraits will never hang here, the ordinary and not-so-ordinary people whose lives inspired us and whose expectations guided us during the years that we lived here.

In this room are many of the people who stood by us as we faced the tragedy of September 11th, and who worked with us in the years after.  Thanks to each and every one of you for your service to our country.  (Applause.)

I hope others will see in this portrait what I see:  a woman who was honored and humbled to live in the White House during a period of great challenge, and who will never forget the countless American faces who make up the true portrait of that time.

Thank you all very much.  Thanks so much.  And thank you, Michelle, if you want to come up.  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, I don’t think we have enough tissue to go around.  (Laughter.)  Jenna and Barbara, they’re just a mess.  (Laughter.)  But I want to thank President and Mrs. Bush for joining us today.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Laura for providing such a wonderful model of strength and grace for me to follow as First Lady.  It is an interesting job, and it’s just been amazing to learn from your example not just as a First Lady, but as a mother of two wonderful daughters.  You’re on the other side of where we hope to be — (laughter) — in a couple of years — two daughters that sit up straight and cry when they’re — (laughter) — and think lovingly about their mom and their dad.  (Laughter.)  We’re working towards that goal, but you’ve done a terrific job.

And I also want to echo Barack.  We couldn’t be more thankful for the warmth and graciousness that both of you showed — all of you showed — our family when we moved in three years ago.  It is truly, truly a privilege for us to occupy this house.  And hopefully, we are setting the same example of warmth and love and hope that you all have provided as well.

The warmth is truly reflected in these portraits, and I promise you — (laughter) — I promise, I’m going straight for — (laughter) — and I’m sure it will be closer right down the stairs, and I’ll get right to it.

So I am thrilled for all of the White House visitors who will soon have the chance to enjoy them as well.  And I’m thrilled for both of you as you join these incredible Americans whose portraits are already displayed here at the White House.

So congratulations again.  Congratulations on the work that you have done, the example that you have provided to this country, and what it means to be an American family.  We are so happy and proud and honored to be a part.

And with that, it is my pleasure to invite you all to join us for a reception right outside in the State Room.  Now it’s time to eat.  (Laughter.)  Thank you all so much.  (Applause.)

1:50 P.M. EDT

May 31, 2012

Background Information on the Presentation of Portraits of President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Welch Bush

President George Walker Bush
President George W. Bush is portrayed standing in the center of the Oval Office in the West Wing. His right hand rests on an armchair made for the White House in 1818 by District of Columbia cabinetmaker William King, Jr. A corner of the “Resolute desk,” presented to the White House by Queen Victoria in 1880, can be seen behind the chair. Over his right shoulder hangs a 1929 western painting, A Charge to Keep, by William H. D. Koerner. The President, who had used the same title for his 1999 memoir, often called attention to that painting and its significance.

Mrs. Laura Welch Bush
For the setting of her portrait, First Lady Laura Bush selected the Green Room, as refurbished with her active participation in 2007. Wearing a midnight blue gown, she rests her left hand on a lyreback armchair attributed to the famous New York cabinetmaker, Duncan Phyfe, c.1810. Federal easy chairs, among antique American furniture added to the room in 1971-72, were reupholstered in a rich salmon-colored silk. The 1767 David Martin portrait of Benjamin  Franklin hangs over the neoclassical mantel, acquired for the White House in 1818.

About the Artist
John Howard Sanden, born in 1935 in Austin Texas, now lives in Connecticut and maintains a studio in Carnegie Hall in New York City. Well known for his portraits of leaders of industry and education, he received the first John Singer Sargent Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the American Society of Portrait Artists in 1994.

As usual, the White House Historical Association contracted with the artist selected by the subjects and will donate the finished paintings to the White House as a gift of the George B. Hartzog, Jr. White House Acquisition Trust. In 2010, President Bush selected John Howard Sanden to execute his White House portrait.  The success of the sittings and the portrait itself, completed in 2011, led Mrs. Bush to select Sanden for her portrait as well, finished in early 2012.

Political Headlines May 30, 2012: Poland Seeks Stronger Apology After President Barack Obama Misspoke with “Polish Death Camps” Comment at Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony



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 Factson File, Inc. in 2011.



White House Says President Misspoke on ‘Polish Death Camp’: The explanation by the White House does not seem to satisfy outraged Polish officials…. – NYT, 5-30-12

Q On one other subject. The Polish Prime Minister says he’s not completely satisfied with the White House explanation of the President’s reference to Polish death camps. Does the President have any plans to call Prime Minister Tusk and offer an explanation?

MR. CARNEY: The President misspoke. He was referring to Nazi death camps in German-occupied Poland. And as we’ve made clear, we regret the misstatement and that simple misstatement should not at all detract from the clear intention to honor Mr. Karski, and beyond that, all those brave Polish citizens who stood on the side of human dignity in the face of tyranny.

On several occasions, including his visit last year to the Warsaw Ghetto memorial, his remarks at the Holocaust Museum just last month, and his video message at the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, President Obama has paid tribute to the terrible loss of innocent Poles in Nazi death camps during the Holocaust.

Again, we regret the misstatement, but that’s what it was. It was a misstatement, and I think it’s important to see this in the context of awarding this medal in honor of the remarkable bravery of Mr. Karski and other brave Polish citizens who stood on the side, as I said, of human dignity in the face of the 20th century’s most terrible tyranny.

  • Polish Leader Attacks Obama for Saying ‘Polish Death Camps’: On May 28 of last year, President Obama stood next to Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland in Warsaw and declared he would support new rules to help more Poles get tourist visas to the United States…. – NYT, 5-30-12
  • Poland seeking stronger apology after Obama’s ‘death camps’ remark: The Polish prime minister is demanding a “stronger, more pointed response” from President Obama after he referred to “Polish death camps” during a White House ceremony Tuesday. Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Wednesday…. – LAT, 5-30-12
  • Poles outraged over Obama’s words on death camps: Poland’s leaders said Wednesday they weren’t completely satisfied with a White House explanation that President Barack Obama misspoke when he referred to “Polish death camps”…. – AP, 5-30-12
  • ‘US apology for ‘death camp’ remarks insufficient’: Embassy spokesman ‘surprised’ that US leader would misidentify Nazi camps as ‘Polish’ in speech honoring resistance fighter Jan Karski… US President Barack Obama’s use of the term “Polish death camps”… – JPost, 5-30-12
  • White House: Obama regrets calling Nazi death camps in Poland, Polish: The White House said President Obama misspoke on Tuesday when he referred to a “Polish death camp” while honoring a Polish war hero. The president’s remark had drawn immediate complaints from Poles who said Obama should have called it…. – CBS News, 5-31-12 
  • Poland seeking stronger apology after Obama’s ‘death camps’ remark: The Polish prime minister is demanding a “stronger, more pointed response” from President Obama after he referred to “Polish death camps” during a White House ceremony Tuesday. Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Wednesday…. – LAT, 5-30-12
  • White House: Obama misspoke by referring to ‘Polish death camp’: The White House said President Barack Obama misspoke on Tuesday when he referred to a “Polish death camp” while honoring a Polish war hero. The president’s remark had drawn immediate complaints from Poles who said Obama should have called … WaPo, 5-29-12
  • Poles angered by Obama’s words on ‘Polish death camps’: Poles are expressing outrage at President Barack Obama for referring to “Polish death camps” during a ceremony honoring a World War II hero but some say they hope the blunder will help clarify the sensitive issue to the world…. – WaPo, 5-30-12
  • Obama attracts criticism over ‘Polish death camp’ gaffe: US President Barack Obama referred to a “Polish death camp” on Tuesday during a ceremony at the White House while awarding the Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a Polish war hero. A White House spokesman said the president “misspoke”….. – BBC News, 5-30-12
  • White House apologises after Obama ‘Polish death camp’ blunder: The White House’s National Security Council spokesman, Tommy Vietor has said “the president misspoke” after Barack Obama mentioned “Polish death camps” while posthumously awarding Jan Karski, a Polish resistance fighter during World War II…., 5-30-12
  • Get your words right: President Obama’s ugly gaffe Tuesday has Poland’s media and politicians in a tizzy. It’s no wonder, Poles don’t like being held responsible for Nazi crimes, and terms such as “Polish death camp” risk doing just that. The matter isn’t trivial. Warsaw Business Journal, 5-30-12
  • Polish PM blasts Barack Obama’s death camp statement for its ‘ignorance, lack knowledge bad intentions: America’s liberal ‘mainstream’ media has largely ignored the diplomatic firestorm which has resulted from Barack Obama’s reference to a “Polish death camp” at a White House awards ceremony yesterday…. –, 5-30-12
  • Poles outraged by Obama’s reference to ‘Polish death camp’: President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Freedom to former Polish Foreign Minister Adam Daniel Rotfeld who is accepting for Jan Karski, a resistance fighter against the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II, during a ceremony in the East Room…. Chicago Sun-Times, 5-30-12
  • President Obama’s Medal for Karski Shines Light on Poland’s Real World War II: President Obama’s Presidential Medal of Freedom for Jan Karski shows how far Poles went to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. After escaping Soviet imprisonment and being savagely tortured by the Gestapo, Karski still risked his life to sneak past…. – Huff Post, 5-29-12

Full Text Obama Presidency May 30, 2012: President Barack Obama Signs Renewal of the Export-Import Bank — Speech Transcript




President Obama Signs Renewal of the Export-Import Bank

Source: WH, 5-30-12

President Barack Obama signs the Export-Import Bill (May 30, 2012)
President Barack Obama signs the Export-Import Bill during a ceremony in South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, May 30, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Through the course of the past twelve months, U.S. companies exported $2.15 trillion worth of goods.

That figure breaks a record — it’s a 36 percent increase from the level of exports in 2009, and in fact, it’s the most we’ve ever exported in one, 12-month period. Some 9.7 million people went to work because of these exports — which is itself an increase of 1.2 million export-related jobs since 2009.

And part of the reason for that success has been the Export-Import Bank. The Bank, which is 78 years old, offers assistance to companies around the world that buy American products — in order to help boost the sale of those goods.

The Bank’s charter was set to expire at the end of the month, but with a bipartisan agreement from Congress, the President was able to extend the Bank’s mandate through September of 2014.

“By reauthorizing support for the Export-Import Bank, we’re helping thousands of businesses sell more of their products and services overseas,” the President said. “And in the process, we’re helping them create jobs here at home.”

Remarks by the President at Export-Import Bank Bill Signing

Source: WH, 5-30-12

South Court Auditorium

11:35 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Have a seat.  I want to begin by recognizing the members of Congress who are here today.  All of them did outstanding work on this legislation.  In particular, I want to thank Steny Hoyer, Congresswoman Maloney, as well as Congressman Miller, who helped to make this day possible.  Their leadership, their hard work made this bill a reality.

We’ve talked a lot recently about the fundamental choice that we face as a country.  America can either settle for an economy where just a few are doing well and a lot of folks are struggling to get by.  Or we can build the kind of economy where everybody is getting a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same rules.

And part of building that broad-based economy with a strong middle class is making sure that we’re not just known as a nation that consumes.  We’ve got to be a nation that produces, a nation that sells.  Our middle class was created by workers who made and sold the best products in the world.  Our communities and our economy have always done better when we shipped more goods than anybody else, stamped with that phrase:  “Made in America.”  And I want us to be that nation again.  I want us to be that nation in perpetuity.

Two years ago, I set a goal of doubling American exports over five years.  Today, with the trade agreements that we’ve signed into law, with the help of some of these same members of Congress, we’re making historic progress.  Soon, there are going to be millions of new customers for our goods and services in Korea, in Colombia and Panama.  That way, even though we got some Hyundais over here, we’re also going to have some Chryslers and Fords and Chevys in Seoul that are imported from Detroit and Toledo and Chicago.

So I’m going to go anywhere I can in the world to create new markets for American goods.  And we’re also not going to stand by when our competitors aren’t following the rules.  We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate of the previous administration.  We’ve set up a Trade Enforcement Unit to investigate unfair trade practices that are taking place anyplace — anywhere in the world.  Anytime other countries skirt the rules or put our workers and our businesses in an unfair position, we’re going to take action.

We’re also making sure that American businesses have better access to the 95 percent of the world’s consumers who live beyond our shores.  And that’s why the bipartisan bill that I’m about to sign is so important.  By reauthorizing support for the Export-Import Bank, we’re helping thousands of businesses sell more of their products and services overseas and, in the process, we’re helping them create jobs here at home.  And we’re doing that at no extra cost to the taxpayer.

Over the past few years, I’ve met with a lot of business leaders and a lot of workers across America, from companies like Boeing to Dow Chemical to smaller companies that are also interested in accessing foreign markets.  And they’ve told me how critical support from the Ex-Im Bank has been in competing more effectively in the global marketplace.  As the head of the bank, we owe our thanks to Fred Hochberg, who is here on stage, for doing such an outstanding job.

Just to give you a couple of examples, Boeing relied on support from the Ex-Im Bank to strike a deal selling more than 200 planes to one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world.  And that translates into thousands of jobs here in the United States.  As long as our global competitors are providing financing for their exports, we’ve got to do the same.  So I’m glad that Congress got this done.  I’m grateful to members of both parties who came together and put the interests of the American people first.

Now we’ve got to do more.  Obviously, the world economy is still in a delicate place because of what’s going on in Europe and the fact that some of the emerging countries have been slowing down.  It is absolutely critical for us to make sure that we are full speed ahead.

I’ve been traveling around the country talking about a “To-Do” list for Congress with some commonsense ideas that historically have had bipartisan support to help continue growth and job creation.  And just like the bill I’m about to sign, those policies can help strengthen the economy and put more folks back to work.  We shouldn’t have to wait until an election to do some of this business.

A couple of points.  Number one, it still makes no sense for us to be giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs and factories overseas.  The great news is there are a lot of companies that are now thinking about insourcing and moving jobs back to the United States.  We are more competitive than ever.  Our workers are more productive than ever.  We want to help provide incentives for folks to make those decisions.  So it’s time for Congress to take tax breaks away that allow for deductions moving jobs overseas and instead cover moving expenses for companies that are interested in bringing jobs back to America.

Number two, Congress should give every responsible homeowner the opportunity to save an average of $3,000 a year by refinancing their mortgage.  We’re starting to see a little bit of stabilizing in some of the housing markets around the country, but that continues to be a significant drag on our economy.  But when families are able to take advantage of these historically low rates, it makes a difference.  It puts money in their pockets or it may help them rebuild some of their equity.  It gives them more confidence and the housing market stabilizes further.

We’ve done everything that we can do administratively to help some portion of homeowners around the country refinance.  But every responsible homeowner in America should have a chance to save money.  That’s not just good, by the way, for the housing industry, that’s good for all businesses, because it means consumers are going to be out there with a little extra money in their pockets.

Number three, Congress still has the opportunity to do more to help small business owners who create most of the new jobs in America.  So we want to give them a tax break for hiring more workers and providing those workers higher wages.

Fourth, Congress should extend the tax credits for clean energy companies that are set to expire at the end of the year.  This is something that a lot of members, both Democrats and Republicans, should be able to appreciate, because wind power, solar power, biofuels — those aren’t partisan issues — that’s a job sector that is growing across the country.  But right now, there is too much uncertainty because we haven’t gone ahead and locked down some of these tax credits.

These companies are putting folks back to work and they’re helping us break our dependence on foreign oil.  There are members, again, of both parties that support these tax credits.  And tens of thousands of jobs are at stake.  So I think it’s very important for us to make sure that we move forward on that.

Fifth — and I’m going to speak to this on Friday — Congress should create a Veterans Job Corps so we can put our returning heroes back to work as cops and firefighters and park rangers.  We just observed Memorial Day, an extraordinarily moving Memorial Day — we were down at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial commemorating 50 years since that difficult and challenging war.  And one thing we learned from that was that we’ve got to treat our heroes with the respect and dignity that they have earned.

And our veterans are some of the most highly-trained, highly-educated, highly-skilled workers we’ve got.  These are Americans who want to keep serving now that they’re back.  So we’ve got to make sure when they come home, they come home to new jobs and new opportunities.  So there are a number of things that my administration can do on our own and we’re going to keep on doing them, but it gets a whole lot easier if we get some help from Congress.  And this is a great example, a great model of what can happen.

America has come through some tough times together, and it’s going to take more time than any of us would like to get to a place where all of us have fully recovered from the worst recession in our lives.  There will continue to be hurdles and there will continue to be some headwinds that we can’t fully control, but there are plenty of things we can control.  And there are plenty of solutions within our reach.  There are steps that we can take right now to speed up this recovery, to help create jobs, to restore some of the financial security that families have lost.  It’s within our control to do the right thing and do it now.

So my message to Congress is thank you and congratulations on authorizing Ex-Im Bank to continue on its extraordinary mission.  We’ve got more work to do.  I hope this ends up being a model for the kind of progress that we can make in the months to come and the years to come.  So with that, it is my great pleasure to sign this bill into law.  (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.)

11:48 A.M. EDT

There are 5 versions of Bill Number H.R.2072 for the 112th Congress. Usually, the last item is the most recent.

1 . Securing American Jobs Through Exports Act of 2011 (Introduced in House – IH)[H.R.2072.IH][PDF]
2 . Securing American Jobs Through Exports Act of 2011 (Reported in House – RH)[H.R.2072.RH][PDF]
3 . Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012 (Engrossed in House [Passed House] – EH)[H.R.2072.EH][PDF]
4 . Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012 (Placed on Calendar Senate – PCS)[H.R.2072.PCS][PDF]
5 . Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012 (Enrolled Bill [Final as Passed Both House and Senate] – ENR)[H.R.2072.ENR][PDF]

For Immediate Release
May 30, 2012

FACT SHEET: President Obama to Sign the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012

Source: WH, 5-30-12

Will Extend the Bank’s Authority Through 2014 and Increase Its Portfolio Cap to $140 Billion to Help U.S. Businesses Sell Their Products and Services Around the World

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama will sign the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012, a bipartisan bill that will reauthorize the Bank to continue financing U.S. exports, and ensure a level playing field for U.S. businesses, at no cost to American taxpayers.

The President believes that a critical component of building stronger and more durable domestic economic growth is ensuring that U.S. workers and businesses can compete successfully in global markets.  Doing so requires promoting U.S. export of goods and services overseas, which is why the President launched the National Export Initiative (NEI) in 2010, with the goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years while supporting two million new export-related jobs.  This legislation will allow the Export-Import Bank to continue financing U.S. exports to meet global competition.

America continues to make historic progress under the NEI, despite challenges in the global economy.  U.S. exports over the past 12 months are higher than any previous 12-month period in history, reaching $2.15 trillion, over 36% above the level of exports in 2009.  This record-breaking level of exports supported 9.7 million exports-related jobs in 2011, an increase of 1.2 million exports-related jobs since 2009.

The Export-Import Bank is playing an important role in contributing to this progress.  Last year, the Bank set export finance records for the third straight year. Overall authorizations hit $32.7 billion, supporting $40 billion in export sales and 290,000 American jobs at more than 3,600 U.S. companies.  More than 85% of these transactions were for small businesses.  The Bank is on track to meet the growing demand for export financing this fiscal year, as well, and small business transactions currently account for more than 22% of the Bank’s overall authorizations.

As we create export opportunities for our businesses and workers, the President will continue to ensure that U.S. exporters have a level global playing field on which to compete.  The U.S. will pursue its longstanding goal of minimizing trade-distorting financing of exports from our global competitors.  However, as long as our global competitors provide official export financing, America will do the same.

Under the NEI, the Administration has been working tirelessly on behalf of U.S. exporters since day one.  Through the direct counseling of more than 12,000 U.S. companies, federal trade agencies have supported nearly $140 billion in U.S. exports, and through the recent launch of the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center, the President has brought an unprecedented level of focus and cooperation around investigating unfair trade practices around the world.  The Administration has also worked to expand access to overseas markets for U.S. exporters by resolving outstanding issues with pending trade agreements, negotiating new market access, and deepening engagement in major emerging markets, such as the Free Trade Agreements the President signed with Korea, Colombia, and Panama.

Key Elements of the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012

The reauthorization legislation includes the following provisions:

  • Extending the Bank’s Authority: The Bank’s authority to approve new export financing is extended to September 30, 2014.
  • Increasing the Bank’s Portfolio Limit:  The Bank’s financing authority is increased immediately to $120 billion and will be further stepped up to $140 billion, while requiring the Bank to submit a business plan and maintain a low default rate.
  • Focusing the Bank’s Mission:  The Bank will provide additional information on its business planning, default rates, and its support for small business and the U.S. textile industry.  In addition, the GAO will evaluate the role of the Bank in the world economy, the Bank’s risk management, and its underwriting and fraud prevention procedures.
  • Enhancing Transparency:  The Bank will provide the public with an opportunity to comment on transactions of more than $100 million through Federal Register notification.
  • Updating Technology:  The Bank is given authority to use part of its fee income to update its information technology systems.
  • Reviewing Existing Policies:  The Bank will conduct reviews of its economic impact procedures and domestic content policies.

Campaign Headlines May 30, 2012: President Obama Calls Congratulating Mitt Romney on Securing the GOP / Republican Presidential Nomination





  • President Obama has called Mitt Romney to congratulate him on securing the GOP presidential nomination: President Obama has called Mitt Romney to congratulate him on securing the GOP nomination… – WaPo, 5-30-12
  • Obama calls Romney: Game on, Mitt. President Obama called November foe Mitt Romney Wednesday to congratulate him on officially clinching the Republican presidential nomination…. – New York Daily News, 5-30-12
  • Obama calls to congratulate Romney: What would you say to the man trying to force you from your job?
    Hours after Mitt Romney officially clinched the Republican presidential nomination with a win in Texas, President Obama telephoned him. But the call was nothing more than formalities to officially extend congratulatory sentiments.
    At approximately 11:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, the president called Romney “to congratulate him on securing the Republican nomination,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt announced in a readout of the call, which was disseminated to reporters.
    “President Obama said that he looked forward to an important and healthy debate about America’s future, and wished Governor Romney and his family well throughout the upcoming campaign.”
    A Romney aide told news outlets the call was brief and cordial…. – Yahoo/ABC News, 5-30-12

Campaign Headlines May 30, 2012: ABC News / Washington Post Poll Romney Rating Rebounds Among Women Voters, Obama’s Personal Popularity Rating Slips




Poll: Romney Rebounds Among Women, Obama’s Favorability Slips

Source: ABC News, 5-30-12

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Alex Wong/Getty Images


A sharp advance among women has boosted Mitt Romney to his highest favorability rating of the presidential campaign – albeit still an unusually weak one – while Barack Obama’s personal popularity has slipped in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Obama still beats Romney in favorable ratings overall, by an 11-point margin, 52 vs. 41 percent. But that’s down from 21 points last month, giving Romney the better trajectory. And both get only even divisions among registered voters, marking the closeness of the race between them.

See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

This survey comes after a period in which Romney’s chief GOP competitors withdrew from the Republican race and lined up behind his candidacy. Romney clinched his party’s nomination in Texas on Tuesday night….READ MORE

Campaign Headlines May 29, 2012: Texas GOP / Repubublican Senate Seat Nomination Heads for Runoff Between Tea Party Fav Ted Cruz & Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst





  • Texas Race For Senate May Head For Runoff: Raphael “Ted” Cruz, a Houston lawyer and tea party favorite, appeared headed for a runoff against a better-known candidate in the Texas Republican Senate primary, the latest strong showing by an insurgent hopeful…. – WSJ, 5-30-12
  • In Texas, GOP Senate race heads to a runoff: Ted Cruz, a Tea Party-backed Republican lawyer, will go head-to-head with Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in a runoff contest for the state’s Republican Senate nomination. Dewhurst, the long-standing favorite for the nomination…. – CBS News, 5-30-12
  • Texas Runoff Set in GOP Race for Senate: In a heated race for the open United States Senate seat in Texas, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst failed to win enough votes in the Republican primary on Tuesday to avert a runoff with Ted Cruz, a Houston lawyer who cast the election as a battle…. – NYT, 5-30-12
  • Ted Cruz and the tea party vying for Texas Senate seat: Tea partyers riding high off of their successful efforts to further shake up the Republican establishment in Nebraska and Indiana have turned their eyes to Texas, where challenger Ted Cruz has a chance to at least force another vote in … LAT, 5-30-12
  • Tea party drools over Ted Cruz, but can he survive Texas primary?: Ted Cruz is running for the US Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Huchinson, and in many ways he’s the ideal tea party candidate. But his best hope Tuesday is to force a runoff…. – CS Monitor, 5-30-12
  • Texas Voters Set Dewhurst-Cruz Republican Senate Runoff: Republican Ted Cruz, a newcomer backed by Tea Party activists, threatened to make Texas the latest state where insurgents have upset established political leaders in US congressional races. Cruz, 41, forced three-term Republican Lieutenant Governor…. Bloomberg, 5-30-12
  • Dewhurst encourages supporters before July runoff: Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is telling supporters that if they like the job he’s done in Austin as lieutenant governor, they would love the job he’d do as a senator in Washington. Dewhurst spoke to supporters Tuesday night in Houston…. – AP, 5-30-12
  • AP declares runoff for Dewhurst and Cruz: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and tea party backed former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz are heading to a runoff in the state’s Republican primary for US Senate. The race had been fierce, with brutal attacks from all sides…. – Houston Chronicle, 5-30-12
  • Senate Hopefuls Spar in Texas: Raphael “Ted” Cruz wants voters to see him as a warrior for conservative causes. In an hour’s conversation, he uses the word “fight” 24 times. Propping his black cowboy boots on an ottoman, he lays out how he would…. WSJ, 5-28-12
  • In Texas race, it’s Tea Party vs. establishment: Hoping to build on momentum from Richard Mourdock’s Tea Party-driven victory over Richard Lugar in the Indiana Senate primary earlier this month, the Tea Party is setting its sights on another possible win Tuesday, this time in Texas…. -CBS News, 5-29-12

Campaign Buzz May 29, 2012: Mitt Romney Wins Texas Primary & Clinches GOP / Republcan Presidential Nomination — Gains 1144 Needed Delegates



With Texas Win, Romney Clinches the GOP Nomination

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-29-12


Mitt Romney has clinched the Republican presidential nomination.

It has been projected that Romney has won the Texas GOP primary, and ABC News estimates he will win at least 88 of Texas’s 155 delegates, giving him the 1,144 needed to win the nomination.

Romney now moves on to the general election against President Obama in November. Polls have shown a tight race between the two candidates….READ MORE

Tonight, We Begin The Work Of Restoring Our Country To Greatness

Source: Mitt Romney, 5-29-12


I am honored that Americans across the country have given their support to my candidacy and I am humbled to have won enough delegates to become the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee. Our party has come together with the goal of putting the failures of the last three and a half years behind us.

I have no illusions about the difficulties of the task before us. But whatever challenges lie ahead, we will settle for nothing less than getting America back on the path to full employment and prosperity. On November 6, I am confident that we will unite as a country and begin the hard work of fulfilling the American promise and restoring our country to greatness.


Romney clinches Republican presidential nomination: Mitt Romney has won the Texas primary, securing the 1,144 delegates required to clinch the Republican presidential nomination at the party’s August convention…. – WaPo, 5-29-12

  • Nomination His, Romney Steps Up Attack on Obama: Mitt Romney, who formally secured the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday, is unleashing an offensive to further undermine confidence in President Obama…. – NYT, 5-29-12
  • Romney clinches GOP nomination, focuses ahead: Mitt Romney wins the Texas GOP primary, locking down the party nomination, and he’s already moving on to general-election goals…. – LAT, 5-29-12
  • CBS News: Romney clinches GOP presidential nomination: Updated: 11:45 pm ET (CBS News) Nearly a year after announcing his presidential bid, CBS News estimates that Mitt Romney has earned the necessary delegates to clinch the Republican presidential nomination. With 85 percent of the votes counted…. – CBS News, 5-29-12 Mitt Romney celebrates clinching 1144 delegates: ‘It is a great honor’: Mitt Romney celebrated clinching the GOP presidential nomination Tuesday night, telling donors that he was honored to cross the 1144 delegate threshold, but he predicted a long battle through the fall…. – LAT, 5-29-12 Romney clinches 1144 delegates, but buzz is about Trump: Mitt Romney finally clinched the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday, but all the chatter around his campaign was about Donald Trump. By Julie Jacobson, AP Donald Trump greets Mitt Romney during a news conference in … USA Today, 5-29-12 Romney gets Trumped by birther talk: Though the GOP candidate clinched the nomination, Donald Trump’s claims about the President’s statements upstaged the news…. – CS Monitor, 5-29-12
  • Romney clinches GOP nomination, but faces fallout from the primaries: Mitt Romney’s victory in the Texas primary on Tuesday gives him enough delegates to capture the Republican presidential nomination, but he remains some distance from recovering from the damage caused by months of tussling with … LAT, 5-29-12
  • Romney seals the deal in delayed if inconsequential GOP Texas primary: There was no suspense, there was no drama but Texas finally played a bit role in the presidential election Tuesday with a final boost to GOP candidate Mitt Romney, giving him enough delegates for him to secure the GOP presidential nomination… Kansas City Star, 5-29-12
  • Romney clinches GOP nomination for president with win in Texas primary: Mitt Romney clinched the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday with a win in the Texas primary, a triumph of endurance for a candidate who came up short four years ago and had to fight hard this…. – AP, 5-29-12

Full Text Obama Presidency May 29, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Presidential Medal of Freedom Awards Ceremony





Obama to honor Medal of Freedom recipients: President Barack Obama will honor a diverse cross-section of political and cultural icons — including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, astronaut John Glenn, basketball coach Pat Summitt and rock legend Bob Dylan…. – AP, 5-29-12

  • Albright, World War II hero among 13 to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom: The first woman to serve as US Secretary of State and a Polish officer who provided some of the first accounts of the Holocaust are among 13 people who will be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday…. – CNN, 5-30-12

President Obama Awards the Medal of Freedom

Source: WH, 5-29-12

President Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Pat Summitt (May 29, 2012)
President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former University of Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 29, 2012. Looking on at left is author Toni Morrison who also received the Medal of Freedom. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Today, President Obama honored 13 Americans with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

This year’s recipients include cultural icons like Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison, as well as groundbreaking pioneers like former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Pat Summit, the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history. Also honored were Dolores Huerta, who cofounded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez, and Jan Karski, whose work in the Polish resistance allowed him to share a first-hand account of the Holocaust with Western Allies.

The President said:

Together, the honorees on this stage, and the ones who couldn’t be here, have moved us with their words; they have inspired us with their actions. They’ve enriched our lives and they’ve changed our lives for the better. Some of them are household names; others have labored quietly out of the public eye. Most of them may never fully appreciate the difference they’ve made or the influence that they’ve had, but that’s where our job comes in. It’s our job to help let them know how extraordinary their impact has been on our lives. And so today we present this amazing group with one more accolade for a life well led, and that’s the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Medal of Freedom is highest honor awarded to civilians in the United States. It was established in 1963 by President Kennedy and is presented to those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

See the full list of honorees here.

Remarks by the President at Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony

* Note – the language in asterisks below is historically inaccurate. It should instead have been: “Nazi death camps in German occupied Poland”. We regret the error.

East Room

3:45 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Everybody, please have a seat, and welcome to the White House.  It is an extraordinary pleasure to be here with all of you to present this year’s Medals of Freedom.  And I have to say, just looking around the room, this is a packed house, which is a testament to how cool this group is.  (Laughter.)  Everybody wanted to check them out.

This is the highest civilian honor this country can bestow, which is ironic, because nobody sets out to win it.  No one ever picks up a guitar, or fights a disease, or starts a movement, thinking, “You know what, if I keep this up, in 2012, I could get a medal in the White House from a guy named Barack Obama.”  (Laughter.)  That wasn’t in the plan.

But that’s exactly what makes this award so special.  Every one of today’s honorees is blessed with an extraordinary amount of talent.  All of them are driven.  But, yes, we could fill this room many times over with people who are talented and driven.  What sets these men and women apart is the incredible impact they have had on so many people — not in short, blinding bursts, but steadily, over the course of a lifetime.

Together, the honorees on this stage, and the ones who couldn’t be here, have moved us with their words; they have inspired us with their actions.  They’ve enriched our lives and they’ve changed our lives for the better.  Some of them are household names; others have labored quietly out of the public eye.  Most of them may never fully appreciate the difference they’ve made or the influence that they’ve had, but that’s where our job comes in.  It’s our job to help let them know how extraordinary their impact has been on our lives.  And so today we present this amazing group with one more accolade for a life well led, and that’s the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

So I’m going to take an opportunity — I hope you guys don’t mind — to brag about each of you, starting with Madeleine Albright.

Usually, Madeleine does the talking.  (Laughter.)  Once in a while, she lets her jewelry do the talking.  (Laughter.)  When Saddam Hussein called her a “snake,” she wore a serpent on her lapel — (laughter) — the next time she visited Baghdad.  When Slobodan Milosevic referred to her as a “goat,” a new pin appeared in her collection.

As the first woman to serve as America’s top diplomat, Madeleine’s courage and toughness helped bring peace to the Balkans and paved the way for progress in some of the most unstable corners of the world.  And as an immigrant herself — the granddaughter of Holocaust victims who fled her native Czechoslovakia as a child — Madeleine brought a unique perspective to the job.  This is one of my favorite stories.  Once, at a naturalization ceremony, an Ethiopian man came up to her and said, “Only in America can a refugee meet the Secretary of State.”  And she replied, “Only in America can a refugee become the Secretary of State.”  (Laughter.)  We’re extraordinarily honored to have Madeleine here.  And obviously, I think it’s fair to say I speak for one of your successors who is so appreciative of the work you did and the path that you laid.

It was a scorching hot day in 1963, and Mississippi was on the verge of a massacre.  The funeral procession for Medgar Evers had just disbanded, and a group of marchers was throwing rocks at a line of equally defiant and heavily-armed policemen.  And suddenly, a white man in shirtsleeves, hands raised, walked towards the protestors and talked them into going home peacefully.  And that man was John Doar.  He was the face of the Justice Department in the South.  He was proof that the federal government was listening.  And over the years, John escorted James Meredith to the University of Mississippi.  He walked alongside the Selma-to-Montgomery March.  He laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  In the words of John Lewis, “He gave [civil rights workers] a reason not to give up on those in power.”  And he did it by never giving up on them.  And I think it’s fair to say that I might not be here had it not been for his work.

Bob Dylan started out singing other people’s songs.  But, as he says, “There came a point where I had to write what I wanted to say, because what I wanted to say, nobody else was writing.”  So born in Hibbing, Minnesota — a town, he says, where “you couldn’t be a rebel — it was too cold” — (laughter) — Bob moved to New York at age 19.  By the time he was 23, Bob’s voice, with its weight, its unique, gravelly power was redefining not just what music sounded like, but the message it carried and how it made people feel.  Today, everybody from Bruce Springsteen to U2 owes Bob a debt of gratitude.  There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music.  All these years later, he’s still chasing that sound, still searching for a little bit of truth.  And I have to say that I am a really big fan.  (Laughter.)

In the 1960s, more than 2 million people died from smallpox every year.  Just over a decade later, that number was zero — 2 million to zero, thanks, in part, to Dr. Bill Foege.  As a young medical missionary working in Nigeria, Bill helped develop a vaccination strategy that would later be used to eliminate smallpox from the face of the Earth.  And when that war was won, he moved on to other diseases, always trying to figure out what works.  In one remote Nigerian village, after vaccinating 2,000 people in a single day, Bill asked the local chief how he had gotten so many people to show up.  And the chief explained that he had told everyone to come see — to “come to the village and see the tallest man in the world.”  (Laughter.)  Today, that world owes that really tall man a great debt of gratitude.

On the morning that John Glenn blasted off into space, America stood still.  And for half an hour, the phones stopped ringing in Chicago police headquarters, and New York subway drivers offered a play-by-play account over the loudspeakers.  President Kennedy interrupted a breakfast with congressional leaders and joined 100 million TV viewers to hear the famous words, “Godspeed, John Glenn.”  The first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn became a hero in every sense of the word, but he didn’t stop there serving his country.  As a senator, he found new ways to make a difference.  And on his second trip into space at age 77, he defied the odds once again.  But he reminds everybody, don’t tell him he’s lived a historic life.  He says, “Are living.”  He’ll say, “Don’t put it in the past tense.”  He’s still got a lot of stuff going on.

Gordon Hirabayashi knew what it was like to stand alone.  As a student at the University of Washington, Gordon was one of only three Japanese Americans to defy the executive order that forced thousands of families to leave their homes, their jobs, and their civil rights behind and move to internment camps during World War II.  He took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, and he lost.  And it would be another 40 years before that decision was reversed, giving Asian Americans everywhere a small measure of justice.  In Gordon’s words, “It takes a crisis to tell us that unless citizens are willing to standup for the [Constitution], it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”  And this country is better off because of citizens like him who are willing to stand up.

Similarly, when Cesar Chavez sat Dolores Huerta down at his kitchen table and told her they should start a union, she thought he was joking.  She was a single mother of seven children, so she obviously didn’t have a lot of free time.  But Dolores had been an elementary school teacher and remembered seeing children come to school hungry and without shoes.  So in the end, she agreed — and workers everywhere are glad that she did.  Without any negotiating experience, Dolores helped lead a worldwide grape boycott that forced growers to agree to some of the country’s first farm worker contracts.  And ever since, she has fought to give more people a seat at the table.  “Don’t wait to be invited,” she says, “Step in there.”  And on a personal note, Dolores was very gracious when I told her I had stolen her slogan, “Si, se puede.”  Yes, we can.  (Laughter.)  Knowing her, I’m pleased that she let me off easy — (laughter) — because Dolores does not play.  (Laughter.)

For years, Jan Karski’s students at Georgetown University knew he was a great professor; what they didn’t realize was he was also a hero.  Fluent in four languages, possessed of a photographic memory, Jan served as a courier for the Polish resistance during the darkest days of World War II.  Before one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale, and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a *Polish death camp* to see for himself.  Jan took that information to President Franklin Roosevelt, giving one of the first accounts of the Holocaust and imploring to the world to take action.  It was decades before Jan was ready to tell his story.  By then, he said, “I don’t need courage anymore.  So I teach compassion.”

Growing up in Georgia in the late 1800s, Juliette Gordon Low was not exactly typical.  She flew airplanes.  She went swimming.  She experimented with electricity for fun.  (Laughter.)  And she recognized early on that in order to keep up with the changing times, women would have to be prepared.  So at age 52, after meeting the founder of the Boy Scouts in England, Juliette came home and called her cousin and said, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world.  And we’re going to start it tonight!”  A century later, almost 60 million Girl Scouts have gained leadership skills and self-confidence through the organization that she founded.  They include CEOs, astronauts, my own Secretary of State.  And from the very beginning, they have also included girls of different races and faiths and abilities, just the way that Juliette would have wanted it.

Toni Morrison — she is used to a little distraction.  As a single mother working at a publishing company by day, she would carve out a little time in the evening to write, often with her two sons pulling on her hair and tugging at her earrings.  Once, a baby spit up on her tablet so she wrote around it.  (Laughter.)  Circumstances may not have been ideal, but the words that came out were magical.  Toni Morrison’s prose brings us that kind of moral and emotional intensity that few writers ever attempt.  From “Song of Solomon” to “Beloved,” Toni reaches us deeply, using a tone that is lyrical, precise, distinct, and inclusive.  She believes that language “arcs toward the place where meaning might lie.”  The rest of us are lucky to be following along for the ride.

During oral argument, Justice John Paul Stevens often began his line of questioning with a polite, “May I interrupt?” or “May I ask a question?”  You can imagine the lawyers would say, “okay” — (laughter) — after which he would, just as politely, force a lawyer to stop dancing around and focus on the most important issues in the case.  And that was his signature style:  modest, insightful, well-prepared, razor-sharp.  He is the third-longest serving Justice in the history of the Court.  And Justice Stevens applied, throughout his career, his clear and graceful manner to the defense of individual rights and the rule of law, always favoring a pragmatic solution over an ideological one.  Ever humble, he would happily comply when unsuspecting tourists asked him to take their picture in front of the Court.  (Laughter.)  And at his vacation home in Florida, he was John from Arlington, better known for his world-class bridge game than his world-changing judicial opinions.  Even in his final days on the bench, Justice Stevens insisted he was still “learning on the job.”  But in the end, we are the ones who have learned from him.

When a doctor first told Pat Summitt she suffered from dementia, she almost punched him.  When a second doctor advised her to retire, she responded, “Do you know who you’re dealing with here?”  (Laughter.)  Obviously, they did not.  As Pat says, “I can fix a tractor, mow hay, plow a field, chop tobacco, fire a barn, and call the cows.  But what I’m really known for is winning.”  In 38 years at Tennessee, she racked up eight national championships and more than 1,000 wins — understand, this is more than any college coach, male or female, in the history of the NCAA.  And more importantly, every player that went through her program has either graduated or is on her way to a degree.  That’s why anybody who feels sorry for Pat will find themselves on the receiving end of that famous glare, or she might punch you.  (Laughter.)  She’s still getting up every day and doing what she does best, which is teaching.  “The players,” she says, “are my best medicine.”

Our final honoree is not here — Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, who has done more for the cause of peace in the Middle East than just about anybody alive.  I’ll be hosting President Peres for a dinner here at the White House next month, and we’ll be presenting him with his medal and honoring his incredible contributions to the state of Israel and the world at that time.  So I’m looking forward to welcoming him.  And if it’s all right with you, I will save my best lines about him for that occasion.

So these are the recipients of the 2012 Medals of Freedom.  And just on a personal note, I had a chance to see everybody in the back.  What’s wonderful about these events for me is so many of these people are my heroes individually.  I know how they impacted my life.

I remember reading “Song of Solomon” when I was a kid and not just trying to figure out how to write, but also how to be and how to think.  And I remember in college listening to Bob Dylan and my world opening up because he captured something that — about this country that was so vital.  And I think about Dolores Huerta, reading about her when I was starting off as an organizer.

Everybody on this stage has marked my life in profound ways.  And I was telling — somebody like Pat Summitt — when I think about my two daughters, who are tall and gifted, and knowing that because of folks like Coach Summitt they’re standing up straight and diving after loose balls and feeling confident and strong, then I understand that the impact that these people have had extends beyond me.  It will continue for generations to come.  What an extraordinary honor to be able to say thank you to all of them for the great work that they have done on behalf of this country and on behalf of the world.

So it is now my great honor to present them with a small token of our appreciation.  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Presidential Medal of Freedom citations:

Madeleine Korbel Albright.  Madeleine Korbel Albright broke barriers and left an indelible mark on the world as the first female Secretary of State in the United States’ history.  Through her consummate diplomacy and steadfast democratic ideals, Secretary Albright advanced peace in the Middle East, nuclear arms control, justice in the Balkans, and human rights around the world.  With unwavering leadership and continued engagement with the global community, she continues her noble pursuit of freedom and dignity for all people.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think this goes very well with your broach.  (Laughter.)

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  John Doar.  As African Americans strove for justice, John Doar led federal efforts to defend equality and enforce civil rights.  Risking his life to confront the injustices around him, he prevented a violent riot, obtained convictions for the killings of civil rights activists, and stood by the first African American student at the University of Mississippi on his first day of class.  During pivotal moments in the Civil Rights Movement and in the troubled times of the Watergate scandal, John Doar fought to protect the core values of liberty, equality and democracy that have made America a leader among nations.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)


THE PRESIDENT:  He is pretty tall.  (Laughter.)

MILITARY AIDE:  A distinguished physician and epidemiologist, Bill Foege helped lead a campaign to eradicate smallpox that stands among medicine’s greatest success stories.  At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Carter Center, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he has taken on humanity’s most intractable public health challenges from infectious diseases to child survival and development.  Bill Foege has driven decades of progress to safeguard the well-being of all, and he has inspired a generation of leaders in the fight for a healthier world.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

John Glenn has set a peerless example through his service to our nation.  As a Marine Corps pilot and the first American to orbit the Earth, he sparked our passions for ingenuity and adventure and lifted humanity’s ambitions into the expanses of space.  In the United States Senate, he worked tirelessly to ensure all Americans had the opportunity to reach for limitless dreams.  Whether by advancing legislation to limit the spread of nuclear weapons or by becoming the oldest person ever to visit space, John Glenn’s example has moved us all to look to new horizons with drive and optimism.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Susan Carnahan, accepting on behalf of her husband Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi.  In his open defiance of discrimination against Japanese Americans during World War II, Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi demanded our nation live up to its founding principles.  Imprisoned for ignoring curfew and refusing to register for internment camps, he took his case to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1943.  Refusing to abandon his belief in an America that stands for fundamental human rights, he pursued justice until his conviction was overturned in 1987.  Gordon Hirabayashi’s legacy reminds us that patriotism is rooted not in ethnicity, but in our shared ideals.  And his example will forever call on us to defend the liberty of all our citizens.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta.  One of America’s great labor and civil rights icons, Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta has devoted her life to advocating for marginalized communities.  Alongside Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the United Farm Workers of America and fought to secure basic rights for migrant workers and their families, helping save thousands from neglect and abuse.  Dolores Huerta has never lost faith in the power of community organizing, and through the Dolores Huerta Foundation, she continues to train and mentor new activists to walk the streets into history.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Adam Daniel Rotfeld, former Polish foreign minister accepting on behalf of Jan Karski.  As a young officer in the Polish Underground, Jan Karski was among the first to relay accounts of the Holocaust to the world.  A witness to atrocity in the Warsaw Ghetto and the Nazi Izbica transit camp, he repeatedly crossed enemy line to document the face of genocide, and courageously voiced tragic truths all the way to President Roosevelt.  Jan Karski illuminated one of the darkest chapters of history, and his heroic intervention on behalf of the innocent will never be forgotten.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Richard Platt, accepting on behalf of his great aunt, Juliette Gordon Low.  An artist, athlete and trailblazer for America’s daughters, Juliette Gordon Low founded an organization to teach young women self-reliance and resourcefulness.  A century later, during the “Year of the Girl,” the Girl Scouts’ more than 3 million members are leaders in their communities and are translating new skills into successful careers.  Americans of all backgrounds continue to draw inspiration from Juliette Gordon Low’s remarkable vision, and we celebrate her dedication to empowering girls everywhere.

(The medal is presented.  Applause.)

Toni Morrison.  The first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize, Toni Morrison is one of our nation’s most distinguished storytellers.  She has captivated readers through lyrical prose that depicts the complexities of a people and challenges our concepts of race and gender.  Her works are hallmarks of the American literary tradition, and the United States proudly honors her for her nursing of souls and strengthening the character of our union.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

John Paul Stevens.  From the Navy to the bench, John Paul Stevens has devoted himself to service to our nation.  After earning a Bronze Star in World War II, Stevens returned home to pursue a career in law.  As an attorney, he became a leading practitioner of anti-trust law.  And as a Supreme Court Justice, he dedicated his long and distinguished tenure to applying our Constitution with fidelity and independence.  His integrity, humility, and steadfast commitment to the rule of law have fortified the noble vision of our nation’s founders.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Pat Summitt.  Pat Summitt is an unparalleled figure in collegiate sports.  Over 38 seasons, she proudly led the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers to 32 SEC tournament and regular season championships and eight national titles, becoming the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history.  On the court, Coach Summitt inspired young women across our country to shoot even higher in pursuit of their dreams.  Off the court, she has inspired us all by turning her personal struggle into a public campaign to combat Alzheimer’s disease.  Pat Summitt’s strength and character exemplify all that is best about athletics in America.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Bob Dylan.  A modern-day troubadour, Bob Dylan established himself as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.  The rich poetry of his lyrics opened up new possibilities for popular song and inspired generations.  His melodies have brought ancient traditions into the modern age.  More than 50 years after his career began, Bob Dylan remains an eminent voice in our national conversation and around the world.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Can everybody please stand and give a rousing applause to our Medal of Freedom winners?  (Applause.)

Well, we could not be prouder of all of them.  We could not be more grateful to all of them.  You have had an impact on all of us, and I know that you will continue to have an impact on all of us.  So thank you for being here.  Thank you for putting yourself through White House ceremonies — (laughter) — which are always full of all kinds of protocol.

Fortunately, we also have a reception afterwards.  I hear the food around here is pretty good.  (Laughter.)  So I look forward to all of you having a chance to stay and mingle, and again, thank you again, to all of you.  (Applause.)

END                4:22 P.M. EDT

April 26, 2012

President Obama Names Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients

WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama named thirteen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  The Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.  The awards will be presented at the White House in late spring.

President Obama said, “These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our Nation.  They’ve challenged us, they’ve inspired us, and they’ve made the world a better place.  I look forward to recognizing them with this award.”

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Madeleine Albright
From 1997 to 2001, under President William J. Clinton, Albright served as the 64th United States Secretary of State, the first woman to hold that position.  During her tenure, she worked to enlarge NATO and helped lead the Alliance’s campaign against terror and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, pursued peace in the Middle East and Africa, sought to reduce the dangerous spread of nuclear weapons, and was a champion of democracy, human rights, and good governance across the globe.  From 1993 to 1997, she was America’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.  Since leaving office, she founded the Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management, returned to teaching at Georgetown University, and authored five books.  Albright chairs the National Democratic Institute and is President of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation.

John Doar
Doar was a legendary public servant and leader of federal efforts to protect and enforce civil rights during the 1960s.  He served as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.  In that capacity, he was instrumental during many major civil rights crises, including singlehandedly preventing a riot in Jackson, Mississippi, following the funeral of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evars in 1963.  Doar brought notable civil rights cases, including obtaining convictions for the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi, and leading the effort to enforce the right to vote and implement the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  He later served as Special Counsel to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary as it investigated the Watergate scandal and considered articles of impeachment against President Nixon.  Doar continues to practice law at Doar Rieck Kaley & Mack in New York.

Bob Dylan
One of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century, Dylan released his first album in 1962.  Known for his rich and poetic lyrics, his work had considerable influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s and has had significant impact on American culture over the past five decades.  He has won 11 Grammys, including a lifetime achievement award.  He was named a Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Art et des Lettres and has received a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.  Dylan was awarded the 2009 National Medal of Arts.  He has written more than 600 songs, and his songs have been recorded more than 3,000 times by other artists.  He continues recording and touring around the world today.

William Foege
A physician and epidemiologist, Foege helped lead the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s.  He was appointed Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1977 and, with colleagues, founded the Task Force for Child Survival in 1984.  Foege became Executive Director of The Carter Center in 1986 and continues to serve the organization as a Senior Fellow.  He helped shape the global health work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and remains a champion of a wide array of issues, including child survival and development, injury prevention, and preventative medicine.  Foege’s leadership has contributed significantly to increased awareness and action on global health issues, and his enthusiasm, energy, and effectiveness in these endeavors have inspired a generation of leaders in public health.

John Glenn
Glenn is a former United States Marine Corps pilot, astronaut, and United States Senator.  In 1962, he was the third American in space and the first American to orbit the Earth.  After retiring from the Marine Corps, Glenn was elected to the U.S. Senate in Ohio in 1974. He was an architect and sponsor of the 1978 Nonproliferation Act and served as Chairman of the Senate Government Affairs committee from 1987 until 1995.  In 1998, Glenn became the oldest person to visit space at the age of 77. He retired from the Senate in 1999. Glenn is a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Gordon Hirabayashi
Hirabayashi openly defied the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, he refused the order to report for evacuation to an internment camp, instead turning himself in to the FBI to assert his belief that these practices were racially discriminatory.  Consequently, he was convicted by a U.S. Federal District Court in Seattle of defying the exclusion order and violating curfew.  Hirabayashi appealed his conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1943.  Following World War II and his time in prison, Hirabayashi obtained his doctoral degree in sociology and became a professor.  In 1987, his conviction was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Hirabayashi died on January 2, 2012.

Dolores Huerta
Huerta is a civil rights, workers, and women’s advocate. With Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the National Farmworkers Association in 1962, which later became the United Farm Workers of America.  Huerta has served as a community activist and a political organizer, and was influential in securing the passage of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, and disability insurance for farmworkers in California.  In 2002, she founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation, an organization dedicated to developing community organizers and national leaders.  In 1998, President Clinton awarded her the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights.

Jan Karski
Karski served as an officer in the Polish Underground during World War II and carried among the first eye-witness accounts of the Holocaust to the world.  He worked as a courier, entering the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazi Izbica transit camp, where he saw first-hand the atrocities occurring under Nazi occupation.  Karski later traveled to London to meet with the Polish government-in-exile and with British government officials.  He subsequently traveled to the United States and met with President Roosevelt.  Karski published Story of a Secret State, earned a Ph.D at Georgetown University, and became a professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.  Born in 1914, Karski became a U.S. citizen in 1954 and died in 2000.

Juliette Gordon Low
Born in 1860, Low founded the Girl Scouts in 1912.  The organization strives to teach girls self-reliance and resourcefulness.  It also encourages girls to seek fulfillment in the professional world and to become active citizens in their communities.  Since 1912, the Girl Scouts has grown into the largest educational organization for girls and has had over 50 million members.  Low died in 1927.  This year, the Girl Scouts celebrate their 100th Anniversary, calling 2012 “The Year of the Girl.”

Toni Morrison
One of our nation’s most celebrated novelists, Morrison is renowned for works such as Song of Solomon, Jazz, and Beloved, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988.  When she became the first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize in 1993, Morrison’s citation captured her as an author “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”  She created the Princeton Atelier at Princeton University to convene artists and students.  Morrison continues to write today.

Shimon Peres
An ardent advocate for Israel’s security and for peace, Shimon Peres was elected the ninth President of Israel in 2007.  First elected to the Knesset in 1959, he has served in a variety of positions throughout the Israeli government, including in twelve Cabinets as Foreign Minister, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Transport and Communications.  Peres served as Prime Minister from 1984-1986 and 1995-1996.  Along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his work as Foreign Minister during the Middle East peace talks that led to the Oslo Accords. Through his life and work, he has strengthened the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States.

John Paul Stevens
Stevens served as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010, when he retired as the third longest-serving Justice in the Court’s history.  Known for his independent, pragmatic and rigorous approach to judging, Justice Stevens and his work have left a lasting imprint on the law in areas such as civil rights, the First Amendment, the death penalty, administrative law, and the separation of powers.  He was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Gerald Ford, and previously served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  Stevens is a veteran of World War II, in which he served as a naval intelligence officer and was awarded the Bronze Star.

Pat Summitt
In addition to accomplishing an outstanding career as the all-time winningest leader among all NCAA basketball coaches, Summitt has taken the University of Tennessee to more Final Four appearances than any other coach and has the second best record of NCAA Championships in basketball.  She has received numerous awards, including being named Naismith Women’s Collegiate Coach of the Century.  Off the court, she has been a spokesperson against Alzheimer’s.  The Pat Summitt Foundation will make grants to nonprofits to provide education and awareness, support to patients and families, and research to prevent, cure and ultimately eradicate early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.

Campaign Headlines May 29, 2012: Mitt Romney Will Reach 1144 Delegates & Clinch GOP / Republican Presidential Nominaton with Texas Primary Win



Bill Pugliano/Getty Images


Texas Primary: Romney Expected to Clinch GOP Nomination: Everything’s bigger in Texas, and Tuesday’s state and presidential primary is no exception.
Mitt Romney is expected to reach (and surpass) 1,144 delegates Tuesday night — the magic delegate number needed to officially win the GOP nomination. With 155 delegates at stake, Texas’s GOP primary is the largest delegate prize in the contest so far — the second largest overall. California will offer the most delegates on June 5…. – ABC News Radio, 5-29-12

  • THE RACE: Math adds up to GOP victory for Romney: 1 minute ago Not fuzzy math or new math but the simple one-plus-one addition kind of math. By day’s end, if all goes as expected, the former Massachusetts governor will finally have a mathematical lock on the Republican presidential…. – AP, 5-29-12
  • THE RACE: Texas to put Romney over top in delegate count with 3 months yet to the convention: This day is mostly about math for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Not fuzzy math or new math but the simple one-plus-one addition kind of math…. – WaPo, 5-29-12

Campaign Headlines May 29, 2012: Ted Cruz Tea Party Candidate Vies for Open Texas Senate Seat in Primary


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 2011.



Tea partier Ted Cruz vies for open Texas Senate seat: Following Republican primary victories in Utah, Indiana, and Nebraska, the tea party movement is hoping for more good news on Tuesday in Texas, where Ted Cruz is taking on the Republican establishment in his campaign for the US Senate…. – ABC News, 5-29-12

  • Cruz confident he’ll earn runoff spot in GOP Senate race: Republican Senate hopeful Ted Cruz said the momentum of Tuesday’s primary election was with him this Memorial Day. He started campaigning in Richardson Monday morning, calling voters on the telephone from aboard a Tea Party… KHOU, 5-29-12
  • Much-watched Texas US Senate race may need runoff: The polls have opened in Texas for the primary election that’s a step leading to a new US senator for the state. Republican US Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is not seeking another term. Nine candidates are squaring … FOX 4 News, 5-29-12
  • Heated primary races await voters’ choice: Texas voters will at last troop to the polls Tuesday, after weeks of uncertainty and disputation over congressional and legislative redistricting, to cast ballots in the much-delayed primary elections. Voters will choose their nominees … Houston Chronicle, 5-27-12
  • Texas GOP Senate Primary: Big Spending, Big Fight for Conservative Crown: In Texas, the GOP primary to fill Kay Bailey Hutchison’s US Senate seat has become a costly and bitter fight that may not end today. Texas election code stipulates that candidates must receive at least 50 percent of the vote to win their party’s…. – ABC News, 5-29-12

Campaign Headlines May 28, 2012: Mitt Romney’s Memorial Day Tribute Speech Warns About & Criticizes President Obama’s Foreign Policy


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 2011.


Joe Raedle/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO)


In Memorial Day Tribute, Romney Warns of Threats Around the Globe: Delivering a Memorial Day tribute on Monday, Mitt Romney thanked the sacrifice of servicemen and women while warning of the grave dangers around the globe, remarking frankly that “the world is not safe” before ticking off a list of grave security issues around the globe.
“I wish I could tell you that the world is a safe place today,” said Romney, speaking before a crowd of nearly 5,000 which included servicemen and women in uniform. “It’s not. Iran is rushing to become a nuclear nation. As the national sponsor of terror around the world, the thought of missile material in the hands of Hezbollah or Hamas or other terrorists is simply unthinkable. Pakistan is home to some 100 nuclear weapons.”
“China’s on the road to becoming a … military superpower,” Romney continued. “Russia is rebuilding their military and is now led by a man who believes that the Soviet Union was a great, as opposed to evil, empire. Chavez is campaigning for power throughout Latin America. Mexico is under siege from the cartels and in the Middle East the Arab Spring has become an Arab Winter.”… – ABC News Radio, 5-28-12

Today Is A Day To Give Thanks And Remember: I am honored to be celebrating Memorial Day this year with John McCain. I don’t have to tell John’s story; the world already knows it. But it is what today’s holiday is all about: sacrifice, valor, honor, courage, and love of country. A lot of young Americans are risking their lives in distant battlefields today. Memorial Day is a day to give thanks to them, and to remember all of America’s soldiers who have laid down their lives to defend our country. As we enjoy our barbecues with friends and families and loved ones, let’s keep them in our thoughts and in our prayers. – Mitt Romney, 5-28-12

  • Romney takes swipe at Obama’s foreign policy: President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney both marked Memorial Day with speeches and politics wasn’t far below the surface…. –, 5-28-12
  • Romney promises world’s strongest military: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney promised Monday to maintain an American military “with no comparable power anywhere in the world.” The likely Republican presidential nominee faced a San Diego crowd estimated at 5000…. – AP, 5-28-12
  • Veterans Give Romney Big Lead Over Obama: US veterans, about 13% of the adult population and consisting mostly of older men, support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama for president by 58% to 34%, while nonveterans give Obama a four-percentage-point edge…. –, 5-28-12
  • Romney, McCain hold joint Memorial Day commemoration: Mitt Romney commemorated Memorial Day by honoring the nation’s veterans in this military-heavy city on Monday while arguing that the times are perilous and ensuring the United States’ military might was vital for global peace…. – LAT, 5-28-12

Full Text Obama Presidency May 28, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Commemoration Ceremony of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War



Obama Recalls Vietnam Vets’ Treatment as ‘National Shame’

Source: ABC News Radio 5-28-12

The White House/Pete Souza

In his second address this Memorial Day, President Obama paid specific tribute to those perished during the Vietnam War on the 50th anniversary of its beginning.  He recalled the sacrifice of the troops who served there and the unjust blame that was heaped on them upon their return.

“It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened.  That’s why here today we resolve that it will not happen again,” Obama told vets and their families gathered at the Vietnam War Memorial on the national mall Monday.  “You were often blamed for a war you didn’t start when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor.”

The 50th anniversary, Obama argued, is another chance to set the record straight and “tell your story as it should have been told all along.”

“That’s one more way we keep perfecting our union, setting the record straight.  And it starts today.  Because history will honor your service,” he said.  “And even though some Americans turned their back on you, you never turned your back on America.”…READ MORE

President Obama Celebrates U.S. Troops on Memorial Day

Source: WH, 5-28-12

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall (May 28, 2012)

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are joined at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall by Rose Marie Sabo-Brown, the widow of Medal of Honor recipient Specialist Leslie H. Sabo, Jr., U.S. Army, during the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War commemoration ceremony in Washington, D.C., May 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This afternoon, he visited the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that conflict and to celebrate those who served:

[We] come to this wall — to this sacred place — to remember. We can step towards its granite wall and reach out, touch a name.  Today is Memorial Day, when we recall all those who gave everything in the darkness of war so we could stand here in the glory of spring. And today begins the 50th commemoration of our war in Vietnam. We honor each of those names etched in stone — 58,282 American patriots. We salute all who served with them. And we stand with the families who love them still.

At both events, the President noted another reason for celebration — for the first time in nine years, there are no U.S. troops fighting in Iraq.


Remarks by the President at the Commemoration Ceremony of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War Memorial
National Mall
Washington, D.C.

2:27 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Chuck, thank you for your words and your friendship and your life of service.  Veterans of the Vietnam War, families, friends, distinguished guests.  I know it is hot.  (Laughter.)  But you are here — to honor your loved ones.  And Michelle and I could not be more honored to be here with you.

It speaks to the complexity of America’s time in Vietnam that, even now, historians cannot agree on precisely when the war began.  American advisors had served there, and died there, as early as the mid-’50s.  Major combat operations would not begin until the mid-’60s.  But if any year in between illustrated the changing nature of our involvement, it was 1962.

It was January, in Saigon.  Our Army pilots strapped on their helmets and boarded their helicopters.  They lifted off, raced over treetops carrying South Vietnamese troops.  It was a single raid against an enemy stronghold just a few miles into the jungle — but it was one of America’s first major operations in that faraway land.

Fifty years later, we come to this wall — to this sacred place — to remember.  We can step towards its granite wall and reach out, touch a name.  Today is Memorial Day, when we recall all those who gave everything in the darkness of war so we could stand here in the glory of spring.  And today begins the 50th commemoration of our war in Vietnam.  We honor each of those names etched in stone — 58,282 American patriots.  We salute all who served with them.  And we stand with the families who love them still.

For years you’ve come here, to be with them once more.  And in the simple things you’ve left behind — your offerings, your mementos, your gifts — we get a glimpse of the lives they led.  The blanket that covered him as a baby.  The baseball bat he swung as a boy.  A wedding ring.  The photo of the grandchild he never met.  The boots he wore, still caked in mud.  The medals she earned, still shining.  And, of course, some of the things left here have special meaning, known only to the veterans — a can of beer; a packet of M&Ms; a container of Spam; an old field ration — still good, still awful.  (Laughter.)

It’s here we feel the depth of your sacrifice.  And here we see a piece of our larger American story.  Our Founders — in their genius — gave us a task.  They set out to make a more perfect union.  And so it falls to every generation to carry on that work.  To keep moving forward.  To overcome a sometimes painful past.  To keep striving for our ideals.

And one of the most painful chapters in our history was Vietnam — most particularly, how we treated our troops who served there.  You were often blamed for a war you didn’t start, when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor.  (Applause.)  You were sometimes blamed for misdeeds of a few, when the honorable service of the many should have been praised.  You came home and sometimes were denigrated, when you should have been celebrated.  It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened.  And that’s why here today we resolve that it will not happen again.  (Applause.)

And so a central part of this 50th anniversary will be to tell your story as it should have been told all along.  It’s another chance to set the record straight.  That’s one more way we keep perfecting our Union — setting the record straight.  And it starts today.  Because history will honor your service, and your names will join a story of service that stretches back two centuries.

Let us tell the story of a generation of servicemembers — every color, every creed, rich, poor, officer and enlisted — who served with just as much patriotism and honor as any before you. Let’s never forget that most of those who served in Vietnam did so by choice.  So many of you volunteered.  Your country was at war, and you said, “send me.”  That includes our women in Vietnam — every one of you a volunteer.  (Applause.)  Those who were drafted, they, too, went and carried their burden — you served; you did your duty.

You persevered though some of the most brutal conditions ever faced by Americans in war.  The suffocating heat.  The drenching monsoon rains.  An enemy that could come out of nowhere and vanish just as quickly.  Some of the most intense urban combat in history, and battles for a single hill that could rage for weeks.  Let it be said — in those hellholes like Briarpatch, and the Zoo and the Hanoi Hilton — our Vietnam POWs didn’t simply endure; you wrote one of the most extraordinary stories of bravery and integrity in the annals of military history.  (Applause.)

As a nation, we’ve long celebrated the courage of our forces at Normandy and Iwo Jima, the Pusan Perimeter and Heartbreak Ridge.  So let us also speak of your courage — at Hue and Khe Sanh, at Tan Son Nhut and Saigon, from Hamburger Hill to Rolling Thunder.  All too often it’s forgotten that you, our troops in Vietnam, won every major battle you fought in.  (Applause.)

When you came home, I know many of you put your medals away — tucked them in a drawer, or in a box in the closet.  You went on with your lives — started families and pursued careers.  A lot of you didn’t talk too much about your service.  As a consequence, this nation has not always fully appreciated the chapter of your lives that came next.

So let us also tell a story of a generation that came home, and how — even though some Americans turned their back on you — you never turned your back on America.  (Applause.)  Like generations before you, you took off the uniform, but you never stopped serving.  You became teachers and police officers and nurses — the folks we count on every single day.  You became entrepreneurs, running companies and pioneering industries that changed the world.  You became leaders and public servants, from town halls to Capitol Hill — lifting up our communities, our states, our nation.

You reminded us what it was like to serve, what it meant to serve.  Those of you who stayed in uniform, you rose through the ranks, became leaders in every service, learned from your experience in Vietnam and rebuilt our military into the finest force that the world has ever known.  (Applause.)  And let’s remember all those Vietnam veterans who came back and served again — in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  You did not stop serving.  (Applause.)

Even as you succeeded in all these endeavors, you did something more — maybe the most important thing you did — you looked after each other.  When your government didn’t live up to its responsibilities, you spoke out — fighting for the care and benefits you had earned, and, over time, transforming the VA.  And, of course, one of these Vietnam veterans is now our outstanding Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Ric Shinseki.  (Applause.)

You looked after one another.  You cared for one another.  People weren’t always talking about PTSD at the time — you understood it, and you were there for each other.  Just as importantly, you didn’t just take care of your own, you cared for those that followed.  You’ve made it your mission to make sure today’s troops get the respect and support that all too often you did not receive.  (Applause.)

Because of you, because our Vietnam veterans led the charge, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is helping hundreds of thousands of today’s veterans go to college and pursue their dreams.  (Applause.)  Because of you, because you didn’t let us forget, at our airports, our returning troops get off the airplane and you are there to shake their hands.  (Applause.)  Because of you, across America, communities have welcomed home our forces from Iraq.  And when our troops return from Afghanistan, America will give this entire 9/11 Generation the welcome home they deserve.  That happened in part because of you.  (Applause.)

This is the story of our Vietnam servicemembers — the story that needs to be told.  This is what this 50th anniversary is all about.  It’s another opportunity to say to our Vietnam veterans what we should have been saying from the beginning:  You did your job.  You served with honor.  You made us proud.  You came home and you helped build the America that we love and that we cherish.

So here today, it must be said — you have earned your place among the greatest generations.  At this time, I would ask all our Vietnam veterans, those of you who can stand, to please stand, all those already standing, raise your hands — as we say those simple words which always greet our troops when they come home from here on out:  Welcome home.  (Applause.)  Welcome home. Welcome home.  Welcome home.  Thank you.  We appreciate you.  Welcome home.  (Applause.)

Today, we’re calling on all Americans, and every segment of our society, to join this effort.  Everybody can do something.  Five decades removed from a time of division among Americans, this anniversary can remind us of what we share as Americans.  That includes honoring our Vietnam veterans by never forgetting the lessons of that war.

So let us resolve that when America sends our sons and daughters into harm’s way, we will always give them a clear mission; we will always give them a sound strategy; we will give them the equipment they need to get the job done.  We will have their backs.  (Applause.)  We will resolve that leaders will be candid about the risks and about progress — and have a plan to bring our troops home, with honor.

Let us resolve to never forget the costs of war, including the terrible loss of innocent civilians — not just in Vietnam, but in all wars.  For we know that while your sacrifice and service is the very definition of glory, war itself is not glorious.  We hate war.  When we fight, we do so to protect ourselves because it’s necessary.

Let’s resolve that in our democracy we can debate and disagree — even in a time of war.  But let us never use patriotism as a political sword.  Patriots can support a war; patriots can oppose a war.  And whatever our view, let us always stand united in support of our troops, who we placed in harm’s way.  (Applause.)  That is our solemn obligation.  (Applause.)

Let’s resolve to take care of our veterans as well as they’ve taken care of us — not just talk, but actions.  Not just in the first five years after a war, but the first five decades. For our Vietnam veterans, this means the disability benefits for diseases connected to Agent Orange.  It means job opportunities and mental health care to help you stand tall again.  It means ending the tragedy of veterans’ homelessness, so that every veteran who has fought for America has a home in America.  You shouldn’t have to fight for a roof over your heads when you fought on behalf of the country that you love.  (Applause.)

And when an American does not come back — including the 1,666 Americans still missing from the Vietnam War — let us resolve to do everything in our power to bring them home.  This is our solemn promise to mothers like Sarah Shay who joins us today, 93 years old, who has honored her son, Major Donald Shay, Jr., missing in action for 42 years.  There she is.  Sarah, thank you for your courage.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

This is the promise we’re fulfilling today to the Meroney family of Fayetteville, Arkansas.  Forty-three years after he went missing, we can announce that Army Captain Virgil Meroney, III, is coming home, and he will finally rest in peace.  (Applause.)

Some have called this war era a scar on our country, but here’s what I say.  As any wound heals, the tissue around it becomes tougher, becomes stronger than before.  And in this sense, finally, we might begin to see the true legacy of Vietnam. Because of Vietnam and our veterans, we now use American power smarter, we honor our military more, we take care of our veterans better.  Because of the hard lessons of Vietnam, because of you, America is even stronger than before.  (Applause.)

And finally, on this anniversary and all the years to come, let us remember what binds us, as one people.  This is important for all of us, whether you fought in the Vietnam War or fought against it, whether you were too young to be shaped by it.  It is important that our children understand the sacrifices that were made by your troops in Vietnam; that for them, this is more than just a name in history books.  It’s important that we know the lesson of a gift once left at this Memorial.

It was towards the end of the day, and most of the tourists and visitors had departed.  And there it was — a football helmet, black with white stripes, and a wristband.  And with them was a handwritten note.  And it was from a young man, still in high school.  And mind you, this was more than two decades after Vietnam.  That high school student was born years after the war had already ended.  But in that short, handwritten note he captured the reverence — the bonds between generations — that bring us here today.

The letter began, “Dear Vietnam Veterans, here are two things from me to you that I think you should have.”   He explained that it was his helmet from midget football and his wristband from his senior year.  So today I want to close with the words he wrote:

In these two pieces of equipment, I was allowed to make mistakes, correct them, grow and mature as a person.  However, that was on my battlefield.  You didn’t get the chance to do that on your battlefield.  Some of you were forced to grow up too fast; all of you died too soon.  We do have many things in common, though.  We both have pride, heart and determination.  I’m just sorry you guys had to learn those qualities too fast.  That is why I’m giving you what I grew up with.  You are true heroes and you will never be forgotten.

That’s from a high school kid, born decades after the end of the war.  And that captures the spirit that this entire country should embrace.

Veterans, families of the Vietnam War, I know the wounds of war are slow to heal.  You know that better than most.  But today we take another step.  The task of telling your story continues. The work of perfecting our Union goes on.  And decades from now, I hope another young American will visit this place and reach out and touch a name.  And she’ll learn the story of servicemembers  — people she never met, who fought a war she never knew — and in that moment of understanding and of gratitude and of grace, your legacy will endure.  For you are all true heroes and you will all be remembered.

May God bless you.  May God bless your families.  May God bless our men and women in uniform.  And may God bless these United States of America.  (Applause.)

END                   2:50 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency May 26, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Honors Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day




President Obama pays tribute to our men and women in uniform who have died in service to our country.

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address

President Barack Obama tapes the weekly address., White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 5/25/12

Weekly Address: Honoring Our Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day

Source: WH, 5-26-12

President Obama pays tribute to our men and women in uniform who have died in service to our country.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

President Obama’s Weekly Address: Honoring Our Fallen Heroes

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-26-12
As Americans prepare to fire up the grill, open the pool and enjoy the holiday weekend, President Obama is paying tribute to the nation’s men and women in uniform, thanking them for their service and reaffirming his commitment to “serve them and their families as well as they have served us.”

“Memorial Day is more than a three-day weekend. In town squares and national cemeteries, in public services and moments of quiet reflection, we will honor those who loved their country enough to sacrifice their own lives for it,” Obama said in his weekly address.

The President and First Lady will visit Arlington National Cemetery this Memorial Day to honor “patriots of every generation who gave the last full measure of devotion, from Lexington and Concord to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Later, Mr. and Mrs. Obama will join veterans at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where they will begin to make the 50th anniversary of the war….READ MORE

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Honoring Our Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day

WASHINGTON, DC—In this week’s address, President Obama paid tribute to our men and women in uniform who have died in service to our country.  The President also reaffirmed our nation’s dedication to serving our veterans as well as they have served us, and thanked our men and women in uniform for their unwavering commitment to the United States.  As we come together on Memorial Day, we remind our military families and veterans that they are not alone, and give our thanks to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and helped make America the most prosperous and powerful nation on earth.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
May 26, 2012

This weekend, folks across the country are opening up the pool, firing up the grill, and taking a well-earned moment to relax. But Memorial Day is more than a three-day weekend. In town squares and national cemeteries, in public services and moments of quiet reflection, we will honor those who loved their country enough to sacrifice their own lives for it.

This Memorial Day, Michelle and I will join Gold Star families, veterans, and their families at Arlington National Cemetery. We’ll pay tribute to patriots of every generation who gave the last full measure of devotion, from Lexington and Concord to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Later that day, we’ll join Vietnam veterans and their families at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—the Wall. We’ll begin to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. It’s another chance to honor those we lost at places like Hue, Khe Sanh, Danang and Hamburger Hill. And we’ll be calling on you—the American people—to join us in thanking our Vietnam veterans in your communities.

Even as we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, we reaffirm our commitment to care for those who served alongside them—the veterans who came home.  This includes our newest generation of veterans, from Iraq and Afghanistan.

We have to serve them and their families as well as they have served us: By making sure that they get the healthcare and benefits they need; by caring for our wounded warriors and supporting our military families; and by giving veterans the chance to go to college, find a good job, and enjoy the freedom that they risked everything to protect.

Our men and women in uniform took an oath to defend our country at all costs, and today, as members of the finest military the world has ever known, they uphold that oath with dignity and courage. As President, I have no higher honor than serving as their Commander-in-Chief.  But with that honor comes a solemn responsibility – one that gets driven home every time I sign a condolence letter, or meet a family member whose life has been turned upside down.

No words can ever bring back a loved one who has been lost. No ceremony can do justice to their memory. No honor will ever fill their absence.

But on Memorial Day, we come together as Americans to let these families and veterans know that they are not alone. We give thanks for those who sacrificed everything so that we could be free. And we commit ourselves to upholding the ideals for which so many patriots have fought and died.

Thank you, God bless you, and have a wonderful weekend.

Full Text Obama Presidency May 28, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Honors & Celebrates US Troops on Memorial Day — Recalls Fallen Soldiers, Winding Down of Iraq, Afghanistan Wars



Obama on Memorial Day Recalls the Fallen, Winding Down of Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-28-12

Under bright, hazy skies at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama spent his fourth Memorial Day as commander in chief honoring the hundreds of thousands of  soldiers who died serving their country, particularly in the Vietnam War, which began more than 50 years ago.

“From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, they stepped forward and answered the call,” Obama told hundreds gathered in the humid, midday heat at the cemetery, which is across the Potomac River from the capital.

“They fought for a home they might never return to; they fought for buddies they’ll never forget. While their stories may be separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles, they rest here, together. Side by side, row by row.  Because each of them loved this country and everything it stands for more than life itself.”

Heeding to custom, Obama also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, pausing to reflect and pray as a lone bugler played taps….READ MORE

President Obama Celebrates U.S. Troops on Memorial Day

Source: WH, 5-28-12

President Obama participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery (May 28, 2012)
President Barack Obama, with Major General Michael Linnington, Commanding General Military District of Washington, participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, May 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama earlier marked Memorial Day with two separate events.

This morning, he visited Arlington National Cemetery, where he placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and highlighted the connection shared by each of the heroes who rest at the site:

These 600 acres are home to Americans from every part of the country who gave their lives in every corner of the globe. When a revolution needed to be waged and a Union needed to be saved, they left their homes and took up arms for the sake of an idea. From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, they stepped forward and answered the call. They fought for a home they might never return to; they fought for buddies they would never forget. And while their stories may be separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles, they rest here, together, side-by-side, row-by-row, because each of them loved this country, and everything it stands for, more than life itself.


Remarks by the President Commemorating Memorial Day

Memorial Amphitheater
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:39 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Please be seated.  Good morning, everybody.  Thank you, Secretary Panetta, for your introduction and for your incredible service to our country.  To General Dempsey, Major General Linnington, Kathryn Condon, Chaplain Berry, all of you who are here today — active duty, veterans, family and friends of the fallen — thank you for allowing me the privilege of joining you in this sacred place to commemorate Memorial Day.

These 600 acres are home to Americans from every part of the country who gave their lives in every corner of the globe.  When a revolution needed to be waged and a Union needed to be saved, they left their homes and took up arms for the sake of an idea.  From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, they stepped forward and answered the call.  They fought for a home they might never return to; they fought for buddies they would never forget.  And while their stories may be separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles, they rest here, together, side-by-side, row-by-row, because each of them loved this country, and everything it stands for, more than life itself.

Today, we come together, as Americans, to pray, to reflect, and to remember these heroes.  But tomorrow, this hallowed place will once again belong to a smaller group of visitors who make their way through the gates and across these fields in the heat and in the cold, in the rain and the snow, following a well-worn path to a certain spot and kneeling in front of a familiar headstone.

You are the family and friends of the fallen — the parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters by birth and by sacrifice.  And you, too, leave a piece of your hearts beneath these trees.  You, too, call this sanctuary home.

Together, your footsteps trace the path of our history.  And this Memorial Day, we mark another milestone.  For the first time in nine years, Americans are not fighting and dying in Iraq.  (Applause.)  We are winding down the war in Afghanistan, and our troops will continue to come home.  (Applause.)  After a decade under the dark cloud of war, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon.

Especially for those who’ve lost a loved one, this chapter will remain open long after the guns have fallen silent.  Today, with the war in Iraq finally over, it is fitting to pay tribute to the sacrifice that spanned that conflict.

In March of 2003, on the first day of the invasion, one of our helicopters crashed near the Iraqi border with Kuwait.  On it were four Marines:  Major Jay Aubin; Captain Ryan Beaupre; Corporal Brian Kennedy; and Staff Sergeant Kendall Waters-Bey.  Together, they became the first American casualties of the Iraq war.  Their families and friends barely had time to register the beginning of the conflict before being forced to confront its awesome costs.

Eight years, seven months and 25 days later, Army Specialist David Hickman was on patrol in Baghdad.  That’s when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.  He became the last of nearly 4,500 American patriots to give their lives in Iraq.  A month after David’s death — the days before the last American troops, including David, were scheduled to come home — I met with the Hickman family at Fort Bragg.  Right now, the Hickmans are beginning a very difficult journey that so many of your families have traveled before them — a journey that even more families will take in the months and years ahead.

To the families here today, I repeat what I said to the Hickmans:  I cannot begin to fully understand your loss.  As a father, I cannot begin to imagine what it’s like to hear that knock on the door and learn that your worst fears have come true. But as Commander-In-Chief, I can tell you that sending our troops into harm’s way is the most wrenching decision that I have to make.  I can promise you I will never do so unless it’s absolutely necessary, and that when we do, we must give our troops a clear mission and the full support of a grateful nation. (Applause.)

And as a country, all of us can and should ask ourselves how we can help you shoulder a burden that nobody should have to bear alone.  As we honor your mothers and fathers, your sons and daughters, we have given — who have given their last full measure of devotion to this country, we have to ask ourselves how can we support you and your families and give you some strength?

One thing we can do is remember these heroes as you remember them — not just as a rank, or a number, or a name on a headstone, but as Americans, often far too young, who were guided by a deep and abiding love for their families, for each other, and for this country.

We can remember Jay Aubin, the pilot, who met his wife on an aircraft carrier, and told his mother before shipping out, “If anything happens to me, just know I’m doing what I love.”

We can remember Ryan Beaupre, the former track star, running the leadoff leg, always the first one into action, who quit his job as an accountant and joined the Marines because he wanted to do something more meaningful with his life.

We can remember Brian Kennedy, the rock climber and lacrosse fanatic, who told his father two days before his helicopter went down that the Marines he served alongside were some of the best men he’d ever dealt with, and they’d be his friends forever.

We can remember Kendall Waters-Bey, a proud father, a proud son of Baltimore, who was described by a fellow servicemember as “a light in a very dark world.”

And we can remember David Hickman, a freshman in high school when the war began, a fitness fanatic who half-jokingly called himself “Zeus,” a loyal friend with an infectious laugh.

We can remember them.  And we can meet our obligations to those who did come home, and their families who are in the midst of a different, but very real battle of their own.

To all our men and women in uniform who are here today, know this:  The patriots who rest beneath these hills were fighting for many things — for their families, for their flag — but above all, they were fighting for you.  As long as I’m President, we will make sure you and your loved ones receive the benefits you’ve earned and the respect you deserve.  America will be there for you.  (Applause.)

And finally, for all of you who carry a special weight on your heart, we can strive to be a nation worthy of your sacrifice.  A nation that is fair and equal, peaceful and free.  A nation that weighs the cost of every human life.  A nation where all of us meet our obligations to one another, and to this country that we love.  That’s what we can do.

As President, I have no higher honor and no greater responsibility than serving as Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military the world has ever known.  (Applause.)  And on days like this, I take pride in the fact that this country has always been home to men and women willing to give of themselves until they had nothing more to give.  I take heart in the strength and resolve of those who still serve, both here at home and around the world.  And I know that we must always strive to be worthy of your sacrifice.

God bless you.  God bless the fallen.  God bless our men and women in uniform.  And may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

11:49 A.M. EDT

Political Buzz May 25, 2012: President Barack Obama Marks Memorial Day and Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War — Meets with Rolling Thunder



Obama meets with Rolling Thunder

Source: Politico, 5-25-12

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

There were no events listed on his public schedule Friday, but President Obama apparently took time out to greet members of Rolling Thunder, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing attention to POWs and troops missing in action.

The White House put out a photo of the meeting, showing Obama meeting the group in the Diplomatic Reception Room.

The organization, which is known for motorcycle rallies on Memorial Day weekend, says on its web site that its members “are united in the cause to bring full accountability for Prisoners Of War (POW) and Missing In Action (MIA) of all wars, reminding the government, the media and the public by our watchwords: ‘We Will Not Forget.'”

FACT SHEET: Memorial Day and Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War

This Memorial Day, we honor the men and women who have defended our nation, and mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. On Memorial Day, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will participate in an event at Arlington National Cemetery. The President, Vice President, First Lady and Dr. Biden will also attend an event at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Prior to these events, the President and First Lady Michelle Obama will meet with Gold Star Families.  On Friday, the Vice President and Dr. Biden attended an event to honor the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp.

Marking the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War
“This month, we’ll begin to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, a time when, to our shame, our veterans did not always receive the respect and the thanks they deserved — a mistake that must never be repeated.” — President Obama, May 16, 2012

The Memorial Day gathering at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall marks the beginning of the national commemoration of the Vietnam War’s 50th anniversary program and is a joint effort between the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the National Park Service and the Department of Defense.

The Federal Government will partner with State and local governments, private organizations, and communities across America to launch the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War—a 13-year program to honor and give thanks to a generation of proud Americans who saw our country through one of the most challenging missions we have ever faced and pay tribute to the more than 3 million men and women who answered the call of duty with courage and valor.  The events and activities that are a part of this commemoration will:

• Thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war or listed as missing in action, for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans.

• Highlight the service of the armed forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of federal agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations that served with, or in support of, the armed forces.

• Pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the Vietnam War.

• Highlight the advances in technology, science, and medicine related to the military research conducted during the Vietnam War.

• Recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the allies of the United States during the Vietnam War.

Obama marks 50th anniversary of Vietnam War

Source: WH, 5-25-12

The president signed a proclamation on Friday marking the official commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War:

“In recognition of a chapter in our Nation’s history that must never be forgotten, let us renew our sacred commitment to those who answered our country’s call in Vietnam and those who awaited their safe return. Beginning on Memorial Day 2012, the Federal Government will partner with local governments, private organizations, and communities across America to participate in the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War — a 13-year program to honor and give thanks to a generation of proud Americans who saw our country through one of the most challenging missions we have ever faced. While no words will ever be fully worthy of their service, nor any honor truly befitting their sacrifice, let us remember that it is never too late to pay tribute to the men and women who answered the call of duty with courage and valor.”

Full proclamation after the jump:



As we observe the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, we reflect with solemn reverence upon the valor of a generation that served with honor. We pay tribute to the more than 3 million servicemen and women who left their families to serve bravely, a world away from everything they knew and everyone they loved. From Ia Drang to Khe Sanh, from Hue to Saigon and countless villages in between, they pushed through jungles and rice paddies, heat and monsoon, fighting heroically to protect the ideals we hold dear as Americans. Through more than a decade of combat, over air, land, and sea, these proud Americans upheld the highest traditions of our Armed Forces.

As a grateful Nation, we honor more than 58,000 patriots –their names etched in black granite — who sacrificed all they had and all they would ever know. We draw inspiration from the heroes who suffered unspeakably as prisoners of war, yet who returned home with their heads held high. We pledge to keep faith with those who were wounded and still carry the scars of war, seen and unseen. With more than 1,600 of our service members still among the missing, we pledge as a Nation to do everything in our power to bring these patriots home. In the reflection of The Wall, we see the military family members and veterans who carry a pain that may never fade. May they find peace in knowing their loved ones endure, not only in medals and memories, but in the hearts of all Americans, who are forever grateful for their service, valor, and sacrifice.

In recognition of a chapter in our Nation’s history that must never be forgotten, let us renew our sacred commitment to those who answered our country’s call in Vietnam and those who awaited their safe return. Beginning on Memorial Day 2012, the Federal Government will partner with local governments, private organizations, and communities across America to participate in the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War — a 13-year program to honor and give thanks to a generation of proud Americans who saw our country through one of the most challenging missions we have ever faced. While no words will ever be fully worthy of their service, nor any honor truly befitting their sacrifice, let us remember that it is never too late to pay tribute to the men and women who answered the call of duty with courage and valor. Let us renew our commitment to the fullest possible accounting for those who have not returned.

Throughout this Commemoration, let us strive to live up to their example by showing our Vietnam veterans, their families, and all who have served the fullest respect and support of a grateful Nation.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 28, 2012, through November 11, 2025, as the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to honor our Vietnam veterans, our fallen, our wounded, those unaccounted for, our former prisoners of war, their families, and all who served with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of May, 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.


Campaign Headlines May 25, 2012: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush Says Gay Marriage Is ‘Distraction’ From Economy in Speech at a Foreign Ministry Agency in Taipei, Taiwan




Jeb Bush Says Gay Marriage Is ‘Distraction’ From Economy

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-25-12

Paul Zimmerman/WireImage

On a three day visit to Taiwan, Jeb Bush said the economy is the number one issue in the United States, calling same sex marriage a “distraction” in the presidential campaign.

The former Florida governor made the comments at a question and answer session Friday after giving a speech at a foreign ministry agency in Taipei, according to the  Focus Taiwan News Channel. Earlier this month, in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts President Obama announced his support of same sex marriage.

Despite repeated comments that he’s not interested in the job, Bush — the son of one president and brother of another — is still high on veepstakes lists and this trip to Taiwan will do nothing to dissuade the vice-presidential chatter.

Bush got high marks from a Tampa Bay Times’ survey of more than 100 Democratic and Republican Florida political insiders. They say Mitt Romney should pick someone from Florida to be his number two, and that it should be Bush, not Florida Sen. Marco Rubio….READ MORE

Full Text Campaign Buzz May 24, 2012: President Barack Obama Accuses Mitt Romney of ‘Cow-Pie Distortion’ on Debt, Deficits in Campaign Speech at the Iowa State Fairgrounds




President Obama Accuses Mitt Romney of ‘Cow-Pie Distortion’ on Debt, Deficits

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-24-12


On his first visit back to the Iowa state fairgrounds since the 2008 campaign, President Obama Thursday night used a grassroots rally to launch sharp new attacks against rival Mitt Romney over the debt and deficit and vigorously defend his own handling of the same.

The venue holds symbolic value for Democrats because it was here in August that Romney made his now-famous declaration that “corporations are people, my friend.”

Obama thrust the Republican candidate’s unflattering moment front and center early on….READ MORE

Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event

Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center
Iowa State Fairgrounds
Des Moines, Iowa

7:10 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Iowa!  (Applause.)  I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling fired up!  (Applause.)  I am definitely ready to go!  Definitely ready to go.  We just had a chance to talk to the folks in the overflow, and before that we were in Newton.  And I was just telling my team, there’s something about coming to Iowa — (applause) — it just gets me going!  (Applause.)  It’s my home away from home.  (Applause.)  Just love this place!  Even just all those long drives.  (Laughter.)  Seeing all that corn — makes me feel good.  (Applause.)

So, listen, I want to thank a couple of Iowa friends of mine — first of all, your outstanding former governor and now outstanding Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack is in the house.  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Frank Cownie is here.  (Applause.)  Your Congressman, Leonard Boswell.  (Applause.)  Your Attorney General and one of my campaign co-chairs, Tom Miller.  (Applause.)  Your State Treasurer and one of my earliest supporters, Mike Fitzgerald.  (Applause.)

And I also want to thank some folks who’ve been keeping us fired up from the very beginning — the Isiserettes who are in the house.  (Applause.)  We were talking about when we had the J.J. dinner, we were all going in together, and the Isiserettes were at the front.  And Michelle and I were dancing — she was dancing, I was trying to dance.  (Laughter.)

So it’s good to be back.  It’s good to be back among friends.  It’s good to be seeing all of you.  (Applause.)  Four or five years ago, it was you who kept us going when a lot of pundits in Washington had written us off.  You remember that.  It was on your front porches, it was in your backyards where our movement for change began.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, Mr. President!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, it was here where we came together to reclaim the basic bargain that built the largest middle class and the most prosperous nation on Earth.  We believe that in America success shouldn’t be determined by the circumstances of your birth.  If you’re willing to work hard, you should be able to find a good job.  (Applause.)  If you’re willing to meet your responsibilities, you should be able to own a home, maybe start a business.  You should be able to give your children a better chance than you had — no matter where you came from, no matter what you look like, no matter who you love.  (Applause.)  That’s what we believe.  (Applause.)

And we came together in 2008 because you could tell that our country — or at least the leadership in Washington — had strayed away from these basic values.  We had a record surplus that had been squandered on tax cuts for folks who didn’t need them and weren’t even asking for them.  Two wars had been waged on a credit card.  Wall Street speculators were reaching huge profits, making bets with other people’s money, but it was destabilizing our financial system.  Manufacturing was moving offshore.  A shrinking number of Americans were doing fantastically well, but a whole lot of people were struggling with falling incomes and rising costs and the slowest job growth in half a century.

And it was a house of cards, and we sensed that.  And then right in the middle of the campaign we saw the most destructive crisis since the Great Depression.  In the last six months of 2008, while we were still campaigning, nearly 3 million of our neighbors lost their jobs; 800,000 lost their jobs the month I was sworn in — hadn’t seen anything like it since the Great Depression.

And so it was tough.  But it turned out Americans were tougher.  Folks in Iowa were tougher.  (Applause.)  We don’t quit.  We keep going.  And together, we’re fighting our way back. (Applause.)

So when some said we should just let Detroit go bankrupt, we put our money on American workers and the ingenuity of American companies.  (Applause.)  And today, plants are adding new workers and new shifts, and the American auto industry is firing on all cylinders.  Our manufacturers started investing in America again — first time we consistently added manufacturing jobs since the 1990s.

Businesses started getting back to the basics, creating over 4 million new jobs in the last 26 months — more than 1 million in the last six months alone.  (Applause.)  Here in Iowa, farmers, food producers, manufacturers, renewable energy producers — they’re all driving new job growth, showing the resilience and strength of our rural economies.

Now, are we satisfied?  Of course not.   We’ve still got friends out there, and family who are looking for work.  All across America there are homes that are still underwater, too many small businesses still struggling to get financing.  States are still laying off teachers and first responders.

This was a deep crisis; it didn’t happen overnight.  And we never thought it was going to be solved overnight.  We know we have more work to do.  But we also know that the last thing we can afford to do is to return to the very same policies that got us into this mess in the first place.  (Applause.)  Not now.  Not with so much at stake.  We have come too far to abandon the change that we fought for over these past few years.  We’ve got to move forward.  We can’t go backward.  We’ve got to move forward.  (Applause.)

That’s the choice in this election.  And that’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States — to move this country forward.  (Applause.)

Now, my opponent in this election, Governor Romney —


THE PRESIDENT:  Governor Romney is a patriotic American.  He’s raised a wonderful family.  He should be proud of the great personal success he’s had as a CEO of a large financial firm.  There are plenty of good and honest people in that industry, and there’s an important, creative role for it in the free market.  But —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  But Governor Romney has made his experience as a financial CEO the entire rationale of his candidacy for president.  Now, he doesn’t really talk about what he did in Massachusetts.  But he does talk about being a business — business guy.  Right?  He says this gives him a special understanding of what it takes to create jobs and grow the economy — even if he’s unable to offer a single new idea about how to do that, no matter how many times he’s asked about it, he says he knows how to do it.  So I think it’s a good idea to look at the way he sees the economy.

Now, the main goal of a financial firm like Governor Romney’s is not to create jobs.  And by the way, the people who work at these firms will tell you that’s not their goal.  Their main goal is to create wealth for themselves and their investors. (Applause.)  That’s part of the American way.  That’s fine.

Sometimes, jobs are created in that process.  But when maximizing short-term gains for your investors rather than building companies that last is your goal, then sometimes it goes the other way.  Workers get laid off.  Benefits disappear.  Pensions are cut.  Factories go dark.  In some cases, companies are loaded up with debt — not to make the companies more productive, not to buy new equipment to keep them at the cutting-edge, but just to pay investors.  Companies may go bankrupt as a result.  Taxpayers may be on the hook to help out on those pensions.  Investors walk off with big returns, and working folks get stuck holding the bag.

Now, that may be the job of somebody who’s engaged in corporate buyouts.  That’s fine.  But that’s not the job of a President.  (Applause.)  That’s not the President’s job.  There may be value for that kind of experience, but it’s not in the White House.  (Applause.)

See, the job of a President is to lay the foundation for strong and sustainable broad-based growth — not one where a small group of speculators are cashing in on short-term gains.  It’s to make sure that everybody in this country gets a fair shake — (applause) — everybody gets a fair shot, everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  (Applause.)

When you’re the President, your job is to look out for the investor and the worker; for the big companies and the small companies; for the health of farmers and small businesspeople and the nurse and the teacher.  (Applause.)  You’re supposed to be thinking about everybody — and the health of the middle class, and what the future is going to hold for our kids.  That’s how I see the economy.

Of course, the worldview that Governor Romney gained from his experience as a financial CEO explains something.  It explains why the last time he visited these very same fairgrounds, he famously declared that corporations are people.


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Corporations aren’t people!

THE PRESIDENT:  “Human beings, my friends.”  That’s what he said.  That’s what he called you.  “Human beings, my friends.”

It also explains why, when a woman right here in Iowa shared the story of her financial struggles, he gave her an answer out of an economics textbook.  He said, “Our productivity equals our income.”  Well, as if she’d have an easier time making it if she would just work harder.

Now, let me tell you something.  We believe in the profit motive.  We believe that risk-takers and investors should be rewarded.  That’s what makes our economy so dynamic.  But we also believe everybody should have opportunity.  (Applause.)  We believe — we think everybody who makes the economy more productive or a company more productive should benefit.

And the problem with our economy isn’t that the American people aren’t productive enough — you’re working harder than ever.  Productivity is through the roof.  It’s been going up consistently over the last decade.  The challenge we face right now — the challenge we’ve faced for over a decade — is that harder work hasn’t led to higher incomes.  Bigger profits haven’t led to better jobs.  And you can’t solve that problem if you can’t even see that it’s a problem.  (Applause.)

And he doesn’t see it’s a problem.  And so this experience explains why he is proposing the exact same policies that we already tried in the last decade, the very policies that got us into this mess.  He sincerely believes that if CEOs and wealthy investors are getting rich, then the wealth is going to trickle down and the rest of us are going to do well, too.  And he is wrong.

You don’t build a strong economy by proposing more tax cuts for corporations that ship jobs and profits overseas.  But that’s his plan.  (Applause.)  You don’t build a strong economy by repealing the rules that are designed to prevent another taxpayer bailout of Wall Street banks.  But that’s what he pledges to do, roll those things back.  You don’t build a strong economy by offering another budget-busting tax cut skewed to the wealthiest Americans, while raising taxes on 18 million working families.  But that’s what he’s proposing.  (Applause.)

And then, he and his folks, they’ve got the nerve to go around saying they’re somehow going to bring down the deficit.  Economists who have looked at his plan say it would swell our deficits by trillions of dollars, even with the drastic cuts he’s called for in things like education and agriculture and Medicare; even with the drastic cuts to the basic research and technology that have always been the strength of the American economy.

He promises to do that on day one.  We don’t need that.


THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a vision that’s going backwards.  We’re going forwards.  (Applause.)

We’re going forward.  We’re not going to double down on the same bad ideas that we’ve tried over the last decade.  It’s not as if we haven’t tried these things.  We tried them.  They didn’t work.  We’re not going to listen to folks who argue that somehow this time it’s going to be different.  I’m here to tell you we were there when we tried them.  We remember.  We’re not going back.  We’re moving this country forward.  (Applause.)

And I want to make clear here, it’s not like Democrats don’t have work to do.  We’ve got work to do.  Government — we have to acknowledge government can’t solve all our problems and it shouldn’t try.  I learned from my mom no education policy can take the place of a parent’s love and attention — and sometimes a scolding when you didn’t do your homework.  (Applause.)  As a young man, when I was working as a community organizer with Catholic churches, they taught me no poverty program can make as much of a difference as neighbors coming together and working together with kindness and commitment.  (Applause.)

Not every regulation is smart, not every tax dollar is spent wisely, not every person can be helped who refuses to help themselves.  But that’s not an excuse to tell the vast majority of hardworking, responsible Americans they’re on their own; that unless you’re lucky to have parents who can lend you the money, you may not be able to go to college; that even if you pay your premiums every month, you may be out of luck if an insurance company decides to drop your coverage just when you need it most. (Applause.)

That’s not who we are.  That’s not how we built America.  We built this country together.  The Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, GI Bill, the moon landing, the Internet — we did those things together.  Not to make some small group rich, not to help any single individual, but because we knew that if we made those investments it would provide a framework, a platform for everybody to do well, for everybody to succeed.  That’s the true lesson of our past.  (Applause.)  That’s the right vision for our future.  And that’s why I’m running for President of the United States.  (Applause.)

I’m running to make sure that by the end of this decade, more of our citizens hold a college degree than any other nation on Earth.  (Applause.)  I want to help our schools hire and reward the best teachers, especially in math and science.  (Applause.)  I want to give 2 million more Americans the chance to go to community colleges and learn skills that local businesses are looking for right now.  (Applause.)  Higher education can’t be a luxury — it is a necessity, and I want everybody to be able to afford it.  (Applause.)

That’s the choice in this election.  That’s why I’m running for President.

I’m running to make sure the next generation of high-tech innovation and manufacturing takes root in places like Des Moines and Newton and Waterloo.  (Applause.)  I want to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs and profits overseas.  I want to reward companies that are creating jobs and bringing jobs back here to the United States of America.  (Applause.)  That’s the choice in this election.

I’m running so we can keep moving forward to a future where we control our own energy.  Our dependence on foreign oil is at the lowest point it’s been in 16 years.  (Applause.)  By the middle of the next decade, our cars will average nearly 55 miles per gallon.  (Applause.)  Thousands of Americans have jobs — including here in Iowa — because the production of renewable energy has nearly doubled in just three years in this country.  (Applause.)

Now is not the time to cut these investments just to keep giving billions in tax giveaways to oil companies.  They’ve never been more profitable.  Now is the time to double down on biofuels and solar and wind, clean energy that’s never been more promising for our economy and our security and for the safety of the planet.  (Applause.)  That’s the choice in this election, Iowa.
Now, for the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq.  (Applause.)  Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country.  (Applause.)  Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and by 2014, the war in Afghanistan will be over. (Applause.)

And all this was made possible because of the courage and selflessness of our men and women in uniform — (applause) — which is why, on Memorial Day, we’re going to remember them.  And I’m going to actually be talking especially about our Vietnam vets.  They weren’t honored the way they were supposed to when they came home.  (Applause.)  And we’re not going to make that mistake again.  So as long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, this country will care for our veterans and serve them as well as they’ve served us.  (Applause.)  Because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job, or a roof over their heads when they come home.  (Applause.)  That’s why I’m running for President.

My opponent has got a different view.  He said it was “tragic” to end the war in Iraq.  He won’t set a timeline to end the war in Afghanistan.  And I have, and I intend to keep it.  (Applause.)  Because after a decade of war that’s cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, the nation we need to build is our own.  (Applause.)  So I want to use — so we’re going to use half of what we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our deficit, and the rest to invest in education and research, to repair our roads and bridges, our runways, our wireless networks.  (Applause.)

That’s the choice in this election, Iowa.

I’m running to pay down our debt in a way that’s balanced and responsible.  Now, I know Governor Romney came to Des Moines last week; warned about a “prairie fire of debt.”  That’s what he said.  (Laughter.)  But he left out some facts.  His speech was more like a cow pie of distortion.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know whose record he twisted the most — mine or his.  (Laughter.)

Now, listen, the debt and the deficit are serious problems and it is true that the depth of the recession added to the debt. A lot more folks were looking for unemployment insurance.  A lot fewer folks were paying taxes because they weren’t making money, so that added to the debt.  Our efforts to prevent it from becoming a depression — helping the auto industry, making sure that not as many teachers were laid off — all those things added to the debt.

But what my opponent didn’t tell you was that federal spending since I took office has risen at the slowest pace of any President in almost 60 years.  (Applause.)  By the way, what generally happens — what happens is, the Republicans run up the tab, and then we’re sitting there and they’ve left the restaurant, and then they point and — “Why did you order all those steaks and martinis?”  (Laughter.)  What he did not also tell you was that after inheriting a $1 trillion deficit, I signed $2 trillion of spending cuts into law.

So now I want to finish the job –- yes, by streamlining government — we’ve got more work to do; yes, by cutting more waste; but also by reforming our tax code so that it is simpler and fairer, and so that it asks the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more.  (Applause.)

Oh, by the way, something else he didn’t mention, something else he didn’t tell you — he hasn’t told you how he’d paid for a new $5 trillion tax cut which includes a 25 percent tax cut for nearly every millionaire in the country.


THE PRESIDENT:  Five trillion dollars in new tax cuts — that is like trying to put a fire out — a prairie fire with some gasoline.  (Applause.)

So we’re not going to do that.  I refuse to let that happen to our country.  We’re not going to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut by eliminating medical research that’s helping people with cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.  We’re not going to pay for it by shortchanging farmers in rural America.  We’re not going to pay for it by kicking some kids out of Head Start, or asking students to pay more for college, or eliminating health insurance for millions of poor and elderly, and Americans on disabilities who are all on Medicaid.  (Applause.)

And as long as I’m President, we’re not going to allow Medicare to be turned into a voucher that would end the program as we know it.  (Applause.)  We’re going to reform Medicare not by shifting the cost of care to seniors — that’s easy to do, but it’s wrong.  We’re going to reform it by reducing the actual costs of health care, reducing the spending that doesn’t make people healthier.  (Applause.)  That’s the right thing to do.

That’s what at stake, Iowa.  That’s why I’m running for reelection.  (Applause.)

On issue after issue, we can’t afford to spend the next four years just going backwards.  We don’t need to re-fight the battle we just had over Wall Street reform.  That was the right thing to do.  We’ve seen how important it is.  We don’t need to re-fight the battle we just had over health care reform — having 2.5 million young people stay on their parent’s health insurance — that was the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  Cutting prescription drug costs for seniors — right thing to do.  We’re not going to go back to the days when insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policies, or deny you coverage, or charge women differently from men.  We’re not going back to that. (Applause.)

We don’t need another political fight about ending a woman’s right to choose, or getting rid of Planned Parenthood — (applause) — or taking away affordable birth control.  We don’t need that.  (Applause.)  I want women to control their own health choices, just like I want my daughters to have the same economic opportunities as my sons.  We’re not turning back the clock.  (Applause.)  We’re not going back there.

We’re not going back to the days when you could be kicked out of the military just because of who you are and who you love. We’re moving forward as a country, where everybody is treated with dignity and respect.  Moving forward.  (Applause.)

We’re not going to just stand back while $10 million checks are speaking louder than the voices of ordinary citizens in our elections.  We recognize that’s a problem.

And it’s time to stop denying citizenship to responsible young people just because they’re the children of undocumented immigrants.  (Applause.)  Look, you know what, this country is at its best when we harness the God-given talents of every individual, when we hear every voice, when we come together as one American family all striving for the same American Dream.  That’s what we’re fighting for.  That’s why I’m running for a second term.  That’s why I need your help.  (Applause.)

You know, let me say this — this election is going to be even closer than the last one.  And by the way, the last one was close.  People don’t remember — it was close.  Everybody remembers Grant Park — it was close.  We’re going to have to contend with even more negative ads.  We’ve got these super PACs and shadowy special interests, like the ones you’ve been bombarded with.  You guys just got hit here in Iowa.  We’ll have to overcome more cynicism and nastiness and just some plain foolishness even more than we did the last time.

But the outcome of this election, it’s entirely up to you.  I’m going to be working hard.  Michelle is out there working hard.  (Applause.)  But there’s one thing we learned — there’s nothing more powerful than millions of voices calling for change.

Michelle and I, we were talking the other night over dinner, and I told her we were coming back to Iowa, and she said something — it’s absolutely true — she said, I remember back in the first campaign that we would be reading all these news reports and watching the news, and everything looked terrible and everybody was counting us out.  And then I’d come to Iowa, and I’d see what was going on, on the ground and I’d be meeting people and talking to people.  It wasn’t necessarily that it was a sure thing that we were going to win.  But what was being reflected out there, that wasn’t what was happening here.  That wasn’t what ordinary folks were thinking.

So she just stopped watching TV — or at least the news part of it.  She still watches HDTV and some other things — “Dancing with the Stars.”  (Laughter.)  But this place taught us that not that we’re always right, not that we don’t make mistakes, but that there’s just a core decency and strength and resilience to the American people, and that, ultimately, the conversations that are going on around kitchen tables and at the VFW hall and in churches, those conversations aren’t what’s reflected in the cable news.

And so, when I look out at this crowd, all these different faces — different ages, different races, different faiths — I’m reminded of that.  And when enough of you knock on enough doors and pick up enough phones, and talk to your friends or your neighbors and your coworkers — and you’re doing it respectfully and you’re talking to folks who don’t agree with you, you’re talking to people who are good people, but maybe they don’t have all the information — when you make that happen, when you decide it’s time for change to happen, you know what, change happens.  Change comes to America.  (Applause.)

It’s always easier to be cynical.  It’s always easier to say nothing can change, especially after we’ve gone through such a tough time.  And despite all the changes we’ve made, despite all the good things we’ve done, things are still tough.  And so, the other side, they are going to try and play on that sense that, well, things aren’t perfect, Congress is still arguing, the politics is still polarized.  But you’re the antidote to that.

And that’s the spirit we need again.  So if people ask you what this campaign is about, you tell them, yes, it’s still about hope.  It is still about change.  It’s still about ordinary folks who believe that in the face of great odds, we can make a difference in the life of this country.  (Applause.)  Don’t let them tell you different.  (Applause.)

You proved it in 2008.  Without you — I look around this place, I see folks who were out there knocking on doors and making things happen — I would not have had the privilege of being your President.  You were the first ones to make this country believe we could still come together around a common purpose.  (Applause.)

And I still believe that today.  I still believe that we’re not as divided as our politics suggest.  I still believe we have more in common than the experts tell us.  I still believe we’re not Democrats or Republicans first, we are Americans first.  (Applause.)

I still believe in you.  And I want you to keep believing in me.  (Applause.)  Some of you remember — because I’ve spent a lot of time here, I used to go around and I would tell you — I warned you and if you weren’t listening, Michelle would tell you — I warned you I’m not a perfect man and I wouldn’t be a perfect President.  But what I told you was I promised you I would always tell you what I thought and I’d always tell you where I stood, even when it politically wasn’t convenient.  And I would wake up every single day, fighting as hard as I know how for you and your families and your children’s future.

And, Iowa, I have kept that promise.  I have kept that promise.  (Applause.)  And I will keep it as long as I have the honor of being your President.  So if you’re willing to stick with me and fight with me and press on with me, and if you’re willing to work even harder than you did the last time, we’ll move this country forward and we’ll finish what we started.  And we’ll remind the world just why it is America is the greatest nation on Earth.

God bless you.  God bless America.

7:50 P.M. CDT

Political Headlines May 24, 2012: Senates Rejects Both Democratic & Republican Versions of the Bill to Keep Student Loan Rates Low — Dems 51-43 & GOP 34-62




Dueling Student Loan Bills Rejected in Senate


The Senate made one last gesture this month to work on the Student Loan bill, but Democratic and Republican versions both failed in a last-minute, and half-hearted, attempt Thursday before lawmakers leave for a week-long Memorial Day holiday.

The Democratic bill failed by a 51-43 vote. The Republican alternative failed by a 34-62 vote. Both bills needed 60 votes for passage.

Both Republicans and Democrats believe the subsidized Stafford loan rates should not be doubled from the current 3.4 percent to 7.6 percent. Leaders of both parties say the current rates should be extended for at least another year.

But they cannot agree to how to pay for the $6 billion bill….READ MORE

Vote Date Question Result Description
00113 24-May On Passage of the Bill Rejected S. 2343; A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to extend the reduced interest rate for Federal Direct Stafford Loans, and for other purposes.
00112 24-May On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2153 Rejected Alexander Amdt. No. 2153; In the nature of a substitute.


Statement by the Press Secretary on Student Loan Interest Rate Votes in the Senate

With only 37 days left to stop student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1, Senate Republicans still have not proven that they’re serious about resolving this problem.  For the second time this month, they voted to ask millions of students to pay an average of $1,000 each rather than close a loophole that allows the very wealthy to avoid paying their fair share.  Now is not the time to refight old political battles, and certainly not the time to cut preventive health care measures.  With only a few days left until student loan interest rates double, it’s time to get this done so hard working students get a fair shot at an affordable education.

Full Text Obama Presidency May 24, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Discusses Clean Energy Agenda in Iowa




President Obama Touts Clean Energy Agenda in Iowa

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-24-12

Visiting the critical battleground state of Iowa Thursday, President Obama touted his election-year energy agenda and urged Republican lawmakers to put politics aside and back his proposals to boost the economy.

“Too many of my Republican friends in Congress are standing in the way.  They either want to do nothing at all or they want to double down on the same failed policies that got us into this mess,” the president told workers in the blue-collar town of Newton, Iowa.

Obama has been publicly pushing lawmakers to act on his “honey-do” list for Congress, five items that he has been promoting for months, but that have gained little traction on Capitol Hill….READ MORE

President Obama Talks Clean Energy in Iowa

Source: WH, 5-24-12

President Barack Obama at TPI Composites Iowa’s wind turbine blade facility (May 24, 2012)
cPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks urging Congress to act on the “To Do List” and highlighting the need to invest in clean energy by passing legislation, at TPI Composites Iowa’s wind turbine blade facility in Newton, Iowa, May 24, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

In Iowa this afternoon, President Obama continued to press lawmakers to take action on his To-Do List for Congress.

He traveled to Newton to push for the renewal of a tax credit for companies that produce clean energy. The credit currently supports as many as 37,000 jobs.

His host for the visit was TPI Composites — a company that makes blades for wind turbines and employs more 700 people.

“If Congress doesn’t act, companies like this one will take a hit,” he said. “Jobs will be lost. That’s not a guess, that’s a fact. We can’t let that happen.”

Currently, 20 percent of all the electricity used in the Iowa is generated by wind power, and there are currently more wind power jobs in the state than in any other in America.

Overall, the United States generates enough electricity from wind to power 10 million homes. And there are 500 production facilities in 43 states putting people to work in that industry.

Later, he answered questions about the To-Do List on Twitter.


Remarks by the President on Energy in Newton, Iowa

TPI Composites
Newton, Iowa

4:30 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Iowa!  (Applause.)  Well, it is good to be back in Newton!  (Applause.)  It’s been a while.  It’s good to be back in Iowa.  It’s brought back memories — of a lot of driving.  (Laughter.)  And I just had a great tour of this facility.  By the way, if people have chairs, feel free to sit down.  (Laughter.)  Some of you may not have seats, but I want to make everybody comfortable.  But don’t worry, I’m not going to talk that long.  I didn’t want to give that impression.

I just had a wonderful tour of this facility.  And I was telling some of the folks we couldn’t take the helicopters in because the winds were too strong, so you are definitely in the right business.  (Laughter.)  Obviously there’s some wind power here in Iowa that we want to tap.

I want to thank Quinten for the terrific introduction and for sharing his story.  Give Quinten a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Quinten was telling my team this is the first time he’s ever spoken in public.  But he looked like a pro to me.  (Applause.)

I want to thank your mayor, Mayor Allen, for welcoming us here today.  (Applause.)  I also want to thank Representative Dave Loebsack for being here.  Give Dave a big round of applause. (Applause.)  And I know he had to leave early, but I just want to acknowledge somebody you know well — our outstanding Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.  (Applause.)  Tom was instrumental in helping transform Newton and he’s still got your back.  He is still fighting every single day for every single person in this town, but all across rural America.  And so we’re very proud of him.

Now, we all know how difficult these past few years have been for the country.  Iowa has actually done a little better than some other states, but it’s still been tough.  And after the worst recession of our lifetimes, it’s going to take some time for the economy to fully recover — more time than a lot of us would like.  And we’re still facing some headwinds, like the situation in Europe right now, which is having an impact on our economy.

But while there’s certain economic developments we can’t control, there are a bunch of things that we can control.  There are plenty of steps that we can take right now — steps that we must take right now — to speed up this recovery and to create jobs, and to restore some of the financial security that a lot of families have lost.  It’s within our control to do all of that right now.  But here’s the thing — (applause.)  It’s true, we can make that difference.

The challenge we’ve got is that too many folks aren’t on the same page.  We’ve got too many of my dear Republican friends in Congress that have been standing in the way of some steps that we could take that would make a difference at the moment.  Either they say they don’t want to do anything at all, or they don’t want to do it before the election, or they want to double down on some of the policies that didn’t work and helped to get us into this mess in the first place.

And Newton knows something about that — because Newton lost manufacturing.  Newton lost Maytag.  A lot of the trends that we had seen even before the financial crisis hit, hit Newton first. And so when you hear somebody say we should cut more taxes, especially for the wealthiest Americans, well, Newton, you’ve been there and you’ve done that.  We did that — 2000, 2001, 2003.  When you hear people say that we should cut back more on the rules we put in place for banks and financial institutions to avoid another taxpayer bailout — well, we tried that.  When people say that we should just wait until the housing market hits bottom and hope that it comes back, hope for the best — well, that’s not an answer for people.  That doesn’t make sense.

We’ve tried at lot of these ideas for nearly a decade.  It did not work.  We saw manufacturing moving offshore.  We saw a few people do very well, but too many families struggling just to get by — all before the financial crisis hit.  And the financial crisis made it worse.  So we can’t go backwards.  We’ve got to move forward.  We’ve got to build an economy where hard work and responsibility pay off, where you can find a good job and own your own home, maybe start your own businesses and give your kids a chance for a better future.  (Applause.)  That’s the American way.  That’s who we are.  (Applause.)

So I’ve been pushing Congress to help us get there by passing a few common-sense policies that would strengthen the economy and put more folks to work right now.  We even made a handy “To-Do” list that they can check off.  It’s just like the to-do list Michelle gives me, a “honey-do” list.  (Laughter.)  There are only five things on it, on this “To-Do” list, but these are all things we could get done before the election.  We don’t have to wait until then.  There are some things that we should put ahead of politics, and one of them is making sure that the economy is moving forward and the recovery is moving forward.  (Applause.)

And like I said, I kept it simple.  There are just five things.  I didn’t want to overload Congress with too much at once.  (Laughter.)  But these are all ideas that will make a difference right now and we shouldn’t wait for an election to get them done.

So first up on the list, it makes no sense that we’re actually still giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs and factories overseas.  That doesn’t make sense at all.  That doesn’t make any sense.  (Applause.)  So what I’ve asked Congress to do is end tax breaks for companies that are shipping jobs overseas, use that money to cover the moving expenses for companies that are bringing jobs back to the United States of America.  That’s a common-sense approach.  (Applause.)

Second, we’ve asked Congress to give every responsible homeowner — folks who have been making their mortgage payments  — the opportunity to save an average of $3,000 a year by refinancing their mortgage and taking advantage of these historically low rates.  The problem is a lot of folks are having trouble refinancing if their home is underwater, if it’s worth less than their mortgage, and sometimes banks have been pulling back a little bit.  We want to make it easier for people to refinance.  So that’s the second thing because that will create  — that will put more money in the economy for everybody.  And if you’ve got an extra $3,000 in your pocket, then you’ll go shopping, you’ll go out to a restaurant — suddenly there’s a lot more money circulating and the economy gets stronger.  So that’s the second thing.

Two weeks ago I was in Reno, Nevada, with a family — they got a chance to refinance because of some steps that we had already taken administratively, and it’s making a huge difference in their lives.  And we want all families to have that same opportunity.

Third thing, instead of just talking about job creators — you always hear — every member of Congress has said, we’ve got to help the job creators.  Okay, let’s help them.  Congress should help small business owners who create most of the new jobs in America — small business owners — (Applause.)  So what we want to do is give them a tax break for hiring more workers and for paying them higher wages.  Give them an incentive to say, you know what, if on the margins maybe I’m thinking about hiring that extra person, if I get a tax break it makes that person a little bit cheaper to hire, and that can put more of our neighbors and friends back to work.  So that’s a common-sense idea.  (Applause.)

Fourth thing, we have done a whole lot to make sure that those men and women who have served us in Iraq and Afghanistan, that we are serving them as well as they’ve served us — (applause) — treating them with the honor and respect that they have earned when they come home.  (Applause.)  So we put together the Post-9/11 GI Bill so they’re able to go back and get some training and skills.  We mobilized the private sector to hire more veterans and give them the private sector incentives to hire more veterans.

But there’s another thing we can do.  Congress should create what we’re calling a Veterans Jobs Corps, so that we can help communities across America put our returning heroes back to work as police officers and firefighters and park rangers.  Nobody who fought for our country overseas should have to fight for a job when they come back home.  We’ve still got too much unemployment among our veterans.  (Applause.)

So those are four simple things.  And the fifth thing is the reason why I’m here today.  The fifth item on my “To-Do” list — I’m calling on Congress to extend tax credits that are set to expire at the end of the year for clean-energy companies like TPI.  (Applause.)  Let’s not wait.  Let’s do it now.  (Applause.)

Many of you know the story of what’s happening here better than I do, but I just want to remind you how far we’ve come.  Shortly after I took office, I came to Newton — some of you remember — and we unveiled an all-of-the-above energy strategy for America.  We said let’s produce more oil and gas, but let’s also produce more biofuels; let’s produce more fuel-efficient cars; let’s produce more solar and wind powerand other sources of clean, renewable energy.  And I came to Newton because Newton is helping to lead the way when it comes to building wind turbines.

And since then, our dependence on foreign oil has gone down every single year that I’ve been in office — every single year. (Applause.)  America is now producing more domestic oil than any time in the last eight years.  But we’re also producing more natural gas, and we’re producing more biofuels than any time in our history.  And that’s good for the Iowa economy.  (Applause.) We’re laying the foundation for some of our nation’s first offshore wind farms.  And since I became President, America has nearly doubled the use of renewable energy, like solar power and wind power — we’ve nearly doubled it.  (Applause.)

So this country is on the path towards more energy independence.  And that’s good for everybody.  It’s good for people’s pocketbooks; it’s good for the environment; it’s good for our national security.  We don’t want our economy dependent on something that happens on the other side of the world.  We don’t want every time there’s a scare about war or some regime change in the Middle East that suddenly everybody here is getting socked and the whole economy is going down.

And the best thing is, in the process, we’re also putting thousands of Americans back to work — because the more we rely on American-made energy, the less oil we buy from other countries, the more jobs we create here at home, the more jobs we create here in Iowa.

So let’s look at the wind industry.  It’s so important to Iowa.  This industry, thanks in large part to some very important tax credits, has now taken off.  The state of Iowa now gets nearly 20 percent of all your electricity from wind — 20 percent.  Overall, America now has enough wind capacity to power 10 million homes.  So this is an industry on the rise.  And as you know, it’s an industry that’s putting people to work.  You know this firsthand.  There are more wind power jobs in Iowa than any other state.  That’s a big deal.  (Applause.)

And one of these modern windmills has more than 8,000 different parts — everything from the towers and the blades to the gears, to the electrical switches.  And it used to be that almost all these parts were imported.  Today, more and more of these parts are being made here in America — right here.  (Applause.)  We used to have just a few dozen manufacturing facilities attached to the wind industry.  Today we have nearly 500 facilities in 43 states employing tens of thousands of American workers — tens of thousands.

So we’re making progress.  And you know it better than anybody.  I mean, when I was talking to Quinten and Mark and a whole bunch of the other folks who are working here, they reminded me of the experience at working at Maytag and putting your heart and soul into a company and making a great product, and then, suddenly having that company leave, and how hard that was for families and how hard it was for the community.  But folks made the transition.

And now, when you look at what’s happening here — 700 to 800 jobs, over $30 million being put back into the community — this gives folks hope.  It gives people opportunity.  I met some folks who have been in manufacturing for 30 years, but I also met a couple of young folks who were just getting started.  And that’s what we’re looking for.  Nobody wants a handout.  Nobody wants to get something for nothing.  But if we’ve got a chance to create energy and create value and put people back to work, why wouldn’t we do that?

So I’m here today because, as much progress as we’ve made, that progress is in jeopardy.  If Congress doesn’t act, those tax credits that I mentioned — the ones that helped build up the wind industry, the ones that helped to bring all these jobs to Newton, those tax credits will expire at the end of the year if Congress doesn’t do anything.

If Congress doesn’t act, companies like this one will take a hit.  Jobs will be lost.  That’s not a guess, that’s a fact.  We can’t let that happen.  And keep in mind that — and this is something Congress needs to understand — Dave Loebsack understands it, but I want every member of Congress to understand it.  These companies that are putting in orders for these amazing blades, they’re making plans now.  They’re making decisions now. So if they’re cutting back on their orders, if they’re not confident that the industry is going to be moving at a fast clip and they start reducing orders here, that affects you.  You can’t wait for six months.  You can’t wait for eight months.  You can’t wait for a year to get this done.  It’s got to be done now.  (Applause.)

So this is a simple thing on Congress’s “To-Do” list — extend these tax credits.  Do it now.  Every day they don’t act business grows more concerned that they will not be renewed.  They’re worried demand for their products is going down, so they start thinking twice about expanding, more cautious about making new investments.  They start looking overseas.  I was talking to your CEO.  We got an opportunity to branch out, but we want to branch out by making the stuff here and then sending it there.  We don’t want to branch out by sending the jobs and the investments over there, and then shipping it back to America.  That doesn’t make sense.  (Applause.)  One company that had plans to invest $100 million to build a wind manufacturing plant in Arkansas — and create hundreds of jobs –- put those plans on hold.

And by the way, this should not be a partisan issue.  There are several Republican governors –- including the governor of this state -– who are calling on Congress to act.  There are members of Congress in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle –- including your two senators –- who support these tax credits.  And that doesn’t happen much in Washington where Democrats and Republicans say they agree on something.  So if you agree, why haven’t we gotten it done yet?

This is not just an issue, by the way, for the wind industry.   Some of America’s most prominent companies -– from Starbucks to Campbell’s Soup –- they’re calling on Congress to act because they use renewable energy.

Sometimes when I think about Washington and Congress — and I know some of you think the same way — I don’t get it.  I understand why we wouldn’t get something if we really disagree on something.  And there are some big disagreements:  They want to make big cuts to pay for more big tax cuts for the wealthy.  I disagree with that.  I think we should have a balanced approach  — cut waste, but make sure that everybody is paying their fair share.  (Applause.)  An issue like that, maybe it can’t get settled before an election because they just have a different approach.  I understand that.  But this, everybody says they agree to or at least a lot of people agree to it.

So I’m going to need your help.  I need you to get involved. I need you to help get this done.  I need everybody here in Newton — and I mean everybody — I don’t just mean folks who work at TPI — anybody who’s watching, everybody here in Iowa, pick up the phone, send an email, send a tweet, tell Congress, let’s do the right thing.  Tell Congress the story of Newton.  Tell folks why it’s so important to this community.  Tell them we’ve come too far to turn back now.  (Applause.)

It used to be Newton was known for building washers and dryers, used to be Newton was known for Maytag.  And obviously they were a big employer — thousands of people working in the area.  But back in 2007 when they closed down the operations here, that was a major blow.  And everybody here, if you don’t — if you weren’t affected personally by it, you were affected indirectly.  Your friends, your neighbors, friends like Quinten were forced to start all over again.  And he didn’t give up.  You didn’t give up.  You kept pushing ahead.  Some of you had to retrain.  Pretty soon after one industry had left, another showed up.  Some of the facilities that Maytag closed were reopened.  So a lot of folks who used to build washers and dryers, now they’re part of the future, building an industry that’s going to make America stronger.  That’s the story of Newton.  That’s the story of America.

So, yes, we’re facing tough times, but we’re getting through them.  We’re getting through them together — because in this country, just like in Newton, we don’t give up.  We keep moving. We keep moving forward.  And if we work together with a common purpose, we will get this economy back on track — and remind everybody why America is the greatest country on Earth.

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

4:55 P.M. CDT

Campaign Headlines May 24, 2012: NBC News/Marist Poll: Obama has Close Lead over Romney in Key Battleground States Ohio, Florida & Virginia




Polls: Obama leads in key states of Ohio, Fla. and Va.


President Obama and Mitt Romney

Source: USA Today 5-24-12

New polls give President Obama narrow leads in three states that may well decide the 2012 election: Ohio, Florida and Virginia.

Obama leads Mitt Romney in Ohio by 48%-42%, according to the NBC News/Marist Poll; no Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio.

In Florida, Obama has a 48%-44% lead over Romney, says the Marist poll. Florida is another classic swing state, and decided the 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

(Remember, polls are polls, however: A recent survey by Quinnipiac University gave Romney a six-point lead in Florida; the Republican/Democratic makeup of the polling sample accounts for many of the differences.)…READ MORE

NBC/Marist polls: Obama leads close swing-state races

Source: Politico, 5-24-12
New battleground polling out this morning from NBC News and Marist College:

President Barack Obama holds a narrow advantage over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in three of the most pivotal presidential battleground states — Florida, Ohio and Virginia — according to new NBC-Marist polls.

But in each of these states, Obama’s share of the vote is below the 50 percent threshold usually considered safe haven for an incumbent president, and Romney has narrowed the margin in these three battlegrounds since earlier this year.

In Florida and Virginia, Obama leads Romney by identical 4-point margins, 48 percent to 44 percent … In Ohio, the president is ahead by 6 points, 48 percent to 42 percent….READ MORE

Campaign Headlines May 24, 2012: Obama Campaign Stays on Attack Releases New Ad on Romney’s Iowa State Corporation Comment — Romney Goes Positive with New Day One Ad




Obama Hits Rewind, Romney Looks Forward in New Ads

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-24-12

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Obama campaign wants to turn back the clock.  The Romney campaign wants to hit fast forward.

All week long the difference in messages coming from the two teams has been striking.  President Obama’s ad makers have kept a laser-like focus on Mitt Romney’s business dealings at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded nearly three decades ago.

On Thursday, the Obama team is out with a new video looking back at Romney’s memorable appearance last year at the Iowa State Fair when he declared, “corporations are people, my friend.”…

And to underscore that strategy, the Romney campaign unveiled a new campaign ad Thursday morning — part of their “Day One” series — that attempts to answer, “What would a Romney Presidency be like?”…READ MORE

Romney For President Releases Television Ad, “Day One, Part Two”

Source: Mitt Romney Press, 5-24-12

Today, Romney for President released a new television advertisement titled “Day One, Part Two.” On day one of his presidency, Mitt Romney will reverse President Obama’s failed policies by ending the era of big government, standing up to China, and repealing job-killing regulations.

To View “Day One, Part Two” Please See:

AD FACTS: Script For “Day One, Part Two”

VIDEO TEXT: “What would a Romney Presidency be like?”

VOICEOVER: “What would a Romney Presidency be like?”

VIDEO TEXT: “Day 01”

VOICEOVER: “Day one, President Romney announces deficit reductions, ending the Obama era of big government, helping secure our kids’ futures.”

VIDEO TEXT: “End Obama era of Big Government”

VOICEOVER: “President Romney stands up to China on trade and demands they play by the rules.”

VIDEO TEXT: “Make China Play By The Rules”

VOICEOVER: “President Romney begins repealing job-killing regulations that are costing the economy billions.”

VIDEO TEXT: “Repeal Job-killing Regulations”

VOICEOVER: “That’s what a Romney Presidency will be like.”

MITT ROMNEY: “I’m Mitt Romney and I approve this message.”

A Better America: Day One, Part Two


Romney at the Iowa State Fairgrounds “corporations are people”

Full Text Political Headlines May 23, 2012: Sen. Marco Rubio Laments Divisive & Partisan Politics in Keynote Address at the Latino Coalition’s Annual Economic Summit in Washington, DC — Speech Transcript




Sen. Marco Rubio Laments Divisive Politics

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-23-12

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Speaking before a crowd of Latino business leaders, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., lamented the state of politics, accusing politicians of fostering a culture of partisanship and campaigning on a message of division.  Without mentioning President Obama by name, Rubio swiped at the president for failing to deliver on his promise of “hope” that both sides of the aisle craved.

“The one that’s troubled me the most is this deliberate division of the American people against each other.  Last three and a half years after our elections, irrespective of how you felt about how they turned out, we all had hope that this nation would embark at a new moment, where somehow we would rise above the petty politics of the moment and have a real honest societal wide conversation about what kind of country we want to be, what kind of role we want to play in the world, and what kind of role we want our government to play in our lives. Well any hope of that is now gone,” Rubio said during his keynote address at the Latino Coalition’s Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C., Wednesday afternoon. “What you have today is nothing less than a wholesale effort to pit one group of Americans against each other on issue after issue.”…READ MORE

Rubio Addresses The Latino Coalition’s Annual Economic Summit

Rubio: “It’s not fair for the story of America to end with us. On the contrary, the way I hope to render tribute to my parents and my grandparents, the way we should hope to give a lasting tribute to our parents and our grandparents is to ensure that the America they made possible and left for us does not end with us, but in fact, continues to shine for decades and even centuries to come.”

Senator Marco Rubio
Speech at The Latino Coalition’s Annual Economic Summit
May 23, 2012 empezar brevemente en español.  Tenemos prensa aquí en español y quiero darles un poco de un mensaje que pueden llevar hacia a los televidentes y a los radioescuchas que tendrán la oportunidad de escuchar este día. Primero es un honor para mí recibir este premio, lo cual no siento que me lo merezco pero me lo tendré que ganar ahora en el tiempo que tenga aquí en los próximos cuatro años y medio en el Senado en los Estados Unidos.

Para mi siempre es especial en estos momentos que puedo venir no solamente aceptar de parte de esta comunidad, si no también a dar tributo a mis padres, a mis abuelos y a mi comunidad por los sacrificios que hicieron por todos nosotros.  Cada uno de nosotros entendemos esa realidad porque es la historia de nuestra vida.  Nos encontramos aquí en el día de hoy porque hay personas que se sacrificaron por nosotros.  Y creo que más que cualquier otra comunidad en este país tenemos una obligación especial de proteger esa parte del legado americano.  Tenemos una obligación especial de proteger esa identidad de este país de ser un lugar donde cualquiera puede lograr cualquier cosa si está dispuesto a trabajar y sacrificarse.  Eso no puede terminar con nosotros.  Ese tipo de país no puede terminar con nosotros. Y vuelvo y repito, más que cualquier otra comunidad nosotros lo hemos vivido y por eso tenemos una sagrada obligación de mantenerlo y protegerlo para nuestros hijos y para nuestros nietos. Así que muchísimas gracias.  Se los agradezco mucho.

For those that do not speak Spanish, I gave a brief synopsis of how I saved a bunch of money on my car insurance.

Thank you so much for this opportunity. I’m honored and I’m privileged to be here with you today and to receive this award, which I’m not sure I deserve, but now I’ll have to earn. I appreciate it so much, particularly because of what it means. Obviously, it is named after an individual who, as you saw from the short video, his story is very typical of our story. The story of a person who spent their entire lives not just accomplishing things for himself, but more importantly opening doors and pathways for their children and grandchildren.

This is a typical American story and yet it’s also one unique to each of us. And no community in this country understands that more than the community made up of Americans of Hispanic descent. I begin today by just examining the current state of affairs because we’re called to remember who we are and how we got here at a moment of great uncertainty. That’s not a remarkable observation for any of you, perhaps you’re living those moments of uncertainty.

All around us people are really concerned about the future. This downturn seems different. We’ve lived through downturns before even in recent memory, whether it was the dot-com bust or post-9/11, we have seen the downturn before. But this one feels different, and rightfully so. It feels longer and perhaps even more permanent. There are a lot of factors behind this downturn. There obviously were shocking things that happened in the financial markets and continue to happen in Europe. There is continuing bad news about the debt as it grows and creates greater uncertainty over us. There’s divisive politics where people are constantly being pitted against each other. And tragically there’s this pervasive sense that perhaps this is the beginning of a long and steady decline. That the America that our parents and grandparents found when they came here, the America you found when you came here, the America that you were raised in, and the America that allowed you to reach this point in your life is gone. That somehow that America is over and we’re entering a new era where our nation will be less special and less unique. That’s the sense that you get from some people.

What I want to do here over the next few moments is try to outline to you why that doesn’t need to be the case. And what special role I believe our community plays in ensuring that is not the case.

I begin with the economics of what we’re facing today. The modern debate about a lot of times they’re constantly trying to differentiate between the debt and jobs, as if they’re two separate issues. And yet, they’re intricately related to one another. Now certainly we need spending reforms in this country. You cannot have a government that continues to spend a lot more money than it takes in. But the single most important thing we can do to bring our debt problem under control is rapid growth in our economy. And yet, one of the things that stands in the way of rapid growth in our economy is our debt. These two issues are interrelated. And as Europe is having this debate about whether it’s time for austerity or growth, the answer is you cannot have one without the other. In this country or anywhere on this planet. The two issues are interrelated.

How does growth begin? Well I’m in a room full of people that have started businesses, so you don’t need a lecture from me on how growth begins, but let’s remind ourselves. Growth is very simple. Growth happens when someone starts a new business or when someone grows a business that now exists. That’s growth. And when you grow you create jobs. And when you create jobs people earn a paycheck, which they can use to pay things like their mortgage and their kids’ college education. Not to mention spend it in other businesses, who then go employ people themselves.

But today that growth isn’t happening. And more than anything else that’s probably what’s leading to the sense of anxiety across our country, is that we are not growing. Our economy is not growing the way we expect it to grow as Americans or the way we have seen it grow in the past. In essence those businesses are not being created and those jobs are not being churned out. What are the reasons for that? Because if you don’t understand the reasons you cannot solve it. And the reasons are pretty straightforward. I know sometimes we’re in a process where people want there to be some sort of novel new approach, but the basics of economics have not changed. And the basics that are impeding our country from moving forward are not difficult to understand.

There is significant uncertainty about the future of our tax code. We don’t know what it’s going to be on January first of this year. We know what it is today, and that is one of the most complicated and burdensome in the world. And it’s not just the tax rate that people pay, it’s what it costs to figure it out. And so the tax code is a real impediment. And the lack of any plan as to what it’s going to look like in just a few months is making things harder, not easier, to start a business or grow an existing one.

There is also extraordinary regulatory uncertainty. Now look, we need regulations. We want our water to be clean. We want our air to be breathable. We don’t want people cheating the system. But there’s a problem when those regulations go too far. When they seem to exist solely for the purpose of justifying the existence of the regulators. When these bureaucracies that enforce them somehow do not undertake any sort of cost-benefit analysis when they employ these regulations that they put in place. There’s something wrong when federal bureaucrats openly gloat about how they’re going to crucify businesses in order to make an example out of them. And there’s been no shortage of runaway regulations in the last decade, but especially in the last three years. The National Labor Relations Board alone is a source of continuous consternation for anyone who is trying to start a business or expand an existing business.

We’ve seen the energy sector, one of the most promising sectors in our country’s future, being specifically targeted. And we have seen this health care law, which is nothing but a string of rules one after the other, create extraordinary uncertainty. That is not a partisan observation. I did not make that up. I have heard that from real job creators. From people who own businesses with fifteen and twenty employees who have told me they are afraid of this law because they do not know what it means and they cannot figure out how much it’s going to cost them to comply with it. These are not bad people. These are not folks that want to deny their employees’ health care, but they can’t be in business if they can’t make money. And they have no idea how much it’s going to cost them to comply with ObamaCare. This is not a partisan observation. This is what people told me throughout my campaign and continue to tell me today. By the way, not people in Fortune 500 companies, people in companies that employ five, ten, or fifteen people.

There’s also anti-business rhetoric in American politics. Where people today are told that the reason why our economy is not doing well is because some people are making too much money. That the root cause of our decline economically is because there are corporations and individuals in the private sector who are doing too well. And that anti-business rhetoric, combined with regulations, combined with a complicated tax code, make it harder, not easier, for people to start a business or grow an existing one. Add to all of that the fact that we have missed golden opportunities and continue to miss them right now.

For example, we have an immigration system, a legal immigration system, that’s broken. A legal immigration system that makes it harder for someone who has millions of dollars to invest, to come to this country legally and invest it. A legal immigration system that educates the world’s best Ph.D.’s and Master’s degree holders and then we ask them to leave. And an immigration system in a country that has hundreds of thousands of young people that have grown up among us, who find themselves in an undocumented status through no fault of their own, and who now desire to contribute to America’s future, and yet because of partisan politics we have been unable to figure out a way to accommodate them within the confines of our heritage as a nation of laws, but also our legacy as a nation of immigrants.

There’s also our educational system. And I understand that Governor Romney spoke to you about it earlier today. The federal government has a limited role to play when it comes to education. True innovation in education happens at the state level, but I can tell you from the federal level it is very clear where our educational system is lacking. There are literally hundreds of thousands of jobs available in America today that go unfilled because not enough people in America are trained to fill them. Our children are not learning to compete and succeed in the 21st century. They’re being taught as if they are going into a world where their competition lives in Mississippi or in Alabama, when in fact it lives in China and India and all over the world. These are things that have to be confronted.

An educational system that sadly has stigmatized career education. At a time where we know that some of the fastest growing professions in America will require less than a four year education, but more than a high school diploma. Look at the unemployment rate among people that only have a high school diploma versus those who have a college degree. It’s a cliché, but it is true: education, the ability to learn a skill, in this century, is indispensable. There are going to be no jobs in the 21st century, literally there will be no new jobs in the 21st century for people that do not have advanced education in some form. We have to provide access to that, as well as affordability. And I’m glad that the nominee of my party has taken the lead in that regard in the hopes of spurring on innovation at the state level that will allow us to take this opportunity and embrace it.

Another missed opportunity, by the way, is some of the emerging industries of the 21st century. We are an energy rich country. Because of recent discoveries, we are the most rich we are the most energy rich country in the world. And yet somehow, we don’t have energy policy in America. We have energy politics. Our allies in Canada have also become energy rich and they recently gave us a choice. They are intent on building a pipeline, so they can transfer that energy wealth and allow it to be sold to the world. And they have two choices: they can run a pipeline through China or they can run a pipeline through the United States. And the government of the United States told them “No, thank you.” This is insane. These are the kind of things that historians write about 100 years from now, when they discuss the decline of a civilization and of a nation. Ridiculous decisions that were made because of politics, not because of policy. The truth is we are an energy rich nation, so much so that in addition to accomplishing energy independence we can become an exporter of energy and the creation of American jobs. This is not a theory. Ask the people of North Dakota, where today it is a fact, where unemployment hovers at under 3% because of advances they have made there in energy technologies.

These are real opportunities that we are walking away from. The tourism industry, one of the great developments of the 21st century is there’s middle class folks all over the world, millions of people, who just a decade ago were living in poor neighborhoods near open sewage, are now members of the middle class with enough money to travel overseas and they want to come here. And sometimes, they can’t even get a visa to come to Orlando and leave thousands of dollars at Disney World or anywhere else that you want them to go. It’s another emerging opportunity for us in the tourism industry, and yet our policies don’t reflect those opportunities.

These are the economic problems that we face. These are the impediments to us economically. But something deeper is happening. We are being challenged on our very identity as a nation and as a people.

Our political system is broken. You’ve heard that so many times before. It bears repeating. I ran because I was frustrated by the political process. Nothing has happened over the last year and a half to change that frustration, unfortunately. Too often times in the United States Senate especially, most of the votes we take are nothing but messaging points. Bills are brought to the floor that people know are not going to pass for one purpose alone: and that’s to give people talking points on the Sunday evening shows.

Our people deserve better. It’s not like we don’t have major issues to confront. But they are not being confronted. The only thing that’s being done in the Senate these days is creating material for television commercials in the fall. And it’s sad.

There’s a lack of urgency too. No one seems in a hurry here to solve anything. There is this notion that somehow things will just solve themselves. That we can wait one more election; we can get away with a few more months. We can’t. These issues will not solve themselves, and the longer they go unresolved the more difficult they become to solve, and the less options we have to solve them with and the more painful those options are. And yet, there is this total lack of urgency.

The exact same issues we were facing two years ago we still face today. This nation and this political process has not solved one single major issue in the last three and a half to four years. In fact, it’s been incapable of even passing a budget. The single largest organization in the world, a $3.8 trillion endeavor called the United States federal government has not had a budget in almost four years.

There’s something even more sinister that’s crept into the political process. And it’s something that actually asks us to abandon the essence of who we’ve always been as a people and as a nation. It starts with this argument that no longer, too often, in politics today do people even want to engage in debate on the issues anymore. It’s no longer about debating jobs plans or tax plans or regulatory plans. They skip straight to trying to convince you that it’s not their ideas that are bad, they are bad. That your political opponents are bad people, that you shouldn’t even listen to them because somehow they don’t care about you or any of us, all they are, are selfish people that care about themselves. And it is impossible for this republic to function if people refuse to debate ideas, and instead skip straight to the direct defamation of their political opponents. And that’s now being celebrated. That’s now being encouraged. It’s now a mark of how good you are in politics if you’re willing to do that. And the more outrageous you’re willing to be, the more attention you get for it.

Now this is not about hurting anyone’s feelings. This is about the fact that we will never solve the issues that we face if all people want to do is debate how bad the other guy is as opposed to debate whether their ideas have merit or not, and whether your ideas are better than their ideas.

But perhaps the one that has troubled me the most is the deliberate division of the American people against each other. The last three and a half years, after our elections, irrespective of how you felt about how they turned out, we all had hope that this nation would embark at a new moment. Where somehow we would rise above the petty politics of the moment, and have a real, honest society wide conversation about what kind of country we want to be, what kind of role we want to play in the world, and what kind of role we want our government to play in our lives. Well, any hope of that is now gone.

What you have today is nothing less than a wholesale effort to pit one group of Americans against each other on issue after issue, to convince people that the reason why things aren’t going well for them is because they are going too well for someone else. To convince people that somehow we can make your life better if only you give us the power to make someone else’s life a little worse. That the reason why you don’t have enough is because someone else has too much.

This un-American idea, quite frankly, that somehow the pie will always be limited, and so we must carve up the limited scope of our economy among a growing number of people. And yet, that has never been who we are. In fact, it is what has distinguished us from the rest of the world.

As a people we have never believed that. Americans have never believed that the way you climb the economic ladder is to pull other people down from it. And I think I can speak for almost anywhere and anyone in this room when I say that our parents never taught us that we could not be successful unless someone else was less successful.

Our parents and grandparents never taught us that the way for us to move up is for our boss and our employer to do worse. They never taught us that there was no way we could ever own our own business unless other people made less money. They never took us through neighborhoods of people that accomplished things and said to us, “You will never be successful as long as these people are too successful.”

On the contrary, I believe that I speak for most of the people in this room and, in fact, most of the people in this nation, when I say that our parents always pointed at people that were successful as a source of inspiration. And said to us: “One day you too can do what they did because you are blessed with the privilege and the honor of living in the single greatest nation that man has ever known.” A place where it doesn’t matter if your parents worked with their hands. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t born into a family that was wealthy or connected. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t go to the right schools or run in the right social circles. If you have a really good idea and you’re willing to work hard, you can accomplish anything you want.

This is what has made us different from the rest of the world. And now, really what we’re being asked to do is abandon that. Whether it’s for political expediency or an effort to advance their own ideological agenda, we are being asked to give up one of the distinguishing characteristics of our society and of our nation. And I for one think that’s a terrible idea. And I know of no community in this country that should reject it more than ours.

And here is why. Because as that video reminds us, the reason why you’re sitting here today has a lot more to do with the people that came here before you than it does with you necessarily. It has to do with your grandparents, who perhaps were born into very difficult circumstances, but did everything they could in the hopes and dreams that you one day would have the chances they would not. It has to do with parents, who gave up their own dreams so you could live yours, who made it the mission and the purpose of their lives for everything that was impossible for them to be possible for you.

All of us have a different story and yet, at the end, it’s the same. It’s the story of the people whose purpose in life was to ensure that we had the chance to do everything that they could not. That all they wanted was for us never to feel the limitations that they felt. Now parents all over the world feel that. That’s neither uniquely Hispanic nor uniquely American.

All over the world, people want their kids to do better than them. All over the world, people want something better for themselves than they have right now. The problem is that all over the world, and for almost all of human history, what you were going to get to do with your life was decided for you before you were even born. If your parents weren’t the right people, or if they didn’t know the right people, you were never going to do anything more than they did. And yet, we have lived a very different life.

We have lived a very different life because our parents worked hard and because they sacrificed. But we really have lived a very different life because we got to live it here. In a place that teaches us that all men and women are created equal. That our rights don’t come from government or our President or even from our laws, that we’re born with them, given to us by our Creator. That no one, no government, no power, no one, has a right to deny us those rights. In fact, anyone who does is illegitimately using power. Those principles are powerful because they created for us the free enterprise system that has made the dreams and hopes of millions of people possible.

And so, as we try to examine how we can continue to be a great nation, don’t fall into the trap of looking to our politics. Our politics are important. There is a role for our politics to play. We need roads and bridges that aren’t crumbling. We need schools that teach our children. We need tax laws that can be complied with. We need regulations that make sense. But our politics and our politicians have never been the source of our greatness.

The source of our greatness has always been our people.

And so you will find optimism about America not on the cover of newspapers or magazines, but in the everyday stories of people that surround us, even as we speak. You know their stories because they were once your stories. You’ll find America’s greatness this morning, in a single mother who dropped her child off at a bus stop to go to school, and as that child boarded that bus, onto that bus not just went her child but all the things that have gone wrong in her life that she hopes will go right for that child. All the things she herself never got a chance to do, that she will do anything to ensure her child can.

The greatness of America could be seen in the people that served you your lunch today. Who have children somewhere else in school even as we speak. And if you ask them, they’ll brag to you about how their son’s going to be a lawyer and their daughter is going to be a doctor. They are proud to work with their hands. They are proud to serve you your lunch and your dinner because they know that their sacrifice is paving the way for someone that they love.

And you’ll find America’s future greatness in the stories of the people who will make your rooms tonight. Because, you see, after they’re done working here, they’re headed to English classes or maybe even a community college. They’re working in a hotel today, but tomorrow they may run one. And they believe that that’s possible because they live here.

And so what is our goal? Our goal is to ensure that all those things are possible. Our goal is to create an economy big enough to accommodate these big dreams and these big hopes. An economy where people literally have enough money to spend at these hotels and restaurants, so these people can make a living. An economy that raises enough tax revenue for its government, so it can afford to provide that child with the economic opportunities that they deserve and need to succeed. An economy creating enough jobs and new businesses so that when she gets out of the school, the man or woman that made your bed today in the hotel, has a job to walk into.

That is what we need to be focused on. The creation of an economy that grows the way we are accustomed to America’s economy growing. And I don’t know of any community in this country that has a more special obligation to ensure that happens than ours. For literally, we are but a generation removed from a very different life. We are all but a generation removed from people who lived a very different experience.

It’s not fair for the story of America to end with us. On the contrary, while I am honored to receive this award today, the way I hope to render tribute to my parents and my grandparents, the way we should hope to give a lasting tribute to our parents and our grandparents is to ensure that the America they made possible and left for us does not end with us, but in fact, continues to shine for decades and even centuries to come. Thank you. Muchísimas gracias.

Full Campaign Buzz May 23, 2012: Mitt Romney Unveils Education Plan to the Latino Coalition’s Annual Economic Summit — Will Increase School Choice for Low-Income Students Through Vouchers




Romney Unveils Education Plan

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-23-12

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Mitt Romney unveiled his education plan on Wednesday, vowing to make sweeping changes to the public education system by expanding school choice by assigning federal money to low-income students who will then, in turn, be able to take that money to a school of his or her choice or use it for tutoring or digital education.

“I’ll be blunt,” Romney said during an address to The Latino Coalition’s Annual Economic Summit. “I don’t like the direction of American education, and as president, I will do everything in my power to get education on track for the kids in this great land.”

Romney, who said students in the U.S. are receiving a “third-world education” where “minority children suffer the most,” outlined Wednesday for the first time the specific steps he would take toward education reform….READ MORE

Romney, Dipping Into Education, Pushes School Choice

Source: NYT, 5-23-12

Mitt Romney seizes on a topic — education — that he has shied away from, encouraging measures to push school choice and higher standards….READ MORE

U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Remarks: A Chance For Every Child

Source: Mitt Romney, 5-23-12


Thanks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for hosting us. This year the Chamber marks 100 years of Standing Up for American Enterprise.  Few organizations have fought longer or harder for the principles of economic freedom. And these days, your voice is more important than ever.

I am grateful to the Latino Coalition for the invitation to be part of your Annual Economic Summit. In recent days we’ve heard a lot about business from the President and if you’re feeling like you deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act, I can’t blame you.

This is a time when everybody in this administration should be doing everything in their power to support you. If every one of our small businesses added just two employees, Americans could pay more mortgages and buy more groceries and fill their gas tanks.

Instead, sadly, President Obama has decided to attack success. It’s no wonder so many of his own supporters are calling on him to stop this war on job creators. Make no mistake, when I am President, you won’t wake up every day and wonder if the President is on your side.

Starting on Day One, I’ll be there to help you make it.  And if you’re successful beyond your wildest dreams, I’ll be the first to celebrate your success because I know your prosperity means greater opportunity – for you, for your families, for your employees, and for your communities.  And that’s what the American Dream is all about.

During my lifetime, I’ve seen a few of my own dreams come true.  I’ve run and started business, helped guide the Olympics, and led a great state. I learned early on that the only way to succeed in tough situations is to bring people together for a common purpose. That’s how you achieve greatness and accomplish your goals.

Dividing people and pitting one side against another produces nothing but failure and mediocrity.  Unfortunately, we’ve seen too much of that from this administration.  That’s part of why we’re facing the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression.  And it’s why this President and his party have failed to address the most serious problems facing our country.

When the President took office, he faced a jobs crisis. It’s barely improved. He faced a spending crisis. It’s only gotten worse.  And he faced an education crisis.

I’d love to stand here today and join you in celebrating the end of our education crisis. Wouldn’t it be great if we could look back on the last four years with confidence that the crisis had been confronted and we’d turned the corner toward a brighter future?

But sadly, that hasn’t happened.  And the tragedy is not just a matter of test scores and international rankings. It’s the frustration of a sixth grader who wants to learn more, but is stuck in a class that’s moving too slowly. It’s the embarrassment of a 10th grader who knows he can’t read the books he’s assigned. It’s the shame of a 12th grader who’s supposed to be ready to graduate, but hasn’t mastered the skills he or she needs to succeed in life.

In this country, we believe every child has something to contribute.  No matter what circumstances they were born into, every child has a dream about where they can go or what they can become.  Whether that dream is to invent something, start something, build something, or create something, it all starts with the basic skills and confidence that only a good education can provide.

Yet, today, too many dreams are never realized because our education system is failing.

More than 150 years ago, our nation pioneered public education.  We’ve now fallen way behind.

Among developed countries, the United States comes in 14th of 34 in reading, 17th of 34 in science, and an abysmal 25th out of 34 in math.

Our public education system is supposed to ensure that every child gets a strong start in life.  Yet, one in four students fails to attain a high school degree. And in our major cities, half of our kids won’t graduate.  Imagine that.

Imagine if your enterprise had a 25% to 50% failure rate in meeting its primary goal.  You would consider that a crisis.  You would make changes, and fast.  Because if you didn’t, you’d go out of business.

But America’s public education establishment shows no sense of urgency.  Instead, there is a fierce determination to keep things the way they are.

Here we are in the most prosperous nation, but millions of kids are getting a third-world education. And, America’s minority children suffer the most.  This is the civil-rights issue of our era.  It’s the great challenge of our time.

Last week, I spoke about the prairie fire of debt that is spreading across our country.  Today, I want to talk about our crisis in education.  With all of our economic troubles, there’s a temptation to put off the task of fixing our nations’ schools for another time.  But the jobs and housing failures of these past few years only make that task more important.

Let’s not kid ourselves – we are in the midst of a National Education Emergency. The only reason we don’t hear more about it is because our economic troubles have taken our national attention away from the classroom.  But if unemployment was where it should be and home values were going up, there is no question that the crisis in American education would be the great cause of this campaign.

Of course, the jobs and housing failures of these past few years only make the need for educational improvement all the more critical.  So I’ll be blunt: I don’t like the direction of American education, and as President, I will do everything in my power to reverse this decline.

Much as you have in your own business careers, I’ve found that you can’t expect dramatically different results unless you are open to dramatic change.  As president, I will pursue bold policy changes that will restore the promise of our nation’s education system.

First, I will expand parental choice in an unprecedented way.  Too many of our kids are trapped in schools that are failing or simply don’t meet their needs.  And for too long, we’ve merely talked about the virtues of school choice.

As President, I will give the parents of every low-income and special needs student the chance to choose where their child goes to school.  For the first time in history, federal education funds will be linked to a student, so that parents can send their child to any public or charter school, or to a private school, where permitted.  And I will make that choice meaningful by ensuring there are sufficient options to exercise it.

To receive the full complement of federal education dollars, states must provide students with ample school choice.  In addition, digital learning options must not be prohibited.  And charter schools or similar education choices must be scaled up to meet student demand.

Instead of eliminating the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program as President Obama has proposed, I will expand it to offer more students a chance to attend a better school.  It will be a model for parental choice programs across the nation.

Parental choice will hold schools responsible for results, but parents can only exercise that choice effectively if they have good information.  No Child Left Behind helped our nation take a giant step forward in bridging this information gap.  But the law is not without its weaknesses.  As president, I will break the political logjam that has prevented successful reform of the law.  I will reduce federal micromanagement while redoubling efforts to ensure that schools are held responsible for results.

For example, parents shouldn’t have to navigate a cryptic evaluation system to figure out how their kids’ schools are performing.  States must provide a simple-to-read and widely available public report card that evaluates each school.  These report cards will provide accurate and easy-to-understand information about student and school performance.  States will continue to design their own standards and tests, but the report cards will provide information that parents can use to make informed choices.

We will take bold steps to ensure our system welcomes and rewards the best teachers.  As president, I will make it my goal to ensure that every classroom has a quality teacher.

There are currently 82 programs in ten agencies that spend $4 billion on teacher quality.  As president, I will consolidate these programs, and block grant them to states that adopt innovative policies.  For example, states will be rewarded if they regularly evaluate teachers for their effectiveness and compensate the best teachers for their success.  Teaching is a highly valued profession that must attract and retain the best and brightest.

Dramatically expanding parental choice, making schools responsible for results by giving parents access to clear and instructive information, and attracting and rewarding our best teachers–these changes can help ensure that every parent has a choice and every child has a chance.

Finally, since we live in a twenty-first century economy that increasingly demands a college education, efforts at improvement can’t stop at high school’s end. Students must have access to a wide variety of options that will give them the skills they need for successful careers.  We must stop fueling skyrocketing tuition prices that put higher education out of reach for some and leave others with crushing debt.

These are bold initiatives that will produce better outcomes for our parents and teachers and students.  But accomplishing real change won’t be easy.  Efforts to truly reform our schools always meet strong resistance from entrenched interests.

The teachers unions are the clearest example of a group that has lost its way.  Whenever anyone dares to offer a new idea, the unions protest the loudest.

Their attitude was memorably expressed by a long-time president of the American Federation of Teachers:  He said, quote, “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of children.”

The teachers unions don’t fight for our children.  That’s our job.  And our job keeps getting harder because the unions wield outsized influence in elections and campaigns.

Annually, many teachers are forced to pay almost $1,000 in union dues.  The two major teachers unions take in $600 million each year.  That’s more revenue than both of the political parties combined.

In 2008, the National Education Association spent more money on campaigns than any other organization in the country.  And 90% of those funds went to Democrats.

Education is one issue where it should be easy to find common purpose and common solutions.  And I believe the President must be troubled by the lack of progress since he took office.  Most likely, he would have liked to do more.  But the teachers unions are one of the Democrats’ biggest donors – and one of the President’s biggest campaign supporters.  So, President Obama has been unable to stand up to union bosses – and unwilling to stand up for kids.

The most recent example is the Opportunity Scholarship program.  Since 2004, it’s allowed thousands of children in the District of Columbia to escape one of the worst school systems in the nation and get a world-class education.  Armed with scholarships of up to $7,500, students enrolled in private schools. 99% of them were African American or Hispanic.

After three months, students could already read at levels 19 months ahead of their public-school peers.  And parents were happy; for every spot in the program, there were 4 applications.

Then, Senator Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, inserted a provision to end the program.  The White House offered no resistance.  In fact, the President has proposed ending all funding for Opportunity Scholarships.  It must have gone against his better instincts, but the unions wanted it so he went along.

In the Opportunity Scholarships, the Democrats finally found the one federal program they are willing to cut. Why?  Because success anywhere in our public schools is a rebuke to failure everywhere else.  That’s why the unions oppose even the most common sense improvements.

In Detroit, students in the city’s failing public schools were offered a lifeline by a philanthropist who offered $200 million to create 15 charter schools.  The teachers union made the state legislature turn that gift down.

In Connecticut, parents groups tried to pass “parent trigger” legislation so they could take over and transform failing schools.  A national teachers union moved fast to stop that.

Now some union leaders will tell you that their objections are misunderstood.  They’ll argue the issues are complicated.  But really it’s simple – and it comes down to this:  When your cause in life is preventing parents from having a meaningful choice or children from having a real chance, then you are on the wrong side.  You might even be in the wrong vocation, because good teachers put the interests of children first.

The same is true of a good president.  In his speeches, President Obama likes to tell us “we can’t wait.”  If only he would say that and mean it about education reform – because millions are waiting for change, and so many are missing their chance.

The President can’t have it both ways:  He can’t talk up reform, while indulging the groups that block it.  He can’t be the voice of disadvantaged public-school kids, and the protector of special interests.

President Obama has made his choice, and I have made mine: As president, I will be a champion of real education reform in America, and I won’t let any special interest get in the way.

We have to stop putting campaign cash ahead of our kids.

This is a battle we can and must win.  And while a lot needs fixing, we’re getting some of the most important things right.

We have good teachers, like the ones who are leading New York City’s Democracy Prep.  Because of them, kids from the city’s poorest community are outperforming children from the wealthiest.  Last summer, these teachers took over the worst elementary school in Harlem rather than let it shut down.  Democracy Prep is a testament to good people who refuse to give up on our kids or leave our cities without a fight.

And leadership makes a huge difference.  When Jeb Bush became governor of Florida, reading scores of Hispanic students in that state’s school system were dismal. He brought focused innovation and passionate leadership.  Today those scores have risen dramatically.

But too often, new ideas, good teachers, and dedicated parents don’t find a welcoming partner and true champion in elected officials like Governor Bush.  Instead, they are met with resistance and resentment from the establishment.

I know what it is like to be a Governor fighting to do things differently. You need every bit of help you can get.  As President, I’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with these reformers and innovators.

When I became Governor, we were in the midst of instituting tough, bi-partisan education reforms.  They included the requirement that every student pass a test to graduate from high school.  The test came under attack from the unions.  But we stood our ground.

We also offered our best students a four-year, tuition-free scholarship to the state college of their choice.  I called it the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, after two Massachusetts citizens who understood the importance of education to our nation.

Every year I’d ask a school principal to invite the students who scored in the top 25% on the exam to a special assembly.  After some words about hard work, I’d ask them to reach under their chair and remove an envelope that had been taped there.  And I’d watch as each of them would open the enclosed letter.

Every year, I’d stand in front of the room and the same scene would unfold:

At first, you could hear a pin drop.  Then each student’s eyes would get big and proud smiles would creep across their faces as they found out how well they had done on the exam.  And then they would read the part of the letter where they learned they’d earned an Adams Scholarship.  The smiles turned into cheers – and the sound was deafening.

I got more hugs on Adams Scholarship day than I did at Christmas.  Kids would bring me their cell phones so I could tell their parents the exciting news.  And parents – more than once – told me that they had been worried they would not be able to afford college and that the scholarship would make a difference.

Here in America, every child deserves a chance.  It shouldn’t be reserved for the fortunate few.

If America is going to continue to lead the world in how much we build, create, and invent, then we must transform how we teach, train, and educate.  We already have good teachers, engaged parents, and big ideas.  What we need now is strong leadership and the political will.

A choice for every parent means a chance for every child.  That can be more than our hope – it can be our future.  It can begin this year, in the choice you make, so I ask for your help, your support, and your vote on the sixth of November.

Thank you all, and God bless America.

Full Text Obama Presidency May 23, 2012: President Barack Obama Says Military will Remain Strong Despite Cuts in Air Force Academy Commencement Address



Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

President Obama greeted graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy on Wednesday.


Military Will Withstand Cuts, Obama Tells Cadets

Source: NYT, 5-23-12

President Obama, speaking at the Air Force Academy graduation, described keeping the armed forces strong in the wake of tight budgets and the end of two wars….READ MORE


Remarks by the President at the Air Force Academy Commencement

Air Force Academy
Colorado Springs, Colorado

10:29 A.M. MDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Please be seated.  Good morning, everybody!  It is wonderful to be at the United States Air Force Academy on such a spectacular day.  And it is a privilege to join you in honoring the Class of 2012.  (Applause.)

I want to thank Secretary Donley for his introduction, but more importantly, for his leadership.  Generals Gould, Clark and Born; academy faculty and staff; Governor Hickenlooper; members of Congress; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.

I especially want to acknowledge a graduate of this academy who has kept our Air Force strong through a time of great challenge, a leader I’ve relied on and for whom today is his final commencement as chief of staff — General Norton Schwartz. Norty, Suzie, we could not be prouder of you and we are grateful for 39 years of extraordinary service to our nation.  (Applause.)
And although he is not with us today, I’m proud to have nominated another Academy graduate, General Mark Welsh, as the next chief of staff.  (Applause.)

This is my second visit to the Academy.  I was here in the summer of 2008, and you were getting ready to head out to Jacks Valley.  So I was proud to be here when you began this journey, and I thought I’d come back and help you celebrate at the end.  (Laughter.)

It’s great to be back at a school that has produced so many of the airmen I’ve known as President.  Every day, I rely on outstanding Academy graduates who serve at the White House.  Some of you know that photo from the Situation Room on the day we delivered justice to bin Laden — you can see right next to me a great leader of our Special Operations forces, General Brad Webb.
Last month, I was able to present the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to Coach Calhoun and the Fighting Falcons — (applause) — for the second straight year, a record 18th time.  And of course, every time I step on Air Force One, I count on Academy graduates like my pilot today — Colonel Scott Turner.  Now, I was going to tell you a joke about Scott, but he’s my ride home.  (Laughter.) So I’m going to have to keep it to myself.

Cadets, you distinguished yourselves as leaders before you ever stepped foot on the Terrazzo.  And when you arrived, I know your upper classmen gave you quite a welcome.  They let you experience the joy of the Beast.  The pleasure of Recognition.  They made you experts on filling out forms.  I only ask that you resist the temptation to rate my speech — “fast-neat-average-friendly-good-good.”  (Laughter and applause.)

But you survived.  In you we see the values of integrity and service and excellence that will define your lives.  And I know you couldn’t have made it without the love and support of your moms and dads and brothers and sisters and grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins.  So give them all a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

This Academy is one of the most demanding academic institutions in America.  And you have excelled.  I’m told you have set at least three Academy records:  The largest number of graduates ever to go directly on to graduate school; the largest number of female graduates in Academy history — (applause.)  You will follow in the footsteps of General Janet Wolfenbarger, who I was proud to nominate as the first female four-star general in Air Force history.  (Applause.)

And of course, your final and perhaps most impressive distinction — breaking the world’s record for the largest game of dodgeball — (applause) — 3,000 participants, 30 hours.  I didn’t know that was possible.  (Laughter.)  Of course, you are also the class that snuck into the Superintendent’s office and moved all the furniture into your dorm rooms — (laughter) — which does bring me to some important business.  In keeping with longstanding tradition, I hereby grant amnesty to all cadets serving restrictions and confinements for minor offenses.  (Applause.)  Of course, I leave it up to General Gould to define “minor.”  (Laughter.)

Cadets, this is the day you finally become officers in the finest Air Force in the world.  (Applause.)  Like generations before you, you’ll be charged with the responsibility of leading those under your command.  Like classes over the past 10 years, you graduate in a time of war and you may find yourselves in harm’s way.  But you will also face a new test, and that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

Four years ago, you arrived here at a time of extraordinary challenge for our nation.  Our forces were engaged in two wars.  Al Qaeda, which had attacked us on 9/11, was entrenched in their safe havens.  Many of our alliances were strained and our standing in the world had suffered.  Our economy was in the worst recession since the Great Depression.  Around the world and here at home, there were those that questioned whether the United States still had the capacity for global leadership.

Today, you step forward into a different world.  You are the first class in nine years that will graduate into a world where there are no Americans fighting in Iraq.  (Applause.)  For the first time in your lives — and thanks to Air Force personnel who did their part — Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to our country.  (Applause.)  We’ve put al Qaeda on the path to defeat. And you are the first graduates since 9/11 who can clearly see how we’ll end the war in Afghanistan.

So what does all this mean?  When you came here four years ago, there were some 180,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We’ve now cut that number by more than half.  And as more Afghans step up, more of our troops will come home -— while achieving the objective that led us to war in the first place and that is defeating al Qaeda and denying them safe haven. So we aren’t just ending these wars, we are doing so in a way that makes us safer and stronger.

Today we pay tribute to all our extraordinary men and women in uniform for their bravery, for their dedication.  Those who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan to make this progress possible -— including 16 graduates of this Academy — we honor them.  We will always honor them.

For a decade, we have labored under the dark cloud of war.  And now, we can see a light — the light of a new day on the horizon.  So the end of these wars will shape your service and it will make our military stronger.  Ten years of continuous military operations have stretched our forces and strained their families.  Going forward, you’ll face fewer deployments.  You’ll have more time to train and stay ready.  That means you’ll be better prepared for the full range of missions you face.

And ending these wars will also ensure that the burden of our security no longer falls so heavily on the shoulders of our men and women in uniform.  As good as you are, you can’t be expected to do it alone.  There are many sources of American power -— diplomatic, economic and the power of our ideals.  And we’ve got to use them all.  And the good news is, today we are.

Around the world, the United States is leading once more.  From Europe to Asia, our alliances are stronger than ever.  Our ties with the Americas are deeper.  We’re setting the agenda in the region that will shape our long-term security and prosperity like no other — the Asia Pacific.

We’re leading on global security — reducing our nuclear arsenal with Russia, even as we maintain a strong nuclear deterrent; mobilizing dozens of nations to secure nuclear materials so they never fall into the hands of terrorists; rallying the world to put the strongest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea, which cannot be allowed to threaten the world with nuclear weapons.

We are leading economically — forging trade pacts to create new markets for our goods; boosting our exports, stamped with three proud words — Made in America.  (Applause.)  We’re expanding exchanges and collaborations in areas that people often admire most about America — our innovation, our science, our technology.

We’re leading on behalf of human dignity and on behalf of freedom — standing with the people of the Middle East and North Africa as they seek their rights; preventing a massacre in Libya with an international mission in which the United States — and our Air Force — led from the front.  (Applause.)  We’re leading global efforts against hunger and disease.  And we’ve shown our compassion, as so many airmen did in delivering relief to our neighbors in Haiti when they were in need and to our Japanese allies after the earthquake and tsunami.

Because of this progress, around the world there is a new feeling about America.  I see it everywhere I go, from London and Prague, to Tokyo and Seoul, to Rio and Jakarta.  There’s a new confidence in our leadership.  And when people around the world are asked, which country do you most admire, one nation comes out on top — the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Of course, the world stage is not a popularity contest.  As a nation, we have vital interests, and we will do what is necessary always to defend this country we love — even if it’s unpopular.  But make no mistake, how we’re viewed in the world has consequences — for our national security and for your lives.

See, when other countries and people see us as partners, they’re more willing to work with us.  It’s why more countries joined us in Afghanistan and Libya.  It’s why nations like Australia are welcoming our forces who stand side by side with allies and partners in the South Pacific.  It’s why Uganda and its African neighbors have welcomed our trainers to help defeat a brutal army that slaughters its citizens.

I think of the Japanese man in the disaster zone who, upon seeing our airmen delivering relief, said, “I never imagined they could help us so much.”  I think of the Libyans who protected our airman when he ejected over their town, because they knew America was there to protect them.  And in a region where we’ve seen burning of American flags, I think of all the Libyans who were waving American flags.

Today, we can say with confidence and pride the United States is stronger and safer and more respected in the world, because even as we’ve done the work of ending these wars, we’ve laid the foundation for a new era of American leadership.  And now, cadets, we have to build it.  We have to build on it.  You have to build on it.

Let’s start by putting aside the tired notion that says our influence has waned or that America is in decline.  We’ve heard that talk before.  During the Great Depression, when millions were unemployed and some believed that other economic models offered a better way, there were those who predicted the end of American capitalism.  Guess what, they were wrong.  We fought our way back.  We created the largest middle class in history and the most prosperous economy the world has ever known.

After Pearl Harbor some said, the United States has been reduced to a third-rate power.  Well, we rallied.  We flew over The Hump and took island after island.  We stormed the beaches and liberated nations.  And we emerged from that war as the strongest power on the face of the Earth.

After Vietnam and the energy crisis of the 1970s, some said America had passed its high point.  But the very next decade, because of our fidelity to the values we stand for, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and liberty prevailed over the tyranny of the Cold War.  (Applause.)

As recently as the 1980s with the rise of Japan and the Asian tigers, there were those who said we had lost our economic edge.  But we retooled.  We invested in new technologies.  We launched an Information Revolution that changed the world.

After all this, you would think folks understand a basic truth — never bet against the United States of America.  (Applause.)  And one of the reasons is that the United States has been, and will always be, the one indispensable nation in world affairs.  It’s one of the many examples of why America is exceptional.  It’s why I firmly believe that if we rise to this moment in history, if we meet our responsibilities, then — just like the 20th century — the 21st century will be another great American Century.  That’s the future I see.  That’s the future you can build.  (Applause.)

I see an American Century because we have the resilience to make it through these tough economic times.  We’re going to put America back to work by investing in the things that keep us competitive — education and high-tech manufacturing, science and innovation.  We’ll pay down our deficits, reform our tax code and keep reducing our dependence on foreign oil.  We need to get on with nation-building here at home.  And I know we can, because we’re still the largest, most dynamic, most innovative economy in the world.  And no matter what challenges we may face, we wouldn’t trade places with any other nation on Earth.

I see an American Century because you are part of the finest, most capable military the world has ever known.  No other nation even comes close.  Yes, as today’s wars end, our military — and our Air Force — will be leaner.  But as Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow us to make the mistakes of the past.  We still face very serious threats.  As we’ve seen in recent weeks, with al Qaeda in Yemen, there are still terrorists who seek to kill our citizens.  So we need you to be ready for the full range of threats.  From the conventional to the unconventional, from nations seeking weapons of mass destruction to the cell of terrorists planning the next attack, from the old danger of piracy to the new threat of cyber, we must be vigilant.

And so, guided by our new defense strategy, we’ll keep our military — and our Air Force — fast and flexible and versatile. We will maintain our military superiority in all areas — air, land, sea, space and cyber.  And we will keep faith with our forces and our military families.

And as our newest veterans rejoin civilian life, we will never stop working to give them the benefits and opportunities that they have earned — because our veterans have the skills to help us rebuild America, and we have to serve them as well as they have served us.  (Applause.)

I see an American Century because we have the strongest alliances of any nation.  From Europe to Asia, our alliances are the foundation of global security.  In Libya, all 28 NATO allies played a role and we were joined by partners in the air from Sweden to the Gulf states.  In Afghanistan, we’re in a coalition of 50 allies and partners.  Today, Air Force personnel are serving in 135 nations — partnering, training, building their capacity.  This is how peace and security will be upheld in the 21st century — more nations bearing the costs and responsibilities of leadership.  And that’s good for America.  It’s good for the world.  And we’re at the hub of it, making it happen.

I see an American Century because no other nation seeks the role that we play in global affairs, and no other nation can play the role that we play in global affairs.  That includes shaping the global institutions of the 20th century to meet the challenges of the 21st.  As President, I’ve made it clear the United States does not fear the rise of peaceful, responsible emerging powers — we welcome them.  Because when more nations step up and contribute to peace and security, that doesn’t undermine American power, it enhances it.

And when other people in other countries see that we’re rooting for their success, it builds trust and partnerships that can advance our interests for generations.  It makes it easier to meet common challenges, from preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to combating climate change.  And so we seek an international order where the rights and responsibilities of all nations and peoples are upheld, and where counties thrive by meeting their obligations and they face consequences when they don’t.

I see an American Century because more and more people are reaching toward the freedoms and values that we share.  No other nation has sacrificed more — in treasure, in the lives of our sons and daughters — so that these freedoms could take root and flourish around the world.  And no other nation has made the advancement of human rights and dignity so central to its foreign policy.  And that’s because it’s central to who we are, as Americans.  It’s also in our self-interest, because democracies become our closest allies and partners.

Sure, there will always be some governments that try to resist the tide of democracy, who claim theirs is a better way.  But around the world, people know the difference between us.  We welcome freedom —- to speak, to assemble, to worship, to choose your leaders.  They don’t.  We welcome the chance to compete for jobs and markets freely and fairly.  They don’t.  When fundamental human rights are threatened around the world, we stand up and speak out.  And they don’t.

We know that the sovereignty of nations cannot strangle the liberty of individuals.  And so we stand with the student in the street who demands a life of dignity and opportunity.  We stand with women everywhere who deserve the same rights as men.  We stand with the activists unbowed in their prison cells, and the leaders in parliament who’s moving her country towards democracy. We stand with the dissident who seeks the freedom to say what he pleases, and the entrepreneur who wants to start a business without paying a bribe, and all those who strive for justice and dignity.  For they know, as we do, that history is on the side of freedom.

And finally, I see an American Century because of the character of our country — the spirit that has always made us exceptional.  That simple yet revolutionary idea — there at our founding and in our hearts ever since — that we have it in our power to make the world anew, to make the future what we will.  It is that fundamental faith — that American optimism — which says no challenge is too great, no mission is too hard.  It’s the spirit that guides your class:  “Never falter, never fail.”  (Applause.)

That is the essence of America, and there’s nothing else like it anywhere in the world.  It’s what’s inspired the oppressed in every corner of the world to demand the same freedoms for themselves.  It’s what’s inspired generations to come to our shores, renewing us with their energy and their hopes.  And that includes a fellow cadet, a cadet graduating today, who grew up in Venezuela, got on a plane with a one-way ticket to America, and today is closer to his dream of becoming an Air Force pilot — Edward Camacho.  (Applause.)  Edward said what we all know to be true:  “I’m convinced that America is the land of opportunity.”

You’re right, Edward.  That is who we are.  That’s the America we love.  Always young, always looking ahead to that light of a new day on the horizon.  And, cadets, as I look into your eyes — as you join that Long Blue Line — I know you will carry us even farther, and even higher.  And with your proud service, I’m absolutely confident that the United States of America will meet the tests of our time.  We will remain the land of opportunity.  And we will stay strong as the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.

May God bless you.  May God bless the Class of 2012.  And may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

10:56 A.M. MDT

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