Full Text Obama Presidency February 15, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Strengthening the Economy For The Middle Class & Gun Violence at Hyde Park Career Academy Chicago, Illinois

Giving Every Child a Chance in Life

Source: WH, 2-15-13

President Obama at the Hyde Park Career Academy Chicago, Illinois, Feb. 15, 2013President Barack Obama delivers remarks to discuss proposals unveiled in the State of the Union Address that focus on strengthening the economy for the middle class and those striving to get there, at Hyde Park Academy, Chicago, Ill., Feb. 15, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama was in Chicago on Friday to talk about the importance of making sure every child in America has every chance in life to succeed. Speaking at the Hyde Park Career Academy, which is less than a mile from the Obama’s home in that city, the President discussed the recent death of Hadiyah Pendleton, a Chicago teenager who was shot just days after attending the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, DC.

Hadiyah’s parents were guests of First Lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address on Tuesday, where President Obama discussed the need to prevent this kind of senseless violence and protect American children. But the important goal of  keeping guns out of the hands of criminals is not enough to ensure a bright future for all of our children, and the President also laid out a plan to rebuild ladders of opportunity for every American who is willing to work hard and climb them. This includes making sure every child in America has access to high-quality pre-K, and raising the minimum wage so that no family that works hard and relies on a minimum wage is living in poverty. But creating a path into the middle class also means transforming high-poverty communities into places of opportunity that can attract private investment, improve education, and create jobs, and President Obama talked about his plan to make that happen:

And that’s why on Tuesday I announced — and that’s part of what I want to focus on here in Chicago and across the country — is my intention to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit communities in America to get them back in the game — get them back in the game.

First, we’ll work with local leaders to cut through red tape and improve things like public safety and education and housing. And we’ll bring all the resources to bear in a coordinated fashion so that we can get that tipping point where suddenly a community starts feeling like things are changing and we can come back.

Second of all, if you’re willing to play a role in a child’s education, then we’ll help you reform your schools. We want to seed more and more partnerships of the kind that Rahm is trying to set up.

Third, we’re going to help bring jobs and growth to hard-hit neighborhoods by giving tax breaks to business owners who invest and hire in those neighborhoods.

Fourth, and specific to the issue of violence — because it’s very hard to develop economically if people don’t feel safe. If they don’t feel like they can walk down the street and shop at a store without getting hit over head or worse, then commerce dries up, businesses don’t want to locate, families move out, you get into the wrong cycle. So we’re going to target neighborhoods struggling to deal with violent crime and help them reduce that violence in ways that have been proven to work. And I know this is a priority of your Mayor’s; it’s going to be a priority of mine.

And finally, we’re going to keep working in communities all across the country, including here in Chicago, to replace run-down public housing that doesn’t offer much hope or safety with new, healthy homes for low- and moderate-income families.

Learn more about President Obama’s plan for a strong middle class and a strong America:

Remarks By The President On Strengthening The Economy For The Middle Class

Hyde Park Career Academy Chicago, Illinois

3:31 P.M. CST

THE PRESIDENT: Hey, Chicago! (Applause.) Hello, Chicago! Hello, everybody. Hello, Hyde Park! (Applause.) It is good to be home! It is good to be home. Everybody have a seat. You all relax. It’s just me. You all know me. It is good to be back home.

A couple of people I want to acknowledge — first of all, I want to thank your Mayor, my great friend, Rahm Emanuel for his outstanding leadership of the city and his kind introduction. (Applause.) I want to thank everybody here at Hyde Park Academy for welcoming me here today. (Applause.)

I want to acknowledge your principal and your assistant principal — although, they really make me feel old, because when I saw them — (laughter) — where are they? Where are they? Stand up. Stand up. (Applause.) They are doing outstanding work. We’re very, very proud them. But you do make me feel old. Sit down. (Laughter.)

A couple other people I want to acknowledge — Governor Pat Quinn is here doing great work down in Springfield. (Applause.) My great friend and senior Senator Dick Durbin is in the house. (Applause.) Congressman Bobby Rush is here. (Applause.) We’re in his district. Attorney General and former seatmate of mine when I was in the state senate, Lisa Madigan. (Applause.) County Board President — used to be my alderwoman — Tony Preckwinkle in the house. (Applause.)

And I’ve got — I see a lot of reverend clergy here, but I’m not going to mention them, because if I miss one I’m in trouble. (Laughter.) They’re all friends of mine. They’ve been knowing me.

Some people may not know this, but obviously, this is my old neighborhood. I used to teach right around the corner. This is where Michelle and I met, where we fell in love —


THE PRESIDENT: This is where we raised our daughters, in a house just about a mile away from here — less than a mile. And that’s really what I’ve come here to talk about today — raising our kids.

AUDIENCE: We love you!

THE PRESIDENT: I love you, too. (Applause.) I love you, too.

I’m here to make sure that we talk about and then work towards giving every child every chance in life; building stronger communities and new ladders of opportunity that they can climb into the middle class and beyond; and, most importantly, keeping them safe from harm.

Michelle was born and raised here — a proud daughter of the South Side. (Applause.) Last weekend, she came home, but it was to attend the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton. And Hadiya’s parents, by the way, are here — and I want to just acknowledge them. They are just wonderful, wonderful people. (Applause.)

And as you know, this week, in my State of the Union, I talked about Hadiya on Tuesday night and the fact that unfortunately what happened to Hadiya is not unique. It’s not unique to Chicago. It’s not unique to this country. Too many of our children are being taken away from us.

Two months ago, America mourned 26 innocent first-graders and their educators in Newtown. And today, I had the high honor of giving the highest civilian award I can give to the parent — or the families of the educators who had been killed in Newtown. And there was something profound and uniquely heartbreaking and tragic, obviously, about a group of 6-year-olds being killed. But last year, there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under. So that’s the equivalent of a Newtown every four months.

And that’s precisely why the overwhelming majority of Americans are asking for some common-sense proposals to make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. And as I said on Tuesday night, I recognize not everybody agrees with every issue. There are regional differences. The experience of gun ownership is different in urban areas than it is in rural areas, different from upstate and downstate Illinois. But these proposals deserve a vote in Congress. They deserve a vote. (Applause.) They deserve a vote. And I want to thank those members of Congress who are working together in a serious way to try to address this issue.

But I’ve also said no law or set of laws can prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. When a child opens fire on another child, there’s a hole in that child’s heart that government can’t fill — only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole. In too many neighborhoods today — whether here in Chicago or the farthest reaches of rural America — it can feel like for a lot of young people the future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town; that no matter how much you work or how hard you try, your destiny was determined the moment you were born. There are entire neighborhoods where young people, they don’t see an example of somebody succeeding. And for a lot of young boys and young men, in particular, they don’t see an example of fathers or grandfathers, uncles, who are in a position to support families and be held up and respected.

And so that means that this is not just a gun issue. It’s also an issue of the kinds of communities that we’re building. And for that, we all share a responsibility, as citizens, to fix it. We all share a responsibility to move this country closer to our founding vision that no matter who you are, or where you come from, here in America, you can decide your own destiny. You can succeed if you work hard and fulfill your responsibilities. (Applause.)

Now, that means we’ve got to grow our economy and create more good jobs. It means we’ve got to equip every American with the skills and the training to fill those jobs. And it means we’ve got to rebuild ladders of opportunity for everybody willing to climb them.

Now, that starts at home. There’s no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families — which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood. (Applause.) Don’t get me wrong — as the son of a single mom, who gave everything she had to raise me with the help of my grandparents, I turned out okay. (Applause and laughter.) But — no, no, but I think it’s — so we’ve got single moms out here, they’re heroic in what they’re doing and we are so proud of them. (Applause.) But at the same time, I wish I had had a father who was around and involved. Loving, supportive parents — and, by the way, that’s all kinds of parents — that includes foster parents, and that includes grandparents, and extended families; it includes gay or straight parents. (Applause.)

Those parents supporting kids — that’s the single most important thing. Unconditional love for your child — that makes a difference. If a child grows up with parents who have work, and have some education, and can be role models, and can teach integrity and responsibility, and discipline and delayed gratification — all those things give a child the kind of foundation that allows them to say, my future, I can make it what I want. And we’ve got to make sure that every child has that, and in some cases, we may have to fill the gap and the void if children don’t have that.

So we should encourage marriage by removing the financial disincentives for couples who love one another but may find it financially disadvantageous if they get married. We should reform our child support laws to get more men working and engaged with their children. (Applause.) And my administration will continue to work with the faith community and the private sector this year on a campaign to encourage strong parenting and fatherhood. Because what makes you a man is not the ability to make a child, it’s the courage to raise one. (Applause.)

We also know, though, that there is no surer path to success in the middle class than a good education. And what we now know is that that has to begin in the earliest years. Study after study shows that the earlier a child starts learning, the more likely they are to succeed — the more likely they are to do well at Hyde Park Academy; the more likely they are to graduate; the more likely they are to get a good job; the more likely they are to form stable families and then be able to raise children themselves who get off to a good start.

Chicago already has a competition, thanks to what the Mayor is doing, that rewards the best preschools in the city — so Rahm has already prioritized this. But what I’ve also done is say, let’s give every child across America access to high-quality, public preschool. Every child, not just some. (Applause.) Every dollar we put into early childhood education can save $7 down the road by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, reducing violent crime, reducing the welfare rolls, making sure that folks who have work, now they’re paying taxes. All this stuff pays back huge dividends if we make the investment. So let’s make this happen. Let’s make sure every child has the chance they deserve. (Applause.)

As kids go through school, we’ll recruit new math and science teachers to make sure that they’ve got the skills that the future demands. We’ll help more young people in low-income neighborhoods get summer jobs. We’ll redesign our high schools and encourage our kids to stay in high school, so that the diploma they get leads directly to a good job once they graduate. (Applause.)

Right here in Chicago, five new high schools have partnered with companies and community colleges to prepare our kids with the skills that businesses are looking for right now. And your College to Careers program helps community college students get access to the same kinds of real-world experiences. So we know what works. Let’s just do it in more places. Let’s reach more young people. Let’s give more kids a chance.

So we know how important families are. We know how important education is. We recognize that government alone can’t solve these problems of violence and poverty, that everybody has to be involved. But we also have to remember that the broader economic environment of communities is critical as well. For example, we need to make sure that folks who are working now, often in the hardest jobs, see their work rewarded with wages that allow them to raise a family without falling into poverty. (Applause.)

Today, a family with two kids that works hard and relies on a minimum wage salary still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong, and we should fix it. We should reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. And that’s why we should raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour and make it a wage you can live on. (Applause.)

And even though some cities have bounced back pretty quickly from the recession, we know that there are communities and neighborhoods within cities or in small towns that haven’t bounced back. Cities like Chicago are ringed with former factory towns that never came back all the way from plants packing up; there are pockets of poverty where young adults are still looking for their first job.

And that’s why on Tuesday I announced — and that’s part of what I want to focus on here in Chicago and across the country — is my intention to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit communities in America to get them back in the game — get them back in the game. (Applause.)

First, we’ll work with local leaders to cut through red tape and improve things like public safety and education and housing. And we’ll bring all the resources to bear in a coordinated fashion so that we can get that tipping point where suddenly a community starts feeling like things are changing and we can come back.

Second of all, if you’re willing to play a role in a child’s education, then we’ll help you reform your schools. We want to seed more and more partnerships of the kind that Rahm is trying to set up.

Third, we’re going to help bring jobs and growth to hard-hit neighborhoods by giving tax breaks to business owners who invest and hire in those neighborhoods. (Applause.)

Fourth, and specific to the issue of violence — because it’s very hard to develop economically if people don’t feel safe. If they don’t feel like they can walk down the street and shop at a store without getting hit over head or worse, then commerce dries up, businesses don’t want to locate, families move out, you get into the wrong cycle. So we’re going to target neighborhoods struggling to deal with violent crime and help them reduce that violence in ways that have been proven to work. And I know this is a priority of your Mayor’s; it’s going to be a priority of mine. (Applause.)

And finally, we’re going to keep working in communities all across the country, including here in Chicago, to replace run-down public housing that doesn’t offer much hope or safety with new, healthy homes for low- and moderate-income families. (Applause.)

And here in Woodlawn, you’ve seen some of the progress that we can make when we come together to rebuild our neighborhoods, and attract new businesses, and improve our schools. Woodlawn is not all the way where it needs to be, but thanks to wonderful institutions like Apostolic Church, we’ve made great progress. (Applause.)

So we want to help more communities follow your example. And let’s go even farther by offering incentives to companies that hire unemployed Americans who have got what it takes to fill a job opening, but they may have been out of work so long that nobody is willing to give them a chance right now. Let’s put our people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in need of repair. Young people can get experience — apprenticeships, learn a trade. And we’re removing blight from our community. (Applause.)

If we gather together what works, we can extend more ladders of opportunity for anybody who’s working to build a strong, middle-class life for themselves. Because in America, your destiny shouldn’t be determined by where you live, where you were born. It should be determined by how big you’re willing to dream, how much effort and sweat and tears you’re willing to put in to realizing that dream.

When I first moved to Chicago — before any of the students in this room were born — (laughter) — and a whole lot of people who are in the audience remember me from those days, I lived in a community on the South Side right up the block, but I also worked further south where communities had been devastated by some of the steel plants closing. And my job was to work with churches and laypeople and local leaders to rebuild neighborhoods, and improve schools, and help young people who felt like they had nowhere to turn.

And those of you who worked with me, Reverend Love, you remember, it wasn’t easy. Progress didn’t come quickly. Sometimes I got so discouraged I thought about just giving up. But what kept me going was the belief that with enough determination and effort and persistence and perseverance, change is always possible; that we may not be able to help everybody, but if we help a few then that propels progress forward. We may not be able to save every child from gun violence, but if we save a few, that starts changing the atmosphere in our communities. (Applause.) We may not be able to get everybody a job right away, but if we get a few folks a job, then everybody starts feeling a little more hopeful and a little more encouraged. (Applause.) Neighborhood by neighborhood, one block by one block, one family at a time.

Now, this is what I had a chance to talk about when I met with some young men from Hyde Park Academy who were participating in this B.A.M. program. Where are the guys I talked to? Stand up you all, so we can all see you guys. (Applause.) So these are some — these are all some exceptional young men, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. And the reason I’m proud of them is because a lot of them have had some issues. That’s part of the reason why you guys are in the program. (Laughter.)

But what I explained to them was I had issues too when I was their age. I just had an environment that was a little more forgiving. So when I screwed up, the consequences weren’t as high as when kids on the South Side screw up. (Applause.) So I had more of a safety net. But these guys are no different than me, and we had that conversation about what does it take to change. And the same thing that it takes for us individually to change, I said to them, well, that’s what it takes for communities to change. That’s what it takes for countries to change. It’s not easy.

But it does require us, first of all, having a vision about where we want to be. It requires us recognizing that it will be hard work getting there. It requires us being able to overcome and persevere in the face of roadblocks and disappointments and failures. It requires us reflecting internally about who we are and what we believe in, and facing up to our own fears and insecurities, and admitting when we’re wrong. And that same thing that we have to do in our individual lives that these guys talked about, that’s what we have to do for our communities. And it will not be easy, but it can be done.

When Hadiya Pendleton and her classmates visited Washington three weeks ago, they spent time visiting the monuments — including the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial just off the National Mall. And that memorial stands as a tribute to everything Dr. King achieved in his lifetime. But it also reminds us of how hard that work was and how many disappointments he experienced. He was here in Chicago fighting poverty, and just like a lot of us, there were times where he felt like he was losing hope. So in some ways, that memorial is a testament not to work that’s completed, but it’s a testament to the work that remains unfinished.

His goal was to free us not only from the shackles of discrimination, but from the shadow of poverty that haunts too many of our communities, the self-destructive impulses, and the mindless violence that claims so many lives of so many innocent young people.

These are difficult challenges. No solution we offer will be perfect. But perfection has never been our goal. Our goal has been to try and make whatever difference we can. Our goal has been to engage in the hard but necessary work of bringing America one step closer to the nation we know we can be.

If we do that, if we’re striving with every fiber of our being to strengthen our middle class, to extend ladders of opportunity for everybody who is trying as hard as they can to create a better life for themselves; if we do everything in our power to keep our children safe from harm; if we’re fulfilling our obligations to one another and to future generations; if we make that effort, then I’m confident — I’m confident that we will write the next great chapter in our American story. I’m not going to be able to do it by myself, though. Nobody can. We’re going to have to do it together.

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

END        3:58 P.M. CST

Political Headlines February 15, 2013: President Barack Obama honors six educators killed in Newtown massacre with Presidential Citizens Medal





Obama honors six educators killed in Newtown massacre

Source: Reuters, 2-15-13

President Barack Obama marked a poignant moment in his push to curb gun violence as he awarded presidential medals posthumously on Friday to six educators killed in the Newtown school massacre, saying they gave their lives to protect “the most innocent and helpless among us.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 15, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Presentation of 2012 Presidential Citizens Medals Honoring Sandy Hook Elementary Educators Killed in Massacre



Remarks by the President at Presentation of 2012 Presidential Citizens Medals

Source: WH, 2-15-13 

East Room

11:30 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, everybody.  Please, please have a seat.  Well, it is a pleasure to welcome some of our nation’s finest citizens here to the people’s house.  And let me be the first to congratulate each of you and your family members for the receipt of the highest honor a civilian can receive –- the Citizens Medal.

We host a lot of events at the White House but I have to admit this is one of my favorites, because it’s a moment when, as a people, we get to recognize some extraordinary men and women who have gone above and beyond for their country and for their fellow citizens — often without fanfare; often with not a lot of attention; very rarely for any profit.  You do it because it’s the right thing to do, because you want to give back.  And today, we honor you.  We celebrate you.  And, most of all, we have a chance to say thank you.  Because all of us are what the rest of us aspire to be.

In America, we have the benefit of living in this big and diverse nation.  We’re home to 315 million people who come from every background, who worship every faith, who hold every single point of view.  But what binds us together, what unites us is a single sacred word:  citizen.

It’s a word that, as I said in my State of the Union Address, doesn’t just describe our nationality or our legal status, the fact that we hold a passport.  It defines our way our life.  It captures our belief in something bigger than ourselves — our willingness to accept certain obligations to one another, and to embrace the idea that we’re all in this together; that out of many, we are one.  It’s the thing that Tocqueville noticed about America when he first came to visit — these folks participate, they get involved, they have a point of view; they don’t just wait for somebody else to do something, they go out there and do it, and they join and they become part of groups and they mobilize and they organize.

That’s who we are, that’s in our DNA.  That’s what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America.  We’ve all got busy lives.  We’ve got bills to pay.  We’ve got kids to carpool, errands to get done.  And in the midst of all the running around, it would be easy — and even understandable — for folks to just focus on themselves, to worry about our own lives, to look down the street and see a neighbor in need and say, “I’d like to help but I’ve got problems of my own.”  To look across town at a community that’s in despair and say, “That’s just too big a challenge for us to be able to take on.”

That’s not who we are.  That’s not what we do.  That’s not what built this country.  In this country, we look out for one another.  We get each other’s backs, especially in times of hardship or challenge.  It’s part of the reason why applications to AmeriCorps are at an all-time high.  That’s why volunteering in America is at the highest level it’s been in years.  And I know that makes Harris proud to hear.

Harris Wofford has devoted his entire life to creating opportunities for Americans to serve.  And the reason it’s such a privilege for me to share the stage with him and all the others who are participating here today, is because you’ve taken commitment to a whole new level.  Every day, you’re out there righting wrongs.  Healing hurts.  Changing lives.

And when Janice Jackson was hit by a car at the age of 24, she was told by her doctors that the only thing she would ever move again were her shoulders.  After suffering an injury like that, nobody would have faulted Janice for just focusing on herself.  But as she recovered, and she regained her strength, she resolved to give some of that strength to others in need.  Janice said that “from a wheelchair, I decided to devote my life to women with disabilities…to tell them that even though you have limitations, you also have abilities.”  And every day through her mentorship and through her advocacy, that’s exactly what she’s doing.

When Adam Burke returned from Iraq, he had more than earned the right to just focus on himself.  He had served our nation with honor; a recipient of the Purple Heart for wounds he received while rescuing a comrade from enemy fire.  Because of that attack –- because of the shrapnel that tore through his head and his legs –- when Adam came home, he came home a wounded warrior, suffering from a traumatic brain injury, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  But a few years later, Adam found himself back on the family farm, and he noticed that working the land was therapeutic.  His coordination improved.  He was able to put aside his cane.  So he decided to use farming to help other veterans with similar injuries see similar benefits.  And by starting Veterans Farm, he’s doing that every day.

When Jeanne Manford learned that her son Morty had been badly beaten up at a gay rights demonstration, nobody would have faulted her for bringing him home, holding him close, just focusing on her child.  This was back in 1972.  There was a lot of hate, a lot of vitriol towards gays and lesbians and anyone who supported them.  But instead, she wrote to the local newspaper and took to the streets with a simple message:  No matter who her son was — no matter who he loved –- she loved him, and wouldn’t put up with this kind of nonsense.  And in that simple act, she inspired a movement and gave rise to a national organization that has given so much support to parents and families and friends, and helped to change this country.  We lost Jeanne last month, but her legacy carries on, every day, in the countless lives that she touched.

And then when Dawn Hochsprung, and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel D’Avino, Anne Marie Murphy — when they showed up for work at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14th of last year, they expected a day like any other — doing what was right for their kids; spent a chilly morning readying classrooms and welcoming young students — they had no idea that evil was about to strike.  And when it did, they could have taken shelter by themselves.  They could have focused on their own safety, on their own wellbeing.  But they didn’t.  They gave their lives to protect the precious children in their care.  They gave all they had for the most innocent and helpless among us.

And that’s what we honor today — the courageous heart, the selfless spirit, the inspiring actions of extraordinary Americans, extraordinary citizens.

We are a nation of 315 million people.  Out of all these folks, around 6,000 were nominated for this medal.  And today, you’re the ones receiving it not just for what you do, but for what you represent — for the shining example that you set every single day and the inspiration that you give each of us as fellow citizens, including your President.

So congratulations to the recipients.  And now, I would like our military aide to read the citations.

MILITARY AIDE:  The Presidential Citizens Medal recipients:

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton.  (Applause.)  As one of America’s most respected voices on child development, Dr. Brazelton has dedicated his life to transforming pediatric care.  His pioneering work has given generations of parents the chance to take control of their children’s health from day one.  Alongside his duties as a researcher and educator, he fought to secure some of the 20th century’s essential safeguards for families, including guaranteed maternal leave.  For his tireless advocacy on behalf of families everywhere, the United States honors Dr. T. Berry Brazelton.  (Applause.)

Adam D. Burke.  (Applause.)  During his ninth year of service in the Army, Adam Burke was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after saving a comrade from a mortar blast in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle.  He received a Purple Heart for his heroism.  Unwilling to stop serving his country, he turned his family farm into Veterans Farm, a space for wounded warriors to heal by working the land and finding stability on friendly soil.  The United States honors Adam D. Burke for his extraordinary service to his country and fellow members of the 9/11 Generation.  (Applause.)

Mary Jo Copeland.  (Applause.)  Driven by her faith and a fierce commitment to her community, Mary Jo Copeland has spent more than a quarter-century lifting up the underserved.  Alongside her husband, she grew Sharing and Caring Hands from a small storefront operation in downtown Minneapolis into a charity that provides thousands of men, women and children the chance to live in health and dignity.  Her unyielding vision for stronger neighborhoods has inspired people nationwide, and her compassion for the poor and the marginalized speaks to the depth of the human spirit.  The United States honors Mary Jo Copeland for sparking hope in those who need it most.  (Applause.)

Michael Dorman.  (Applause.)  When Michael Dorman saw disabled veterans struggling to secure the opportunities they had given so much to preserve, he knew he had to act.  A 20-year veteran of the Coast Guard, he founded Military Missions in Action to help veterans with disabilities live independently and support those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.  His organization has completed more than 100 home improvement projects across the state of North Carolina and shipped thousands of care packages to service members in the line of duty.  The United States honors Michael Dorman for his exceptional service to our Armed Forces and our Nation.  (Applause.)

Maria Gomez.  (Applause.)  Born in Colombia and brought up in Washington, D.C., Maria Gomez has dedicated her life to providing high-quality health care to the community that raised her.  Guided by her vision, Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care has delivered exceptional outcomes to disadvantaged populations for more than two decades.  Her organization’s integrated approach to medicine, education and social services extends a lifeline to tens of thousands every year, giving families across the D.C. region a chance at a brighter future.  The United States honors Maria Gomez for sharing her strength with the underserved.  (Applause.)

Pamela Green-Jackson.  (Applause.)  As Pamela Green-Jackson mourned the loss of her only brother to obesity-related illness, she vowed to honor his memory by saving others from the same fate.  The result, Youth Becoming Healthy, has equipped young men and women in Georgia schools with the knowledge and opportunity they need to get a strong start in life.  Pamela’s dedication to combating childhood obesity reaffirms our belief that as a nation, we have no higher calling than caring for our children.  For putting our sons and daughters on the path to better health, the United States honors Pamela Green-Jackson.  (Applause.)

Janice Yvette Jackson.  (Applause.)  After Janice Jackson was struck by an oncoming car when she was 24 years old, doctors told her she would never be able to move her limbs again.  Battling against the odds, she regained control of her left arm and reached for the promise of the years ahead.  As a mentor, a counselor and the founder of Women Embracing Abilities Now, she has drawn from the depth of her experience to empower women with disabilities and advocate passionately on their behalf.  The United States honors Janice Yvette Jackson for turning personal adversity into a powerful force for change.  (Applause.)

Patience A. Lehrman.  (Applause.)  A first-generation immigrant from Cameroon, Patience Lehrman embodies what it means to be an American citizen.  Recognizing that immigrants have always made our country stronger, she has worked to make America a land of greater opportunity for all who call it home.  Under her leadership, Project SHINE has helped thousands of aging immigrants and refugees build deeper ties to their communities by connecting them with college students nationwide.  The United States honors Patience A. Lehrman for reaffirming the truth inscribed on our nation’s seal:  that out of many, we are one.  (Applause.)

Accepting on behalf of Jeanne Manford, her daughter Suzanne Swan.  (Applause.)  In an era when peaceful protests were met with violence and coming out was a radical act, Jeanne Manford knew she had to stand by her son, Morty.  Side-by-side, they marched proudly down the streets of New York on Stonewall’s anniversary, calling upon other parents of gay and lesbian Americans to show their children the same love and acceptance.  Jeanne’s courage lives on in progress she fought for and in PFLAG, the organization she founded, which today claims more than 200,000 members and supporters in over 350 chapters.  For insisting that equality knows no bounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, the United States honors Jeanne Manford.  (Applause.)

Billy Mills.  (Applause.)  As a boy growing up on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Billy Mills rose above adversity by dedicating himself to a dream.  He realized the height of his ambition at the 1964 Tokyo Games, where he ran what was then the fastest 10,000 meters in Olympic history.  Since then, Billy has spent 26 years lifting other young men and women toward their aspirations through Running Strong for American Indian Youth.  His organization has championed wellness and unlocked opportunity in Native American communities across our country.  The United States honors Billy Mills for inspiring young people to find the best in themselves.  (Applause.)

Terry T. Shima.  (Applause.)  During World War II, Terry Shima served in the Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which became the most decorated unit of its size in American history.  Responsible for securing the 442nd’s legacy, Terry ensured that returning heroes received a welcome befitting their service and sacrifice.  As the Executive Director of the Japanese American Veterans Association, he committed himself to preserving the stories of servicemembers who fought and bled overseas, even while many of their families were relocated to internment camps at home.  For strengthening the sacred trust between America and its veterans, the United States honors Terry T. Shima.  (Applause.)

Harris Wofford.  (Applause.)  Harris Wofford has spent more than 50 years empowering ordinary citizens to make extraordinary change.  A friend to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and an advisor to President John F. Kennedy, Harris fought alongside civil rights leaders to end segregation and advance the march of justice.  During his time at the White House, with the Peace Corps, as a Senator, and leading the Corporation for National and Community Service, he gave generations of Americans the chance to serve their country.  The United States honors Harris Wofford for upholding national service as one of our Nation’s highest causes.  (Applause.)

The Presidential Citizens Medal is awarded to Rachel D’Avino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, and Victoria Soto for dedicating themselves to their students and to the community of Newtown, Connecticut.  Some had been at Sandy Hook Elementary School for only weeks; others were preparing to retire after decades of service.  All worked long past the school bell to give the children in their care a future worth their talents.  On December 14, 2012, unthinkable tragedy swept through Newtown, etching the names of these six courageous women into the heart of our nation forever.  The United States honors Rachel D’Avino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, and Victoria Soto for their extraordinary commitment to the students of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Accepting on behalf of Rachel D’Avino — her mother, Mary D’Avino and sister, Sarah D’Avino.  (Applause.)

Accepting on behalf of Dawn Hochsprung — her daughter, Erica Lafferty, and mother, Cheryl Lafferty.  (Applause.)

Accepting on behalf of Anne Marie Murphy — her husband, Michael Murphy, and daughters, Paige and Colleen Murphy.  (Applause.)

Accepting on behalf of Lauren Rousseau — her parents, Terry and Gilles Rousseau.  (Applause.)

Accepting on behalf of Mary Sherlach — her husband, Bill Sherlach, and daughters, Katy Sherlach and Maura Schwartz.  (Applause.)

Accepting on behalf of Victoria Soto — her parents, Donna and Carlos Soto.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me close by just saying a few words of thanks — first of all, to Wendy and all the people at the Corporation for National and Community Service, thank you for all that you do to make our communities and our country stronger.  We’re very grateful.

To those who nominated these outstanding individuals — thank you for taking the time to share their stories.  The competition was stiff.  And your words gave life to their work.

To all the family and friends who are here celebrating with the winners, thank you for the love and support that you provide to them every single day, because they couldn’t do what they do unless somebody had that love and support for them.  I know the awardees would agree that this honor belongs not just to themselves but to everybody who supports them.

And finally, to the winners of this year’s Citizens Medal, we want to congratulate you once again.  A special note just to the families who are here from Sandy Hook — we are so blessed to be with you.  I’ve gotten to know many of you during the course of some very difficult weeks.  And your courage and love for each other and your communities shines through every single day.  And we could not be more blessed and grateful for your loved ones who gave everything they had on behalf of our kids.

On behalf of a grateful nation, thanks to all of you for showing us what it means to be a citizen of this country that we love.  Hopefully, we will all draw inspiration from this and remember why it is that we’re lucky to be living in the greatest nation on Earth.  Thank you all for coming and enjoy the reception.  (Applause.)

12:02 P.M. EST

Obama Presidency February 15, 2013: White House Announces 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll



White House Announces 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll

Source: WH, 2-15-13 

The President and First Lady announced today that this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll will be held on Monday, April 1st.  The event will feature live music, sports courts, cooking stations, storytelling and, of course, Easter egg rolling.  In support of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative to ensure that all our children grow up healthy and reach their full potential, the activities will encourage children to lead healthy, active lives.  The White House will open its South Lawn for children ages 13 years and younger and their families.

White House Easter Egg Roll tickets will be distributed through an online lottery system, allowing guests from across the United States to participate in a tradition that dates back to 1878.  The lottery will open for entries on February 21st at 10:00 AM EST and close on February 25th at 10:00 AM EST.  Tickets are free of charge and are non-transferable.  Full ticketing details can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/eastereggroll.

To place your commemorative egg order, please visit www.recreation.gov, and follow the link to the online Easter egg store.

For the most up-to-date information on the Easter Egg Roll and other public events at the White House, please visit www.whitehouse.gov/eastereggroll or call the Visitors Office 24-hour information line at (202) 456-7041.  Media details will be released in the coming weeks.

Political Headlines February 15, 2013: President Barack Obama bids farewell to departing Italian President Giorgio Napolitano





Obama bids farewell to departing Italian president

Source: Washington Post, AP, 2-15-13

President Barack Obama is greeting outgoing Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, hailing him as a friend and a “visionary” leader and taking the opportunity to thank Italy….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 15, 2013: House Votes to Overturn Automatic Government Pay Raises, Save Taxpayers $11 Billion





House Votes to Overturn Automatic Government Pay Raises, Save Taxpayers $11 Billion

Source: Speaker Boehner Press Office, 2-15-13
February 15, 2013
Press Release

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) released the following statement after the House passed H.R. 273, legislation by Representative Ron DeSantis (R-FL) that continues the current federal government pay freeze and saves taxpayers an estimated $11 billion:

“Families can’t be asked to foot the bill for automatic government pay raises when their wages are stagnant, prices are rising, and jobs are hard to come by. These kinds of measures might not be necessary if Senate Democrats had passed a budget at any point in the last four years, or if the president would submit a responsible budget to Congress on time. But until Washington gets serious about addressing its spending problem, and stops making it harder for small businesses to hire, the federal government shouldn’t be giving itself an across-the-board pay raise.”

NOTE: H.R. 273 overturns the president’s automatic pay raise and continues the current pay freeze for federal employees and officials, including Members of Congress, the president’s Cabinet, and the Vice President. According to data from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the median federal employee has seen their pay increase by $3,164 during the current pay freeze, from $69,550 in September 2010 to $72,714 in September 2012. And according to a study by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), federal employees make 16 percent more than their private sector peers in total compensation. Learn more about H.R. 273 here from the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee.

Full Text Obama Presidency February 15, 2013: President Barack Obama and President Giorgio Napolitano Remarks Before Bilateral Meeting



Remarks by President Obama and President Napolitano Before Bilateral Meeting

Source: WH, 2-15-13

Oval Office

10:10 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I want to extend the warmest greetings to my good friend, President Napolitano, on a return visit to the White House.  I think it’s entirely appropriate the day after Valentine’s Day, since we know that St. Valentine was associated with Italy, that we had a chance to express our love for the Italian people and my high regard for President Napolitano.

He has been an extraordinary leader not just in Italy but also in Europe.  We’ve had occasion to meet many times in which we have expressed again and again the importance of the transatlantic relationship, and the deep and abiding friendship and connection and bond between the Italian people and the American people.

And obviously, we have constantly talked about the extraordinary connection that derives from the tradition of Italian-Americans making enormous contributions to the United States.  President Napolitano has been so gracious in talking about his memories of the role that America played in liberating Europe and instituting the kinds of democratic practices and traditions that have served both sides of the Atlantic so well for so many years.

I want to thank the people of Italy for their enormous contributions to the NATO Alliance.  Italy is one of our biggest contributors in Afghanistan, and makes enormous sacrifices.  They welcome and host our troops on Italian soil.  The economic bonds between our two countries are very significant.  And in all this, President Napolitano has shown himself to be a visionary leader who has helped to guide and steer Europe towards greater unification, but always with a strong transatlantic relationship in mind.

The last point I would make is that President Napolitano has also just been a good personal friend, a tremendous host to my family when they visited Italy.  You should know, Mr. President, that one of the few things that my daughters asked me after I was reelected was, does this mean we can go back to Italy again?  (Laughter.)  So I confirmed to them that any excuse we can find to visit Italy, we shall return hopefully.

And this will give us an opportunity to not only visit but also to talk about some important issues, including the world economy.  I announced at the State of the Union this week my interest and intention in pursuing a U.S.-European Union free trade agreement, which I know is something of great interest to the President.  I’ll be interested in hearing from him how he anticipates the elections and government formation in Italy and what implications that has for the larger European project.  And I’m sure we’ll have a chance to talk about some national security issues as well.

But my main message is to say thank you for your extraordinary service, and I’m so glad that we had an opportunity to visit once again before you move onto even better things — I assume they’re at least having more fun than politics.

PRESIDENT NAPOLITANO:  Thank you very much.  I don’t need to say how deeply touched I am by the generous appreciation we just had of my long public service in the interest of Italy, of our alliance, of our common goals.  And I am grateful to President Obama for inviting me to pay a farewell visit at the White House, and for giving me the opportunity of an exchange of ideas before I complete my presidential mandate.

I am sure that we will be able today to express a common sense of confidence in the future of Italy and of U.S.-Italy relations; more generally speaking, in the future of our joint commitment to advance global peace, democracy, and human rights.

Italy has made remarkable progress in the past 14 months — the Italian government, with parliamentary support of different and even opposite political forces, and with the comprehension of different social groups and of all citizens.  While this progress must and will continue and be developed because Italy needs it, Europe needs it, and I think the world as a whole needs it.

The announcement which has been made — just made in Brussels and in Washington was significant because I was impressed by the words we, the leaders of the European Union and of the United States towards a beautiful incipit.  And as well, I think that trade — the transatlantic trade and investment partnership, which will be realized — now we are the opening talks — but I am sure about also the conclusion can represent a relevant contribution for promoting a new wave of development of technologic advancement of social justice on both shores of the Atlantic.  And I think it can represent even something more.  It is to say a new historic stage in relations between Europe and the United States — not only economically, but also from a political and moral point of view.

My conviction is that the effect that a shift has been taking place in the center of gravity of the world development of international relations doesn’t cancel at all the crucial importance of transatlantic alliance, of transatlantic relations.  On the contrary — it represents a new stimulus for us to make such a framework of relation more active, more competitive.  It is absolutely necessary for a better world to have our common heritage of values and experiences be a decisive factor also in the course of globalization in the next future.

It is the spirit in which I adhere to testify once more my personal friendship and my admiration for President Obama, only deploring that the visit of the President and his family in Rome was so short, and expecting a new visit also in my new capacity.  I be in another palace, but I be there to welcome you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  That’s great.  Thank you.

10:18 A.M. EST

Political Headlines February 15, 2013: President Barack Obama touts preschool initiatives in State of the Union tour





Obama touts preschool initiatives in State of the Union tour

Source: Chicago Tribune, Reuters, 2-15-13

President Barack Obama turned his State of the Union roadshow to the topic of education on Thursday with a trip to Georgia, where he touted proposals to provide preschool access to all four-year-olds across America….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 15, 2013: President Barack Obama in Chicago today to address economy, violence





Obama in Chicago today to address economy, violence

Source: Chicago Tribune, 2-15-13

President Barack Obama comes to Chicago today to talk about helping struggling families and also touch on the wide-ranging approach he thinks the country should take to fighting gun violence….READ MORE

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