Full Text Obama Presidency June 30, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at University of Cape Town Urges African Youth to Live Up to Mandela’s Legacy

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama at the University of Cape Town

Source: WH, 6-30-13

Cape Town, South Africa

6:14 P.M. SAST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Please, please, everybody have a seat.  Hello Cape Town!

AUDIENCE:  Hello!

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thobela.  Molweni.  Sanibona.  Dumelang.  Ndaa.  Reperile.

AUDIENCE:  Reperile!

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  See, I’ve been practicing.  How-zit?  (Applause.)  Did I leave anybody out?  All right, well, I didn’t want to leave anybody out here.

I want to thank Vice Chancellor Max Price, who’s here, as well as Archbishop Njongonkulu.  It’s wonderful to have them in attendance.

I am so happy to be here today.  It is wonderful to see all of these outstanding young people.  I just had the honor of going to Robben Island with Michelle and our two daughters this afternoon.  And this was my second time; I had the chance to visit back in 2006.  But there was something different about bringing my children.  And Malia is now 15, Sasha is 12 — and seeing them stand within the walls that once surrounded Nelson Mandela, I knew this was an experience that they would never forget.  I knew that they now appreciated a little bit more the sacrifices that Madiba and others had made for freedom.

But what I also know is that because they’ve had a chance to visit South Africa for a second time now, they also understand that Mandela’s spirit could never be imprisoned — for his legacy is here for all to see.  It’s in this auditorium:  young people, black, white, Indian, everything in between — (laughter) — living and learning together in a South Africa that is free and at peace.

Now, obviously, today Madiba’s health weighs heavily on our hearts.  And like billions all over the world, I — and the American people — have drawn strength from the example of this extraordinary leader, and the nation that he changed.  Nelson Mandela showed us that one man’s courage can move the world.  And he calls on us to make choices that reflects not our fears, but our hopes — in our own lives, and in the lives of our communities and our countries.  And that’s what I want to speak to all of you about today.

Some of you may be aware of this, but I actually took my first step into political life because of South Africa.  (Applause.)  This is true.  I was the same age as some of you — 19 years old, my whole life ahead of me.  I was going to school on a campus in California — not quite as pretty as this one — (laughter) — but similar.  And I must confess I was not always focused on my studies.  (Laughter.)  There were a lot of distractions.  (Laughter.)  And I enjoyed those distractions.

And as the son of an African father and a white American mother, the diversity of America was in my blood, but I had never cared much for politics.  I didn’t think it mattered to me.  I didn’t think I could make a difference.  And like many young people, I thought that cynicism — a certain ironic detachment — was a sign of wisdom and sophistication.

But then I learned what was happening here in South Africa.  And two young men, ANC representatives, came to our college and spoke, and I spent time hearing their stories.  And I learned about the courage of those who waged the Defiance Campaign, and the brutality leveled against innocent men, women and children from Sharpeville to Soweto.  And I studied the leadership of Luthuli, and the words of Biko, and the example of Madiba, and I knew that while brave people were imprisoned just off these shores on Robben Island, my own government in the United States was not standing on their side.  That’s why I got involved in what was known as the divestment movement in the United States.

It was the first time I ever attached myself to a cause.  It was the first time also that I ever gave a speech.  It was only two minutes long — (laughter) — and I was really just a warm-up act at a rally that we were holding demanding that our college divest from Apartheid South Africa.  So I got up on stage, I started making my speech, and then, as a bit of political theater, some people came out with glasses that looked like security officers and they dragged me off the stage.  (Laughter.)  Fortunately, there are no records of this speech.  (Laughter.)  But I remember struggling to express the anger and the passion that I was feeling, and to echo in some small way the moral clarity of freedom fighters an ocean away.

And I’ll be honest with you, when I was done, I did not think I’d made any difference — I was even a little embarrassed.  And I thought to myself — what’s a bunch of university kids doing in California that is somehow going to make a difference?  It felt too distant from what people were going through in places like Soweto.  But looking back, as I look at that 19-year old young man, I’m more forgiving of the fact that the speech might not have been that great, because I knew — I know now that something inside me was stirring at that time, something important.  And that was the belief that I could be part of something bigger than myself; that my own salvation was bound up with those of others.

That’s what Bobby Kennedy expressed, far better than I ever could, when he spoke here at the University of Cape Town in 1966.  He said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Now, the world was very different on that June day in 1966 when Bobby Kennedy spoke those words.  Mandela faced many more years as a prisoner.  Apartheid was entrenched in this land.  In the United States, the victories of the Civil Rights Movement were still uncertain.  In fact, on the very day that Kennedy spoke here, the American civil rights leader, James Meredith, was shot in Mississippi, where he was marching to inspire blacks to register to vote.

Those were difficult, troubled, trying times.  The idea of hope might have seemed misplaced.  It would have seemed inconceivable to people at that time — that less than 50 years later, an African American President might address an integrated audience, at South Africa’s oldest university, and that this same university would have conferred an honorary degree to a President, Nelson Mandela.  (Applause.)  It would have seemed impossible.

That’s the power that comes from acting on our ideals.  That’s what Mandela understood.  But it wasn’t just the giants of history who brought about this change.  Think of the many millions of acts of conscience that were part of that effort.  Think about how many voices were raised against injustice over the years — in this country, in the United States, around the world.  Think of how many times ordinary people pushed against those walls of oppression and resistance, and the violence and the indignities that they suffered; the quiet courage that they sustained.  Think of how many ripples of hope it took to build a wave that would eventually come crashing down like a mighty stream.

So Mandela’s life, like Kennedy’s life, like Gandhi’s life, like the life of all those who fought to bring about a new South Africa or a more just America — they stand as a challenge to me.  But more importantly, they stand as a challenge to your generation, because they tell you that your voice matters — your ideals, your willingness to act on those ideals, your choices can make a difference.  And if there’s any country in the world that shows the power of human beings to affect change, this is the one.  You’ve shown us how a prisoner can become a President.  You’ve shown us how bitter adversaries can reconcile.  You’ve confronted crimes of hatred and intolerance with truth and love, and you wrote into your constitution the human rights that sustain freedom.

And those are only the most publicized aspects of South Africa’s transformation, because alongside South Africa’s political struggle, other battles have been waged as well to improve the lives of those who for far too long have been denied economic opportunity and social justice.

During my last journey here in 2006, what impressed me so much was the good works of people on the ground teaching children, caring for the sick, bringing jobs to those in need.  In Khayelitsha Township — I’m still working on some of these — (laughter) — I met women who were living with HIV.  And this is at a time back in 2006, where there were still some challenges in terms of the policies around HIV and AIDS here in South Africa.  But they were on the ground, struggling to keep their families together — helping each other, working on behalf of each other.  In Soweto, I met people who were striving to carry forward the legacy of Hector Pieterson.  At the Rosa Parks Library in Pretoria, I was struck by the energy of students who — they wanted to capture this moment of promise for South Africa.

And this is a moment of great promise.  South Africa is one of the world’s economic centers.  Obviously, you can see it here in Cape Town.  In the country that saw the first human heart transplant, new breakthroughs are being made in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.  I was just talking to your Vice Chancellor.  People come to this University from over 100 countries to study and teach.  In America, we see the reach of your culture from “Freshly Ground” concerts to the — (applause) — we’ve got the Nando’s just a couple of blocks from the White House.  (Laughter and applause.)  And thanks to the first World Cup ever held on this continent, the world now knows the sound of the vuvuzela.  (Applause.)  I’m not sure that’s like the greatest gift that South Africa ever gave.  (Laughter.)

But progress has also rippled across the African continent.  From Senegal to Cote D’Ivoire to Malawi, democracy has weathered strong challenges.

Many of the fastest-growing economies in the world are here in Africa, where there is an historic shift taking place from poverty to a growing, nascent middle class.  Fewer people are dying of preventable disease.  More people have access to health care.  More farmers are getting their products to market at fair prices.  From micro-finance projects in Kampala, to stock traders in Lagos, to cell phone entrepreneurs in Nairobi, there is an energy here that can’t be denied — Africa rising.

We know this progress, though, rests on a fragile foundation.  We know that progress is uneven.  Across Africa, the same institutions that should be the backbone of democracy can all too often be infected with the rot of corruption.  The same technology that enables record profits sometimes means widening a canyon of inequality.  The same interconnection that binds our fates makes all of Africa vulnerable to the undertow of conflict.

So there is no question that Africa is on the move, but it’s not moving fast enough for the child still languishing in poverty in forgotten townships.  It’s not moving fast enough for the protester who is beaten in Harare, or the woman who is raped in Eastern Congo.  We’ve got more work to do, because these Africans must not be left behind.

And that’s where you come in –- the young people of Africa.  Just like previous generations, you’ve got choices to make.  You get to decide where the future lies.  Think about it — over 60 percent of Africans are under 35 years old.  So demographics means young people are going to be determining the fate of this continent and this country.  You’ve got time and numbers on your side, and you’ll be making decisions long after politicians like me have left the scene.

And I can promise you this:  The world will be watching what decisions you make.  The world will be watching what you do.  Because one of the wonderful things that’s happening is, where people used to only see suffering and conflict in Africa, suddenly, now they’re seeing opportunity for resources, for investment, for partnership, for influence.  Governments and businesses from around the world are sizing up the continent, and they’re making decisions themselves about where to invest their own time and their own energy.  And as I said yesterday at a town hall meeting up in Johannesburg, that’s a good thing.  We want all countries — China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Europe, America — we want everybody paying attention to what’s going on here, because it speaks to your progress.

And I’ve traveled to Africa on this trip because my bet is on the young people who are the heartbeat of Africa’s story.  I’m betting on all of you.  As President of the United States, I believe that my own nation will benefit enormously if you reach your full potential.

If prosperity is broadly shared here in Africa, that middle class will be an enormous market for our goods.  If strong democracies take root, that will enable our people and businesses to draw closer to yours.  If peace prevails over war, we will all be more secure.  And if the dignity of the individual is upheld across Africa, then I believe Americans will be more free as well, because I believe that none of us are fully free when others in the human family remain shackled by poverty or disease or oppression.

Now, America has been involved in Africa for decades.  But we are moving beyond the simple provision of assistance, foreign aid, to a new model of partnership between America and Africa -– a partnership of equals that focuses on your capacity to solve problems, and your capacity to grow.  Our efforts focus on three areas that shape our lives:  opportunity, democracy, and peace.

So first off, we want a partnership that empowers Africans to access greater opportunity in their own lives, in their communities, and for their countries.

As the largest economy on the continent, South Africa is part of a trend that extends from south to north, east to west — more and more African economies are poised to take off.  And increased trade and investment from the United States has the potential to accelerate these trends –- creating new jobs and opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic.

So I’m calling for America to up our game when it comes to Africa.  We’re bringing together business leaders from America and Africa to deepen our engagement.  We’re going to launch new trade missions, and promote investment from companies back home.  We’ll launch an effort in Addis to renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act to break down barriers to trade, and tomorrow I’ll discuss a new Trade Africa initiative to expand our ties across the continent, because we want to unleash the power of entrepreneurship and markets to create opportunity here i Africa.

It was interesting — yesterday at the town hall meeting I had with a number of young people, the first three questions had to do with trade, because there was a recognition — these young people said, I want to start a — I want to start something.  I want to build something, and then I want to sell something.  Now, to succeed, these efforts have to connect to something bigger.

And for America, this isn’t just about numbers on a balance sheet or the resources that can be taken out of the ground.  We believe that societies and economies only advance as far as individuals are free to carry them forward.  And just as freedom cannot exist when people are imprisoned for their political views, true opportunity cannot exist when people are imprisoned by sickness, or hunger, or darkness.

And so, the question we’ve been asking ourselves is what will it take to empower individual Africans?

For one thing, we believe that countries have to have the power to feed themselves, so instead of shipping food to Africa, we’re now helping millions of small farmers in Africa make use of new technologies and farm more land.  And through a new alliance of governments and the private sector, we’re investing billions of dollars in agriculture that grows more crops, brings more food to market, give farmers better prices and helps lift 50 million people out of poverty in a decade.  An end to famine, a thriving African agricultural industry –- that’s what opportunity looks like.  That’s what we want to build with you.

We believe that countries have to have the power to prevent illness and care for the sick.  And our efforts to combat malaria and tropical illness can lead to an achievable goal:  ending child and maternal deaths from preventable disease.  Already, our commitment to fight HIV/AIDS has saved millions, and allows us to imagine what was once unthinkable:  an AIDS-free generation.  And while America will continue to provide billions of dollars in support, we can’t make progress without African partners.  So I’m proud that by the end of my presidency, South Africa has determined it will be the first African country to fully manage its HIV care and treatment program.  (Applause.)  That’s an enormous achievement.  Healthy mothers and healthy children; strong public health systems — that’s what opportunity looks like.

And we believe that nations must have the power to connect their people to the promise of the 21st century.  Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age.  It’s the light that children study by; the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business.  It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs.  And it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.  You’ve got to have power.  And yet two-thirds of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to power — and the percentage is much higher for those who don’t live in cities.

So today, I am proud to announce a new initiative.  We’ve been dealing with agriculture, we’ve been dealing with health.  Now we’re going to talk about power — Power Africa — a new initiative that will double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa.  Double it.  (Applause.)  We’re going to start by investing $7 billion in U.S. government resources.  We’re going to partner with the private sector, who themselves have committed more than $9 billion in investment.  And in partnership with African nations, we’re going to develop new sources of energy.  We’ll reach more households not just in cities, but in villages and on farms.  We’ll expand access for those who live currently off the power grid.  And we’ll support clean energy to protect our planet and combat climate change.  (Applause.)  So, a light where currently there is darkness; the energy needed to lift people out of poverty — that’s what opportunity looks like.

So this is America’s vision:  a partnership with Africa that unleashes growth, and the potential of every citizen, not just a few at the very top.  And this is achievable.  There’s nothing that I’ve outlined that cannot happen.  But history tells us that true progress is only possible where governments exist to serve their people, and not the other way around.  (Applause.)

If anyone wants to see the difference between freedom and tyranny, let them come here, to South Africa.  Here, citizens braved bullets and beatings to claim that most basic right:  the ability to be free, to determine your own fate, in your own land.  And Madiba’s example extended far beyond that victory.  Now, I mentioned yesterday at the town hall — like America’s first President, George Washington, he understood that democracy can only endure when it’s bigger than just one person.  So his willingness to leave power was as profound as his ability to claim power.  (Applause.)

The good news is that this example is getting attention across the continent.  We see it in free and fair elections from Ghana to Zambia.  We hear it in the voices of civil society.  I was in Senegal and met with some civil society groups, including a group called Y’en Marre, which meant “fed up” — (laughter) — that helped to defend the will of the people after elections in Senegal.  We recognize it in places like Tanzania, where text messages connect citizens to their representatives.  And we strengthen it when organizations stand up for democratic principles, like ECOWAS did in Cote d’Ivoire.

But this work is not complete — we all know that.  Not in those countries where leaders enrich themselves with impunity; not in communities where you can’t start a business, or go to school, or get a house without paying a bribe to somebody.  These things have to change.  And they have to chance not just because such corruption is immoral, but it’s also a matter of self-interest and economics.  Governments that respect the rights of their citizens and abide by the rule of law do better, grow faster, draw more investment than those who don’t.  That’s just a fact.  (Applause.)

Just look at your neighbor, Zimbabwe, where the promise of liberation gave way to the corruption of power and then the collapse of the economy.  Now, after the leaders of this region — led by South Africa — brokered an end to what has been a long-running crisis, Zimbabweans have a new constitution, the economy is beginning to recover.  So there is an opportunity to move forward — but only if there is an election that is free, and fair, and peaceful, so that Zimbabweans can determine their future without fear of intimidation and retribution.  And after elections, there must be respect for the universal rights upon which democracy depends.  (Applause.)

These are things that America stands for — not perfectly — but that’s what we stand for, and that’s what my administration stands for.  We don’t tell people who their leaders should be, but we do stand up with those who support the principles that lead to a better life.  And that’s why we’re interested in investing not in strongmen, but in strong institutions:  independent judiciaries that can enforce the rule of law — (applause); honest police forces that can protect the peoples’ interests instead of their own; an open government that can bring transparency and accountability.  And, yes, that’s why we stand up for civil society — for journalists and NGOs, and community organizers and activists — who give people a voice.  And that’s why we support societies that empower women — because no country will reach its potential unless it draws on the talents of our wives and our mothers, and our sisters and our daughters.  (Applause.)

Just to editorialize here for a second, because my father’s home country of Kenya — like much of Africa — you see women doing work and not getting respect.  I tell you, you can measure how well a country does by how it treats its women.  (Applause.)  And all across this continent, and all around the world, we’ve got more work to do on that front.  We’ve got some sisters saying, “Amen.”  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, I know that there are some in Africa who hear me say these things — who see America’s support for these values — and say that’s intrusive.  Why are you meddling?  I know there are those who argue that ideas like democracy and transparency are somehow Western exports.  I disagree.  Those in power who make those arguments are usually trying to distract people from their own abuses.  (Applause.)  Sometimes, they are the same people who behind closed doors are willing to sell out their own country’s resource to foreign interests, just so long as they get a cut.  I’m just telling the truth.  (Laughter and applause.)

Now ultimately, I believe that Africans should make up their own minds about what serves African interests.  We trust your judgment, the judgment of ordinary people.  We believe that when you control your destiny, if you’ve got a handle on your governments, then governments will promote freedom and opportunity, because that will serve you.  And it shouldn’t just be America that stands up for democracy — it should be Africans as well.  So here in South Africa, your democratic story has inspired the world.  And through the power of your example, and through your position in organizations like SADC and the African Union, you can be a voice for the human progress that you’ve written into your own Constitution.  You shouldn’t assume that that’s unique to South Africa.  People have aspirations like that everywhere.

And this brings me to the final area where our partnership can empower people — the pursuit and protection of peace in Africa.  So long as parts of Africa continue to be ravaged by war and mayhem, opportunity and democracy cannot take root.  Across the continent, there are places where too often fear prevails.  From Mali to Mogadishu, senseless terrorism all too often perverts the meaning of Islam — one of the world’s great religions — and takes the lives of countless innocent Africans.  From Congo to Sudan, conflicts fester — robbing men, women and children of the lives that they deserve.  In too many countries, the actions of thugs and warlords and drug cartels and human traffickers hold back the promise of Africa, enslaving others for their own purposes.

America cannot put a stop to these tragedies alone, and you don’t expect us to.  That’s a job for Africans.  But we can help, and we will help.  I know there’s a lot of talk of America’s military presence in Africa.  But if you look at what we’re actually doing, time and again, we’re putting muscle behind African efforts.  That’s what we’re doing in the Sahel, where the nations of West Africa have stepped forward to keep the peace as Mali now begins to rebuild.  That’s what we’re doing in Central Africa, where a coalition of countries is closing the space where the Lord’s Resistance Army can operate.  That’s what we’re doing in Somalia, where an African Union force, AMISOM, is helping a new government to stand on its own two feet.

These efforts have to lead to lasting peace, not just words on a paper or promises that fade away.  Peace between and within Sudan and South Sudan, so that these governments get on with the work of investing in their deeply impoverished peoples.  Peace in the Congo with nations keeping their commitments, so rights are at last claimed by the people of this war-torn country, and women and children no longer live in fear.  (Applause.)  Peace in Mali, where people will make their voices heard in new elections this summer.  In each of these cases, Africa must lead and America will help.  And America will make no apology for supporting African efforts to end conflict and stand up for human dignity.  (Applause.)

And this year marks the 50th anniversary of the OAU, now the African Union — an occasion that is more historic, because the AU is taking on these challenges.  And I want America to take our engagement not just on security issues, but on environmental issues — and economic issues and social issues, education issues — I want to take that engagement to a whole new level.  So I’m proud to announce that next year, I’m going to invite heads of state from across sub-Saharan Africa to a summit in the United States to help launch a new chapter in U.S.-African relations.  (Applause.)  And as I mentioned yesterday, I’m also going to hold a summit with the next class of our Young African Leaders Initiative, because we want to engage leaders and tomorrow’s leaders in figuring out how we can best work together.  (Applause.)

So let me close by saying this.  Governments matter.  Political leadership matters.  And I do hope that some of you here today decide to follow the path of public service.  It can sometimes be thankless, but I believe it can also be a noble life.  But we also have to recognize that the choices we make are not limited to the policies and programs of government.  Peace and prosperity in Africa, and around the world, also depends on the attitudes of people.

Too often, the source of tragedy, the source of conflict involves the choices ordinary people make that divide us from one another — black from white, Christian from Muslim, tribe from tribe.  Africa contains a multitude of identities, but the nations and people of Africa will not fulfill their promise so long as some use these identities to justify subjugation –- an excuse to steal or kill or disenfranchise others.

And ultimately, that’s the most important lesson that the world learned right here in South Africa.  Mandela once wrote, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  (Applause.)

I believe that to be true.  I believe that’s always been true — from the dawn of the first man to the youth today, and all that came in between here in Africa — kingdoms come and gone; the crucible of slavery and the emergence from colonialism; senseless war, but also iconic movements for social justice; squandered wealth, but also soaring promise.

Madiba’s words give us a compass in a sea of change, firm ground amidst swirling currents.  We always have the opportunity to choose our better history.  We can always understand that most important decision — the decision we make when we find our common humanity in one another.  That’s always available to us, that choice.

And I’ve seen that spirit in the welcoming smiles of children on Gorée Island, and the children of Mombasa on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast.  That spirit exists in the mother in the Sahel who wants a life of dignity for her daughters; and in the South African student who braves danger and distance just to get to school.  It can be heard in the songs that rise from villages and city streets, and it can be heard in the confident voices of young people like you.

It is that spirit, that innate longing for justice and equality, for freedom and solidarity — that’s the spirit that can light the way forward.  It’s in you.  And as you guide Africa down that long and difficult road, I want you to know that you will always find the extended hand of a friend in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Thank you very much.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

END                7:02 P.M. SAST

Political Headlines June 27, 2013: Senate Passes Immigration Overhaul with a Vote of 68 to 32

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Senate Passes Immigration Overhaul

Source: NYT, 6-27-13
The most significant overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws in a generation passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support on Thursday, setting up a fight in the Republican-controlled House….READ MORE

Passes Comprehensive Immigration Overhaul Bill

A bill to provide for comprehensive immigration reform and for other purposes.

Bill Passed in the Senate by 17 Votes

Yes Dem 52 Rep 14 Ind 2
No Dem 0 Rep 32 Ind 0

Details of the Vote on S.744 » Article: Immigration Overhaul Passes in Senate

Campaign Buzz June 25, 2013: Democrat Edward Markey wins John Kerry’s US Senate seat in Massachusetts special election

CAMPAIGN BUZZ

Campaign_Headlines

CAMPAIGN HEADLINES….

Democrat Markey wins Kerry’s US Senate seat in Massachusetts special election

Source: Fox News, 6-25-13‎

Long-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Edward Markey beat out Republican newcomer Gabriel Gomez Tuesday in Massachusetts’ special election for John Kerry’s U.S. Senate seat. Markey’s win helps keep a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 25, 2013: President Barack Obama Outlines Plan to Combat Climate Change

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Outlines Plan to Combat Climate Change

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-25-13

The White House

President Obama on Tuesday outlined his plan to combat climate change, calling for new standards to reduce carbon pollution and saying he would not approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline if it produces more greenhouse gas emissions….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 25, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Unveiling Climate Change Plan

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Climate Change

Source: WH, 6-25-13

Christopher Gregory/The New York Times

President Obama delivered remarks at Georgetown University on Tuesday.

Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.

1:45 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Thank you, Georgetown!  Thank you so much.  Everybody, please be seated.  And my first announcement today is that you should all take off your jackets.  (Laughter.)  I’m going to do the same.  (Applause.)  It’s not that sexy, now.  (Laughter.)

It is good to be back on campus, and it is a great privilege to speak from the steps of this historic hall that welcomed Presidents going back to George Washington.

I want to thank your president, President DeGioia, who’s here today.   (Applause.)  I want to thank him for hosting us.  I want to thank the many members of my Cabinet and my administration.  I want to thank Leader Pelosi and the members of Congress who are here.  We are very grateful for their support.

And I want to say thank you to the Hoyas in the house for having me back.  (Applause.)  It was important for me to speak directly to your generation, because the decisions that we make now and in the years ahead will have a profound impact on the world that all of you inherit.

On Christmas Eve, 1968, the astronauts of Apollo 8 did a live broadcast from lunar orbit.  So Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders — the first humans to orbit the moon -– described what they saw, and they read Scripture from the Book of Genesis to the rest of us back here.  And later that night, they took a photo that would change the way we see and think about our world.

It was an image of Earth -– beautiful; breathtaking; a glowing marble of blue oceans, and green forests, and brown mountains brushed with white clouds, rising over the surface of the moon.

And while the sight of our planet from space might seem routine today, imagine what it looked like to those of us seeing our home, our planet, for the first time.  Imagine what it looked like to children like me.  Even the astronauts were amazed.  “It makes you realize,” Lovell would say, “just what you have back there on Earth.”

And around the same time we began exploring space, scientists were studying changes taking place in the Earth’s atmosphere.  Now, scientists had known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels release those gases into the air.  That wasn’t news. But in the late 1950s, the National Weather Service began measuring the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, with the worry that rising levels might someday disrupt the fragile balance that makes our planet so hospitable.  And what they’ve found, year after year, is that the levels of carbon pollution in our atmosphere have increased dramatically.

That science, accumulated and reviewed over decades, tells us that our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind.

The 12 warmest years in recorded history have all come in the last 15 years.  Last year, temperatures in some areas of the ocean reached record highs, and ice in the Arctic shrank to its smallest size on record — faster than most models had predicted it would.  These are facts.

Now, we know that no single weather event is caused solely by climate change.  Droughts and fires and floods, they go back to ancient times.  But we also know that in a world that’s warmer than it used to be, all weather events are affected by a warming planet.  The fact that sea level in New York, in New York Harbor, are now a foot higher than a century ago — that didn’t cause Hurricane Sandy, but it certainly contributed to the destruction that left large parts of our mightiest city dark and underwater.

The potential impacts go beyond rising sea levels.  Here at home, 2012 was the warmest year in our history.  Midwest farms were parched by the worst drought since the Dust Bowl, and then drenched by the wettest spring on record.  Western wildfires scorched an area larger than the state of Maryland.  Just last week, a heat wave in Alaska shot temperatures into the 90s.

And we know that the costs of these events can be measured in lost lives and lost livelihoods, lost homes, lost businesses, hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency services and disaster relief.  In fact, those who are already feeling the effects of climate change don’t have time to deny it — they’re busy dealing with it.  Firefighters are braving longer wildfire seasons, and states and federal governments have to figure out how to budget for that.  I had to sit on a meeting with the Department of Interior and Agriculture and some of the rest of my team just to figure out how we’re going to pay for more and more expensive fire seasons.

Farmers see crops wilted one year, washed away the next; and the higher food prices get passed on to you, the American consumer.  Mountain communities worry about what smaller snowpacks will mean for tourism — and then, families at the bottom of the mountains wonder what it will mean for their drinking water.  Americans across the country are already paying the price of inaction in insurance premiums, state and local taxes, and the costs of rebuilding and disaster relief.

So the question is not whether we need to act.  The overwhelming judgment of science — of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements — has put all that to rest.  Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data, have now put that to rest.  They’ve acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.

So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.  And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren.

As a President, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.  (Applause.)

I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.  And that’s why, today, I’m announcing a new national climate action plan, and I’m here to enlist your generation’s help in keeping the United States of America a leader — a global leader — in the fight against climate change.

This plan builds on progress that we’ve already made.  Last year, I took office — the year that I took office, my administration pledged to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent from their 2005 levels by the end of this decade.  And we rolled up our sleeves and we got to work. We doubled the electricity we generated from wind and the sun.  We doubled the mileage our cars will get on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade.  (Applause.)

Here at Georgetown, I unveiled my strategy for a secure energy future.  And thanks to the ingenuity of our businesses, we’re starting to produce much more of our own energy.  We’re building the first nuclear power plants in more than three decades — in Georgia and South Carolina.  For the first time in 18 years, America is poised to produce more of our own oil than we buy from other nations.  And today, we produce more natural gas than anybody else.  So we’re producing energy.  And these advances have grown our economy, they’ve created new jobs, they can’t be shipped overseas — and, by the way, they’ve also helped drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly 20 years.  Since 2006, no country on Earth has reduced its total carbon pollution by as much as the United States of America.  (Applause.)

So it’s a good start.  But the reason we’re all here in the heat today is because we know we’ve got more to do.

In my State of the Union address, I urged Congress to come up with a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one that Republican and Democratic senators worked on together a few years ago.  And I still want to see that happen.  I’m willing to work with anyone to make that happen.

But this is a challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock.  It demands our attention now.  And this is my plan to meet it — a plan to cut carbon pollution; a plan to protect our country from the impacts of climate change; and a plan to lead the world in a coordinated assault on a changing climate.  (Applause.)

This plan begins with cutting carbon pollution by changing the way we use energy — using less dirty energy, using more clean energy, wasting less energy throughout our economy.

Forty-three years ago, Congress passed a law called the Clean Air Act of 1970.  (Applause.)  It was a good law.  The reasoning behind it was simple:  New technology can protect our health by protecting the air we breathe from harmful pollution.  And that law passed the Senate unanimously.  Think about that — it passed the Senate unanimously.  It passed the House of Representatives 375 to 1.  I don’t know who the one guy was — I haven’t looked that up.  (Laughter.)  You can barely get that many votes to name a post office these days.  (Laughter.)

It was signed into law by a Republican President.  It was later strengthened by another Republican President.  This used to be a bipartisan issue.

Six years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are pollutants covered by that same Clean Air Act.  (Applause.)  And they required the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, to determine whether they’re a threat to our health and welfare. In 2009, the EPA determined that they are a threat to both our health and our welfare in many different ways — from dirtier air to more common heat waves — and, therefore, subject to regulation.

Today, about 40 percent of America’s carbon pollution comes from our power plants.  But here’s the thing:  Right now, there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into our air.  None.  Zero.  We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free.  That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop.  (Applause.)

So today, for the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.  (Applause.)

I’m also directing the EPA to develop these standards in an open and transparent way, to provide flexibility to different states with different needs, and build on the leadership that many states, and cities, and companies have already shown.  In fact, many power companies have already begun modernizing their plants, and creating new jobs in the process.  Others have shifted to burning cleaner natural gas instead of dirtier fuel sources.

Nearly a dozen states have already implemented or are implementing their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution.  More than 25 have set energy efficiency targets.  More than 35 have set renewable energy targets.  Over 1,000 mayors have signed agreements to cut carbon pollution.  So the idea of setting higher pollution standards for our power plants is not new.  It’s just time for Washington to catch up with the rest of the country.  And that’s what we intend to do.  (Applause.)

Now, what you’ll hear from the special interests and their allies in Congress is that this will kill jobs and crush the economy, and basically end American free enterprise as we know it.  And the reason I know you’ll hear those things is because that’s what they said every time America sets clear rules and better standards for our air and our water and our children’s health.  And every time, they’ve been wrong.

For example, in 1970, when we decided through the Clean Air Act to do something about the smog that was choking our cities — and, by the way, most young people here aren’t old enough to remember what it was like, but when I was going to school in 1979-1980 in Los Angeles, there were days where folks couldn’t go outside.  And the sunsets were spectacular because of all the pollution in the air.

But at the time when we passed the Clean Air Act to try to get rid of some of this smog, some of the same doomsayers were saying new pollution standards will decimate the auto industry.  Guess what — it didn’t happen.  Our air got cleaner.

In 1990, when we decided to do something about acid rain, they said our electricity bills would go up, the lights would go off, businesses around the country would suffer — I quote — “a quiet death.”  None of it happened, except we cut acid rain dramatically.

See, the problem with all these tired excuses for inaction is that it suggests a fundamental lack of faith in American business and American ingenuity.  (Applause.)  These critics seem to think that when we ask our businesses to innovate and reduce pollution and lead, they can’t or they won’t do it.  They’ll just kind of give up and quit.  But in America, we know that’s not true.  Look at our history.

When we restricted cancer-causing chemicals in plastics and leaded fuel in our cars, it didn’t end the plastics industry or the oil industry.  American chemists came up with better substitutes.  When we phased out CFCs — the gases that were depleting the ozone layer — it didn’t kill off refrigerators or air-conditioners or deodorant.  (Laughter.)  American workers and businesses figured out how to do it better without harming the environment as much.

The fuel standards that we put in place just a few years ago didn’t cripple automakers.  The American auto industry retooled, and today, our automakers are selling the best cars in the world at a faster rate than they have in five years — with more hybrid, more plug-in, more fuel-efficient cars for everybody to choose from.  (Applause.)

So the point is, if you look at our history, don’t bet against American industry.  Don’t bet against American workers.  Don’t tell folks that we have to choose between the health of our children or the health of our economy.  (Applause.)

The old rules may say we can’t protect our environment and promote economic growth at the same time, but in America, we’ve always used new technologies — we’ve used science; we’ve used research and development and discovery to make the old rules obsolete.

Today, we use more clean energy –- more renewables and natural gas -– which is supporting hundreds of thousands of good jobs.  We waste less energy, which saves you money at the pump and in your pocketbooks.  And guess what — our economy is 60 percent bigger than it was 20 years ago, while our carbon emissions are roughly back to where they were 20 years ago.

So, obviously, we can figure this out.  It’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and.  We’ve got to look after our children; we have to look after our future; and we have to grow the economy and create jobs.  We can do all of that as long as we don’t fear the future; instead we seize it.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, don’t take my word for it — recently, more than 500 businesses, including giants like GM and Nike, issued a Climate Declaration, calling action on climate change “one of the great economic opportunities of the 21st century.”  Walmart is working to cut its carbon pollution by 20 percent and transition completely to renewable energy.  (Applause.)  Walmart deserves a cheer for that.  (Applause.)  But think about it.  Would the biggest company, the biggest retailer in America — would they really do that if it weren’t good for business, if it weren’t good for their shareholders?

A low-carbon, clean energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come.  And I want America to build that engine.  I want America to build that future — right here in the United States of America.  That’s our task.  (Applause.)

Now, one thing I want to make sure everybody understands — this does not mean that we’re going to suddenly stop producing fossil fuels.  Our economy wouldn’t run very well if it did.  And transitioning to a clean energy economy takes time.  But when the doomsayers trot out the old warnings that these ambitions will somehow hurt our energy supply, just remind them that America produced more oil than we have in 15 years.  What is true is that we can’t just drill our way out of the energy and climate challenge that we face.  (Applause.)  That’s not possible.

I put forward in the past an all-of-the-above energy strategy, but our energy strategy must be about more than just producing more oil.  And, by the way, it’s certainly got to be about more than just building one pipeline.  (Applause.)

Now, I know there’s been, for example, a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build a pipeline, the Keystone pipeline, that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands down to refineries in the Gulf.  And the State Department is going through the final stages of evaluating the proposal.  That’s how it’s always been done.  But I do want to be clear:  Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest.  And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.  (Applause.)  The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.  It’s relevant.

Now, even as we’re producing more domestic oil, we’re also producing more cleaner-burning natural gas than any other country on Earth.  And, again, sometimes there are disputes about natural gas, but let me say this:  We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.

Federally supported technology has helped our businesses drill more effectively and extract more gas.  And now, we’ll keep working with the industry to make drilling safer and cleaner, to make sure that we’re not seeing methane emissions, and to put people to work modernizing our natural gas infrastructure so that we can power more homes and businesses with cleaner energy.

The bottom line is natural gas is creating jobs.  It’s lowering many families’ heat and power bills.  And it’s the transition fuel that can power our economy with less carbon pollution even as our businesses work to develop and then deploy more of the technology required for the even cleaner energy economy of the future.

And that brings me to the second way that we’re going to reduce carbon pollution — by using more clean energy.  Over the past four years, we’ve doubled the electricity that we generate from zero-carbon wind and solar power.  (Applause.)  And that means jobs — jobs manufacturing the wind turbines that now generate enough electricity to power nearly 15 million homes; jobs installing the solar panels that now generate more than four times the power at less cost than just a few years ago.

I know some Republicans in Washington dismiss these jobs, but those who do need to call home — because 75 percent of all wind energy in this country is generated in Republican districts. (Laughter.)  And that may explain why last year, Republican governors in Kansas and Oklahoma and Iowa — Iowa, by the way, a state that harnesses almost 25 percent of its electricity from the wind — helped us in the fight to extend tax credits for wind energy manufacturers and producers.  (Applause.)  Tens of thousands good jobs were on the line, and those jobs were worth the fight.

And countries like China and Germany are going all in in the race for clean energy.  I believe Americans build things better than anybody else.  I want America to win that race, but we can’t win it if we’re not in it.  (Applause.)

So the plan I’m announcing today will help us double again our energy from wind and sun.  Today, I’m directing the Interior Department to green light enough private, renewable energy capacity on public lands to power more than 6 million homes by 2020.  (Applause.)

The Department of Defense — the biggest energy consumer in America — will install 3 gigawatts of renewable power on its bases, generating about the same amount of electricity each year as you’d get from burning 3 million tons of coal.  (Applause.)

And because billions of your tax dollars continue to still subsidize some of the most profitable corporations in the history of the world, my budget once again calls for Congress to end the tax breaks for big oil companies, and invest in the clean-energy companies that will fuel our future.  (Applause.)

Now, the third way to reduce carbon pollution is to waste less energy — in our cars, our homes, our businesses.  The fuel standards we set over the past few years mean that by the middle of the next decade, the cars and trucks we buy will go twice as far on a gallon of gas.  That means you’ll have to fill up half as often; we’ll all reduce carbon pollution.  And we built on that success by setting the first-ever standards for heavy-duty trucks and buses and vans.  And in the coming months, we’ll partner with truck makers to do it again for the next generation of vehicles.

Meanwhile, the energy we use in our homes and our businesses and our factories, our schools, our hospitals — that’s responsible for about one-third of our greenhouse gases.  The good news is simple upgrades don’t just cut that pollution; they put people to work — manufacturing and installing smarter lights and windows and sensors and appliances.  And the savings show up in our electricity bills every month — forever.  That’s why we’ve set new energy standards for appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers.  And today, our businesses are building better ones that will also cut carbon pollution and cut consumers’ electricity bills by hundreds of billions of dollars.

That means, by the way, that our federal government also has to lead by example.   I’m proud that federal agencies have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 15 percent since I took office.  But we can do even better than that.  So today, I’m setting a new goal:  Your federal government will consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources within the next seven years.  We are going to set that goal.  (Applause.)

We’ll also encourage private capital to get off the sidelines and get into these energy-saving investments.  And by the end of the next decade, these combined efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings will reduce carbon pollution by at least three billion tons.  That’s an amount equal to what our entire energy sector emits in nearly half a year.

So I know these standards don’t sound all that sexy, but think of it this way:  That’s the equivalent of planting 7.6 billion trees and letting them grow for 10 years — all while doing the dishes.  It is a great deal and we need to be doing it. (Applause.)

So using less dirty energy, transitioning to cleaner sources of energy, wasting less energy through our economy is where we need to go.  And this plan will get us there faster.  But I want to be honest — this will not get us there overnight.  The hard truth is carbon pollution has built up in our atmosphere for decades now.  And even if we Americans do our part, the planet will slowly keep warming for some time to come.  The seas will slowly keep rising and storms will get more severe, based on the science.  It’s like tapping the brakes of a car before you come to a complete stop and then can shift into reverse.  It’s going to take time for carbon emissions to stabilize.

So in the meantime, we’re going to need to get prepared.  And that’s why this plan will also protect critical sectors of our economy and prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that we cannot avoid.  States and cities across the country are already taking it upon themselves to get ready.  Miami Beach is hardening its water supply against seeping saltwater.  We’re partnering with the state of Florida to restore Florida’s natural clean water delivery system — the Everglades.
The overwhelmingly Republican legislature in Texas voted to spend money on a new water development bank as a long-running drought cost jobs and forced a town to truck in water from the outside.

New York City is fortifying its 520 miles of coastline as an insurance policy against more frequent and costly storms.  And what we’ve learned from Hurricane Sandy and other disasters is that we’ve got to build smarter, more resilient infrastructure that can protect our homes and businesses, and withstand more powerful storms.  That means stronger seawalls, natural barriers, hardened power grids, hardened water systems, hardened fuel supplies.

So the budget I sent Congress includes funding to support communities that build these projects, and this plan directs federal agencies to make sure that any new project funded with taxpayer dollars is built to withstand increased flood risks.

And we’ll partner with communities seeking help to prepare for droughts and floods, reduce the risk of wildfires, protect the dunes and wetlands that pull double duty as green space and as natural storm barriers.  And we’ll also open our climate data and NASA climate imagery to the public, to make sure that cities and states assess risk under different climate scenarios, so that we don’t waste money building structures that don’t withstand the next storm.

So that’s what my administration will do to support the work already underway across America, not only to cut carbon pollution, but also to protect ourselves from climate change.  But as I think everybody here understands, no nation can solve this challenge alone — not even one as powerful as ours.  And that’s why the final part of our plan calls on America to lead — lead international efforts to combat a changing climate.  (Applause.)

And make no mistake — the world still looks to America to lead.  When I spoke to young people in Turkey a few years ago, the first question I got wasn’t about the challenges that part of the world faces.  It was about the climate challenge that we all face, and America’s role in addressing it.  And it was a fair question, because as the world’s largest economy and second-largest carbon emitter, as a country with unsurpassed ability to drive innovation and scientific breakthroughs, as the country that people around the world continue to look to in times of crisis, we’ve got a vital role to play.  We can’t stand on the sidelines.  We’ve got a unique responsibility.  And the steps that I’ve outlined today prove that we’re willing to meet that responsibility.

Though all America’s carbon pollution fell last year, global carbon pollution rose to a record high.  That’s a problem.  Developing countries are using more and more energy, and tens of millions of people entering a global middle class naturally want to buy cars and air-conditioners of their own, just like us.  Can’t blame them for that.  And when you have conversations with poor countries, they’ll say, well, you went through these stages of development — why can’t we?

But what we also have to recognize is these same countries are also more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than we are.  They don’t just have as much to lose, they probably have more to lose.

Developing nations with some of the fastest-rising levels of carbon pollution are going to have to take action to meet this challenge alongside us.  They’re watching what we do, but we’ve got to make sure that they’re stepping up to the plate as well.  We compete for business with them, but we also share a planet.  And we have to all shoulder the responsibility for keeping the planet habitable, or we’re going to suffer the consequences — together.

So to help more countries transitioning to cleaner sources of energy and to help them do it faster, we’re going to partner with our private sector to apply private sector technological know-how in countries that transition to natural gas.  We’ve mobilized billions of dollars in private capital for clean energy projects around the world.

Today, I’m calling for an end of public financing for new coal plants overseas — (applause) — unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity.  And I urge other countries to join this effort.

And I’m directing my administration to launch negotiations toward global free trade in environmental goods and services, including clean energy technology, to help more countries skip past the dirty phase of development and join a global low-carbon economy.  They don’t have to repeat all the same mistakes that we made.  (Applause.)

We’ve also intensified our climate cooperation with major emerging economies like India and Brazil, and China — the world’s largest emitter.  So, for example, earlier this month, President Xi of China and I reached an important agreement to jointly phase down our production and consumption of dangerous hydrofluorocarbons, and we intend to take more steps together in the months to come.  It will make a difference.  It’s a significant step in the reduction of carbon emissions.  (Applause.)

And finally, my administration will redouble our efforts to engage our international partners in reaching a new global agreement to reduce carbon pollution through concrete action.  (Applause.)

Four years ago, in Copenhagen, every major country agreed, for the first time, to limit carbon pollution by 2020.  Two years ago, we decided to forge a new agreement beyond 2020 that would apply to all countries, not just developed countries.

What we need is an agreement that’s ambitious — because that’s what the scale of the challenge demands.  We need an inclusive agreement -– because every country has to play its part.  And we need an agreement that’s flexible — because different nations have different needs.  And if we can come together and get this right, we can define a sustainable future for your generation.

So that’s my plan.  (Applause.)  The actions I’ve announced today should send a strong signal to the world that America intends to take bold action to reduce carbon pollution.  We will continue to lead by the power of our example, because that’s what the United States of America has always done.

I am convinced this is the fight America can, and will, lead in the 21st century.  And I’m convinced this is a fight that America must lead.  But it will require all of us to do our part. We’ll need scientists to design new fuels, and we’ll need farmers to grow new fuels.  We’ll need engineers to devise new technologies, and we’ll need businesses to make and sell those technologies.  We’ll need workers to operate assembly lines that hum with high-tech, zero-carbon components, but we’ll also need builders to hammer into place the foundations for a new clean energy era.

We’re going to need to give special care to people and communities that are unsettled by this transition — not just here in the United States but around the world.  And those of us in positions of responsibility, we’ll need to be less concerned with the judgment of special interests and well-connected donors, and more concerned with the judgment of posterity.  (Applause.)  Because you and your children, and your children’s children, will have to live with the consequences of our decisions.

As I said before, climate change has become a partisan issue, but it hasn’t always been.  It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans led the way on new and innovative policies to tackle these issues.  Richard Nixon opened the EPA.  George H.W. Bush declared — first U.S. President to declare — “human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected and unprecedented ways.”  Someone who never shies away from a challenge, John McCain, introduced a market-based cap-and-trade bill to slow carbon pollution.

The woman that I’ve chosen to head up the EPA, Gina McCarthy, she’s worked — (applause) — she’s terrific.  Gina has worked for the EPA in my administration, but she’s also worked for five Republican governors.  She’s got a long track record of working with industry and business leaders to forge common-sense solutions.  Unfortunately, she’s being held up in the Senate. She’s been held up for months, forced to jump through hoops no Cabinet nominee should ever have to –- not because she lacks qualifications, but because there are too many in the Republican Party right now who think that the Environmental Protection Agency has no business protecting our environment from carbon pollution.  The Senate should confirm her without any further obstruction or delay.  (Applause.)
But more broadly, we’ve got to move beyond partisan politics on this issue.  I want to be clear — I am willing to work with anybody –- Republicans, Democrats, independents, libertarians, greens -– anybody — to combat this threat on behalf of our kids. I am open to all sorts of new ideas, maybe better ideas, to make sure that we deal with climate change in a way that promotes jobs and growth.

Nobody has a monopoly on what is a very hard problem, but I don’t have much patience for anyone who denies that this challenge is real.  (Applause.)  We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.  (Applause.)  Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm.  And ultimately, we will be judged as a people, and as a society, and as a country on where we go from here.

Our founders believed that those of us in positions of power are elected not just to serve as custodians of the present, but as caretakers of the future.  And they charged us to make decisions with an eye on a longer horizon than the arc of our own political careers.  That’s what the American people expect.  That’s what they deserve.

And someday, our children, and our children’s children, will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more stable world?  And I want to be able to say, yes, we did.  Don’t you want that?  (Applause.)

Americans are not a people who look backwards; we’re a people who look forward.  We’re not a people who fear what the future holds; we shape it.  What we need in this fight are citizens who will stand up, and speak up, and compel us to do what this moment demands.

Understand this is not just a job for politicians.  So I’m going to need all of you to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends.  Tell them what’s at stake.  Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings.  Push back on misinformation.  Speak up for the facts.  Broaden the circle of those who are willing to stand up for our future.  (Applause.)

Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution.  Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices.  Invest.  Divest.  (Applause.)  Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth.  And remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote.  Make yourself heard on this issue.  (Applause.)

I understand the politics will be tough.  The challenge we must accept will not reward us with a clear moment of victory.  There’s no gathering army to defeat.  There’s no peace treaty to sign.  When President Kennedy said we’d go to the moon within the decade, we knew we’d build a spaceship and we’d meet the goal.  Our progress here will be measured differently — in crises averted, in a planet preserved.  But can we imagine a more worthy goal?  For while we may not live to see the full realization of our ambition, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that the world we leave to our children will be better off for what we did.

“It makes you realize,” that astronaut said all those years ago, “just what you have back there on Earth.”  And that image in the photograph, that bright blue ball rising over the moon’s surface, containing everything we hold dear — the laughter of children, a quiet sunset, all the hopes and dreams of posterity  — that’s what’s at stake.  That’s what we’re fighting for.  And if we remember that, I’m absolutely sure we’ll succeed.

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

END
2:32 P.M. EDT

Legal Buzz June 25, 2013: Supreme Court Strikes Down Part of Voting Rights Act

LEGAL BUZZ

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS

Supreme Court Strikes Down Part of Voting Rights Act

iStockphoto/Thinkstock

The Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act Tuesday, ruling that the formula used to enforce the nearly 50-year-old civil rights law needs to be updated.

In a 5-4 decision the court said that the coverage formula used by the government to determine which states are required to get federal permission before they make any changes to voting laws is unconstitutional. The ruling effectively puts the issue back in the hands of lawmakers to revise the law. And until then, the ruling effectively renders section five of the Voting Rights Act inoperable….READ MORE

Political Musings June 25, 2013: PM Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama discuss Keystone XL oilsands pipeline on G8 summit sidelines

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Harper and Obama discuss Keystone XL oilsands pipeline on G8 summit sidelines

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Canadian PM Stephen Harper attended the G8 Summit at the Lough Erne Golf resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland June 17th and 18th as part of a wider working visit to Europe, where he also addressed the British Parliament on June…READ MORE

Political Headlines June 24, 2013: Immigration Overhaul Clears Pivotal Vote as Senate Advances Border Security Proposal 67-27,

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Immigration Overhaul Clears Pivotal Vote in Senate

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-24-13

The Senate voted Monday to accept an immigration bill amendment calling for stricter border security as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

The amendment that was at stake was the “deal” sponsored by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., beefing up border security by an extra $30 billion before any of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants can apply for citizenship….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 24, 2013: President Obama Highlights Success Stories at Immigrant Reform Roundtable

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama Highlights Immigrant Success Stories

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-24-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

On the theory that nothing succeeds like success, President Obama listened to the success stories of immigrants who came to the U.S. and founded major corporate enterprises, urging them to carry their support for immigration reform to the Senate as it completes work on landmark legislation.

“I would urge the Senate to bring this to the floor,” he told the visiting entrepreneurs. “I hope that we can get the strongest possible vote out of the Senate so that we can then move to the House and get this done before the summer break.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines June 24, 2013: President Barack Obama on Edward Snowden: US Following ‘Appropriate Legal Channels’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama on Snowden: US Following ‘Appropriate Legal Channels’

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-24-13

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Obama on Monday said the U.S. is following the appropriate legal channels in the case of fugitive NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, whom the White House believes is in Moscow….READ MORE

Q    — Putin, and are you confident that they’ll expel
— he’ll be expelled?

THE PRESIDENT:  What we know is, is that we’re following all of the appropriate legal channels, and working with various other countries to make sure that rule of law is observed.  And beyond that, I’ll refer to the Justice Department that has been actively involved in the case.

Full Text Obama Presidency June 24, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks Before Immigration Reform Roundtable

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Before Immigration Reform Roundtable

Source: WH, 6-24-13 
President Obama Speaks at an Immigration Reform Roundtable
President Obama Speaks at an Immigration Reform Roundtable
Roosevelt Room

2:10 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  I want to welcome these extraordinary business leaders who are here today in support of comprehensive immigration reform.  As all of you know, we are at a critical point in the debate that’s taking place in the Senate.

All of these business leaders recognize the degree to which immigration is a contributor to growth, a contributor to expansion, a creator of jobs, but they also recognize that the immigration system that we currently have is broken.

We have a system in which we bring outstanding young people from all across the world to educate them here, and unfortunately, too often, we send them right back so that they can start companies or help to grow companies somewhere else instead of here.

We have a situation in which millions of individuals are in the shadow economy, oftentimes exploited at lower wages, and that hurts those companies that are following the rules, because they end up being at a disadvantage to some of these less scrupulous companies.

And so, all of us I think recognize that now is the time to get comprehensive immigration reform done — one that involves having very strong border security; that makes sure that we’re holding employers accountable to follow the rules; one that provides earned citizenship for those 11 million, so that they have to pay back taxes, pay a fine, learn English, follow the rules, get to the back of the line, but ultimately can be part of the above-board economy, as opposed to the low-board economy; and a system that fixes and cleans up our legal immigration system so that we can continue to be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

The good news is, is that we’ve got a strong bipartisan bill that meets many of those principles.  As I’ve said before, it’s not a bill that represents everything that I would like to see; it represents a compromise.  And I think all the business leaders here recognize that there are elements of it that they might want to tweak one way or another.  But it does adhere to the core principles that we need for comprehensive immigration reform, and now is the time to do it.

Just this past week, the Congressional Budget Office noted that this would end up bringing more money into the federal government.  It would reduce our deficits — people would be paying taxes.  It would end up strengthening our economy, growing our economy.  And so you’ve got a broad consensus all throughout the country, not just business leaders who are represented here today — many of whom are immigrants themselves, many of whom started businesses and are now creating opportunity all across the country — but we’re also seeing labor leaders, we’re seeing clergy, we’re seeing people from all different walks of life saying now is the time to get this done.

So I very much appreciate all the business leaders who are here for making this push.  I know they’re going to be talking to various senators and members of Congress over the next several days.  I would urge the Senate to bring this to the floor, and I hope that we can get the strongest possible vote out of the Senate so that we can then move to the House and get this done before the summer break.

And if we get this done — when we get this done — I think every business leader here feels confident that they’ll be in a stronger position to continue to innovate, to continue to invest, to continue to create jobs, and ensure that this continues to be the land of opportunity for generations to come.

So thank you very much to all of you for being here.  And thank you guys in the press.

Q    — Putin, and are you confident that they’ll expel
— he’ll be expelled?

THE PRESIDENT:  What we know is, is that we’re following all of the appropriate legal channels, and working with various other countries to make sure that rule of law is observed.  And beyond that, I’ll refer to the Justice Department that has been actively involved in the case.

Thank you, guys.

END
2:15 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines June 19, 2013: FBI Director Robert Mueller Reveals US Drone Program During NSA Testimony

FBI Chief Reveals US Drone Program

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-19-13

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The FBI does fly spy drones over the U.S. FBI Director Robert Mueller made that admission before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday during his testimony about the National Security Agency surveillance programs.

According to Mueller, the FBI deploys these unmanned planes in “a very minimal way and very seldom” and his bureau is working to develop guidelines for their future use so as to relieve concerns of privacy advocates and civil liberties groups….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 19, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the People of Berlin from the Brandenburg Gate

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Speaks to the People of Berlin from the Brandenburg Gate

Source: WH, 6-19-14

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, June 19, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

But two decades later, this work is not yet done, President Obama said. “Today’s threats are not as stark as they were half a century ago, but the struggle for freedom and security and human dignity — that struggle goes on.”…READ MORE

Remarks by President Obama at the Brandenburg Gate — Berlin, Germany

Source: WH, 6-19-13

Pariser Platz, Brandenburg Gate
Berlin, Germany

3:29 P.M. CEST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Hello, Berlin!  (Applause.)  Thank you, Chancellor Merkel, for your leadership, your friendship, and the example of your life — from a child of the East to the leader of a free and united Germany.

As I’ve said, Angela and I don’t exactly look like previous German and American leaders.  But the fact that we can stand here today, along the fault line where a city was divided, speaks to an eternal truth:  No wall can stand against the yearning of justice, the yearnings for freedom, the yearnings for peace that burns in the human heart.  (Applause.)

Mayor Wowereit, distinguished guests, and especially the people of Berlin and of Germany — thank you for this extraordinarily warm welcome.  In fact, it’s so warm and I feel so good that I’m actually going to take off my jacket, and anybody else who wants to, feel free to.  (Applause.)  We can be a little more informal among friends.  (Applause.)

As your Chancellor mentioned, five years ago I had the privilege to address this city as senator.  Today, I’m proud to return as President of the United States.  (Applause.)  And I bring with me the enduring friendship of the American people, as well as my wife, Michelle, and Malia and Sasha.  (Applause.)  You may notice that they’re not here.  The last thing they want to do is to listen to another speech from me.  (Laughter.)  So they’re out experiencing the beauty and the history of Berlin.  And this history speaks to us today.

Here, for thousands of years, the people of this land have journeyed from tribe to principality to nation-state; through Reformation and Enlightenment, renowned as a “land of poets and thinkers,” among them Immanuel Kant, who taught us that freedom is the “unoriginated birthright of man, and it belongs to him by force of his humanity.”

Here, for two centuries, this gate stood tall as the world around it convulsed — through the rise and fall of empires; through revolutions and republics; art and music and science that reflected the height of human endeavor, but also war and carnage that exposed the depths of man’s cruelty to man.

It was here that Berliners carved out an island of democracy against the greatest of odds.  As has already been mentioned, they were supported by an airlift of hope, and we are so honored to be joined by Colonel Halvorsen, 92 years old — the original “candy bomber.”  We could not be prouder of him.  (Applause.)  I hope I look that good, by the way, when I’m 92.  (Laughter.)

During that time, a Marshall Plan seeded a miracle, and a North Atlantic Alliance protected our people.  And those in the neighborhoods and nations to the East drew strength from the knowledge that freedom was possible here, in Berlin — that the waves of crackdowns and suppressions might therefore someday be overcome.

Today, 60 years after they rose up against oppression, we remember the East German heroes of June 17th.  When the wall finally came down, it was their dreams that were fulfilled.  Their strength and their passion, their enduring example remind us that for all the power of militaries, for all the authority of governments, it is citizens who choose whether to be defined by a wall, or whether to tear it down.  (Applause.)

And we’re now surrounded by the symbols of a Germany reborn.  A rebuilt Reichstag and its glistening glass dome.  An American embassy back at its historic home on Pariser Platz.  (Applause.)  And this square itself, once a desolate no man’s land, is now open to all.  So while I am not the first American President to come to this gate, I am proud to stand on its Eastern side to pay tribute to the past.  (Applause.)

For throughout all this history, the fate of this city came down to a simple question:  Will we live free or in chains?  Under governments that uphold our universal rights, or regimes that suppress them?  In open societies that respect the sanctity of the individual and our free will, or in closed societies that suffocate the soul?

As free peoples, we stated our convictions long ago. As Americans, we believe that “all men are created equal” with the right to life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  And as Germans, you declared in your Basic Law that “the dignity of man is inviolable.”  (Applause.)  Around the world, nations have pledged themselves to a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the inherent dignity and rights of all members of our human family.

And this is what was at stake here in Berlin all those years.  And because courageous crowds climbed atop that wall, because corrupt dictatorships gave way to new democracies, because millions across this continent now breathe the fresh air of freedom, we can say, here in Berlin, here in Europe — our values won.  Openness won.  Tolerance won.  And freedom won here in Berlin.  (Applause.)

And yet, more than two decades after that triumph, we must acknowledge that there can, at times, be a complacency among our Western democracies.  Today, people often come together in places like this to remember history — not to make it.  After all, we face no concrete walls, no barbed wire.  There are no tanks poised across a border.  There are no visits to fallout shelters.  And so sometimes there can be a sense that the great challenges have somehow passed.  And that brings with it a temptation to turn inward — to think of our own pursuits, and not the sweep of history; to believe that we’ve settled history’s accounts, that we can simply enjoy the fruits won by our forebears.

But I come here today, Berlin, to say complacency is not the character of great nations.  Today’s threats are not as stark as they were half a century ago, but the struggle for freedom and security and human dignity — that struggle goes on.  And I’ve come here, to this city of hope, because the tests of our time demand the same fighting spirit that defined Berlin a half-century ago.

Chancellor Merkel mentioned that we mark the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s stirring defense of freedom, embodied in the people of this great city.  His pledge of solidarity — “Ich bin ein Berliner” — (applause) — echoes through the ages.  But that’s not all that he said that day.  Less remembered is the challenge that he issued to the crowd before him:  “Let me ask you,” he said to those Berliners, “let me ask you to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today” and “beyond the freedom of merely this city.”  Look, he said, “to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.”

President Kennedy was taken from us less than six months after he spoke those words.  And like so many who died in those decades of division, he did not live to see Berlin united and free.  Instead, he lives forever as a young man in our memory.  But his words are timeless because they call upon us to care more about things than just our own self-comfort, about our own city, about our own country.  They demand that we embrace the common endeavor of all humanity.

And if we lift our eyes, as President Kennedy called us to do, then we’ll recognize that our work is not yet done.  For we are not only citizens of America or Germany — we are also citizens of the world.  And our fates and fortunes are linked like never before.

We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe.  (Applause.)  We may strike blows against terrorist networks, but if we ignore the instability and intolerance that fuels extremism, our own freedom will eventually be endangered.  We may enjoy a standard of living that is the envy of the world, but so long as hundreds of millions endure the agony of an empty stomach or the anguish of unemployment, we’re not truly prosperous.  (Applause.)

I say all this here, in the heart of Europe, because our shared past shows that none of these challenges can be met unless we see ourselves as part of something bigger than our own experience.  Our alliance is the foundation of global security.  Our trade and our commerce is the engine of our global economy.  Our values call upon us to care about the lives of people we will never meet.  When Europe and America lead with our hopes instead of our fears, we do things that no other nations can do, no other nations will do.  So we have to lift up our eyes today and consider the day of peace with justice that our generation wants for this world.

I’d suggest that peace with justice begins with the example we set here at home, for we know from our own histories that intolerance breeds injustice.  Whether it’s based on race, or religion, gender or sexual orientation, we are stronger when all our people — no matter who they are or what they look like — are granted opportunity, and when our wives and our daughters have the same opportunities as our husbands and our sons.  (Applause.)

When we respect the faiths practiced in our churches and synagogues, our mosques and our temples, we’re more secure.  When we welcome the immigrant with his talents or her dreams, we are renewed.  (Applause.)  When we stand up for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and treat their love and their rights equally under the law, we defend our own liberty as well.  We are more free when all people can pursue their own happiness.  (Applause.)  And as long as walls exist in our hearts to separate us from those who don’t look like us, or think like us, or worship as we do, then we’re going to have to work harder, together, to bring those walls of division down.

Peace with justice means free enterprise that unleashes the talents and creativity that reside in each of us; in other models, direct economic growth from the top down or relies solely on the resources extracted from the earth.  But we believe that real prosperity comes from our most precious resource — our people.  And that’s why we choose to invest in education, and science and research.  (Applause.)

And now, as we emerge from recession, we must not avert our eyes from the insult of widening inequality, or the pain of youth who are unemployed.  We have to build new ladders of opportunity in our own societies that — even as we pursue new trade and investment that fuels growth across the Atlantic.

America will stand with Europe as you strengthen your union.  And we want to work with you to make sure that every person can enjoy the dignity that comes from work — whether they live in Chicago or Cleveland or Belfast or Berlin, in Athens or Madrid, everybody deserves opportunity.  We have to have economies that are working for all people, not just those at the very top.  (Applause.)

Peace with justice means extending a hand to those who reach for freedom, wherever they live.  Different peoples and cultures will follow their own path, but we must reject the lie that those who live in distant places don’t yearn for freedom and self-determination just like we do; that they don’t somehow yearn for dignity and rule of law just like we do.  We cannot dictate the pace of change in places like the Arab world, but we must reject the excuse that we can do nothing to support it.  (Applause.)

We cannot shrink from our role of advancing the values we believe in — whether it’s supporting Afghans as they take responsibility for their future, or working for an Israeli-Palestinian peace — (applause) — or engaging as we’ve done in Burma to help create space for brave people to emerge from decades of dictatorship.  In this century, these are the citizens who long to join the free world.  They are who you were.  They deserve our support, for they too, in their own way, are citizens of Berlin.  And we have to help them every day.  (Applause.)

Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons — no matter how distant that dream may be.  And so, as President, I’ve strengthened our efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and reduced the number and role of America’s nuclear weapons.  Because of the New START Treaty, we’re on track to cut American and Russian deployed nuclear warheads to their lowest levels since the 1950s.  (Applause.)

But we have more work to do.  So today, I’m announcing additional steps forward.  After a comprehensive review, I’ve determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third.  And I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures.  (Applause.)

At the same time, we’ll work with our NATO allies to seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian tactical weapons in Europe.  And we can forge a new international framework for peaceful nuclear power, and reject the nuclear weaponization that North Korea and Iran may be seeking.

America will host a summit in 2016 to continue our efforts to secure nuclear materials around the world, and we will work to build support in the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and call on all nations to begin negotiations on a treaty that ends the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.  These are steps we can take to create a world of peace with justice.  (Applause.)

Peace with justice means refusing to condemn our children to a harsher, less hospitable planet.  The effort to slow climate change requires bold action.  And on this, Germany and Europe have led.

In the United States, we have recently doubled our renewable energy from clean sources like wind and solar power.  We’re doubling fuel efficiency on our cars.  Our dangerous carbon emissions have come down.  But we know we have to do more — and we will do more.  (Applause.)

With a global middle class consuming more energy every day, this must now be an effort of all nations, not just some.  For the grim alternative affects all nations — more severe storms, more famine and floods, new waves of refugees, coastlines that vanish, oceans that rise.  This is the future we must avert.  This is the global threat of our time.  And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate before it is too late.  That is our job.  That is our task.  We have to get to work.  (Applause.)

Peace with justice means meeting our moral obligations.  And we have a moral obligation and a profound interest in helping lift the impoverished corners of the world.  By promoting growth so we spare a child born today a lifetime of extreme poverty.  By investing in agriculture, so we aren’t just sending food, but also teaching farmers to grow food.  By strengthening public health, so we’re not just sending medicine, but training doctors and nurses who will help end the outrage of children dying from preventable diseases.  Making sure that we do everything we can to realize the promise — an achievable promise — of the first AIDS-free generation.  That is something that is possible if we feel a sufficient sense of urgency.  (Applause.)

Our efforts have to be about more than just charity.  They’re about new models of empowering people — to build institutions; to abandon the rot of corruption; to create ties of trade, not just aid, both with the West and among the nations they’re seeking to rise and increase their capacity.  Because when they succeed, we will be more successful as well.  Our fates are linked, and we cannot ignore those who are yearning not only for freedom but also prosperity.

And finally, let’s remember that peace with justice depends on our ability to sustain both the security of our societies and the openness that defines them.  Threats to freedom don’t merely come from the outside.  They can emerge from within — from our own fears, from the disengagement of our citizens.

For over a decade, America has been at war.  Yet much has now changed over the five years since I last spoke here in Berlin.  The Iraq war is now over.  The Afghan war is coming to an end.  Osama bin Laden is no more.  Our efforts against al Qaeda are evolving.

And given these changes, last month, I spoke about America’s efforts against terrorism.  And I drew inspiration from one of our founding fathers, James Madison, who wrote, “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”  James Madison is right — which is why, even as we remain vigilant about the threat of terrorism, we must move beyond a mindset of perpetual war.  And in America, that means redoubling our efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo.  (Applause.)  It means tightly controlling our use of new technologies like drones.  It means balancing the pursuit of security with the protection of privacy. (Applause.)

And I’m confident that that balance can be struck.  I’m confident of that, and I’m confident that working with Germany, we can keep each other safe while at the same time maintaining those essential values for which we fought for.

Our current programs are bound by the rule of law, and they’re focused on threats to our security — not the communications of ordinary persons.  They help confront real dangers, and they keep people safe here in the United States and here in Europe.  But we must accept the challenge that all of us in democratic governments face:  to listen to the voices who disagree with us; to have an open debate about how we use our powers and how we must constrain them; and to always remember that government exists to serve the power of the individual, and not the other way around.  That’s what makes us who we are, and that’s what makes us different from those on the other side of the wall.  (Applause.)

That is how we’ll stay true to our better history while reaching for the day of peace and justice that is to come.  These are the beliefs that guide us, the values that inspire us, the principles that bind us together as free peoples who still believe the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  (Applause.)

And we should ask, should anyone ask if our generation has the courage to meet these tests?  If anybody asks if President Kennedy’s words ring true today, let them come to Berlin, for here they will find the people who emerged from the ruins of war to reap the blessings of peace; from the pain of division to the joy of reunification.  And here, they will recall how people trapped behind a wall braved bullets, and jumped barbed wire, and dashed across minefields, and dug through tunnels, and leapt from buildings, and swam across the Spree to claim their most basic right of freedom.  (Applause.)

The wall belongs to history.  But we have history to make as well.  And the heroes that came before us now call to us to live up to those highest ideals — to care for the young people who can’t find a job in our own countries, and the girls who aren’t allowed to go to school overseas; to be vigilant in safeguarding our own freedoms, but also to extend a hand to those who are reaching for freedom abroad.

This is the lesson of the ages.  This is the spirit of Berlin.  And the greatest tribute that we can pay to those who came before us is by carrying on their work to pursue peace and justice not only in our countries but for all mankind.

Vielen Dank.  (Applause.)  God bless you.  God bless the peoples of Germany.  And God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
3:58 P.M. CEST

Full Text Obama Presidency June 19, 2013: President Barack Obama & German Chancellor Angela Merkel Remarks at a Joint Press Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and German Chancellor Merkel in Joint Press Conference

President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in BerlinPresident Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany, June 19, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama and Chancellor Merkel Hold a Press Conference

President Obama and Chancellor Merkel Hold a Press Conference

Source: WH, 6-19-13

German Chancellery
Berlin, Germany

12:46 P.M. CEST

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  (As interpreted.)  A very warm welcome to the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  A very warm welcome indeed to Berlin.  It’s his first visit to Berlin as President of the United States — certainly not his first visit to Germany.

We have had on numerous occasions the opportunity to talk.  We have established ties of friendship based on trust.  And I would like to thank you for this.  Our cooperation is based on ties of friendship that have lasted for many, many decades between the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States.  And this is such a very good relationship because it is based on shared values.  When the President addresses the crowd in front of the Brandenburg Gate, it will be a President who can do this in front of a gate that is open.  The President had to remind us all of the wall needed to be torn down and the wall is down.  And this is what we owe to our American partners and friends.

But we also see that the world is changing and changing at a very rapid pace, so new challenges come to the fore.  And we want to tackle them with resolve and we want to tackle them together.

What looms most prominently on our agenda here in Germany, but also in Europe and, I trust, in the United States, and could be a very valued project to these two great economies of the world, the free trade agreement.  I’m very glad that we were able to conclude the negotiations leading up to the mandate.  We will throw our effort behind this fully and squarely because we think that economies on both sides of the Atlantic will very much benefit from it.  It’s going to be a win-win situation and it also is an eloquent testimony to this globalized world where we can work better together, both politically and economically.

So this is why I think this is a very, very important free trade agreement.  And I say this on behalf of the federal government as a whole.

We talked about questions of the Internet in the context of PRISM.  We talked at great length about the new possibilities and about also the new threats that the Internet opens up to all of us.  The Internet is new territory, uncharted territory to all of us.  And it also enables our enemies.  It enables enemies of a free, liberal order, to use it, to abuse it, to bring a threat to all of us, to threaten our way of life.  And this is why we value cooperation with the United States on questions of security.

I also outlined, however, that although we do see the need for gathering information, there needs to be due diligence also as regards the proportionality.  Free, liberal democracies live off people having a feeling of security.  And this is why an equitable balance needs to be struck; there needs to be proportionality.  And that is something that we agreed on, to have a free exchange of views on, between our staff but also the staff of the Home Secretary in the States and also the Minister of Interior here in Germany.  And this is going to be an ongoing battle.

We talked about a number of foreign policy issues.  We are, both of us, engaged in Afghanistan.  A new process has been initiated there of a transition of responsibility.  This is a process that we are going to tackle together, just as we tackled the greater military challenges of the past together — building up the security forces in Afghanistan together.  We will stand together with the United States and solve outstanding problems that are very difficult, indeed, still.

We also addressed Iran.  We addressed the Middle East situation as regards the peace process in the Middle East.  I think that the initiative of Secretary Kerry offers a very good opportunity to revive, revitalize peace talks.  The region needs peace.  The partners ought to take up the offer that is on the table, because it is urgently necessary to bring about negotiations.  And we will continue also to work on Iran, on the nuclear program of Iran.  That is also something that we agreed on.

We had very good talks.  We had, as usual, very open and candid talks.  So, yet again, a very warm welcome to you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, thank you very much.  Guten tag.  It is wonderful to be back in Berlin.  I’ve always appreciated the warmth with which I’ve been greeted by the German people, and it’s no different today, although I’m particularly impressed with the warmth of the weather here in Berlin.

And I’m also very grateful for Chancellor Merkel’s invitation, 50 years after the visit of President Kennedy.

The Chancellor and I are just back from the G8 summit, just one of the latest meetings that we’ve had together.  During my time in the White House, I’ve had the privilege of working with Angela on a whole host of issues.  The last time she was at the White House I had the privilege of presenting her with the Medal of Freedom, our highest civilian honor that a President can bestow.  And that speaks to the closeness of our relationship, the strength of our alliance.

I know that here in Germany, sometimes there’s been talk that the Transatlantic Alliance has been — is fading in importance; that the United States has turned its attention more towards Asia and the Pacific.  And in both conversations with Chancellor Merkel and earlier with your President, I reminded them that from our perspective, the relationship with Europe remains the cornerstone of our freedom and our security; that Europe is our partner in almost everything that we do; and that although the nature of the challenges we face have changed, the strength of our relationships, the enduring bonds based on common values and common ideals very much remains.

We began today talking about economic issues, following up on the discussions that we had at the G8 summit.  Overall, Germany is our largest trading partner in the EU, so we’ve got a profound stake in each other’s success.  We agreed that there’s more work to do.  Not only do we have to grow, but we also have to reform our economies structurally.

And when you look within Europe, obviously different countries are at different stages in that reform and restructuring process.  We’re going through our own need to reform, for example, our health care system, which is much more expensive than most of the developed world and largely accounts for our deficits and our debt.  The good news is, though, that we have gone through the worst recession in years and we are poised to come back stronger if we take advantage of these opportunities.

One of the opportunities that we spoke about, obviously, was the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or T-TIP.  The U.S.-EU relationship is already the largest in the world economically.  Thirteen million Americans and Europeans have jobs that are directly supported by mutual trade and investment.  And the Chancellor and I share the conviction that if we are successful in these negotiations, we can grow economies on both sides of the Atlantic, create jobs, improve efficiency, improve productivity and our competitiveness around the world.  And by doing so, we’re also raising standards for free trade around the world that will not just benefit us but benefit everyone.

When it comes to our security, the United States and Germany are more than just NATO allies.  More American personnel are stationed in Germany than any other country outside of the U.S.  We are extraordinarily grateful for the hospitality of the German people.  One of the last times I was in Germany I had a chance to visit our facility where everyone who’s injured in the battlefield comes through, and to see the dedication, but also the hospitality that Germans are providing for our young men and women when they’ve been grievously injured I think is a strong symbol of how much this means to us.

Our men and women have been serving side-by-side in Afghanistan.  Germany is the third-largest troop-contributing nation there.  We’re both grateful for the sacrifices that our servicemen and women and their families have made in this common effort.  And because of those efforts, Afghanistan now has the opportunity to secure itself and determine its own destiny.

We welcome President Karzai’s announcement yesterday that Afghan forces will soon take the lead for security across the country, which is an important milestone — one that we established in our NATO summit.  Even as we wind down the war responsibly and NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan comes to an end, we’re going to have to continue to invest in the shared capabilities and interoperability painstakingly built by the tremendous sacrifices of our troops.  And I appreciate Germany’s interest in making sure that even after our troops are no longer involved in combat operations that we can continue to see progress in Afghanistan.

And many of you noted that yesterday there was an announcement about the Taliban opening an office for purpose of negotiations in Qatar.  I said yesterday, this is going to be a difficult process.  The parties there have been fighting for a very long time, even before 9/11, and we don’t expect that it will be easy, but we do think ultimately we’re going to need to see Afghans talking to Afghans about how they can move forward and end the cycle of violence there so that they can start actually building their country.

We also discussed the other challenges in the region, including Syria.  We are united to see a negotiated political settlement to that conflict.  We want to see a Syria that’s unified, democratic, and at peace.  Right now, we need to see an end to the bloodshed, and we have to make sure that chemical weapons are not used on the ground.  I thought we saw some progress at the G8 in reaffirming the need for a transitional governing process and a U.N. investigation of the potential use of chemical weapons there.

I thanked the Chancellor for Germany’s unwavering support of the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and I briefed her on my Secretary of State, John Kerry’s efforts to find common ground there.

And finally, I want to thank Chancellor Merkel’s not only generous invitation but also the humbling privilege that I’ll have to address the people of Berlin from Pariser Platz on the Eastern side of the Brandenburg Gate — the other side of the wall that once stood there, the wall that President Reagan insisted be torn down.  A quarter century since then has been one of extraordinary progress.  We can witness this in the incredible vibrancy and prosperity of Berlin.  But one of the things I’ll address today is the fact that given the extraordinary blessings that we enjoy as Americans and as Germans, we have an obligation to make sure that walls around the world are torn down.  And we can only accomplish that together.

So I’m grateful for our alliance.  I’m grateful for our friendship.  And I’m looking forward for an opportunity to answer some questions.

Am I starting off?

MR. CARNEY:  From the American press, Julie Pace of the Associated Press.

Q    Mr. President, I wanted to follow up on your comments about the Taliban talks.  When you announced those talks yesterday, you praised Afghan President Hamid Karzai as being courageous for being willing to take that step.  Yet, today, Karzai says that he is suspending talks with the U.S. in response to the Taliban negotiations.  How is it possible for you and President Karzai to be on such different pages about this key decision?  And is Karzai saying different things to you privately than he is publicly today?

And, Chancellor Merkel, you mentioned that PRISM came up in your discussions today with President Obama.  Are you more reassured now about the scope of those programs following the discussions?  And did President Obama give you any reassurances that the programs don’t violate German privacy rights?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We had extensive conversations with President Karzai both before and after the Taliban opened the office in Doha.  As I think has been reported, there were some concerns about the manner in which the Taliban opened it, some of the language that they used.

We had anticipated that at the outset, there were going to be some areas of friction, to put it mildly, in getting this thing off the ground.  That’s not surprising.  As I said, they’ve been fighting for a very long time.  There’s enormous mistrust.  Not only have the Taliban and the Afghan government been fighting for a long time, they’re fighting as we speak.  We’re in the middle of a war.  And Afghans are still being killed and, by the way, members of the international forces there are still being killed.  And that’s not abating as we speak.

But what we also believe is that alongside the process in which we are training, equipping a Afghan government that can be responsible for its own security — even as we go through some, frankly, difficult negotiations around what it would mean for the international community to have an ongoing training and advising presence after 2014, we still believe that you’ve got to have a parallel track to at least look at the prospect of some sort of political reconciliation.

Whether that bears fruit, whether it actually happens, or whether, post-2014, there’s going to continue to be fighting, as there was before ISAF forces got into Afghanistan, that’s a question that only the Afghans can answer.  But I think that President Karzai himself recognizes the need for political reconciliation.  The challenge is how do you get those things started while you’re also at war.  And my hope is, and expectation is, is that despite those challenges, the process will proceed.

Chancellor Merkel, if you don’t mind, even though the question was directed at you, I think it would appropriate for me to go ahead and talk about the NSA issue, which obviously caused controversy back home, but also here in Europe.  And then, obviously, Chancellor Merkel will have her own views on this.

What I explained to Chancellor Merkel is, is that I came into office committed to protecting the American people, but also committed to our values and our ideals.  And one of our highest ideals is civil liberties and privacy.  And I was a critic of the previous administration for those occasions in which I felt they had violated our values, and I came in with a healthy skepticism about how our various programs were structured.  But what I have been able to do is examine and scrub how our intelligence services are operating, and I’m confident that at this point, we have struck the appropriate balance.

Now, let me be very specific in terms of — and this is what I described to Chancellor Merkel — what these programs are that have caused so much controversy.

Essentially, one program allows us to take a phone number that has been discovered separately through some lead that is typical of what our intelligence services do — but we get a phone number.  And what we try to discover is, has anybody else been called from that phone.  And we have both data that allows us to just check on phone numbers and nothing else — no content; nobody is listening in on a conversation at that point.  It’s just determining whether or not if, for example, we found a phone number in Osama bin Laden’s compound after the raid, had he called anybody in New York or Berlin or anyplace else.

If, in fact, we discover that another call has been made, at that point, in order to listen to any phone call, we would have to then go to a judge and seek information through a process that is court-supervised.  And this entire thing has been set up under the supervision of a federal court judge.

When it comes to the Internet and email, as Chancellor Merkel said, we’re now in an Internet age and we have to make sure that our administrative rules and our protections catch up with this new cyber world.  What I can say to everybody in Germany and everybody around the world is this applies very narrowly to leads that we have obtained on issues related to terrorism or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

So there are a few narrow categories.  We get very specific leads.  And based on those leads, again, with court supervision and oversight, we are able then to access information.

This is not a situation in which we are rifling through the ordinary emails of German citizens or American citizens or French citizens or anybody else.  This is not a situation where we simply go into the Internet and start searching any way that we want.  This is a circumscribed, narrow system directed at us being able to protect our people.  And all of it is done under the oversight of the courts.

And as a consequence, we’ve saved lives.  We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information not just in the United States, but, in some cases, threats here in Germany.  So lives have been saved.  And the encroachment on privacy has been strictly limited by a court-approved process to relate to these particular categories.
Having said all that, what I’ve said in the United States is what I shared with Chancellor Merkel, and that is that we do have to strike a balance and we do have to be cautious about how our governments are operating when it comes to intelligence.  And so this is a debate that I welcome.

What we’re going to be doing when I get back home is trying to find ways to declassify further some of these programs without completely compromising their effectiveness, sharing that information with the public, and also our intelligence teams are directed to work very closely with our German intelligence counterparts so that they have clarity and assurance that they’re not being abused.

But I think one of the things that separates us from some other governments is that we welcome these debates.  That’s what a democracy is about.  And I’m confident that we can strike this right balance, keep our people safe, but also preserve our civil liberties even in this Internet age.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  For the German people, I can only say the following.  It’s important, it’s necessary for us to debate these issues.  People have concerns, precisely concerns that there may be some kind of blanket, across-the-board gathering of information.  We talked about this.  The questions that we have not yet perhaps satisfactorily addressed we will address later on.

But there needs to be a balance; there needs to be proportionality, obviously, between upholding security and safety of our people and our country — and there are quite a lot of instances where we were getting very important information from the United States, for example, the so-called Sauerland Group.  And at the same time, obviously people want to use those new, modern means of communication and technology and do so freely.  And as we learn to live and deal responsibly with other new means of technology, we have to learn and deal responsibly with this one.

And I think today was an important first step in the right direction, and I think it has brought us forward.

Q    Madam Chancellor, Mr. President.  First, a question addressed to you, Mr. President.  There were a number of hopes in the world that were in a way shattered as regards your legislative term — for example, closing down of Guantanamo, or scrapping the death penalty throughout the whole of the United States, in all of the States.  And now, as regards Asia, are you singling out Germany because there’s a big risk here?

And, Madam Chancellor, the Nobel Prize winner, Obama is waging a drone war also via Germany.  And is he allowed to do that, according to German law?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me see if I understood your question properly.  The first question was related to policies back home, related to Guantanamo or the death penalty.  And then you wanted to talk about drones, or did you just want to focus on the drone question?  I just want to make sure that I’m responsive to your question.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  I guess I ought to answer on the drones.   And Guantanamo, that was a question I believe addressed to you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Okay.  Well, it continues to be my policy that I want to close Guantanamo.  It has been more difficult than I had hoped, in part because there’s been significant resistance from Congress on this, and on some issues I need congressional authorization.

But about a month ago I gave a speech in which I said that I would redouble my efforts to do so.  Because 9/11 happened, and we now have been involved in one form or another in a war for over a decade.  One war, I think, in Afghanistan was necessary.  One war I disagreed with strongly.  But in either case there are dangers if we get on a perpetual war footing.

The threat of terrorism remains real, and we have to be vigilant and we have to take steps to protect ourselves, consistent with our values and consistent with international law. But we also have to guard against being so driven by fear that we are not changing the fabric of our society in ways that we don’t intend and do not want for the future.  I think closing Guantanamo is an example of us getting out of that perpetual war mentality.

Some of the people at Guantanamo are dangerous.  Some of them did bad things.  But we cannot have a permanent outpost in which they’re being held even as we’re ending a war in Afghanistan that triggered some of these — the capture of some of these detainees in the first place.

So I’m confident that we can continue to make progress on this front, although, you’re right, it has not been as fast as I would have liked.  One of the things you discover as a politician is that people don’t always do exactly what you want.  It’s shocking.  And then you have to keep on working at it.

One thing with respect to drone policy — in that speech that I gave I also addressed that issue of the lethal targeting of identified terrorists.  This also is a source of controversy. We have constrained it tightly, and as we defeat al Qaeda, we have to, I think, very carefully examine how these technologies are used.  I can say, though, that we do not use Germany as a launching point for unmanned drones to go after counter — as part of our counterterrorism activities.  And so I know that there have been some reports here in Germany that that might be the case.  That is not.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  Let me complement by saying that the United States of America have bases here, they have soldiers here.  They fulfill a very important function, particularly in the fight against terrorism.  I think of Ramstein, for example — and also supplies to soldiers, but also caring for wounded soldiers.

We as allies, as members of NATO, stand shoulder-to-shoulder here.  And we provide bases for activities, and our work is based, also, on shared values.  As I said, we have exchanges on values.  And I think it’s good.  I think it’s the right thing to do for the United States of America to be present here with military bases in Germany.  It’s a normal thing within an alliance, and this is as it should be and as it will be, and continue to be.

Q    Thank you.  Mr. President, on Syria, for the purposes of transparency, can you be specific about what military arms the United States will be providing to Syrian rebels and about which groups will be receiving them?  And on the same subject, President Putin appeared resolute and isolated on Syria at the G8.  How can a political process succeed in bringing peace if Russia continues to support Assad, both militarily and politically?

Madam Chancellor, if I may in German, the federal government has always argued along the lines that weapons, exports and deliveries of supplies would always lead to an escalation because they could land in the hands of terrorists.  Don’t you think that the situation is going to be exacerbated if America supplies it? Perhaps you would also comment on Mr. Putin.  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:   Well, first of all, Jeff, I’m very impressed with your German.  (Laughter.)  And I don’t know if you had to practice, but you sounded great.  Chancellor Merkel said you were just okay.  (Laughter.)

I cannot and will not comment on specifics around our programs related to the Syrian opposition.  What I can say is that we have had a steady, consistent policy, which is, we want a Syria that is peaceful, non-sectarian, democratic, legitimate, tolerant.  And that is our overriding goal.  We want to end the bloodshed.  We want to make sure that chemical weapons are not used, and that chemical weapons do not fall into the hands of people who would be willing to use them.  And so we’ve had a consistent view in our desired outcome in Syria.

It’s also been our view that the best way to get there is through a political transition.  And we said that a year ago; we said that two years ago.  President Assad made a different decision and has brought chaos and bloodshed to his country and has been killing his own people.  And it is our view that it is not possible for him to regain legitimacy after over 100,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced inside the country.

So the question now is just, as a practical matter — and this is what I said to President Putin — as a practical matter, if, in fact, Syria is to remain a unified country and the bloodshed is going to end, how do we do that?  The only way to do that is through some sort of political transition process.

And the good news out of the G8 meeting was — is that you saw all the countries, including Russia, reaffirming the communiqué coming out of the first Geneva talks that said we need to create a transitional governing body with full powers.

The second good thing that came out of the G8 discussions was that all of us, including Russia, said we have to investigate use of chemical weapons inside of Syria, and all the parties including the government of Bashar al-Assad have to cooperate with that investigation.

We’re confident that, in fact, the government has used chemical weapons.  The Russians are skeptical.  We said, fine, let’s have the United Nations get in there but do a serious investigation of it — because we don’t want anybody using chemical weapons.

Now, the issue for us is how can we continue to support a political opposition and a military opposition that becomes more capable, becomes more unified, that isolates extremists who have incorporated themselves into the opposition forces inside of Syria, so that if, in fact, and when we get a political transition, there’s somebody there who can take over and function in governing and lead to a better future for all Syrians.

That’s a difficult process.  It’s not one that’s happening overnight.  But all the assistance that we are providing both to the political and military opposition is designed for that purpose.

Some of the stories that have been out there publicly have, I think, gotten a little over-cranked in terms of the idea that somehow the United States is preparing to go all in and participate in another war.  What we want to do is end a war.  But the only way it’s going to end is if, in fact, we have the kind of transition that I described.

And although, you’re right, that at this point President Putin believes that what would replace Assad would be worse than Assad himself, what I think will become more and more apparent over the coming weeks and months is that without a different government you can’t bring peace and, in fact, you’re going to see sectarian divisions get worse and worse, and start spilling over into the other parts of the region, and that would be good for nobody.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  On the issue of arms supplies, Germany has very clear, strict rules on this, legal rules, according to which we are not allowed to supply arms into areas where there is civil strife.  And that is not specifically designed for the Syrian question; it is a general rule.

But that does not mean that we do not wish, and can play, a constructive role as regards the political processes — for example, as regards humanitarian assistance; as regards also the debate on which is the right way to go about this.  How can we strengthen the opposition, those forces that work in the best interest of the people in Syria, on the ground?  And the situation is somewhat vague as regards the members of the opposition and quite different.

It is our task also, as we see it, that those who wish for a good future for Syria who are not linked with terrorists get a chance to achieve full legitimacy — because Germany, too, is of the opinion that Assad has certainly lost that legitimacy.

The Russian President, as I understand him, says not so clearly what I said just now, that the Syrian President namely has lost his legitimacy.  But we have found common language in the sense that we wish to work for a transition government.  And the question also has to be asked, what is going to come after that? And that is a question we need to address, and we did so.  And in the language of the communiqué of the G8 it says, we, all of us, reject terrorist forces in Syria because they would, again, exacerbate the suffering of the people there.

Now we have to see to it that, step by step, all of these different strands are brought together because, unfortunately, as yet, there is no common U.N. position because Russia so far was not on the side of the others.  But we must leave no stone unturned in trying, as we did during the G8, to find a common basis on which we can also speak with Russia.

And there are certain areas where we obviously differ, but our political responsibility is to, time and again, seek to bring this matter forward in the right direction.  And since the situation — if we look to Jordan, if we look to other countries in the vicinity — becomes more and more unstable, what with the flow of refugees and all, I think it’s worth every effort to try, all of us to try to do something, based on the language of the communiqué of yesterday, to do something in the interest of the people in Syria.

Q    Mr. President, in the past, there were some different points of view about the best way out of the global financial crisis.  Chancellor Merkel stands for a policy of cutting back budgets to reach that of financial stability throughout the eurozone to win back trust of the markets.  Did you talk about this issue?  And what’s your position on that?

And, Madam Chancellor, same question addressed to you — has there been a discussion on the eurozone, and do you wish to abide by the policy, in view of the problems that the countries in the south have?

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  Maybe I will just start with something because your question insinuates something that we don’t want.  We want prosperity.  We want competitiveness.  We want economic strength in order to bring about reduction of unemployment.

We talked about this at some length.  And I also said Germany in the long run will only be able to live well if Europe as a whole is doing well.  So it would be a very wrong tack for our policy to take if we were pursuing a kind of policy where we weaken those countries into which we, after all, wish to export our goods.  I think the world is changing, however, and Europe is not competitive enough in all areas.  And budget consolidation is one piece of the mosaic.  Structural reforms have to come into this.

And the Italian Prime Minister addressed this issue at some length during the G8.  What does this mean for young people?  What does it mean for jobs for young people?

But still the task is, if 90 percent of growth globally is generated outside of Europe, than we need to produce goods that are so competitive — as competitive for other markets to actually buy them.  And this is something that we need to undergo.  We need to draw down red tape, bureaucracy.  We need to be more open for research and development.  We need to have structural reforms.  We need to have, for example, affordable energy.  If I look at the energy price development in the United States, all of this needs to be done.  And part and parcel with that also is, particularly in a continent that is growing ever older, that we are able to reduce our budget deficits so that we don’t leave at the expense of future generations.

That is what this is all about.  This is what I am fervently asking for and working for.  Europe can only help that is strong. And so a future without Europe is something that I cannot envisage for Germany.  It’s two sides of one and the same coin.  On the one hand, Germany needs and wants to be competitive, and we also want others to be competitive and improve their competiveness.  And we all belong together.  This is why we showed solidarity time again, and this is, too, something that we addressed.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:   Well, as Angela said, all of us want the same thing.  We want to have an economy that is growing, where people, if they’re willing to work hard, are able to succeed, and can find jobs that pay a living wage, and can retire with some dignity, and can send their children to good schools, and have health care that is affordable.  And we have to do all those things in a way that’s fiscally prudent so that we’re not mortgaging our future or burdening our children and our grandchildren.

And I think all developing countries — or all more developed countries have been going through some of the same challenges.  And we just went through the worst recession in many years.

The good news is, is that we’ve seen some progress.  In the United States, we fixed our banks, which was the source initially, the trigger for some of these major problems.  So we have a much stronger banking system now, with much tighter supervision.  The housing market has begun to recover.  We’ve now grown for close to four years — three and a half years — and we’ve created 7 million new jobs.

But we still have some reforms that we have to do.  We’ve got to improve the skills of our workforce.  We’ve got to improve our infrastructure.  We have to continue to invest in research and development.  In all countries around the world, you’re seeing growing inequality, and so we have to find ways to make sure that ladders of opportunity exist for those at the bottom, and that profits and increased productivity all does not just benefit those at the top.

And so what’s true in the United States is also true in Europe.  Europe has different sets of problems.  Part of the challenge of the eurozone is that you have countries at different stages and levels of productivity and are further or less far along on this path of restructuring and reform.

So we’ve been discussing this — this has been a four-year conversation that we’ve been having, and I don’t think there’s a perfect recipe.  All of us have to make sure that our budgets are not out of control.  All of us have to undergo structural reforms to adapt to a new and highly competitive economy.  What’s true is, though, all of us also have to focus on growth, and we have to make sure that in pursuit of our longer-term policies, whether it’s fiscal consolidation or reforms of our overly rigid labor markets, or pension reforms, that we don’t lose sight of our main goal, which is to make lives of people better.

And if, for example, we start seeing youth unemployment go too high, then at some point we’ve got to modulate our approach to ensure that we don’t just lose a generation who may never recover in terms of their careers.  And that’s the struggle that I think all of us are going through.  That’s the discussion we had at the G8.  That’s a discussion that Angela and I had here today.

I’m confident that Germany will succeed in this process.  I’m confident that Chancellor Merkel cares about maintaining the eurozone and the European project.  And she, I think, is confident that the United States wants to do everything we can to get Europe through this difficult patch so that it can be a force for growth and prosperity well into the future.

Thank you very much, everybody.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  Danke schön.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Danke schön.

END
1:32 P.M. CEST

Political Headlines June 18, 2013: NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander: ‘Over 50’ Terror Plots Foiled by Data Dragnets

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

‘Over 50’ Terror Plots Foiled by Data Dragnets, NSA Director Says

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-18-13

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The director of the National Security Administration on Tuesday told Congress “In recent years, these programs, together with other intelligence, have protected the U.S. and our allies from terrorist threats across the globe to include helping prevent the potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11.”

The attacks on would-be targets such as the New York Stock Exchange were prevented by caching telephone metadata and Internet information, including from millions of Americans since Sept. 11, 2001, Gen. Keith Alexander said during a hearing at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence….READ MORE

Legal Buzz June 18, 2013: Google challenges US gag order, citing First Amendment

LEGAL BUZZ

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS

Google challenges US gag order, citing First Amendment

Source: Washington Post, 6-18-13

Google asked the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Tuesday to ease long-standing gag orders over data requests it makes, arguing that the company has a constitutional right to speak about information it’s forced to give the government….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 18, 2013: President Barack Obama: Says NSA Spying Programs ‘Transparent’ in Charlie Rose Interview

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama: NSA Spying Programs ‘Transparent’

Source: ABC News Radio,6-18-13

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Video of the Interview on Charlie Rose

President Obama said in an interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose on Sunday:

“It is transparent,” Obama said in the interview, broadcast Monday night. “What I’ve asked the intelligence community to do is see how much of this we can declassify without further compromising the program, No. 1,” Obama said. “And they are in that process of doing so now so that everything that I’m describing to you today, people, the public, newspapers, etc., can look at – because, frankly, if people are making judgments just based on these slides that have been leaked, they’re not getting the complete story.”…READ MORE

Legal Buzz June 17, 2013: Supreme Court Strikes Down 7-2 Arizona’s Proof of Citizenship Voting Requirement

LEGAL BUZZ

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS

Supreme Court Strikes Down Ariz. Proof of Citizenship Requirement

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-17-13

Full Text Opinion: 6/17/13 – Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Ariz., Inc.

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down part of an Arizona law that requires proof of citizenship in order to register to vote in federal elections.

Arizona’s Proposition 200 was passed in 2004 and requires any registrant who does not have a driver’s license issued after 1996 or a non-operating license to provide documents such as a copy of a birth certificate or a passport. The law went further than a federal law that established a nationally uniform voter application form where the registrant is required to check a box indicating U.S. citizenship and to sign the form under penalty of perjury….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 17, 2013: President Barack Obama Addresses North Ireland Youth in Belfast

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Addresses Youth in Belfast

Source: NYT, 6-17-13


Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Obama acknowledged “wounds that haven’t healed” but mostly praised Northern Ireland on Monday in Belfast.

President Obama on Monday opened a three-day diplomatic trip to Northern Ireland and Germany not with other world leaders but with young residents of this once strife-torn city, urging them to build on the peace that America helped broker 15 years ago.

“For you are the first generation in this land to inherit more than just the bitter prejudices of the past. You are the inheritors of a just and hard-earned peace,” Mr. Obama told more than 2,000 people, many of them teenagers in school uniforms who stood for hours in a chilly morning drizzle to get through security checkpoints into the Waterfront Hall convention center….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 17, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech to Northern Ireland’s Youth ‘Fate of Peace Is Up to You’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Tells Northern Ireland’s Youth ‘Fate of Peace Is Up to You’

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-17-13

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(SLIGO, Ireland)

After decades of violence, President Obama on Monday said peace in Northern Ireland serves as a “blueprint” for ending conflicts around the world, but cautioned “there’s still much work to do.”

“You set an example for those who seek a peace of their own,” the president told a gathering of young people at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall, shortly after arriving in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit.  “You are their proof of what’s possible.  Hope is contagious.  And they are watching to see what you do next.” “The terms of peace may be negotiated by leaders, but the fate of peace is up to you,” he said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 17, 2013: President Barack Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speeches at Town Hall with Youth of Northern Ireland

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and Mrs. Obama in Town Hall with Youth of Northern Ireland

Source: WH, 6-17-13

Belfast Waterfront
Belfast, Northern Ireland

9:58 A.M. BST

MRS. OBAMA:  Good morning.   (Applause.)  Oh, what an honor. Good morning, everyone.  First of all, let me thank Hannah for that very bold and wonderful introduction.  And of course, I want to thank all of you for being here today.

It is such a pleasure to be here in Belfast.  And as you might imagine, whenever we travel to places like this or anywhere else in the world, we’ve got a pretty packed schedule.  We’re meeting with Presidents and Prime Ministers and First Ladies. We’re visiting historical sites and attending state dinners.  And my husband is spending hours trying to make progress on global issues from trade to international security.

But wherever we go, no matter what’s on our plate, we always do our best to meet with young people just like all of you.  In fact, you all might just very well be some of the most important people that we talk to during our visits, because in just a couple of decades, you will be the ones in charge.  Yes, indeed. You’ll be the ones shaping our shared future with your passion and energy and ideas.

So when I look around this room, I don’t just see a bunch of teenagers.  I see the people who will be moving our world forward in the years ahead.  And that’s why we wanted to be here today.

Let me tell you, when I was your age, I never dreamed that I’d be standing here as First Lady of the United States.  And I know that my husband never thought he’d be President, either.  Neither of us grew up with much money.  Neither of my parents went to university.  Barack’s father left his family when Barack was just two years old.  He was raised by a single mom.

And all along the way, there were plenty of people who doubted that kids like us had what it took to succeed — people who told us not to hope for too much or set our sights too high.
But Barack and I refused to let other people define us.  Instead, we held tight to those values we were raised with — things like honesty, hard work, a commitment to our education.

We did our best to be open to others; to give everyone we met a fair shake, no matter who they were or where they came from.  And we soon realized that the more we lived by those values, the more we’d see them from other people in return.  We saw that when we reached out and listened to somebody else’s perspective, that person was more likely to listen to us.  If we treated a classmate with respect, they’d treat us well in return.

And that’s sort of how we became who we are today.  That’s how we learned what leadership really means.  It’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone to explore new ideas.  It’s about rising above old divisions.  It’s about treating people the way you want to be treated in return.

And as young people, you all are in a very powerful position to make some of those same choices yourselves.  You have the freedom of an open mind.  You have a fresh perspective that can help you find solutions to age-old problems.  And with today’s technology, you can connect with other young people from all over Northern Ireland and all around the world.

So right now, you’ve got a choice to make.  You’ve got to decide how you’re going to use those advantages and opportunities to build the lives you dream of.  Because that decision will determine not only the kinds of people you’ll become, but also the kinds of communities you’ll live in, the kind of world we’ll all share together.

And standing here with all of you today, I have never felt more optimistic, let me tell you.  Because time and again, I have seen young people like all of you choosing to work together, choosing to lift each other up, choosing to leave behind the conflicts and prejudices of the past and create a bright future for us all.

That’s what’s so powerful about your generation.  And again, that’s why we’re here today — because we want you to know that we believe in each and every one of you.  That is exactly why we’re here.  We believe that you all have the ability to make a mark on this world that will last for generations to come.  We are so proud of you.  We expect great things.

So with that, I think it would be a good opportunity for me to introduce someone who accompanied me here today.  (Laughter.) I let him travel with me every now and then.  (Laughter.)   But he is someone who is just as excited and delighted to deliver a message of encouragement and support to all of you — my husband, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you!  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Please be seated.

Well, hello, Belfast!  (Applause.)  Hello, Northern Ireland! (Applause.)  You now know why it’s so difficult to speak after Michelle — she’s better than me.  (Laughter.)  But on behalf of both of us, thank you so much for this extraordinarily warm welcome.

And I want to thank Hannah for introducing my wife.  We had a chance to speak with Hannah backstage and she’s an extraordinary young woman, who I know is going to do even greater things in years to come.

I want to thank two men, who I’ve hosted at the White House on many a St. Patrick’s Day, for their warm welcome — First Minister Peter Robinson — (applause) — and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.  (Applause.)  I spend the whole year trying to unite Washington around things, and they come to visit on St. Patrick’s Day and they do it in a single afternoon.  (Laughter.)

I want to thank the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Teresa Villiers.  (Applause.)  To all the Ministers in the audience; to Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank all the citizens of Belfast and Northern Ireland for your hospitality.  (Applause.)

As our daughters pointed out as we were driving in, I cause a big fuss wherever I go.  (Laughter.)  So traffic and barricades and police officers, and it’s all a big production, a lot of people are involved — and I’m very, very grateful for accommodating us.

The first time Michelle and I visited this island was about two years ago.  We were honored to join tens of thousands on College Green in Dublin.  We traveled to the little village of Moneygall, where, as it turned out, my great-great-great grandfather was born.  And I actually identified this individual in this place only a few years ago.  When I was first running for office in Chicago, I didn’t know this, but I wish I had.  (Laughter.)  When I was in Chicago, as I was campaigning, they’d look at my last name and they’d say, “Oh, there’s an O’Bama from the homeland running on the South Side, so he must be Irish — (laughter) — but I’ve never heard the Gaelic name, Barack”  (Laughter.)  But it pays to be Irish in Chicago.  (Laughter.)

So while we were in Moneygall, I had a chance to meet my eighth cousin, Henry — who’s also known as Henry the Eighth.  (Laughter.)  We knew he was my cousin because his ears flapped out just like mine.  (Laughter.)  I leafed through the parish logs where the names of my ancestors are recorded.  I even watched Michelle learn how to pull a proper pint of “black.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Whoop!  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Who’s cheering for that?  (Laughter.)

So it was a magical visit.  But the only problem was it was far too short.  A volcano in Iceland forced us to leave before we could even spend the night.  So we’ve been eager for a chance to return to the Emerald Isle ever since — and this time, we brought our daughters, too.

In particular, we wanted to come here, to Northern Ireland, a place of remarkable beauty and extraordinary history; part of an island with which tens of millions of Americans share an eternal relationship.  America’s story, in part, began right outside the doors of this gleaming hall.  Three hundred and twenty-five years ago, a ship set sail from the River Lagan for the Chesapeake Bay, filled with men and women who dreamed of building a new life in a new land.

They, followed by hundreds of thousands more, helped America write those early chapters.  They helped us win our independence. They helped us draft our Constitution.  Soon after, America returned to Belfast, opening one of our very first consulates here in 1796, when George Washington was still President.

Today, names familiar to many of you are etched on schools and courthouses and solemn memorials of war across the United States — names like Wilson and Kelly, Campbell and O’Neill.  So many of the qualities that we Americans hold dear we imported from this land — perseverance, faith, an unbending belief that we make our own destiny, and an unshakable dream that if we work hard and we live responsibly, something better lies just around the bend.

So our histories are bound by blood and belief, by culture and by commerce.  And our futures are equally, inextricably linked.  And that’s why I’ve come to Belfast today — to talk about the future we can build together.

Your generation, a young generation, has come of age in a world with fewer walls.  You’ve been educated in an era of instant information.  You’ve been tempered by some very difficult times around the globe.  And as I travel, what I’ve seen of young people like you — around the world, they show me these currents have conspired to make you a generation possessed by both a clear-eyed realism, but also an optimistic idealism; a generation keenly aware of the world as it is, but eager to forge the world as it should be.  And when it comes to the future we share, that fills me with hope.  Young people fill me with hope.

Here, in Northern Ireland, this generation has known even more rapid change than many young people have seen around the world.  And while you have unique challenges of your own, you also have unique reasons to be hopeful.  For you are the first generation in this land to inherit more than just the hardened attitudes and the bitter prejudices of the past.  You’re an inheritor of a just and hard-earned peace.  You now live in a thoroughly modern Northern Ireland.

Of course, the recessions that spread through nearly every country in recent years have inflicted hardship here, too, and there are communities that still endure real pain.  But, day to day, life is changing throughout the North.  There was a time people couldn’t have imagined Northern Ireland hosting a gathering of world leaders, as you are today.  And I want to thank Chief Constable Matt Baggott for working to keep everyone safe this week.  (Applause.)

Northern Ireland is hosting the World Police and Fire Games later this year — (applause) — which Dame Mary Peters is helping to organize.  (Applause.)  Golf fans like me had to wait a long six decades for the Irish Open to return to the North last year.  (Applause.)  I am unhappy that I will not get a few rounds in while I’m here.  (Laughter.)  I did meet Rory McIlroy last year — (applause) — and Rory offered to get my swing “sorted,” — (laughter) —  which was a polite way of saying, “Mr. President, you need help.” (Laughter.)

None of that would have been imaginable a generation ago.  And Belfast is a different city.  Once-abandoned factories are rebuilt.  Former industrial sites are reborn.  Visitors come from all over to see an exhibit at the MAC, a play at the Lyric, a concert here at Waterfront Hall.  Families crowd into pubs in the Cathedral Quarter to hear “trad.”  Students lounge at cafés, asking each other, “What’s the craic?”  (Laughter and applause.) So to paraphrase Seamus Heaney, it’s the manifestation of sheer, bloody genius.  This island is now chic.

And these daily moments of life in a bustling city and a changing country, it may seem ordinary to many of you — and that’s what makes it so extraordinary.  That’s what your parents and grandparents dreamt for all of you — to travel without the burden of checkpoints, or roadblocks, or seeing soldiers on patrol.  To enjoy a sunny day free from the ever-present awareness that violence could blacken it at any moment.  To befriend or fall in love with whomever you want.  They hoped for a day when the world would think something different when they heard the word “Belfast.”  Because of their effort, because of their courage that day has come.  Because of their work, those dreams they had for you became the most incredible thing of all — they became a reality.

It’s been 15 years now since the Good Friday Agreement; since clenched fists gave way to outstretched hands.  The people of this island voted in overwhelming numbers to see beyond the scars of violence and mistrust, and to choose to wage peace.  Over the years, other breakthroughs and agreements have followed. That’s extraordinary, because for years, few conflicts in the world seemed more intractable than the one here in Northern Ireland.  And when peace was achieved here, it gave the entire world hope.

The world rejoiced in your achievement — especially in America.  Pubs from Chicago to Boston were scenes of revelry, folks celebrating the hard work of Hume and Trimble and Adams and Paisley, and so many others.  In America, you helped us transcend our differences — because if there’s one thing on which Democrats and Republicans in America wholeheartedly agree, it’s that we strongly support a peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland.

But as all of you know all too well, for all the strides that you’ve made, there’s still much work to do.  There are still people who haven’t reaped the rewards of peace.  There are those who aren’t convinced that the effort is worth it.  There are still wounds that haven’t healed, and communities where tensions and mistrust hangs in the air.  There are walls that still stand; there are still many miles to go.

From the start, no one was naïve enough to believe that peace would be anything but a long journey.  Yeats once wrote “Peace comes dropping slow.”  But that doesn’t mean our efforts to forge a real and lasting peace should come dropping slow.  This work is as urgent now as it has ever been, because there’s more to lose now than there has ever been.

In today’s hyper-connected world, what happens here has an impact on lives far from these green shores.  If you continue your courageous path toward a permanent peace, and all the social and economic benefits that have come with it, that won’t just be good for you, it will be good for this entire island.  It will be good for the United Kingdom.  It will be good for Europe.  It will be good for the world.

We need you to get this right.  And what’s more, you set an example for those who seek a peace of their own.  Because beyond these shores, right now, in scattered corners of the world, there are people living in the grip of conflict — ethnic conflict, religious conflict, tribal conflicts — and they know something better is out there.  And they’re groping to find a way to discover how to move beyond the heavy hand of history, to put aside the violence.  They’re studying what you’re doing.  And they’re wondering, perhaps if Northern Ireland can achieve peace, we can, too.  You’re their blueprint to follow.  You’re their proof of what is possible — because hope is contagious.  They’re watching to see what you do next.

Now, some of that is up to your leaders.  As someone who knows firsthand how politics can encourage division and discourage cooperation, I admire the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly all the more for making power-sharing work.  That’s not easy to do.  It requires compromise, and it requires absorbing some pain from your own side.  I applaud them for taking responsibility for law enforcement and for justice, and I commend their effort to “Building a United Community” — important next steps along your transformational journey.

Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it.  If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division.  It discourages cooperation.

Ultimately, peace is just not about politics.  It’s about attitudes; about a sense of empathy; about breaking down the  divisions that we create for ourselves in our own minds and our own hearts that don’t exist in any objective reality, but that we carry with us generation after generation.

And I know, because America, we, too, have had to work hard over the decades, slowly, gradually, sometimes painfully, in fits and starts, to keep perfecting our union.  A hundred and fifty years ago, we were torn open by a terrible conflict.  Our Civil War was far shorter than The Troubles, but it killed hundreds of thousands of our people.  And, of course, the legacy of slavery endured for generations.

Even a century after we achieved our own peace, we were not fully united.  When I was a boy, many cities still had separate drinking fountains and lunch counters and washrooms for blacks and whites.  My own parents’ marriage would have been illegal in certain states.  And someone who looked like me often had a hard time casting a ballot, much less being on a ballot.

But over time, laws changed, and hearts and minds changed, sometimes driven by courageous lawmakers, but more often driven by committed citizens.  Politicians oftentimes follow rather than lead.  And so, especially young people helped to push and to prod and to protest, and to make common cause with those who did not look like them.  And that transformed America — so that Malia and Sasha’s generation, they have different attitudes about differences and race than mine and certainly different from the generation before that.  And each successive generation creates a new space for peace and tolerance and justice and fairness.

And while we have work to do in many ways, we have surely become more tolerant and more just, more accepting, more willing to see our diversity in America not as something to fear, but as something to welcome because it’s a source of our national strength.

So as your leaders step forward to address your challenges through talks by all parties, they’ll need you young people to keep pushing them, to create a space for them, to change attitudes.  Because ultimately, whether your communities deal with the past and face the future united together isn’t something you have to wait for somebody else to do –- that’s a choice you have to make right now.

It’s within your power to bring about change.  Whether you are a good neighbor to someone from the other side of past battles — that’s up to you.  Whether you treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve — that’s up to you.  Whether you let your kids play with kids who attend a different church -– that’s your decision.  Whether you take a stand against violence and hatred, and tell extremists on both sides that no matter how many times they attack the peace, they will not succeed –- that is in your hands.  And whether you reach your own outstretched hand across dividing lines, across peace walls, to build trust in a spirit of respect –- that’s up to you.  The terms of peace may be negotiated by political leaders, but the fate of peace is up to each of us.

This peace in Northern Ireland has been tested over the past 15 years.  It’s been tested over the past year.  It will be tested again.  But remember something that President Clinton said when he spoke here in Belfast just a few weeks after the horrors of Omagh.  That bomb, he said, “was not the last bomb of The Troubles; it was the opening shot of a vicious attack on the peace.”  And whenever your peace is attacked, you will have to choose whether to respond with the same bravery that you’ve summoned so far, or whether you succumb to the worst instincts.  those impulses that kept this great land divided for too long.  You’ll have to choose whether to keep going forward, not backwards.

And you should know that so long as you are moving forward, America will always stand by you as you do.  We will keep working closely with leaders in Stormont, Dublin and Westminster to support your political progress.  We’ll keep working to strengthen our economies, including through efforts like the broad economic initiative announced on Friday to unlock new opportunities for growth and investment between our two countries’ businesses –- because jobs and opportunity are essential to peace.

Our scientists will keep collaborating with yours in fields like nanotechnology and clean energy and health care that make our lives better and fuel economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic –- because progress is essential to peace.  And because knowledge and understanding is essential to peace, we will keep investing in programs that enrich both of us -– programs like the one at Belfast Metropolitan College, which teaches students from West and North Belfast the skills they need for new jobs, and exchange programs that have given thousands in Northern Ireland and the United States the chance to travel to each other’s communities and learn from one another.

Now, one of those young people is here today.  Sylvia Gordon is the director of an organization called Groundwork Northern Ireland, which aims to bring about change from the ground up.  (Applause.)  Where’s Sylvia?  Where’s Sylvia?  Is Sylvia here somewhere?  Where is she?  She’s here somewhere.  You’re here, too, yes.  Some guy just waved, he said, “I’m here.”  (Laughter.) Which is good, I appreciate you being here.  (Laughter.)

As someone who got my start as a community organizer, I was so impressed with what Sylvia has done, because a few years ago, Sylvia visited the United States to learn more about how Americans organize to improve their communities.  So after she came home, Sylvia rolled up her sleeves here in Belfast and decided to do something about Alexandra Park.  Some of you may know this park.  For years, it was thought to be the only park in Europe still divided by a wall.  Think about that.  In all of Europe, that one park has got a wall in the middle of it.

Sylvia and her colleagues knew how hard it would be to do anything about a peace wall, but they reached out to the police, they reached out to the Department of Justice.  They brought together people from across the communities.  They knew it was going to be hard, but they tried anyway.  And together, they all decided to build a gate to open that wall.  And now, people can walk freely through the park and enjoy the sun — when it comes out –- (laughter) — just like people do every day in parks all around the world.

A small bit of progress.  But the fact that so far we’ve only got a gate open and the wall is still up means there’s more work to do.  And that’s the work of your generation.  As long as more walls still stand, we will need more people like Sylvia.  We’ll need more of you, young people, who imagine the world as it should be; who knock down walls; who knock down barriers; who imagine something different and have the courage to make it happen.  The courage to bring communities together, to make even the small impossibilities a shining example of what is possible. And that, more than anything, will shape what Northern Ireland looks like 15 years from now and beyond.

All of you — every single young person here today — possess something the generation before yours did not, and that is an example to follow.  When those who took a chance on peace got started, they didn’t have a successful model to emulate.  They didn’t know how it would work.  But they took a chance.  And so far, it has succeeded.  And the first steps are the hardest and requires the most courage.  The rest, now, is up to you.

“Peace is indeed harder than war,” the Irish author Colum McCann recently wrote.  “And its constant fragility is part of its beauty.  A bullet need happen only once, but for peace to work we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.”

And that’s what we need from you.  That’s what we need from every young person in Northern Ireland, and that’s what we need from every young person around the world.  You must remind us of the existence of peace — the possibility of peace.  You have to remind us of hope again and again and again.  Despite resistance, despite setbacks, despite hardship, despite tragedy, you have to remind us of the future again and again and again.

I have confidence you will choose that path; you will embrace that task.  And to those who choose the path of peace, I promise you the United States of America will support you every step of the way.  We will always be a wind at your back.  And as I said when I visited two years ago, I am convinced that this little island that inspires the biggest of things — this little island, its best days are yet ahead.

Good luck.  God bless you.  And God bless all the people of Northern Ireland.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END
10:32 A.M. BST

Political Headlines June 13, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Upcoming Africa Trip Comes to Cost Taxpayers Tens of Millions

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama’s Africa Trip Comes with Hefty Price Tag

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-13-13

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama’s upcoming trip to Africa will require extraordinary security measures and will likely cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, according to a confidential planning document obtained by the Washington Post….READ MORE

History Headlines June 13, 2013: Former President George H.W. Bush Celebrates 89th Birthday

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY HEADLINE NEWS

History Buzz

HISTORY MAKING HEADLINES

George HW Bush turns 89

Source: NBCNews.com, 6-13-13

Happy Birthday Mr. President!

Donning a pair of Superman socks on his 89th birthday, former president George H.W. Bush celebrated another milestone….READ MORE

History Buzz June 13, 2013: Robert Dallek: Presidential Historian Says President Barack Obama Puts Security Above Privacy with NSA Data Collection Program

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Obama Puts Security Above Privacy

Source: US News, 6-13-13

Civil libertarians and some political liberals are up in arms.

“It’s not surprising,” according to Robert Dallek presidential historian.”This is what presidents do.”…

Domestic politics also plays a role, Dallek says. Presidents believe that their top job is to “keep the country safe,” and to fail in that mission would look “negligent,” a reputation that no president wants, the historian notes….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 12, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry Defends NSA Program, ‘Welcomes’ Dept. Scrutiny

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Secretary Kerry Defends NSA Program, ‘Welcomes’ Dept. Scrutiny

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-12-13

State Department photo/ Public Domain

At a joint press conference Wednesday with United Kingdom Foreign Secretary William Hague, Secretary of State John Kerry defended the National Security Agency, saying that Congress understands the program, passed it and voted for it several times. He also said the judiciary branch has also reviewed it and the program and has been actively engaged.

“This is a three-branch-of-government effort to keep America safe. And in fact, it has not read emails or looked at or listened to conversations, and — the exception of where a court may have made some decision, which was predicated on appropriate evidence,” said Kerry….READ MORE

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