Full Text Obama Presidency January 31, 2014: President Barack Obama Issues Presidential Proclamation for National African-American / Black History Month 2014

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Presidential Proclamation — National African American History Month, 2014

Source: WH, 1-31-14

NATIONAL AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH, 2014

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Americans have long celebrated our Nation as a beacon of liberty and opportunity — home to patriots who threw off an empire, refuge to multitudes who fled oppression and despair. Yet we must also remember that while many came to our shores to pursue their own measure of freedom, hundreds of thousands arrived in chains. Through centuries of struggle, and through the toil of generations, African Americans have claimed rights long denied. During National African American History Month, we honor the men and women at the heart of this journey — from engineers of the Underground Railroad to educators who answered a free people’s call for a free mind, from patriots who proved that valor knows no color to demonstrators who gathered on the battlefields of justice and marched our Nation toward a brighter day.

As we pay tribute to the heroes, sung and unsung, of African-American history, we recall the inner strength that sustained millions in bondage. We remember the courage that led activists to defy lynch mobs and register their neighbors to vote. And we carry forward the unyielding hope that guided a movement as it bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice. Even while we seek to dull the scars of slavery and legalized discrimination, we hold fast to the values gained through centuries of trial and suffering.

Every American can draw strength from the story of hard-won progress, which not only defines the African-American experience, but also lies at the heart of our Nation as a whole. This story affirms that freedom is a gift from God, but it must be secured by His people here on earth. It inspires a new generation of leaders, and it teaches us all that when we come together in common purpose, we can right the wrongs of history and make our world anew.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 2014 as National African American History Month. I call upon public officials, educators, librarians, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

Advertisements

Political Musings January 29, 2014: State Dept responds to White House petition to deport Justin Bieber, Obama next?

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

State Dept responds to White House petition to deport Justin Bieber, Obama next?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Even though the White House and President Barack Obama are busy selling the President economic opportunity program on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 after delivering the State of the Union Address on Tuesday evening, they now they will have to deal…READ MORE

Political Musings January 29, 2014: Obama’s foreign policy goes from war to diplomacy in State of the Union Address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

While the core President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address delivered on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 focused on the President’s economic opportunity program and domestic policy in general taking up nearly an hour of…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 29, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Raising Minimum Wage at Costco in Lanham, MD

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Minimum Wage — Lanham, MD

Source: WH, 1-29-14

Costco
Lanham, Maryland

10:15.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Maryland!  (Applause.)  It’s good to see you.  I love getting outside the Beltway, even if it is just a few hundred feet away.  (Laughter.)

Well, first of all, give Teressa a great big round of applause for the great job she did.  (Applause.)  It is good to be here with all of you.  I want to acknowledge a champion for working families right here in Maryland — Governor Martin O’Malley.  (Applause.)  Some folks who go to bat for working people every single day:  Senator Ben Cardin is here.  (Applause.)  Congresswoman Donna Edwards is here.  (Applause.)   And all of you are here.  (Applause.)

Teressa’s story proves that treating workers well is not just the right thing to do — it is an investment.  And Teressa’s 27 years of hard work at Costco proves that investment pays off.

I talked a little bit about this last night in my State of the Union address.  Now, I only finished 12 hours ago, so these remarks will be quicker.  (Laughter.)  And I needed some time to pick up a snow shovel and one of those 50-pound bags of dog food for Bo and Sunny.  (Applause.)  I was told I’d get a big-screen TV, too, for the Super Bowl coming up — 80-inch.  (Laughter.)   So 60 is not enough?  Got to go 80.  (Laughter.)

It is funny, though — I was looking — you can buy a sofa, chocolate chip cookies and a snorkel set all in the same — (laughter and applause.)  The sofa didn’t surprise me, but the snorkel set — (laughter) — that was impressive.  Although I do want to ask, who’s snorkeling right now?  (Laughter.)  How many of those are you guys selling?  You never know.  (Laughter.)

But what I talked about last night was a simple but profound idea — and it’s an idea that’s at the heart of who we are as Americans:  Opportunity for everybody.  Giving everybody a fair chance.  If they’re willing to work hard, take responsibility, give them a shot.  The idea that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is, if you work hard, you live up to your responsibilities, you can succeed; you can support a family.  (Applause.)  That’s what America should be about.  Nobody is looking for a free lunch, but give people a chance.  If they’re working hard, make sure they can support a family.

Now, we’re at a moment where businesses all across the country, businesses like Costco have created 8 million new jobs over the last four years.  Our unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in more than five years.  Our deficits have been cut in half.  Housing is rebounding.  Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the ‘90s.  We sell more of what we make here in America to other places than ever before.  Business leaders are deciding that China’s not the best place to invest and create jobs — America is.

So this could be a breakthrough year for America.  After five years of hard work, overcoming the worst recession in our lifetimes, we’re better-positioned for this young century than anybody else.  But the question for folks in Washington is whether they’re going to help that progress or hinder that progress; whether they’re going to waste time creating new crises for people and new uncertainty — like the shutdown — or are we going to spend time creating new jobs and new opportunities.

And I know what I’m choosing to do because it’s what you do — I’m choosing this to be a year of action.  (Applause.)   Because too many Americans are working harder than ever just to get by, much less get ahead.  The scars of the recession are real.  The middle class has been taking it on the chin since before the recession.  The economy has been growing for four years now, and corporate profits, stock prices have all soared.  But the wages and incomes of ordinary people haven’t gone up in over a decade.

So that’s why last night, I laid out some steps that we can take, concrete, common-sense proposals to speed up economic growth, strengthen the middle class, build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.

And this opportunity agenda has four parts.  Number one, we need more new jobs.  Number two, we need to train more Americans with the skills that they need to fill those jobs.  Number three, we should guarantee every child access to a world-class education.  (Applause.)  And number four, let’s make sure hard work pays off.  (Applause.)

Now, some of my ideas I’ll need Congress.  But America can’t just stand still if Congress isn’t doing anything.  I’m not going to stand still either.  Wherever I can take steps to expand opportunity for more families, I’m going to do it — with or without Congress.  (Applause.)  Because the defining project of our time, of our generation, is to restore opportunity for everybody.

And so I’m here at Costco today to talk about the fourth part of the opportunity agenda, and that is making hard work pay off for every single American.

Five years ago I signed my first bill into law.  I didn’t have any gray hair.  (Laughter.)  You think it’s distinguished?  Okay.  (Laughter.)  That’s the guy with the gray beard saying — (Laughter).  So this first bill that I signed was called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  (Applause.)  Lilly was at my speech last night.  And it’s a law to help protect a woman’s right to fair pay.  But at a time when women make up about half of the workforce, but still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns -– we’ve got to finish the job and give women the tools they need to fight for equal pay.  Women deserve equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  They deserve — if they’re having a baby, they shouldn’t have to sacrifice their job.  A mom deserves a day off to care for a sick child or a sick parent -– and a father does, too.

As I said last night, we got to get rid of some of these workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode, belong back in the ‘50s.  We’ve got to give every woman the opportunity she deserves.  Because when women succeed, America succeeds.  (Applause.)

Now, women happen to hold a majority of lower-wage jobs in America.  But they’re not the only ones who are stifled when wages aren’t going up.  As Americans, we understand some people are going to earn more than other people, and we don’t resent those who because they work hard, because they come up with a new idea, they achieve incredible success.  We want our kids to be successful.

And it’s funny — Michelle and I sometimes talk — Michelle’s dad was a blue-collar worker; her mom was a secretary. I was raised by a single mom.  We didn’t go around when we were growing up being jealous about folks who had made a lot of money — as long as if we were working hard, we could have enough.

So Americans overwhelmingly agree nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.  (Applause.)  And that is why I firmly believe it’s time to give America a raise.  (Applause.)

A hundred years ago, Henry Ford started Ford Motor Company. Model T — you remember all that?  Henry Ford realized he could sell more cars if his workers made enough money to buy the cars. He had started this — factories and mass production and all that, but then he realized, if my workers aren’t getting paid, they won’t be able to buy the cars.  And then I can’t make a profit and reinvest to hire more workers.  But if I pay my workers a good wage, they can buy my product, I make more cars.  Ultimately, I’ll make more money, they’ve got more money in their pockets — so it’s a win-win for everybody.

And leaders today, business leaders today, some of them understand this same concept.  Costco’s CEO, Craig Jelinek, he understands this.  He feels the same way.  He knows that Costco is going to do better, all our businesses do better when customers have more money to spend.  And listen, Craig is a wonderful guy, but he’s not in this for philanthropy.  He’s a businessman.  He’s looking at the bottom line.  But he sees that if he’s doing right by Costco’s workers, then they can buy that 80-inch TV, too.  (Laughter and applause.)  Right?

Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as a smart way to boost productivity and to reduce turnover.  So entry-level employees here -– stock associates, cashiers –- start out at $11.50 an hour.  (Applause.)  Start at $11.50.

AUIDENCE MEMBER:  Mr. President, we love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

The average hourly wage is more than $20, not including overtime or benefits.  And Costco’s commitment to fairness doesn’t stop at the checkout counter; it extends down the supply chain, including to many of the farmworkers who grow the product — the produce that you sell.  (Applause.)

Now, what this means is that that Costco has some of the lowest employee turnover in your industry.  So you’re not constantly retraining folks because they quit.  You got people like Teressa who has been here 27 years — because it’s a company that’s looking out for workers.

And I got to tell you, when I walk around, just — I had a little tour of the produce section, the bakery — you could just tell people feel good about their job and they feel good about the company, and you have a good atmosphere, and the managers and people all take pride in what you do.

Now, folks who work at Costco understand that, but there are a lot of Americans who don’t work somewhere like Costco, and they’re working for wages that don’t go as far as they once did. Today, the minimum wage — the federal minimum wage doesn’t even go as far as it did back in the 1950s.  And as the cost of living goes up, the value of the minimum wage goes down over time.  Just last year alone, workers earning the minimum wage basically got the equivalent of a $200 pay cut because the minimum wage stayed the same but costs of everything else are going up.

I don’t need to tell you this.  You go shopping.  (Laughter.)  So you’re like, mm-hmm.  (Laughter.)  For a typical minimum-wage worker, that’s a month’s worth of groceries.  It’s two months of electricity.  It’s a big deal to a lot of families.

So I brought a guy here today who knows a little bit about this — Tom Perez is America’s Secretary of Labor — (applause)  — works for working families every day.  I stole him from Governor O’Malley.  (Laughter.)  He came here from Maryland.  But when he was Governor O’Malley’s labor secretary here in Maryland, he helped implement the country’s first statewide living wage law.  And that helped a lot of Maryland families.  But there are more families in Maryland and across the country who put in long days, they’ve got hard jobs — they deserve higher wages.

In the year since I first asked Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs.  Governor O’Malley is trying to do it here in Maryland, and lift the minimum wage to $10.10.  He says, “We all do better when we’re all doing better.”  He’s right.  Prince George’s County, Montgomery County are banding together with D.C. to raise the regional minimum wage.  And I’m here to support your efforts. (Applause.)  I’m here to support your efforts.  And as I said last night, to every governor, mayor, state legislator out there, if you want to take the initiative to raise your minimum wage laws to help more hardworking Americans make ends meet, then I’m going to be right there at your side.

While Congress decides whether it’s going to raise the minimum wage or not, people outside Washington are not waiting for Congress.  And I’m not, either.  So as a chief executive, I’m going to lead by example.  In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees on new contracts a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)  Because if you cook our troops’ meals and wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.

So there’s some steps businesses are taking on their own.  There are steps that certain states and counties and cities are taking on their own.  There are steps I’m going to take as President.  But ultimately, Congress does have to do its part to catch up to the rest of the country on this.

And there’s a reason why a wide majority of Americans support increasing the minimum wage.  Look, most Americans who are working make more than the minimum wage.  So it’s interesting that the overwhelming number of Americans support raising the minimum wage.  It’s not that it’s going to necessarily affect them personally right now; it’s that they know, they understand the value behind the minimum wage.  If you work hard, you should be able to pay your rent, buy your groceries, look after your kids.  (Applause.)  If you put in a hard day’s work, you deserve decent pay for it.  That’s a principle everybody understands, everybody believes.

So right now in Congress, there’s a bill that would lift the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — 10.10 — 10.10, it’s easy.  It will give more businesses more customers with more money to spend.  I guarantee you, if workers have a little more money in their pocket, they’ll spend more at Costco.  (Applause.) And if Costco is seeing more customers, they’ll hire some more folk.  Everybody does better.

And the thing about it is raising the minimum wage doesn’t require new spending by the federal government.  It doesn’t require a big bureaucratic program.  It would help a lot of Americans make ends meet.

So I need everybody here and everybody who’s going to be watching, tell Congress to make this happen.  Give America a raise.  Making work pay means doing more to help Americans all across this country, but it also means improving the economy — because one of the things that’s been holding our economy back is wages and incomes being flat, which means consumers aren’t spending as much, which means businesses don’t have as many customers, which means they don’t hire as much and they don’t invest as much, and we don’t get that liftoff on the economy that we could.

If we want to make work pay, we also have to help Americans save for retirement — and I’m going to be flying up to Pittsburgh this afternoon to talk about that.  (Applause.)  Making work pay means access to health care that’s there when you get sick.  And the Affordable Care Act means nobody can ever be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma or cancer.  (Applause.)  You can’t be charged more if you’re a woman.  You can’t be charged just because your job makes your back hurt sometimes.  Those days are over.  (Laughter.)

More Americans are signing up for new private health insurance plans every day.  Already 3 million people have signed up.  So if you know somebody who isn’t covered, who doesn’t have health insurance, call them up, sit them down, help them get covered at healthcare.gov by March 31st.

So this is the opportunity agenda that I’m going to be talking about this year.  I don’t know — I hope Congress will be talking about it, too.  But I’m not going to wait.  Because we’ve got to restore some economic security in a 21st century economy, and that means jobs that are more plentiful, skills that are more employable, savings that are more portable, health care that’s yours and can’t be canceled if you get sick.

I just focused on one piece of that opportunity agenda today — raising the minimum wage.  But these are real, practical, achievable solutions that can help shift the odds back in favor of working and middle-class Americans who haven’t been seeing some of the benefits of growth that we’ve seen over the last four years.

And before I grab a 10-pound barrel of pretzels and — (laughter) — 500 golf balls — (laughter) — let me just leave you with something I heard from Costco’s founder, Jim Sinegal, who’s been a great friend of mine and somebody who I greatly admire.  And Jim is rightly proud of everything he’s accomplished.  “But,” he said, “here’s the thing about the Costco story.  We did not build our company in a vacuum.  We built it in the greatest country on Earth.  We built our company in a place where anyone can make it with hard work, a little luck, and a little help from their neighbors and their country.”

That’s what Jim said — a place where anyone can make it.  That’s who we are.  That’s our story.  If we pull together, work together, put our shoulder to the wheel, keep moving forward, that’s going to be our future as well, and the future for our kids and grandkids.

Thanks so much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
10:34 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts January 28, 2014: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers Delivers Official Republican GOP Response to the 2014 State of the Union Address Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers Delivers Official Republican GOP Response to the 2014 State of the Union Address Transcript

Source: NYT, 1-28-14

REPRESENTATIVE CATHY McMORRIS RODGERS (R-Wash.):

What an honor it is for me to be with you after the president’s State of the Union.

Tonight we honor America, a nation that has witnessed the greatest rise of freedom and opportunity our world has ever seen, a nation where we are not defined by our limits but by our potential, and a nation where a girl who worked at the McDonald’s drive-through to help pay for college can be with you from the United States Capitol.

But the most important moments right now aren’t happening here. They’re not in the Oval Office or in the House Chamber. They’re in your homes, kissing your kids good night, figuring out how to pay the bills, getting ready for tomorrow’s doctor’s visit, waiting to hear from those you love serving in Afghanistan or searching for that big job interview. After all, we the people have been the foundation of America since her earliest days, people from all walks of life and from all corners of the world, people who come to America because here no challenge is too great and no dream too big. That’s the genius of America.

Tonight the president made more promises that sound good but won’t actually solve the problems facing Americans. We want you to have a better life. The president wants that too. But we part ways when it comes to how to make that happen. So tonight I’d like to share a more hopeful Republican vision, one that empowers you, not the government. It’s one that champions free markets and trusts people to make their own decisions, not a government that decides for you. It helps working families rise above the limits of poverty and protects our most vulnerable, and it’s one where Washington plays by the same rule that you do. It’s a vision that is fair and offers the promise of a better future for every American.

If you would have told me as a little girl that I would one day put my hand on the Bible and be sworn in as the 200th woman to serve in the House of Representatives, I wouldn’t have thought it possible. I grew up working on my family’s orchard and fruit stand in Kettle Falls, a small town in eastern Washington, getting up before dawn with my brother to pick apples.

My dad drove a school bus and my mom worked as a part-time bookkeeper. They taught me to work hard, help others, and always, always dream for more.

So, when I showed my 4H animals at the county fair, my parents used to say to me, “Cathy, you need to save this money so you can go to college one day!” And so I did — I saved, I worked hard, and I became the first in my family to graduate from college.

The chance to go from my Washington to this one was unexpected. I came to Congress to help empower people, not politicians; to grow the working middle class, not the government; and to ensure that everyone in this country can find a job. Because a job is so much more than a paycheck: It gives us purpose, dignity and the foundation to build a future.

I was single when I was elected — but it wasn’t long before I met Brian, a retired Navy commander, and now we have three beautiful children, one who was born just eight weeks ago.

Like all parents, we have high hopes and dreams for our children. But we also know what it’s like to face challenges. Three days after our son was born, Cole, we got news no parent expects. Cole was diagnosed with Down syndrome. The doctors told us he could have endless complications, heart defects, even early Alzheimer’s. They told us all the problems.

But when we looked at our son, we saw only possibilities. We saw a gift from God. And today we see a 6-year-old boy who dances to Bruce Springsteen; who reads above grade level; and who is the best big brother in the world.

We see all the things he can do, not those he can’t.

And Cole, and his sisters, Grace and Brynn, have only made me more determined to see the potential in every human life, that whether we’re born with an extra 21st chromosome or without a dollar to our name, we are not defined by our limits, but by our potential, because our mission, not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become. That is the gap Republicans are working to close. It’s the gap we all face: between where you are and where you want to be.

The President talks a lot about income inequality, but the real gap we face today is one of opportunity inequality. And with this Administration’s policies, that gap has become far too wide. We see this gap growing every single day. We see it in our neighbors who are struggling to find jobs, a husband who’s now working just part-time, a child who drops out of college because she can’t afford tuition, or parents who are outliving their life’s savings.

Last month, more Americans stopped looking for a job than found one. Too many people are falling further and further behind, because right now, the President’s policies are making people’s lives harder. Republicans have plans to close the gap, plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts, and red tape. Every day, we’re working to expand our economy, one manufacturing job, nursing degree and small business at a time.

We have plans to improve our education and training systems so you have the choice to determine where your kids go to school, so college is affordable and skill training is modernized.

And yes, it’s time to honor our history of legal immigration. We’re working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform by first securing our borders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest and hardest working from around the world.

And with too many Americans living paycheck to paycheck, we have solutions to help you take home more of your pay, through lower taxes, cheaper energy costs and affordable health care.

Not long ago I got a letter from Bette in Spokane, who had hoped the president’s health care law would save her money but found out instead that her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month. We’ve all talked to too many people who received cancellations notices they didn’t expect or who can no longer see the doctors they always have. No, we shouldn’t go back to the things — the way things were, but this law is not working. Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s, and that whether you’re a boy with Downs syndrome or a woman with breast cancer, you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you.

So we hope the President will join us in a year of real action by empowering people, not by making their lives harder with unprecedented spending, higher taxes and fewer jobs. As Republicans, we advance these plans every day because we believe in a government that trusts people and doesn’t limit where you finish because of where you started. That is what we stand for. It’s for an America that is every bit as compassionate as it is exceptional.

If we’re successful, years from now our children will say that we rebuilt the American dream. We built a working middle class that could take in anyone, and a work force that could take on the world. Whether you’re a girl in Kettle Falls or a boy from Brooklyn, our children should be able to say that we closed the gap. Our plan is one that dreams big for everyone and turns its back on no one.

The president said many things tonight. But now I ask him to listen to you, for the true state of the union lies in your heart and in your home.

Tomorrow I’ll watch my son Cole get on the school bus. Others will wait in the doctor’s office, or interview for that first job. Some of us will celebrate new beginnings. Others will face great challenges. But all of us will wake up and do what is uniquely American. We will look forward to the boundless potential that lies ahead. We will give thanks to the brave men and women who have answered America’s call to freedom, like Sergeant Jacob Hess from Spokane, who recently gave his life to protect all of ours. So tonight I simply offer a prayer, a prayer for Sergeant Hess’s family, your family and for our larger American family, that with the guidance of God, we may prove — proves ourselves worthy of His blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For when we embrace these gifts, we are each doing our part to form a more perfect union.

May God guide you and our president, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Political Musings January 28, 2014: Obama vows executive orders for economic opportunity in State of the Union Address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

State of the Union Address Obama vows executive orders for economic opportunity

By Bonnie K. Goodman

One of the major themes of President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address delivered on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 was that the President will not wait for Congress to pass necessary economic legislation; he will issue…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 28, 2014: President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Transcript

Source: USA Today, 1-28-14

Charles Dharapak/Associated Press – President Barack Obama takes the podium to give his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Jan. 28, 2014. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio are behind the president.

President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address, as prepared for delivery.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.

An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup, and did her part to add to the more than eight million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years.

An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars in the world, and did his part to help America wean itself off foreign oil.

A farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest five-year stretch of farm exports in our history. A rural doctor gave a young child the first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford. A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired but dreaming big dreams for his son. And in tight-knit communities across America, fathers and mothers will tuck in their kids, put an arm around their spouse, remember fallen comrades, and give thanks for being home from a war that, after twelve long years, is finally coming to an end.

Tonight, this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: it is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.

Here are the results of your efforts: The lowest unemployment rate in over five years. A rebounding housing market. A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world – the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years. Our deficits – cut by more than half. And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.

That’s why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America. After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better-positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.

The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress. For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government. It’s an important debate – one that dates back to our very founding. But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy – when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States – then we are not doing right by the American people.

As President, I’m committed to making Washington work better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here. I believe most of you are, too. Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, this Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year’s severe cuts to priorities like education. Nobody got everything they wanted, and we can still do more to invest in this country’s future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way. But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.

In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together. Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.

Let’s face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.

Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.

Our job is to reverse these trends. It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.

As usual, our First Lady sets a good example. Michelle’s Let’s Move partnership with schools, businesses, and local leaders has helped bring down childhood obesity rates for the first time in thirty years – an achievement that will improve lives and reduce health care costs for decades to come. The Joining Forces alliance that Michelle and Jill Biden launched has already encouraged employers to hire or train nearly 400,000 veterans and military spouses. Taking a page from that playbook, the White House just organized a College Opportunity Summit where already, 150 universities, businesses, and nonprofits have made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education – and help every hardworking kid go to college and succeed when they get to campus. Across the country, we’re partnering with mayors, governors, and state legislatures on issues from homelessness to marriage equality.

The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments, and are moving this country forward. They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That’s what drew our forebears here. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker; how the son of a barkeeper is Speaker of the House; how the son of a single mom can be President of the greatest nation on Earth.

Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.

We know where to start: the best measure of opportunity is access to a good job. With the economy picking up speed, companies say they intend to hire more people this year. And over half of big manufacturers say they’re thinking of insourcing jobs from abroad.

So let’s make that decision easier for more companies. Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home.

Moreover, we can take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes – because in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. We’ll need Congress to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. But I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.

We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. My administration has launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh and Youngstown, where we’ve connected businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies. Tonight, I’m announcing we’ll launch six more this year. Bipartisan bills in both houses could double the number of these hubs and the jobs they create. So get those bills to my desk and put more Americans back to work.

Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America. Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other. And when ninety-eight percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment, and open new markets to new goods stamped “Made in the USA.” China and Europe aren’t standing on the sidelines. Neither should we.

We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. That’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery – whether it’s vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel. And let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation.

Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades.

One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas. My administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities. And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.

It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.

And even as we’ve increased energy production, we’ve partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months, I’ll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.

Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air. The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.

Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.

The ideas I’ve outlined so far can speed up growth and create more jobs. But in this rapidly-changing economy, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs.

The good news is, we know how to do it. Two years ago, as the auto industry came roaring back, Andra Rush opened up a manufacturing firm in Detroit. She knew that Ford needed parts for the best-selling truck in America, and she knew how to make them. She just needed the workforce. So she dialed up what we call an American Job Center – places where folks can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new job, or better job. She was flooded with new workers. And today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has more than 700 employees.

What Andra and her employees experienced is how it should be for every employer – and every job seeker. So tonight, I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now. That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life. It means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs. And if Congress wants to help, you can concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.

I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.

Let me tell you why.

Misty DeMars is a mother of two young boys. She’d been steadily employed since she was a teenager. She put herself through college. She’d never collected unemployment benefits. In May, she and her husband used their life savings to buy their first home. A week later, budget cuts claimed the job she loved. Last month, when their unemployment insurance was cut off, she sat down and wrote me a letter – the kind I get every day. “We are the face of the unemployment crisis,” she wrote. “I am not dependent on the government…Our country depends on people like us who build careers, contribute to society…care about our neighbors…I am confident that in time I will find a job…I will pay my taxes, and we will raise our children in their own home in the community we love. Please give us this chance.”

Congress, give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance. They need our help, but more important, this country needs them in the game. That’s why I’ve been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at that new job and new chance to support their families; this week, many will come to the White House to make that commitment real. Tonight, I ask every business leader in America to join us and to do the same – because we are stronger when America fields a full team.

Of course, it’s not enough to train today’s workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education.

Estiven Rodriguez couldn’t speak a word of English when he moved to New York City at age nine. But last month, thanks to the support of great teachers and an innovative tutoring program, he led a march of his classmates – through a crowd of cheering parents and neighbors – from their high school to the post office, where they mailed off their college applications. And this son of a factory worker just found out he’s going to college this fall.

Five years ago, we set out to change the odds for all our kids. We worked with lenders to reform student loans, and today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before. Race to the Top, with the help of governors from both parties, has helped states raise expectations and performance. Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy – problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and math. Some of this change is hard. It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it’s worth it – and it’s working.

The problem is we’re still not reaching enough kids, and we’re not reaching them in time. That has to change.

Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education. Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four year-old. As a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request tonight. But in the meantime, thirty states have raised pre-k funding on their own. They know we can’t wait. So just as we worked with states to reform our schools, this year, we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a race to the top for our youngest children. And as Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K they need.

Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years. Tonight, I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we’ve got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.

We’re working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career. We’re shaking up our system of higher education to give parents more information, and colleges more incentives to offer better value, so that no middle-class kid is priced out of a college education. We’re offering millions the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to ten percent of their income, and I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt. And I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.

The bottom line is, Michelle and I want every child to have the same chance this country gave us. But we know our opportunity agenda won’t be complete – and too many young people entering the workforce today will see the American Dream as an empty promise – unless we do more to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American.

Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.

Now, women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs – but they’re not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages. Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.

In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs. Many businesses have done it on their own. Nick Chute is here tonight with his boss, John Soranno. John’s an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps make the dough. Only now he makes more of it: John just gave his employees a raise, to ten bucks an hour – a decision that eased their financial stress and boosted their morale.

Tonight, I ask more of America’s business leaders to follow John’s lead and do what you can to raise your employees’ wages. To every mayor, governor, and state legislator in America, I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on. And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example. Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover. We should too. In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.

Of course, to reach millions more, Congress needs to get on board. Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It doesn’t involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise.

There are other steps we can take to help families make ends meet, and few are more effective at reducing inequality and helping families pull themselves up through hard work than the Earned Income Tax Credit. Right now, it helps about half of all parents at some point. But I agree with Republicans like Senator Rubio that it doesn’t do enough for single workers who don’t have kids. So let’s work together to strengthen the credit, reward work, and help more Americans get ahead.

Let’s do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today, most workers don’t have a pension. A Social Security check often isn’t enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401ks. That’s why, tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg. MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little to nothing for middle-class Americans. Offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work just like everyone in this chamber can. And since the most important investment many families make is their home, send me legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations of Americans.

One last point on financial security. For decades, few things exposed hard-working families to economic hardship more than a broken health care system. And in case you haven’t heard, we’re in the process of fixing that.

A pre-existing condition used to mean that someone like Amanda Shelley, a physician assistant and single mom from Arizona, couldn’t get health insurance. But on January 1st, she got covered. On January 3rd, she felt a sharp pain. On January 6th, she had emergency surgery. Just one week earlier, Amanda said, that surgery would’ve meant bankruptcy.

That’s what health insurance reform is all about – the peace of mind that if misfortune strikes, you don’t have to lose everything.

Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than three million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans.

More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.

And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, back pain, or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman. And we did all this while adding years to Medicare’s finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat, and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.

Now, I don’t expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people aren’t interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice – tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up. But let’s not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans like Amanda. The first forty were plenty. We got it. We all owe it to the American people to say what we’re for, not just what we’re against.

And if you want to know the real impact this law is having, just talk to Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky, who’s here tonight. Kentucky’s not the most liberal part of the country, but he’s like a man possessed when it comes to covering his commonwealth’s families. “They are our friends and neighbors,” he said. “They are people we shop and go to church with…farmers out on the tractors…grocery clerks…they are people who go to work every morning praying they don’t get sick. No one deserves to live that way.”

Steve’s right. That’s why, tonight, I ask every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31st. Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It will give her some peace of mind – plus, she’ll appreciate hearing from you.

After all, that’s the spirit that has always moved this nation forward. It’s the spirit of citizenship – the recognition that through hard work and responsibility, we can pursue our individual dreams, but still come together as one American family to make sure the next generation can pursue its dreams as well.

Citizenship means standing up for everyone’s right to vote. Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened. But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it; and the bipartisan commission I appointed last year has offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote. Let’s support these efforts. It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy.

Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say “we are not afraid,” and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.

Citizenship demands a sense of common cause; participation in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to serve to our communities. And I know this chamber agrees that few Americans give more to their country than our diplomats and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.

Tonight, because of the extraordinary troops and civilians who risk and lay down their lives to keep us free, the United States is more secure. When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America’s longest war will finally be over.

After 2014, we will support a unified Afghanistan as it takes responsibility for its own future. If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces, and counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al Qaeda. For while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country.

The fact is, that danger remains. While we have put al Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved, as al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks. In Syria, we’ll support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks. Here at home, we’ll keep strengthening our defenses, and combat new threats like cyberattacks. And as we reform our defense budget, we have to keep faith with our men and women in uniform, and invest in the capabilities they need to succeed in future missions.

We have to remain vigilant. But I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our military alone. As Commander-in-Chief, I have used force when needed to protect the American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold this office. But I will not send our troops into harm’s way unless it’s truly necessary; nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us – large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.

So, even as we aggressively pursue terrorist networks – through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners – America must move off a permanent war footing. That’s why I’ve imposed prudent limits on the use of drones – for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence. That’s why, working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs – because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated. And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay – because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our Constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world.

You see, in a world of complex threats, our security and leadership depends on all elements of our power – including strong and principled diplomacy. American diplomacy has rallied more than fifty countries to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands, and allowed us to reduce our own reliance on Cold War stockpiles. American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated, and we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve – a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear. As we speak, American diplomacy is supporting Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there; to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the State of Israel – a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side.

And it is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program – and rolled parts of that program back – for the very first time in a decade. As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium. It is not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify, every day, that Iran is not building a bomb. And with our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

These negotiations will be difficult. They may not succeed. We are clear-eyed about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our allies; and the mistrust between our nations cannot be wished away. But these negotiations do not rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.

The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed. If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon. But if Iran’s leaders do seize the chance, then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.

Finally, let’s remember that our leadership is defined not just by our defense against threats, but by the enormous opportunities to do good and promote understanding around the globe – to forge greater cooperation, to expand new markets, to free people from fear and want. And no one is better positioned to take advantage of those opportunities than America.

Our alliance with Europe remains the strongest the world has ever known. From Tunisia to Burma, we’re supporting those who are willing to do the hard work of building democracy. In Ukraine, we stand for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully, and have a say in their country’s future. Across Africa, we’re bringing together businesses and governments to double access to electricity and help end extreme poverty. In the Americas, we are building new ties of commerce, but we’re also expanding cultural and educational exchanges among young people. And we will continue to focus on the Asia-Pacific, where we support our allies, shape a future of greater security and prosperity, and extend a hand to those devastated by disaster – as we did in the Philippines, when our Marines and civilians rushed to aid those battered by a typhoon, and were greeted with words like, “We will never forget your kindness” and “God bless America!”

We do these things because they help promote our long-term security. And we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation. And next week, the world will see one expression of that commitment – when Team USA marches the red, white, and blue into the Olympic Stadium – and brings home the gold.

My fellow Americans, no other country in the world does what we do. On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might – but because of the ideals we stand for, and the burdens we bear to advance them.

No one knows this better than those who serve in uniform. As this time of war draws to a close, a new generation of heroes returns to civilian life. We’ll keep slashing that backlog so our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned, and our wounded warriors receive the health care – including the mental health care – that they need. We’ll keep working to help all our veterans translate their skills and leadership into jobs here at home. And we all continue to join forces to honor and support our remarkable military families.

Let me tell you about one of those families I’ve come to know.

I first met Cory Remsburg, a proud Army Ranger, at Omaha Beach on the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Along with some of his fellow Rangers, he walked me through the program – a strong, impressive young man, with an easy manner, sharp as a tack. We joked around, and took pictures, and I told him to stay in touch.

A few months later, on his tenth deployment, Cory was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan. His comrades found him in a canal, face down, underwater, shrapnel in his brain.

For months, he lay in a coma. The next time I met him, in the hospital, he couldn’t speak; he could barely move. Over the years, he’s endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, and hours of grueling rehab every day.

Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye. He still struggles on his left side. But slowly, steadily, with the support of caregivers like his dad Craig, and the community around him, Cory has grown stronger. Day by day, he’s learned to speak again and stand again and walk again – and he’s working toward the day when he can serve his country again.

“My recovery has not been easy,” he says. “Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.”

Cory is here tonight. And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit.

My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen. The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s within our reach.

Believe it.

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

 

Full Text Obama Presidency January 28, 2014: President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Transcript Excerpts

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

2014 State of the Union Excerpts

Source: WH, USA Today, 1-28-14

A request to Congress

“In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together. Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want — for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all — the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.”

A changing economy

“Let’s face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.”

Income inequality

“Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by — let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.

Obama’s economic plans — and executive actions

“Our job is to reverse these tides. It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still — and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

The theme of opportunity

“Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.”

Full Text Political Transcripts January 28, 2014: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers Official Republican Response to the 2014 State of the Union Address Transcript Excerpts

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Official Republican Response to the 2014 State of the Union Address Excerpts

Source: CBS News, 1-28-14

“The most important moments right now aren’t happening here. They’re not in the Oval Office or in the House Chamber. They’re in your homes. Kissing your kids goodnight. Figuring out how to pay the bills. Getting ready for tomorrow’s doctor’s visit. Waiting to hear from those you love serving in Afghanistan, or searching for that big job interview. After all, ‘We the People’ have been the foundation of America since her earliest days – people from all walks of life, and from all corners of the world – people who come to America because here, no challenge is too great and no dream too big.

“So tonight I’d like to share a more hopeful, Republican vision – one that empowers you, not the government. It’s one that champions free markets – and trusts people to make their own decisions, not a government that decides for you. It helps working families rise above the limits of poverty and protects our most vulnerable. And it’s one where Washington plays by the same rules that you do. It’s a vision that is fair and offers the promise of a better future for every American.”

“Because our mission – not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become. That is the gap Republicans are working to close. It’s the gap we all face: between where you are and where you want to be.”

“Last month, more Americans stopped looking for a job than found one. Too many people are falling further and further behind because, right now, the President’s policies are making people’s lives harder. Republicans have plans to close the gap…Plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts, and red tape…Every day, we’re working to expand our economy, one manufacturing job, nursing degree and small business at a time. We have plans to improve our education and training systems so you have the choice to determine where your kids go to school…to help you take home more of your paycheck…with lower taxes, cheaper energy costs, and affordable health care.

“We’ve all talked to too many people who have received cancellation notices they didn’t expect or who can no longer see the doctors they always have. No, we shouldn’t go back to the way things were, but the President’s health care law is not working. Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s. And that whether you’re a boy with Down syndrome or a woman with breast cancer, you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you.”

“As Republicans, we advance these plans every day because we believe in a government that trusts people and doesn’t limit where you finish because of where you started. That is what we stand for – for an America that is every bit as compassionate as it is exceptional…Our plan is one that dreams big for everyone and turns its back on no one.”

Political Musings January 26, 2014: GOP weekly address criticizes Obama prior to State of the Union Address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

GOP weekly address criticizes Obama prior to State of the Union Address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Republican Party has decided three responses after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address was not enough and thought it would best to give a “pre-emptive strike” and use the GOP weekly address…READ MORE

Political Musings January 25, 2014: State of the Union guessing game: predicted Obama will give economy heavy speech

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

State of the Union guessing game: predicted Obama will give economy heavy speech

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With days left before the big speech, the guessing game is full swing, what will President Obama say and include in the 2014 State of the Union Address, the sixth of his presidency to be delivered on Tuesday, Jan. 28…READ MORE

Political Musings January 24, 2014: Three GOP responses planned to Obama’s State of the Union Address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Three GOP responses planned to Obama’s State of the Union Address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Not to be outdone this year the Republican Party will have three responses to President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. On Thursday, Jan. 23, the GOP announced the official response…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 23, 2014: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks at US Conference of Mayors Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and the Vice President at U.S. Conference of Mayors Reception

Source: WH, 1-23-14

East Room

5:30 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, welcome to the White House.  My name is Joe Biden.  I work for President Obama.  (Laughter.)  Best job I ever had.

Hey, folks, look, there’s a reason the President and I like talking to mayors.  You’re the one group of elected officials that get things done, in large part because you have no option but to get things done.  (Laughter.)  And also, most of the innovation is coming from you all.

Today, I got further evidence of that when I talked with a few of you about what we can do together on the jobs, skills and workforce development.  We promised, back in 2009, there would be — we’d be a strong partner with you, and I’m confident in saying that because of the man I’m about to introduce, we’ve kept that promise.

President Obama understands cities better than most American presidents have in American history.  He knows cities face unique challenges when it comes to building infrastructure and creating jobs, and that’s why he nominated a big city mayor, Anthony Foxx — he doesn’t have all the money in the world, but he’s ready to help.

And also, I’ve gotten a chance to work directly with so many of you during the Recovery Act.  The only reason it worked, the only reason there was less than 1 percent waste or fraud — including with our Republican friends who investigated — is because of you.  You made it work.  You’re used to getting things done on time — mostly under budget — and getting answers back to people immediately.  And it never ceases to amaze me the tough political decisions, you guys and women, you make every single day in doing your job — to save your neighborhoods, to rebuild and balance your budgets, and to bring jobs back to your communities.

So I’m honored to have you here, we’re honored to have you here.  And I’m really honored to introduce the best friend the cities have ever had in this White House, President Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Please have a seat.

Well, welcome to the White House.  It is great to have you.  For those of you who have been here before, welcome back.  I see a lot of friends and a lot of familiar faces around the room, but I’ve also already had a chance to meet some newly elected mayors.  So to all of you, congratulations — and make sure you’re shoveling the snow.  (Laughter.)  Just a little piece of advice.  It’s been cold.

We’ve got more than 250 mayors here from more than 45 states and territories.  You represent about 40 million Americans.  And over the last five years, thanks in part to the partnerships that we’ve been able to forge with mayors in this room and across the country, we’ve accomplished some big things on behalf of the American people.

But you know as well as anybody that while our economy is growing stronger, and we are optimistic about growth this year and in subsequent years, we’ve got a lot more work to do to make sure that everybody has a chance to get ahead.  If they’re willing to work hard and take responsibility, they’ve got to be able to participate in that growth.  And every day, mayors are proving that you don’t have to wait for the gridlock to clear in Congress in order to make things happen.

Now, Mayor Greg Stanton in Phoenix and Mayor Ralph Becker in Salt Lake City have ended chronic homelessness among veterans.  (Applause.)  In San Antonio, Mayor Castro has launched an early childhood education program designed to reach more than 22,000 four year olds over the next eight years.  In Fresno, Mayor Ashley Swearengin is spearheading projects to develop her city’s downtown, including a high-speed rail station that’s going to help attract jobs and businesses to the Central Valley.  In Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter is helping young people reach higher during their summers by working with partners across the city to create thousands of summer jobs.  In Tampa, Mayor Bob Buckhorn has gone, in his words, “all in,” helping his constituents get covered with quality, affordable health insurance.

So mayors from both parties are a part of the climate task force, helping to make sure that cities have what it takes to withstand changes that may be taking place in our atmosphere in the years to come.  More than a thousand mayors across America have signed agreements to cut dangerous carbon pollutions.  I want to work with Congress whenever and wherever I can, but the one thing I’m emphasizing to all my Cabinet members is we’re not going to wait.  Where Congress is debating things and hasn’t been able to pull the trigger on stuff, my administration is going to move forward and we’re going to do it in partnership with all of you.  I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.  And that’s all I need.  (Applause.)

Because with a pen I can take executive actions.  With a phone I can rally folks from around the country to help grow the economy and restore opportunity.  And that’s what today, hopefully, has been about.  You’ve met with members of the administration.  You’ve gotten to know each other, but also, hopefully, they’ve given you some insight into where we see the most promising programs, things that are working, best practices.  And we want to cooperate and coordinate with you as effectively as we can to make sure that whatever works is getting out there and hitting the streets and actually having an impact on people’s lives.  And, frankly, there are a lot of things that folks in this town could learn from all of you.

And I want to close by personally saying how much it means to me to have you here today.  As Joe mentioned, I know a little something about cities.  I got my professional career started as somebody working in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago.  But I also saw how hard work can transform communities block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood.  And to see the resilience and the strength of people, and the incredible vibrancy that cities bring to not just those who live within the boundaries of cities but entire regions, that’s what you understand.  And I want to make sure that I’ve got your back in everything that you do.

So I want to say thank you to all of you for making sure that your constituents are well-served.  But, as a consequence, America is well-served.

END
5:38 P.M. EST

Political Musings January 21, 2014 Obama to finally have an audience with Pope Francis, Vatican trip set for March

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama to finally have an audience with Pope Francis, Vatican trip set for March

By Bonnie K. Goodman

It is a slow news day in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 as a snowstorm cancelled all of President Barack Obama’s plans for the day, making the big news the President’s upcoming trip to…READ MORE

Political Musings January 20, 2014 First Lady Michelle Obama turns 50 and fabulous with star-studded dance party

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

First Lady Michelle Obama turns 50 and fabulous with star-studded dance party

By Bonnie K. Goodman

First Lady Michelle Obama has had a busy birthday week leading up to turning “50 and fabulous” on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 and capping it all off with a star-studded dance party called “Snacks & Sips…READ MORE

Political Musings January 19, 2014: Obama revisits North Carolina economy and jobs speech in weekly address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama revisits North Carolina economy and jobs speech in weekly address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This past week President Barack Obama message on the economy focused on jobs, jobs, jobs, as he again pushed Congress to pass the unemployment benefits extension for the long term jobless and introduced manufacturing institutes that will train Americans for…READ MORE

Political Musings January 18, 2014: Obama defends NSA programs in speech offering reforms

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama defends NSA programs in speech offering reforms

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In a speech that Americans have been waiting more than six months for President Barack Obama announced changes to the National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance programs on Friday, Jan. 17, 2013. President Obama delivered his 45-minute speech at…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 17, 2014: President Barack Obama Speech at Appropriations, 2014 Spending Bill Signing

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Appropriations Bill Signing

Source: WH, 1-17-13 

New Executive Office Building
Washington, D.C.

5:05 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Have a seat, have a seat.  Now, this is not usually where I do bill signings.  (Laughter.)  But in addition to the opportunity to take a walk — and whenever I get a chance to take a walk I seize it — we wanted to make sure that we did this bill signing here because it represents the extraordinary work of so many of you.

Obviously, over the last several years, we’ve been dealing with the need to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression.  And that involved making sure we were investing in, first and foremost, the American people; that we were helping businesses stay open; that we were helping to make sure the financial system was back on track — that we reformed it so that we wouldn’t see the kind of crisis that we saw again; and most importantly, that we did everything we can to lay the foundation so that we have a middle class in this country that is thriving and growing, and we’ve got ladders of opportunity for everybody who wants to work hard and get ahead.

And we’ve made remarkable progress over the last five years, but we have not made enough.  Part of the reason we hadn’t made as much progress as we needed to was we had a series of self-inflicted wounds in this town in which a mindless sequester impeded growth, in which we were governing by crisis and brinksmanship.  And not only did that slow our ability to generate a full recovery, and not only did that hamper economic growth, but it also had an enormous impact on all of you.  And I know the Office of Management and Budget was one of the hardest hit during the sequester and a lot of you were furloughed.  A lot of you who remained during some of these furloughs had to carry extraordinary burdens, and so it took a personal toll on you and it took a personal toll on your family.

And yet, in part because of your dedication and your strength and your devotion to doing your jobs well, in part because of the strong leadership of Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congressman Rogers — Chairman Rogers, we now have a bill that will fund our government, all our vital services, make sure that we are able to provide the needs for our veterans; to make sure that we are doing everything we need to do to advance our research agenda in this country and innovate; to make sure that we’re investing in the job training that young people desperately need in order to get the skills to find that good-paying job.

Across the board, our government is going to be operating without hopefully too many glitches over the next year.  And not only is that good for all of you and all the dedicated public servants in the federal government, but most importantly, it’s good for the American people because it means that we can focus our attention where we need to — on growing this economy and making sure that everybody gets a fair shot as long as they try.

We would not be here and we would not be able to sign this legislation if it hadn’t been for your work and your dedication.  And so this is my way of saying thank you.  I want to say thank you to Sylvia and Brian and the whole team here, and everybody represented because, goodness gracious, that is a big piece of business.  (Laughter.)  That is a big bill.  (Laughter.)  And I’m always interested and I’m like, where do they have the boxes for the really big ones?  (Laughter.)  Somebody makes them.

But what that represents is just hours and hours and weekends and nights where people are really paying attention and sweating the details.  And that’s what you do.  So these aren’t numbers; these are homeless folks who are getting housing.  These are a laid-off worker who suddenly is enrolling in that community college and finding that job that allows them to save a home and get back on track.  That’s some young scientist who is maybe going to find a cure for cancer or Alzheimer’s.  That’s what those numbers represent.  And that’s because of you.

So thank you for your good work.  And without further delay, so you guys can start your weekends — (laughter) — and I’ve got to get back because somebody is having a birthday today.  (Laughter.)  I’ve got to make sure I pay them some attention.  I’m going to go ahead and sit down and sign the bill.  (Applause.)

END
5:10 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency January 17, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on National Security Agency’s NSA Surveillance Programs Reforms

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Discusses U.S. Intelligence Programs at the Department of Justice

Remarks by the President on Review of Signals Intelligence

Source: WH, 1-17-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on U.S. Intelligence Programs
January 17, 2014 3:28 PM

President Obama Speaks on U.S. Intelligence Programs

President Barack Obama delivers remarks presenting the outcome of the Administration's review of the NSA and U.S. signals intelligence programsPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks presenting the outcome of the Administration’s review of the NSA and U.S. signals intelligence programs, at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., Jan. 17, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Department of Justice
Washington, D.C.

11:15 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee borne out of the “The Sons of Liberty” was established in Boston.  And the group’s members included Paul Revere.  At night, they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early Patriots.

Throughout American history, intelligence has helped secure our country and our freedoms.  In the Civil War, Union balloon reconnaissance tracked the size of Confederate armies by counting the number of campfires.  In World War II, code-breakers gave us insights into Japanese war plans, and when Patton marched across Europe, intercepted communications helped save the lives of his troops.  After the war, the rise of the Iron Curtain and nuclear weapons only increased the need for sustained intelligence gathering.  And so, in the early days of the Cold War, President Truman created the National Security Agency, or NSA, to give us insights into the Soviet bloc, and provide our leaders with information they needed to confront aggression and avert catastrophe.

Throughout this evolution, we benefited from both our Constitution and our traditions of limited government.  U.S. intelligence agencies were anchored in a system of checks and balances — with oversight from elected leaders, and protections for ordinary citizens.  Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a cautionary tale of what could happen when vast, unchecked surveillance turned citizens into informers, and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their own homes.

In fact, even the United States proved not to be immune to the abuse of surveillance.  And in the 1960s, government spied on civil rights leaders and critics of the Vietnam War.  And partly in response to these revelations, additional laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens.  In the long, twilight struggle against Communism, we had been reminded that the very liberties that we sought to preserve could not be sacrificed at the altar of national security.

If the fall of the Soviet Union left America without a competing superpower, emerging threats from terrorist groups, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction placed new and in some ways more complicated demands on our intelligence agencies.  Globalization and the Internet made these threats more acute, as technology erased borders and empowered individuals to project great violence, as well as great good.  Moreover, these new threats raised new legal and new policy questions.  For while few doubted the legitimacy of spying on hostile states, our framework of laws was not fully adapted to prevent terrorist attacks by individuals acting on their own, or acting in small, ideologically driven groups on behalf of a foreign power.

The horror of September 11th brought all these issues to the fore.  Across the political spectrum, Americans recognized that we had to adapt to a world in which a bomb could be built in a basement, and our electric grid could be shut down by operators an ocean away.  We were shaken by the signs we had missed leading up to the attacks — how the hijackers had made phone calls to known extremists and traveled to suspicious places.  So we demanded that our intelligence community improve its capabilities, and that law enforcement change practices to focus more on preventing attacks before they happen than prosecuting terrorists after an attack.

It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to go through after 9/11.  Our agencies suddenly needed to do far more than the traditional mission of monitoring hostile powers and gathering information for policymakers.  Instead, they were now asked to identify and target plotters in some of the most remote parts of the world, and to anticipate the actions of networks that, by their very nature, cannot be easily penetrated with spies or informants.

And it is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of our intelligence community that over the past decade we’ve made enormous strides in fulfilling this mission.  Today, new capabilities allow intelligence agencies to track who a terrorist is in contact with, and follow the trail of his travel or his funding.  New laws allow information to be collected and shared more quickly and effectively between federal agencies, and state and local law enforcement.  Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded, and our capacity to repel cyber-attacks have been strengthened.  And taken together, these efforts have prevented multiple attacks and saved innocent lives — not just here in the United States, but around the globe.

And yet, in our rush to respond to a very real and novel set of threats, the risk of government overreach — the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security — also became more pronounced.  We saw, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, our government engaged in enhanced interrogation techniques that contradicted our values.  As a Senator, I was critical of several practices, such as warrantless wiretaps.  And all too often new authorities were instituted without adequate public debate.

Through a combination of action by the courts, increased congressional oversight, and adjustments by the previous administration, some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were curbed by the time I took office.  But a variety of factors have continued to complicate America’s efforts to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties.

First, the same technological advances that allow U.S. intelligence agencies to pinpoint an al Qaeda cell in Yemen or an email between two terrorists in the Sahel also mean that many routine communications around the world are within our reach.  And at a time when more and more of our lives are digital, that prospect is disquieting for all of us.

Second, the combination of increased digital information and powerful supercomputers offers intelligence agencies the possibility of sifting through massive amounts of bulk data to identify patterns or pursue leads that may thwart impending threats.  It’s a powerful tool.  But the government collection and storage of such bulk data also creates a potential for abuse.

Third, the legal safeguards that restrict surveillance against U.S. persons without a warrant do not apply to foreign persons overseas.  This is not unique to America; few, if any, spy agencies around the world constrain their activities beyond their own borders.  And the whole point of intelligence is to obtain information that is not publicly available.  But America’s capabilities are unique, and the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do.  That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do.

And finally, intelligence agencies cannot function without secrecy, which makes their work less subject to public debate.  Yet there is an inevitable bias not only within the intelligence community, but among all of us who are responsible for national security, to collect more information about the world, not less.  So in the absence of institutional requirements for regular debate — and oversight that is public, as well as private or classified — the danger of government overreach becomes more acute.  And this is particularly true when surveillance technology and our reliance on digital information is evolving much faster than our laws.

For all these reasons, I maintained a healthy skepticism toward our surveillance programs after I became President.  I ordered that our programs be reviewed by my national security team and our lawyers, and in some cases I ordered changes in how we did business.  We increased oversight and auditing, including new structures aimed at compliance.  Improved rules were proposed by the government and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  And we sought to keep Congress continually updated on these activities.

What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale — not only because I felt that they made us more secure, but also because nothing in that initial review, and nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.

To the contrary, in an extraordinarily difficult job — one in which actions are second-guessed, success is unreported, and failure can be catastrophic — the men and women of the intelligence community, including the NSA, consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people.  They’re not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls or read your emails.  When mistakes are made — which is inevitable in any large and complicated human enterprise — they correct those mistakes.  Laboring in obscurity, often unable to discuss their work even with family and friends, the men and women at the NSA know that if another 9/11 or massive cyber-attack occurs, they will be asked, by Congress and the media, why they failed to connect the dots.  What sustains those who work at NSA and our other intelligence agencies through all these pressures is the knowledge that their professionalism and dedication play a central role in the defense of our nation.

Now, to say that our intelligence community follows the law, and is staffed by patriots, is not to suggest that I or others in my administration felt complacent about the potential impact of these programs.  Those of us who hold office in America have a responsibility to our Constitution, and while I was confident in the integrity of those who lead our intelligence community, it was clear to me in observing our intelligence operations on a regular basis that changes in our technological capabilities were raising new questions about the privacy safeguards currently in place.

Moreover, after an extended review of our use of drones in the fight against terrorist networks, I believed a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our effort to get off the open-ended war footing that we’ve maintained since 9/11.  And for these reasons, I indicated in a speech at the National Defense University last May that we needed a more robust public discussion about the balance between security and liberty.  Of course, what I did not know at the time is that within weeks of my speech, an avalanche of unauthorized disclosures would spark controversies at home and abroad that have continued to this day.

And given the fact of an open investigation, I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations; I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets.  If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy.  Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come.

Regardless of how we got here, though, the task before us now is greater than simply repairing the damage done to our operations or preventing more disclosures from taking place in the future.  Instead, we have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world, while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections that our ideals and our Constitution require.  We need to do so not only because it is right, but because the challenges posed by threats like terrorism and proliferation and cyber-attacks are not going away any time soon.  They are going to continue to be a major problem.  And for our intelligence community to be effective over the long haul, we must maintain the trust of the American people, and people around the world.

This effort will not be completed overnight, and given the pace of technological change, we shouldn’t expect this to be the last time America has this debate.  But I want the American people to know that the work has begun.  Over the last six months, I created an outside Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies to make recommendations for reform.  I consulted with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by Congress.  I’ve listened to foreign partners, privacy advocates, and industry leaders.  My administration has spent countless hours considering how to approach intelligence in this era of diffuse threats and technological revolution.  So before outlining specific changes that I’ve ordered, let me make a few broad observations that have emerged from this process.

First, everyone who has looked at these problems, including skeptics of existing programs, recognizes that we have real enemies and threats, and that intelligence serves a vital role in confronting them.  We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyber threats without some capability to penetrate digital communications — whether it’s to unravel a terrorist plot; to intercept malware that targets a stock exchange; to make sure air traffic control systems are not compromised; or to ensure that hackers do not empty your bank accounts.  We are expected to protect the American people; that requires us to have capabilities in this field.

Moreover, we cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies.  There is a reason why BlackBerrys and iPhones are not allowed in the White House Situation Room.  We know that the intelligence services of other countries — including some who feign surprise over the Snowden disclosures — are constantly probing our government and private sector networks, and accelerating programs to listen to our conversations, and intercept our emails, and compromise our systems.  We know that.

Meanwhile, a number of countries, including some who have loudly criticized the NSA, privately acknowledge that America has special responsibilities as the world’s only superpower; that our intelligence capabilities are critical to meeting these responsibilities, and that they themselves have relied on the information we obtain to protect their own people.

Second, just as ardent civil libertarians recognize the need for robust intelligence capabilities, those with responsibilities for our national security readily acknowledge the potential for abuse as intelligence capabilities advance and more and more private information is digitized.  After all, the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies are our neighbors.  They’re our friends and family.  They’ve got electronic bank and medical records like everybody else.  They have kids on Facebook and Instagram, and they know, more than most of us, the vulnerabilities to privacy that exist in a world where transactions are recorded, and emails and text and messages are stored, and even our movements can increasingly be tracked through the GPS on our phones.

Third, there was a recognition by all who participated in these reviews that the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone.  Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes; that’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically.  But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher.  Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say:  Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect.  For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached.  Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.

I make these observations to underscore that the basic values of most Americans when it comes to questions of surveillance and privacy converge a lot more than the crude characterizations that have emerged over the last several months.  Those who are troubled by our existing programs are not interested in repeating the tragedy of 9/11, and those who defend these programs are not dismissive of civil liberties.

The challenge is getting the details right, and that is not simple.  In fact, during the course of our review, I have often reminded myself I would not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents like Dr. King, who were spied upon by their own government.  And as President, a President who looks at intelligence every morning, I also can’t help but be reminded that America must be vigilant in the face of threats.

Fortunately, by focusing on facts and specifics rather than speculation and hypotheticals, this review process has given me — and hopefully the American people — some clear direction for change.  And today, I can announce a series of concrete and substantial reforms that my administration intends to adopt administratively or will seek to codify with Congress.

First, I have approved a new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities both at home and abroad.  This guidance will strengthen executive branch oversight of our intelligence activities.  It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances; our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of American companies; and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties.  And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by my senior national security team.

Second, we will reform programs and procedures in place to provide greater transparency to our surveillance activities, and fortify the safeguards that protect the privacy of U.S. persons.  Since we began this review, including information being released today, we have declassified over 40 opinions and orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which provides judicial review of some of our most sensitive intelligence activities — including the Section 702 program targeting foreign individuals overseas, and the Section 215 telephone metadata program.

And going forward, I’m directing the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Attorney General, to annually review for the purposes of declassification any future opinions of the court with broad privacy implications, and to report to me and to Congress on these efforts.  To ensure that the court hears a broader range of privacy perspectives, I am also calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from outside government to provide an independent voice in significant cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Third, we will provide additional protections for activities conducted under Section 702, which allows the government to intercept the communications of foreign targets overseas who have information that’s important for our national security.  Specifically, I am asking the Attorney General and DNI to institute reforms that place additional restrictions on government’s ability to retain, search, and use in criminal cases communications between Americans and foreign citizens incidentally collected under Section 702.

Fourth, in investigating threats, the FBI also relies on what’s called national security letters, which can require companies to provide specific and limited information to the government without disclosing the orders to the subject of the investigation.  These are cases in which it’s important that the subject of the investigation, such as a possible terrorist or spy, isn’t tipped off.  But we can and should be more transparent in how government uses this authority.

I have therefore directed the Attorney General to amend how we use national security letters so that this secrecy will not be indefinite, so that it will terminate within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy.  We will also enable communications providers to make public more information than ever before about the orders that they have received to provide data to the government.

This brings me to the program that has generated the most controversy these past few months — the bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215.  Let me repeat what I said when this story first broke:  This program does not involve the content of phone calls, or the names of people making calls.  Instead, it provides a record of phone numbers and the times and lengths of calls — metadata that can be queried if and when we have a reasonable suspicion that a particular number is linked to a terrorist organization.

Why is this necessary?  The program grew out of a desire to address a gap identified after 9/11.  One of the 9/11 hijackers — Khalid al-Mihdhar — made a phone call from San Diego to a known al Qaeda safe-house in Yemen.  NSA saw that call, but it could not see that the call was coming from an individual already in the United States.  The telephone metadata program under Section 215 was designed to map the communications of terrorists so we can see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible.  And this capability could also prove valuable in a crisis.  For example, if a bomb goes off in one of our cities and law enforcement is racing to determine whether a network is poised to conduct additional attacks, time is of the essence.  Being able to quickly review phone connections to assess whether a network exists is critical to that effort.

In sum, the program does not involve the NSA examining the phone records of ordinary Americans.  Rather, it consolidates these records into a database that the government can query if it has a specific lead — a consolidation of phone records that the companies already retained for business purposes.  The review group turned up no indication that this database has been intentionally abused.  And I believe it is important that the capability that this program is designed to meet is preserved.

Having said that, I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives, and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs in the future.  They’re also right to point out that although the telephone bulk collection program was subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and has been reauthorized repeatedly by Congress, it has never been subject to vigorous public debate.

For all these reasons, I believe we need a new approach.  I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists, and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.

This will not be simple.  The review group recommended that our current approach be replaced by one in which the providers or a third party retain the bulk records, with government accessing information as needed.  Both of these options pose difficult problems.  Relying solely on the records of multiple providers, for example, could require companies to alter their procedures in ways that raise new privacy concerns.  On the other hand, any third party maintaining a single, consolidated database would be carrying out what is essentially a government function but with more expense, more legal ambiguity, potentially less accountability — all of which would have a doubtful impact on increasing public confidence that their privacy is being protected.

During the review process, some suggested that we may also be able to preserve the capabilities we need through a combination of existing authorities, better information sharing, and recent technological advances.  But more work needs to be done to determine exactly how this system might work.

Because of the challenges involved, I’ve ordered that the transition away from the existing program will proceed in two steps.  Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of the current three.  And I have directed the Attorney General to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court so that during this transition period, the database can be queried only after a judicial finding or in the case of a true emergency.

Next, step two, I have instructed the intelligence community and the Attorney General to use this transition period to develop options for a new approach that can match the capabilities and fill the gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address without the government holding this metadata itself.  They will report back to me with options for alternative approaches before the program comes up for reauthorization on March 28th.  And during this period, I will consult with the relevant committees in Congress to seek their views, and then seek congressional authorization for the new program as needed.

Now, the reforms I’m proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe.  And I recognize that there are additional issues that require further debate.  For example, some who participated in our review, as well as some members of Congress, would like to see more sweeping reforms to the use of national security letters so that we have to go to a judge each time before issuing these requests.  Here, I have concerns that we should not set a standard for terrorism investigations that is higher than those involved in investigating an ordinary crime.  But I agree that greater oversight on the use of these letters may be appropriate, and I’m prepared to work with Congress on this issue.

There are also those who would like to see different changes to the FISA Court than the ones I’ve proposed.  On all these issues, I am open to working with Congress to ensure that we build a broad consensus for how to move forward, and I’m confident that we can shape an approach that meets our security needs while upholding the civil liberties of every American.

Let me now turn to the separate set of concerns that have been raised overseas, and focus on America’s approach to intelligence collection abroad.  As I’ve indicated, the United States has unique responsibilities when it comes to intelligence collection.  Our capabilities help protect not only our nation, but our friends and our allies, as well.  But our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy, too.  And the leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to know what they think about an issue, I’ll pick up the phone and call them, rather than turning to surveillance.  In other words, just as we balance security and privacy at home, our global leadership demands that we balance our security requirements against our need to maintain the trust and cooperation among people and leaders around the world.

For that reason, the new presidential directive that I’ve issued today will clearly prescribe what we do, and do not do, when it comes to our overseas surveillance.  To begin with, the directive makes clear that the United States only uses signals intelligence for legitimate national security purposes, and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the emails or phone calls of ordinary folks.  I’ve also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity, or race, or gender, or sexual orientation, or religious beliefs.  We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies or U.S. commercial sectors.

And in terms of our bulk collection of signals intelligence, U.S. intelligence agencies will only use such data to meet specific security requirements:  counterintelligence, counterterrorism, counter-proliferation, cybersecurity, force protection for our troops and our allies, and combating transnational crime, including sanctions evasion.

In this directive, I have taken the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people to people overseas.  I’ve directed the DNI, in consultation with the Attorney General, to develop these safeguards, which will limit the duration that we can hold personal information, while also restricting the use of this information.

The bottom line is that people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security, and that we take their privacy concerns into account in our policies and procedures.  This applies to foreign leaders as well.  Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, I have made clear to the intelligence community that unless there is a compelling national security purpose, we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.  And I’ve instructed my national security team, as well as the intelligence community, to work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation in ways that rebuild trust going forward.

Now let me be clear:  Our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments — as opposed to ordinary citizens — around the world, in the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation does.  We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective.  But heads of state and government with whom we work closely, and on whose cooperation we depend, should feel confident that we are treating them as real partners.  And the changes I’ve ordered do just that.

Finally, to make sure that we follow through on all these reforms, I am making some important changes to how our government is organized.  The State Department will designate a senior officer to coordinate our diplomacy on issues related to technology and signals intelligence.  We will appoint a senior official at the White House to implement the new privacy safeguards that I have announced today.  I will devote the resources to centralize and improve the process we use to handle foreign requests for legal assistance, keeping our high standards for privacy while helping foreign partners fight crime and terrorism.

I have also asked my counselor, John Podesta, to lead a comprehensive review of big data and privacy.  And this group will consist of government officials who, along with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, will reach out to privacy experts, technologists and business leaders, and look how the challenges inherent in big data are being confronted by both the public and private sectors; whether we can forge international norms on how to manage this data; and how we can continue to promote the free flow of information in ways that are consistent with both privacy and security.

For ultimately, what’s at stake in this debate goes far beyond a few months of headlines, or passing tensions in our foreign policy.  When you cut through the noise, what’s really at stake is how we remain true to who we are in a world that is remaking itself at dizzying speed.  Whether it’s the ability of individuals to communicate ideas; to access information that would have once filled every great library in every country in the world; or to forge bonds with people on other sides of the globe, technology is remaking what is possible for individuals, and for institutions, and for the international order.  So while the reforms that I have announced will point us in a new direction, I am mindful that more work will be needed in the future.

One thing I’m certain of:  This debate will make us stronger.  And I also know that in this time of change, the United States of America will have to lead.  It may seem sometimes that America is being held to a different standard.  And I’ll admit the readiness of some to assume the worst motives by our government can be frustrating.  No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs, or Russia to take privacy concerns of citizens in other places into account.  But let’s remember:  We are held to a different standard precisely because we have been at the forefront of defending personal privacy and human dignity.

As the nation that developed the Internet, the world expects us to ensure that the digital revolution works as a tool for individual empowerment, not government control.  Having faced down the dangers of totalitarianism and fascism and communism, the world expects us to stand up for the principle that every person has the right to think and write and form relationships freely — because individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress.

Those values make us who we are.  And because of the strength of our own democracy, we should not shy away from high expectations.  For more than two centuries, our Constitution has weathered every type of change because we have been willing to defend it, and because we have been willing to question the actions that have been taken in its defense.  Today is no different.  I believe we can meet high expectations.  Together, let us chart a way forward that secures the life of our nation while preserving the liberties that make our nation worth fighting for.

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

END
11:57 A.M. EST

Political Musings January 16, 2014: House passes $1 trillion 2014 spending bill overwhelmingly 359-67

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

House passes $1 trillion 2014 spending bill overwhelmingly 359-67

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The House of Representatives started the New Year with bipartisan cooperation passing the 2014 “Ominbus” spending bill with a vote of 359-67 on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. The bill allots nearly$1.1 trillion for the 2014…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 16, 2014: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speeches at College Opportunity Summit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Taking Action to Expand College Opportunity

Remarks by the President and First Lady at College Opportunity Summit

 Source: WH, 1-16-14

President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Bard College student Troy Simon, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity SummitPresident Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Bard College student Troy Simon, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity Summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Jan. 16, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

South Court Auditorium

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

11:37 A.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Good morning.  Thank you, everyone.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  You guys rest yourselves.  Thank you so much.

It is really great to be here today with all of you.  We have with us today college and university presidents; we have experts and advocates, and civic and business leaders.  And I want to thank all of you for taking the time to be here today and for working every day to help young people pursue their education and build brighter futures for themselves and for our country.

And I’d also like us to give a really big hand to Troy for sharing that story.  (Applause.)  That’s pretty powerful stuff, and presented so eloquently.  I know yesterday I met Troy — he was nervous.  (Laughter.)  I don’t really know why you were nervous.  You’re pretty awesome.

MR. SIMON:  Thank you.

MRS. OBAMA:  Troy’s story reminds us all of the limitless capacity that lies within all of our young people no matter where they come from or how much money they have.  Troy is an example of why we all should care deeply about this issue.

And Troy, and millions of others like him, are why I care so much about this issue, and why in the coming years I’m going to be spending more and more of my time focusing on education.  Because as everyone here knows, education is the key to success for so many kids.  And my goal specifically is to reach out directly to young people and encourage them to take charge of their futures and complete an education beyond high school.  And I’m doing this because so often when we talk about education, we talk about our young people and what we need to do for them.  We talk about the programs we need to create for them, about the resources we need to devote to them.

But we must remember that education is a two-way bargain.  And while there is so much more we must do for our kids, at the end of the day, as Troy described, the person who has the most say over whether or not a student succeeds is the student him or herself.  Ultimately, they are the ones sitting in that classroom.  They’re the ones who have to set goals for themselves and work hard to achieve those goals every single day.

So my hope is that with this new effort, that instead of talking about our kids, we talk with our kids.  I want to hear what’s going on in their lives.  I want to inspire them to step up and commit to their education so they can have opportunities they never even dreamed of.  I’m doing this because that story of opportunity through education is the story of my life, and I want them to know that it can be their story, too –- but only if they devote themselves to continuing their education past high school.

And for many students, that might mean attending a college or university like the ones many of you represent.  For others, it might mean choosing a community college.  It might mean pursuing short-term professional training.  But no matter what they do, I want to make sure that students believe that they have what it takes to succeed beyond high school.  That’s going to be my message to young people.

But here’s the thing:  I know that that message alone isn’t enough.  Like I said, this is a two-way street, and that means we all have to step up.  Because make no mistake about it, these kids are smart.  They will notice if we’re not holding up our end of the bargain.  They will notice if we tell them about applying for college or financial aid, but then no one is there to help them choose the right school or fill out the right forms.  They will notice if we tell them that they’re good enough to graduate from college, but then no college asks them to apply, no college invites them to visit their campus.

And so we’ve got to re-commit ourselves to helping these kids pursue their education.  And as you discussed in your first panel today, one of the first steps is getting more underserved young people onto college campuses.  The fact is that right now we are missing out on so much potential because so many promising young people — young people like Troy who have the talent it takes to succeed — simply don’t believe that college can be a reality for them.  Too many of them are falling through the cracks, and all of you know that all too well.

And that’s why so many of you are already finding new ways to reach out to the underserved students in your communities.  You’re helping them navigate the financial aid and college admissions process, and you’re helping them find schools that match their abilities and interests.  And I know from my own experience just how important all of that work is that you’re doing.

See, the truth is that if Princeton hadn’t found my brother as a basketball recruit, and if I hadn’t seen that he could succeed on a campus like that, it never would have occurred to me to apply to that school — never.  And I know that there are so many kids out there just like me — kids who have a world of potential, but maybe their parents never went to college or maybe they’ve never been encouraged to believe they could succeed there.

And so that means it’s our job to find those kids.  It’s our job to help them understand their potential and then get them enrolled in a college that can help them meet their needs.  But then we all know that just getting into school is only half the story, because once students are there, they have got to graduate.  And that’s not always easy, especially given what many of these kids are dealing with when they get to campus.

Just think about it.  You just heard a snippet from Troy.  Just to make it to college, these kids have already overcome so much — neighborhoods riddled with crime and drugs, moms and dads who weren’t around, too many nights when they had to go to bed hungry.  But as I tell these kids when I talk to them, we can’t think about those experiences that they’ve had as weaknesses — just the opposite.  They’re actually strengths.

In facing and overcoming these challenges, these kids have developed skills like grit and resilience that many of their peers will never be able to compete with — never.  And when they get out in the world, those are the exact skills they will need to succeed.  And they will succeed.

But imagine how hard it is to realize that when you first get to college.  You’re in a whole new world.  You might have trouble making friends because you don’t see any peers who come from a background like yours.  You might be worried about paying for classes, and food, and room and board because you have never had to set your own budget before.  You might be feeling guilty when you call home because Mom and Dad are wondering why you didn’t get a job so you could help support their family.  Those are the kinds of obstacles these kids are facing right from day one.

But let’s be clear — all of that isn’t just a challenge for them.  It’s a challenge for folks like us, who are committed to helping them succeed.  And make no mistake about it, that is our mission — not simply giving speeches or raising money or hosting conferences, but to take real, meaningful action that will help our young people get into college, and more importantly, actually get their degree.

And here’s the good news:  Time and again you all have shown that you have the experience, the passion and the resources to help these young people thrive.  For example, in recent decades, you’ve realized that students from across the socioeconomic spectrum have been coming to campus with more and more issues like eating disorders and learning disabilities, emotional challenges like depression and anxiety, and so much more.  And luckily, you all have not shied away from these issues.  I’ve seen it.  I worked at a university.  And you haven’t said, these aren’t our problems; we’re a university, not a hospital or a counseling center.  No, you’ve stepped up.

And while there’s still work left to do on these issues, you’re working every day to support these kids through treatment programs and outreach initiatives and support groups, because you know that these issues have a huge impact on whether students can learn and succeed at your school.  So now, as you begin to see more and more underserved students on your campuses, we need you to direct that same energy and determination toward helping these kids face their unique challenges.

Now, fortunately, you’ve already got the expertise you need to address these issues.  And simply by building on what you’re already doing best, you can make real differences for these kids.  And that’s what so many of you are doing with commitments you’ve made here at this summit.

For example, every school offers financial aid services, but listen to what the University of Minnesota is doing.  They’re committing to expand those services to include financial literacy programs to help students and their families manage the costs of college.  And every school has advisors who desperately want their students to succeed.  Oregon Tech is committing to set up a text message program so that these advisors can connect more easily with students who need some extra encouragement or academic support.

And every college has orientation programs or learning communities to help students transition to college.  And many of the schools here today are supplementing those programs by partnering with organizations like the Posse Foundation so that underserved students can connect and build a social network before they even step foot on campus.  And those were the types of resources that helped a kid like me not just survive but thrive at a school like Princeton.

When I first arrived at school as a first-generation college student, I didn’t know anyone on campus except my brother.  I didn’t know how to pick the right classes or find the right buildings.  I didn’t even bring the right size sheets for my dorm room bed.  (Laughter.)  I didn’t realize those beds were so long.  (Laughter.)  So I was a little overwhelmed and a little isolated.

But then I had an opportunity to participate in a three-week, on-campus orientation program that helped me get a feel for the rhythm of college life.  And once school started, I discovered the campus cultural center, the Third World Center, where I found students and staff who came from families and communities that were similar to my own.  And they understood what I was going through.  They were there to listen when I was feeling frustrated.  They were there to answer the questions I was too embarrassed to ask anyone else.

And if it weren’t for those resources and the friends and the mentors, I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through college.  But instead, I graduated at the top of my class, I went to law school — and you know the rest.  (Laughter.)  So whether it’s aligning with an organization like Posse or offering a new advising or mentoring program, or creating a central space where students can connect with one another, you all can take simple steps that can determine whether these kids give up and drop out, or step up and thrive.

And that’s not just good for these young people, it’s good for your schools — because if you embrace and empower these students, and if you make sure they have good campus experiences, then they’re going to stay engaged with your school for decades after they graduate.  They will be dressed up in school colors at homecoming games.  They’ll be asking to serve on your committees and advisory boards.  And they’ll be doing their part when fundraising season rolls around.  (Laughter.)

So believe me, these will be some of the best alumni you could possibly ask for, because after everything these kids will have overcome to get into college and get through college, believe me, they will have all the skills they need to run our businesses and our labs, and to teach in our classrooms, and to lead our communities.

Just look at me, and look at Troy and the countless success stories from the organizations and schools represented here in this room.  That’s how we will win, this country.  We will win by tapping the full potential of all of our young people so that we can grow our economy and move this country forward.  And let me tell you that is something that my husband understands deeply, because his life story, just like mine, is rooted in education as well.  And as President, that is was drives him every single day — his goal of expanding opportunity to millions of Americans who are striving to build better futures for themselves, for their families and for our country, as well.

So now it is my pleasure to introduce my husband, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Have a seat.  Welcome to the White House, everybody.  And let me begin by thanking Troy and sharing his remarkable story.  I could not be more inspired by what he’s accomplished and can’t wait to see what he’s going to accomplish in the future.

My wife — it’s hard to speak after her.  (Laughter and applause.)  We were in the back, and Gene Sperling, who did extraordinary work putting this whole summit together, said, “Everybody is so excited that Michelle is here.”  (Laughter.)  And I said, well, what about me?  (Laughter.)  But you should be excited, her being here, because she brings a passion and a body of experience and a passion to this issue that is extraordinary.  And I couldn’t be prouder of the work she’s already done and the work I know that she’s going to keep on doing around these issues.

She did leave one thing out of her speech, and that is it’s her birthday tomorrow.  (Applause.)  So I want everybody to just keep that in mind.

Now, we are here for one purpose:  We want to make sure more young people have the chance to earn a higher education.  And in the 21st century economy, we all understand it’s never been more important.

The good news is, is that our economy is steadily growing and strengthening after the worst recession in a generation.  So we’ve created more than 8 million new jobs.  Manufacturing is growing, led by a booming auto industry.  Thanks to some key public investments in advances like affordable energy and research and development, what we’ve seen is not only an energy revolution in this country that bodes well for our future, but in areas like health care, for example, we’ve slowed the growth of health care costs in ways that a lot of people wouldn’t have anticipated as recently as five or ten years ago.

So there are a lot of good things going on in the economy.  And businesses are starting to invest.  In fact, what we’re seeing are businesses overseas starting to say, instead of outsourcing, let’s insource back into the U.S.

All that bodes well for our future.  Here’s the thing, though:  We don’t grow just for the sake of growth.  We grow so that it translates into a growing middle class, people getting jobs, people being able to support their families, and people being able to pass something on to the next generation.  We want to restore the essential promise of opportunity and upward mobility that’s at the heart of America — the notion that if you work hard, you can get ahead, you can improve your situation in life, you can make something of yourself.  The same essential story that Troy so eloquently told about himself.

And the fact is it’s been getting harder to do that for a lot of people.  It is harder for folks to start in one place and move up that ladder — and that was true long before the recession hit.  And that’s why I’ve said that in 2014, we have to consider this a year of action, not just to grow the economy, not just to increase GDP, not just to make sure that corporations are profitable and the stock market is doing well and the financial system is stable.  We’ve also got to make sure that that growth is broad-based and that everybody has a chance to access that growth and take advantage of it.  We’ve got to make sure that we’re creating new jobs and that the wages and benefits that go along with those jobs can support a family.  We have to make sure that there are new ladders of opportunity into the middle class, and that those ladders — the rungs on those ladders are solid and accessible for more people.

Now, I’m going to be working with Congress where I can to accomplish this, but I’m also going to act on my own if Congress is deadlocked.  I’ve got a pen to take executive actions where Congress won’t, and I’ve got a telephone to rally folks around the country on this mission.

And today is a great example of how, without a whole bunch of new legislation, we can advance this agenda.  We’ve got philanthropists and business leaders here; we’ve got leaders of innovative non-for-profits; we’ve got college presidents — from state universities and historically black colleges to Ivy League universities and community colleges.  And today, more than 100 colleges and 40 organizations are announcing new commitments to help more young people not only go to, but graduate from college.  And that’s an extraordinary accomplishment, and we didn’t pass a bill to do it.

Everybody here is participating, I believe, because you know that college graduation has never been more valuable than it is today.  Unemployment for Americans with a college degree is more than a third lower than the national average.  Incomes — twice as high as those without a high school diploma.  College is not the only path to success.  We’ve got to make sure that more Americans of all age are getting the skills that they need to access the jobs that are out there right now.  But more than ever, a college degree is the surest path to a stable, middle-class life.

And higher education speaks to something more than that.  The premise that we’re all created equal is the opening line in our American story.  And we don’t promise equal outcomes; we’ve strived to deliver equal opportunity — the idea that success does not depend on being born into wealth or privilege, it depends on effort and merit.  You can be born into nothing and work your way into something extraordinary.  And to a kid that goes to college, maybe like Michelle, the first in his or her family, that means everything.

And the fact is, is if we hadn’t made a commitment as a country to send more of our people to college, Michelle, me, maybe a few of you would not be here today.  My grandfather wasn’t rich, but when he came home from the war he got the chance to study on the GI Bill.  I grew up with a single mom.  She had me when she was 18 years old.  There are a lot of circumstances where that might have waylaid her education for good.  But there were structures in place that allowed her then to go on and get a PhD.  Michelle’s dad was a shift worker at the city water plant; mom worked as a secretary.  They didn’t go to college.  But there were structures in place that allowed Michelle to take advantage of those opportunities.

As Michelle mentioned, our parents and grandparents made sure we knew that we’d have to work for it, that nobody was going to hand us something, that education was not a passive enterprise — you just tip your head over and somebody pours education into your ear.  (Laughter.)  You’ve got to work for it.  And I’ve told the story of my mother — when I was living overseas, she’d wake me up before dawn to do correspondence courses in English before I went to the other school.  I wasn’t that happy about it.  (Laughter.)  But with that hard work — but also with scholarships, also with student loans, and with support programs in place — we were able to go to some of the best colleges in the country even though we didn’t have a lot of money.  Every child in America should have the same chance.

So over the last five years, we’ve worked hard in a variety of ways to improve these mechanisms to get young people where they need to be and to knock down barriers that are preventing them from getting better prepared for the economies that they’re going to face.  We’ve called for clearer, higher standards in our schools — and 45 states and the District of Columbia have answered that call so far.  We’ve set a goal of training 100,000 new math and science teachers over the next 10 years, and the private sector has already committed to help train 40,000.  We’ve taken new steps to help students stay in school, and today the high school dropout rate is the lowest it has been in 40 years — something that’s rarely advertised.  The dropout rate among Hispanic students, by the way, has been cut in half over the last decade.

But we still have to hire more good teachers and pay them better.  We still have to do more training and development, and ensure that the curriculums are ones that maximize the chances for student success.  When young people are properly prepared in high school, we’ve got to make sure that they can afford to go to college, so we took on a student loan system that was giving billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars to big banks and we said, let’s give that money directly to students.  As a consequence, we were able to double the grant aid that goes to millions of students.  And today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.

So we’ve made progress there, but as I’ve discussed with some of you, we’re still going to have to make sure that rising tuition doesn’t price the middle class out of a college education.  The government is not going to be able to continually subsidize a system in which higher education inflation is going up faster than health care inflation.  So I’ve laid out a plan to bring down costs and make sure that students are not saddled with debt before they even start out in life.

Even after all these steps that we’ve taken over the last five years, we still have a long way to go to unlock the doors of higher education to more Americans and especially lower-income Americans.  We’re going to have to make sure they’re ready to walk through those doors.  The added value of a college diploma has nearly doubled since Michelle and I were undergraduates.  Unfortunately, today only 30 percent of low-income students enroll in college right after high school and, far worse, by their mid-twenties only 9 percent earn a bachelor’s degree.

So if we as a nation can expand opportunity and reach out to those young people and help them not just go to college but graduate from college or university, it could have a transformative effect.  There is this huge cohort of talent that we’re not tapping.

Now, what this meeting today tells me is we’ve got dedicated citizens across the country who are ready to stand up and meet this challenge.  And what I want to really do is highlight some of the commitments that have been made here today.  So we know that not enough low-income students are taking the steps required to prepare for college.  That’s why I’m glad the University of Chicago, my neighbor, and the place where Michelle and I both worked in the past, is announcing a $10 million College Success Initiative that will reach 10,000 high schools over the next five years.  It’s why iMentor, a mentoring program that began 15 years ago with just 49 students in the South Bronx, has committed to matching 20,000 new students with mentoring in more than 20 states over the next five years.

We also know that too many students don’t apply to the schools that are right for them.  They may sometimes underestimate where they could succeed, where they could go.  There may be a mismatch in terms of what their aspirations are and the nature of what’s offered at the school that’s close by.  And they kind of assume, well, that’s my only option.  So UVA, for example, is going experiment with new ways to contact high-achieving, low-income students directly and encourage them to apply.  Organizations like the College Board are going to work with colleges to make it easier for students to apply to more schools for free.

I know sometimes for those of you in university administrations, the perception may be that $100 application fees is not a big deal.  But for a lot of these students, that’s enough of a barrier that they just don’t end up applying.

Number three, we know that when it comes to college advising, and preparing for tests like the ACT and the SAT, low-income kids are not on a level playing field.  We call these standardized tests — they’re not standardized.  Malia and Sasha, by the time they’re in seventh grade at Sidwell School here, are already getting all kinds of advice and this and that and the other.  The degree of preparation that many of our kids here are getting in advance of actually taking this test tilts the playing field.  It’s not fair.  And it’s gotten worse.

I was telling Michelle, when I was taking the SAT I just barely remembered to bring a pencil.  I mean, that’s how much preparation I did.  (Laughter.)  But the truth of the matter is, is that we don’t have a level playing field when it comes to so-called standardized tests.  So we’ve got a young man here today named Lawrence Harris who knows this better than most.  Lawrence went to the University of Georgia, and like a lot of first-generation college students it wasn’t easy for him.  He had to take remedial classes.  He had to work two part-time jobs to make ends meet.  At one point, he had to leave school for a year while he helped support his mom and his baby brother.  Those are the kinds of just day-to-day challenges that a lot of these young people with enormous talent are having to overcome.  Now, he stuck with it.  He graduated.

But now he’s giving back.  He’s made it his mission to help other young people like him graduate, as a college advisor at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Georgia.  And today the National College Advising Corps, the program that placed Lawrence in Clarke Central, is announcing plans to add 129 more advisors who will serve more than 80,000 students over the next three years.

Finally, we know that once low-income students arrive on campus — Michelle I think spoke eloquently to her own personal experience on this — they often learn that even if they were at the top of their high school class, they still have a lot of catching up to do with respect to some of their peers in the classroom.  Bunker Hill Community College is addressing this by giving more incoming students the chance to start catching up over the summer before their freshman year.  And we’ve got 22 states and the District of Columbia who have joined together in a commitment to dramatically increase the number of students who complete college-level math and English their first year.

So these are just a sampling of the more than 100 commitments that your organizations and colleges are making here today.  And that’s an extraordinary first step.  But we’ve got more colleges and universities than this around the country.  We’ve got more business leaders around the country and philanthropies around the country.  And so we have to think of this as just the beginning; we want to do something like this again, and we want even more colleges and universities and businesses and non-for-profits to take part.

For folks who are watching this who were not able be here today, we want you here next time.  Start thinking about your commitments now.  We want you to join us.  For those who were able to make commitments today, I want to thank you for doing your part to make better the life of our country — because what you’re doing here today means that there are a bunch of young people, like Troy and like Michelle and like me, who suddenly may be able to see a whole new world open up before — that they didn’t realize was there.

So I’ll end with a great story that I think speaks to this.  There’s a former teacher here today named Nick Ehrmann.  Where’s Nick?  So here’s Nick right here.  Five years ago, Nick founded a New York City nonprofit called Blue Engine, and they recruit recent college graduates to work as teaching assistants in public high schools that serve low-income communities, teaming up to help students build the skills they need to enter college ready for college.

The first group of students to work with those teaching assistants are seniors now.  One of them, Estiven Rodriguez, who also is here today — where is he?  There he is — good-looking, young guy right here.  (Laughter.)  Could not speak a word of English when he moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic at the age of nine.  Didn’t speak much more English by the time he entered sixth grade.

Today, with the support of a tightly knit school community, he’s one of the top students in his senior class at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, or WHEELS.  Last month, he and his classmates put on their WHEELS sweatshirts, unfurled a banner, waved flags and marched down the streets of Washington Heights in New York City through cheering crowds.  You would have thought it was the Macy’s parade.  (Laughter.)  But the crowds on the sidewalk were parents and teachers and neighbors.  The flags were college pennants.  The march was to the post office, where they mailed in their college applications.  (Applause.)  And Estiven just heard back — this son of a factory worker who didn’t speak much English just six years ago won a competitive scholarship to attend Dickinson College this fall.  (Applause.)

So everywhere you go you’ve got stories like Estiven’s and you’ve got stories like Troy’s.  But we don’t want these to be the exceptions.  We want these to be the rule.  That’s what we owe our young people and that’s what we owe this country.  We all have a stake in restoring that fundamental American idea that says:  It doesn’t matter where you start, what matters is where you end up.  And as parents and as teachers, and as business and philanthropic and political leaders — and as citizens — we’ve all got a role to play.

So I’m going to spend the next three years as President playing mine.  And I look forward to working with you on the same team to make this happen.  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END

12:15 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency January 15, 2014: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speech at a Discussion with Education Stakeholders

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

First Lady Michelle Obama Hosts a Discussion on Education 

Remarks by the First Lady at a Discussion with Education Stakeholders

Source: WH, 1-15-14

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks prior to a screening of the movie "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete," and a discussion in the State Dining RoomFirst Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks prior to a screening of the movie “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” and a discussion in the State Dining Room of the White House Jan. 15, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

State Dining Room

4:17 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Thanks so much. (Applause.) The applause should go to all of you. Thank you. Welcome. (Applause.) You guys rest yourselves. You work hard enough. I don’t want you to wear yourselves out clapping for me here in the White House.
It is truly a pleasure to welcome you all here today to the White House. I want to start by thanking Jen for that wonderful introduction, but also for her work as one of the millions of teachers out there who are doing their part to keep our kids on track. And as she said, it’s not just her role as a teacher, but also as a mom, which is — I say that all the time. In the end, it’s the most important job we have, no matter — whether you’re teaching or serving in the White House, it’s the first part of contributing to this society. So thank you for your work. Thank you for being here.
And I have to recognize my dear friend Miss Alicia Keys for her eloquence, and her foresight in seeing the value of this movie and investing in it, along with many other very smart people. I was telling Alicia that I saw this movie this summer and I wept, like I know all of you all did, because you can’t help but weep and laugh and look in horror and cheer for these two young kids. Because they represent all of our kids.
And the minute I got through watching this movie, I said, I am going to screen this at the White House; I’m going to — this is the movie that should begin the conversation that is already happening about what we have to do to invest in kids in this community. Because there are millions of Mister and Petes out there who are just struggling to make it. So I am thrilled that you could be here today. Get it done. Took a little second. Had a few things in the way, but we got through it and we’re here. (Laughter.)
And I also want to thank the screenwriter, Michael. Michael — where is Michael? Michael is here. (Applause.) Well done, well done.
And most of all I want to thank all of you for taking the time to participate in this screening and this discussion, and for the work that you’re doing to move our kids forward and basically keep our country thriving and on top. And again, there’s a reason why I invited you all here. We did this because for many of you, this movie isn’t just a powerful story of — or a great piece of art. For so many of you, it’s the reality you see every day in your classrooms and in your communities.
This is not unfamiliar. Many of you work with kids just like Mister and Pete. You see them every day — kids struggling against heartbreaking odds in neighborhoods torn apart by poverty and hopelessness, surrounded by gangs and guns and drugs. You see this every day. But, see, this is the thing, the beauty of this movie — this movie isn’t just about the challenges that kids like Mister and Peter are facing. And that’s really why this movie was so powerful to me, because it’s also about their courage. It’s about their grit, their resilience. Those are three words you are going to hear me say a lot over the next three years — grit, resilience, courage — that these kids displayed even in the most hopeless circumstances.
Kids are living like this every day. And all of you see this firsthand every single day in your lives. And think of all the kids you know who somehow maintain that fierce commitment to their dreams just like Mister did. He was going to be an actor, right? (Laughter.) He was going to find a way to get to that audition.
Think of all the kids who show each other the kind of love and loyalty that Mister and Pete showed to each other even when they don’t see it in their own lives. Even when they don’t get it themselves, somehow intrinsically, they find a way to replicate it in their lives wherever they can find it. Think about all the talent, all the intelligence, all that drive that you see in every single one of these kids. You see it — all that untapped promise, that vast, unfulfilled human potential; the frustration that comes when you have something deep inside of you, and you got nowhere to go with it — nowhere to go.
And all of that is both the tragedy, and, more importantly, the opportunity that exists for millions of kids in this country. We all know that these kids could be the next generation of workers and innovators and leaders. You all know that. They could be building the businesses and making the discoveries and enriching the communities that will fuel our economies for decades to come. So when all of you are out there working to inspire and educate these kids, you’re not just building a better future for them and for their families, you’re actually building a better future for our country. That’s the work that you do. You may not get credit for it, but that’s what you’re doing.
And that’s really what drives me, and that is truly what drives my husband, your President. That’s why he’s set a goal that by the year 2020, our country would once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. He wants to get us back on top. And as part of that effort, tomorrow we are going to be hosting a White House summit of university presidents from all across the country, and we’ll be challenging them to recruit and support even more underserved young students at their schools.
And for the rest of my time as First Lady, in addition to all my other initiatives — so nothing is going away, we’re just adding more on — (laughter) — I’m going to be doing my very best to promote these efforts by talking directly with young people. That’s my focus. Everybody else is going to be talking about resources, but the one thing I can bring to this is the message that we can give directly to young people.
 I’m going to be conveying the simple truth — I’m going to tell them that they have everything they need to succeed already. It’s all in there, but they still have to be committed to getting their educations. I’m going to be making a special effort, obviously, to reach kids like Mister and Pete, who face such overwhelming obstacles in their lives. And as you all know, too often these kids view their difficult life experiences as weaknesses. They view what they go through as a source of embarrassment and shame sometimes. But as we all know, it’s really just the opposite, and it’s important for them to understand that.
I want these young people to understand that their struggles can actually be a source of strength and even a source of pride, because they’ve overcome obstacles and learned skills that many of us will never have, that many of us need to actually get the real work done. I tell my kids, you can’t always teach resilience. It’s the life you live that gets you there. And these kids have lived some lives.
So I remind these kids, look, if you could go through all that you’ve already gone through — and just think of what you’ve already made it through. You’ve lost people you love to violence and drugs. You have to have a strategy just to get to school safely. You’re smart enough to figure out how to stay out of gangs. You’ve seen your family fighting just to get by and you still keep moving. You’ve adjusted to living in another country and needing to learn another language. Maybe no one in your family speaks that language yet you’re still going to school and you’re still making it.
So what I want these kids to understand is that if you can do all of that, then certainly you can fill out a FAFSA form. (Laughter.) That is not the intimidating part of life. If you can do that, then surely you can get up in the morning and get to class, get to school on time and pay attention. That’s not the hard part. They’ve already gotten through the hard part. They can do all that they can do, surely they can seek out some adults in their lives because there is always one adult — I don’t care how bad the school is or how bad the neighborhood — there is always one adult who will move mountains for a kid who wants something.
You all are those people. You can seek that adult out. You can get the help you need. I want to give them the confidence to know that what they go through prepares them for all that they need to do in the future. I remind them, though, that all of that is their responsibility though. In the end, that’s up to them. But it is our responsibility to make sure that they have those caring adults in their lives. It’s our responsibility to make sure they have schools that will teach them. It’s our responsibility to make sure they have programs that support them, and universities that will seek them out and give them a chance, and then prepare them and help them finish their degrees once they get in.
And I go to the scene that you talked about, Alicia, in the movie — because that is the scene that just did me in. I still can’t think about that scene without breaking down. But when the police officer, after all that Mister went through, this boy just broke down and he says, “Keep fighting, because there ain’t no ceiling for a kid like you.” There’s no ceiling. But Mister says, “I can’t do it alone.” And as Alicia says, no one can do it alone. And we have to show these kids that they’re not doing this alone. That’s what we’re here for.
So I want to thank you all for being that hand that is there for these kids, and to keep finding ways to do this, because you’ve got an ally in the White House. You’ve got a President who believes in this, who’s going to work. You’ve got the Secretary of Education who believes in this. You have a First Lady who’s going to do whatever I can to support you and these kids. So we have to keep working together, we have to keep fighting, because these kids are worth it. They are worth it.
So with that, I thank you. I’m going to leave and let you guys finish your discussion. I’m going to introduce Roberto and Catherine who are education policy leaders for this administration, and they’re going to come up today and continue the conversation that this film has started, and hopefully it will be a conversation that we’ll continue to have throughout the country — how do we continue to help lift these kids up; what do we do to make sure that they’re not alone. And the first responsibility for young people is to own their education. We all know that. If they’re not owning it, then there’s very little that we can do. But I’m going to work on that, too.
So thank you again, Alicia, Michael. To all the producers, the people who made this movie possible, thank you all. This is truly one of my favorite films this year, and it obviously has moved me and it will be the guiding post for my work over the next three years. So congratulations on a job well done. And let’s get to work.
Roberto, Catherine, you guys can come on up. We’ll get it done. (Applause.)
               END        4:30 P.M. EST
###

Full Text Obama Presidency January 15, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy, Unemployment Benefits Extension and the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation in North Carolina

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

North Carolina Is Home to America’s Newest High-Tech Manufacturing Hub

Remarks by the President on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

Source: WH, 1-15-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation
January 15, 2014 6:02 PM

President Obama Speaks on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on manufacturinPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on manufacturing at the J.W. Isenhour Tennis Center at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., Jan. 15, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

J.W. Isenhour Tennis Center
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina

1:14 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Raleigh!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Well, it is good to be back in North Carolina.  (Applause.)  If you have a seat, go ahead and have a seat.  Now, if you don’t have a seat, don’t.  (Laughter.)

It is good to be here at the home of the Wolfpack.  (Applause.)  I want to thank your chancellor, Randy Woodson, for the introduction and the great work that he’s doing on behalf of students all across the system.  I want to recognize my Secretary of Energy, Ernie Moniz, who is here.  Give him a big round of applause — he’s doing good work.  (Applause.)  Your Governor, Pat McCrory, is here.  (Applause.)  The Mayor of Raleigh, Nancy McFarlane.  (Applause.)  The Mayor of Chapel Hill, Mark Kleinschmidt.  (Applause.)  The Mayor of Durham, Bill Bell.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got Congressman Mike McIntyre doing great work.  (Applause.)  Your Senator, Kay Hagan, couldn’t be here, but I wanted to thank her publicly for the great work she’s doing.  (Applause.)

And I want to thank all the students for coming out.  We’re doing this event nice and early so it doesn’t run up against the Wake game.  (Applause.)  I’ve learned a few things as President, and one of them is not to compete with college basketball down here on Tobacco Road.  You don’t do that.  (Applause.)

Now, this is actually my second stop in Raleigh-Durham.  I just took a tour of a company called Vacon, where workers design the drives that power everything from elevators to the giant fans that help cool buildings like this one — although I think we’re kind of saving money on this — (laughter) — which is the smart thing to do.

So this company is making these engines and these systems more efficient, saving businesses big bucks on energy costs, improving the environment.  Those savings get passed on to customers, puts money in people’s pockets.  And growing companies that need the products that Vacon makes, they’re benefitting enormously.  So it’s a good-news story.  But in a global economy, that company, just like every company in America, has to keep inventing and innovating in order to stay on the cutting edge.  And that’s where all of you come in.

Here at NC State, you know something about innovation.  You’ve got one of the largest undergraduate engineering programs in the country.  That’s worth cheering for.  (Applause.)  I’m a lawyer by training, and that is nice.  But we need more engineers.  (Applause.)

Companies like Cisco and IBM, they come to this school when they’re looking to hire because of the quality of the engineering program.  And over at Centennial Campus — (applause) — some very smart people experiment in state-of-the-art facilities to figure out everything from how to design better fireproof fabrics to how to better protect our computer systems.

So the reason I came here today is because we’ve got to do more to connect universities like NC State with companies like Vacon to make America the number-one place in the world to open new businesses and create new jobs.  We want to do that here in North Carolina, and we want to do this all across America.  (Applause.)

Now, it’s been more than five years since a devastating recession cost this country millions of jobs, and it hurt North Carolina pretty tough.  But everyone here knows that even before the recession hit, the middle class had been hitting — getting hit on the chin for years before that.  Here in North Carolina, factories were shutting their doors, jobs were getting shipped overseas.  Wages and incomes were flat-lining, so even if you had a job you didn’t see your standard of living going up very much. Meanwhile the cost of everything from college tuition to groceries did go up.

So when I took office, we decided to focus on the hard work of rebuilding our economy on a new foundation for growth and prosperity, and to make sure that everybody had a chance to get ahead.  And thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of the American people, the good news is the economy is growing stronger.  (Applause.)  Our businesses have now created more than 8 million new jobs since we hit bottom.  Because of an all-of-the-above strategy for American energy, for the first time in nearly two decades we produce more oil here in the United States than we buy from the rest of the world.  That hasn’t happened in a very long time.  (Applause.)  We now generate more renewable energy than ever before, more natural gas than anybody on the planet.  (Applause.)  We’re lowering energy costs, reducing pollution.

Health care costs are growing at their slowest rate in 50 years.  For the first time since the 1990s, health care costs eat up a smaller chunk of our economy, and part of that, yes, has to do with the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)  And so over time, that means bigger paychecks for middle-class families, bigger savings for companies that are looking to hire.  And along with all this, since I took office we’ve cut our deficits by more than half.  (Applause.)

So we’ve made progress.  And that’s what I mean when I say this can be a breakthrough year for America.  The pieces are all there to start bringing back more of the jobs that we’ve lost over the past decade.  A lot of companies around the world are starting to talk about bringing jobs back to the United States, bringing jobs back to places like North Carolina — partly because we got cheap energy costs, we’ve got the best workers in the world, we’ve got the best university systems in the world — (applause) — and we’ve got the largest market in the world.

So the pieces are there to restore some of the ground that the middle class has lost in recent decades, start raising wages for American families.  But it requires us to take action.  This has to be a year of action.

And here in North Carolina, you’re doing your part to create good jobs that pay good wages.  Congress has to do its part, too — because restoring the American Dream of opportunity for everyone who’s willing to work for it is something that should unite the country.  That shouldn’t divide the country.  That’s what we should be aspiring to — that everybody has a shot if they’re willing to work hard and take responsibility.  (Applause.)

So in the short term, one thing Congress could do is listen to the majority of the American people and restore the unemployment insurance for Americans who need it.   (Applause.)  And let me just make an aside here.  North Carolina still has a higher-than-average unemployment rate, so this is important to this state.  Folks aren’t looking for a handout.  They’re not looking for special treatment.  There are a lot of people who are sending our resumes every single day, but the market — the job market is still tough in pockets around the country, and people need support, a little help, so they can look after their families while they’re looking for a new job.  (Applause.)  So Congress should do the right thing and extend this vital lifeline for millions of Americans.

Of course, that’s just short term.  Long term, the challenge of making sure everybody who works hard can get ahead in today’s economy is so important that we can’t wait for Congress to solve it.  Where I can act on my own without Congress, I’m going to do so.

And today, I’m here to act — to help make Raleigh-Durham, and America, a magnet for the good, high-tech manufacturing jobs that a growing middle class requires and that are going to continue to keep this country on the cutting edge.  (Applause.)

So we’ve already got some success to build on.  Manufacturing is a bright spot in this economy.  For decades we’d been losing manufacturing jobs.  But now our manufacturers have added over the last four years more than 550,000 new jobs, including almost 80,000 manufacturing jobs in the last five months alone.  So we want to keep that trend going.  We want to build on the kind of work that’s being done in places like NC State to develop technology that leads to new jobs and entire new industries.

So a little over a year ago, we launched America’s first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio.  And what it was is a partnership; it includes companies and colleges.  They came up with a joint plan.  They were focusing on developing 3D printing technology and training workers with the skills required to master that technology.

Now, that was a great start.  We got one going and some of the folks from Youngstown are here today, and we congratulate them on the great work they’re doing.  But here’s the problem:  We created one; in Germany, they’ve already got about 60 of these manufacturing innovation hubs.  So we’ve got some catching up to do.  I don’t want the next big job-creating discovery, the research and technology to be in Germany or China or Japan.  I want it to be right here in the United States of America.  I want it to be right here in North Carolina.  (Applause.)

So what I said was in my State of the Union address last year, I said to Congress, let’s set up a network of at least 15 of these manufacturing hubs all across America, focusing on different opportunities where we can get manufacturing innovation going, create jobs, make sure that the research is tied to businesses that are actually hiring, and those synergies are going to grow the economy regionally and ultimately across the whole country.

And last summer, as part of our push to create middle-class jobs, I said, you know what, let’s not settle on 15, let’s just go ahead and do 45.  Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate introduced bills that would get this going — that’s good.  But they haven’t passed the bills yet.  So I want to encourage them to continue to pass the bills that would create 45 of these manufacturing hubs.  In the meantime, I’m directing my administration to move forward where we can on our own.

So today, after almost a year of competition, I’m pleased to announce America’s newest high-tech manufacturing hub — which is going to be focused on the next generation of power electronics  — is going to be based right here in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Applause.)  That’s good news.  That’s good news.  (Applause.)   That’s good news.  It’s great.  (Applause.)

So just like the hub in Youngstown, what we’re calling the Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute is bringing together leading companies, universities, and federal research all together under one roof.  Folks at this hub are going to develop what are called “wide bandgap semiconductors.”

Now, I was just schooled on all this.  (Laughter.)  I’m not sure that I’m fully qualified to describe the technical elements of this.  Raise your hand if you know what that is.  (Laughter.) See, we’ve got some.  (Laughter.)  For all you non-engineers out there, here’s what it means in the simplest terms.  Semiconductors, obviously, are at the heart of every piece of the electronics that we use every day — your smartphone, your television set, these days everything.  Public research helped develop them decades ago, and then that research allowed commercialization, new products, new services, and obviously not only improved the economy, but greatly enhanced our lives.  So we want companies to run with the ball also, but first we’ve got to make sure that we’re also doing the research and linking it up to those companies.

Wide bandgap semiconductors, they’re special because they lose up to 90 percent less power; they can operate at higher temperatures than normal semiconductors.  So that means they can make everything from cell phones to industrial motors to electric cars smaller, faster, cheaper.  There are going to be still applications for the traditional semiconductors, but these can be focused on certain areas that will vastly improve energy efficiency, vastly improve the quality of our lives.  And the country that figures out how to do this first, and the companies that figure how to do this best, they’re the ones that are going to attract the jobs that come with it.

So this manufacturing hub, right here, focused in North Carolina —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  GoPack!

THE PRESIDENT:  GoPack!  (Laughter and applause.)  This hub is going to make it easier for these wide bandgap semiconductors to go from the drawing board to the factory floor to the store shelves — or not necessarily the store shelves, because what I just saw, for example, were these really big pieces of equipment that are attached to utility companies or help windmills translate the power they’re generating actually get transmitted to where they’re going to be finally used.  It’s going to bring together chip designers and manufacturers with companies like Vacon and Delphi that stand to benefit from these new technologies.  And this will help big companies, but it’s also going to help small companies, because they’re going to be able to use equipment they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to test and prototype new products.  And of course, American workers will be able to come right here, to North Carolina, to learn the skills that companies are looking for.  And the next generation of manufacturing will be an American revolution.

So in the coming weeks, we’re going to be launching two more of these innovation hubs; we’ve already got them all planned out. One is going to focus on digital design and manufacturing; another is going to be developing lightweight metals that could transform everything from wind turbines to military vehicles.  And together, they’re going to help build new partnerships in areas that show potential.  They’ll help to lift up our communities.  They’ll help spark the technology and research that will create the new industries, the good jobs required for folks to punch their ticket into the middle class.

And that’s what America is all about.  We have always been about research, innovation, and then commercializing that research and innovation so that everybody can benefit.  And then we start selling our stuff all around the world, we start exporting it.  And we create good jobs, and middle-class families then are able to buy the products that result from this innovation.  And you get a virtuous cycle where everybody is doing better, and nobody is left behind.  And that’s what we can do if we pull together the way those companies and universities have pulled together as part of this bid.

Now, this is going to be a long haul.  We’re not going to turn things around overnight.  A lot of jobs were lost in the textile industry and furniture-making.  But the great news is, is that ultimately, because our people are good and smart and hardworking and willing to take risks, we are going to be able to start bringing those jobs back to America.  And that’s what we do.  (Applause.)  When times get tough, we don’t give up.  We get up.  We innovate.  We adapt.  We keep going.  We look to the future.  (Applause.)

And I want all of you to know, North Carolina, that as long as we keep working together and fighting together and doing what it takes to widen the circle of opportunity for more Americans so nobody is left behind — if you work hard, if you are responsible, then you can go out there, get a skill, train yourself, find a job, support a family.  If we work together, and that’s our focus, there’s nothing we can’t achieve.  (Applause.) There’s no limit to how far we can go.

So congratulations, North Carolina State.  Congratulations, Raleigh.  Let’s get to work.  God bless you.  God bless America. (Applause.)

END
1:31 P.M. EST

Political Musings January 14, 2014: Obama to push economy, unemployment benefits extension in North Carolina speech

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama to push economy, unemployment benefits extension in North Carolina speech

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama is set to deliver a speech about the economy at North Carolina State University on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The President plans again to push Republicans in Congress to pass an unemployment benefits…READ MORE

Political Musings January 9, 2014: 50 years later Obama wages own War on Poverty with the Promise Zones Initiative

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

50 years later Obama wages own War on Poverty with the Promise Zones Initiative

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In honor of the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson declaring a war on Poverty during his 1964 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama introduced his own initiative to tackle the problem, called Promise Zones in an…READ MORE
%d bloggers like this: