Full Text Obama Presidency May 25, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Memorial Day Ceremony Speech Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Memorial Day

Source: WH, 5-25-15 

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:32 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Thank you, Secretary Carter, for your leadership of our men and women in uniform.  General Dempsey; Major General Buchanan; Mr. Patrick Hallinan, Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries; Chaplain Studniewski; members of our armed services, veterans, and, most of all, families and friends of our fallen — it is my deep honor to share this day with you again.

For 147 years, our nation has set aside this day to pay solemn tribute to patriots who gave their last full measure of devotion for this country that we love.  And while the nature of war has changed over that time, the values that drive our brave men and women in uniform remain constant:  Honor, courage, selflessness.  Those values lived in the hearts of everyday heroes who risked everything for us in every American war — men and women who now rest forever in these quiet fields and across our land.

They lived in the patriots who sparked a revolution, and who saved our union.  They lived in the young GIs who defeated tyranny in Europe and the Pacific.  And this year, we mark a historic anniversary — 70 years since our victory in World War II.   More than 16 million Americans left everything they knew to fight for our freedom.  More than 400,000 gave their lives.  And today I ask all the family and friends of our fallen World War II heroes — spouses, children, brothers and sisters, and fellow veterans of World War II — to please stand if you can, or raise your hand, so that our country can thank you once more.  (Applause.)

These same values lived in those who braved the mountains of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of the Middle East.  And in the past decade, we’ve seen these values on display again in the men and women of our 9/11 Generation.

For many of us, this Memorial Day is especially meaningful; it is the first since our war in Afghanistan came to an end.  Today is the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war.  So on this day, we honor the sacrifice of the thousands of American servicemembers — men and women — who gave their lives since 9/11, including more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.

As an Arizona kid, Wyatt Martin loved the outdoors.  He started fishing when he was two years old.  His dad says he was pretty good for a toddler.  Wyatt grew to 6-foot-4, became a hunter and wore flannel shirts every day — so his friends nicknamed him Paul Bunyan.  He planned to go to college and work in the Arizona Game and Fish Department so that he could protect the land and waters he loved so much.

Wyatt’s life was animated by the belief that the blessings that he and his family enjoyed as Americans came with an obligation to give back, an obligation to serve.  So before he pursued his dream of being a good steward of the great outdoors, he enlisted in the Army.  And when he deployed to Afghanistan as a combat engineer, there was no doubt in his mind that he was doing the right thing.  Last summer, Wyatt told his sister, “If something happens to me, know that I went happy.”

Ramon Morris was born in Jamaica.  He moved to Queens as a teenager.  Like so many proud immigrants, he was called –compelled — to serve his new country.  He, too, enlisted in the Army, and he even recruited his older brother Marlon to join, as well.  He served five tours, including several in Iraq.  Along the way, he fell in love with an Army Reservist named Christina.  And they had a little girl, and named her Ariana.  Ramon was the kind of leader who would do anything for his men, on and off the battlefield.  But nothing was more important to him than being a great father to his little girl.

Specialist Wyatt Martin and Sergeant First Class Ramon Morris were 15 years apart in age.  They traveled greatly different paths in life.  But those paths took them to the same unit.  Those paths made them brothers-in-arms, serving together in Afghanistan.  In December, an IED struck their vehicle.  They were the last two Americans to give their lives during our combat mission in Afghanistan.  Today, here in Arlington, in Section 60, Ramon lies in eternal rest.  And we are honored to be joined by his brother, Sergeant First Class Marlon Laidley, who is deploying for Germany tonight.  Thank you, Marlon.  Thank you to your family.  (Applause.)

These two men, these two heroes, if you saw them passing on the street, you wouldn’t have known they were brothers.  But under this flag, in common cause, they were bonded together to secure our liberty, to keep us safe.

My fellow Americans, this hallowed ground is more than the final resting place of heroes; it is a reflection of America itself.  It’s a reflection of our history — the wars we’ve waged for democracy, the peace we’ve laid to preserve it.  It’s a reflection of our diversity — men and women of all backgrounds, all races and creeds and circumstances and faiths, willing to defend and die for the ideals that bind us as one nation.  It’s a reflection of our character, seen not only in those who are buried here, but also in the caretakers who watch over them and preserve this sacred place; and in the Sentinels of the 3rd Infantry Regiment who dutifully, unfailingly watch over those patriots known only to God, but never forgotten.  Today, a grateful nation thanks them as well.

Most Americans don’t fully see, don’t fully understand the sacrifice made by the one percent who serve in this all-volunteer armed forces -– a sacrifice that preserves the freedoms we too often take for granted.  Few know what it’s like to take a bullet for a buddy, or to live with the fact that he or she took one for you.  But our Gold Star families, our military families, our veterans — they know this, intimately.

Whenever I meet with our Gold Star families, like I did this morning, I hear their pride through their tears, as they flip through old photos and run their fingers over shiny medals.  I see that their hearts are still broken, and yet still full of love.  They do not ask for awards or honors.  They do not ask for special treatment.  They are unfailingly humble.  In the face of unspeakable loss, they represent the best of who we are.

They’re people like Ramon’s mother, who could carry hate for the people who killed her son — but she says, “I have no anger, no bitterness, even for the person who did this.  I feel sorry for them, and I ask God to change their hearts.”  That’s one Gold Star mother’s amazing grace.

Folks like Wyatt’s parents, Brian and Julie Martin, who said of their son, “He’s not just our kid, he’s everybody’s.  He’s an American soldier.  And as an American soldier, he belongs to everybody.”

They are siblings, like the Gold Star sister who wrote to me of her brother, Private First Class Stephen Benish, who gave his life in Iraq in 2004:  She said, “Remember him not as the 1,253rd war casualty, but the 6-foot-7 burst of light and positive influence he was on the world.”

These sons and daughters, these brothers and sisters who lay down their lives for us — they belong to us all.  They’re our children, too.  We benefit from their light, their positive influence on the world.  And it’s our duty, our eternal obligation, to be there for them, too; to make sure our troops always have what they need to carry out the mission; to make sure we care for all those who have served; to make sure we honor all those whom we’ve lost; to make sure we keep faith with our military families; to make sure we never stop searching for those who are missing, or trying to bring home our prisoners of war.  And we are grateful for the families of our POW/MIAs.

This may be the first Memorial Day since the end of our war in Afghanistan.  But we are acutely aware, as we speak, our men and women in uniform still stand watch and still serve, and still sacrifice around the world.

Several years ago, we had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 10,000 troops remain on a mission to train and assist Afghan forces.  We’ll continue to bring them home and reduce our forces further, down to an embassy presence by the end of next year.  But Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place.  And as so many families know, our troops continue to risk their lives for us.

Growing up in Massachusetts, John Dawson was an honor student who played varsity soccer.  He loved the Bruins, loved the Pats, and was always up for fun — running into a room while spraying silly string, or photobombing long before it was in style.

And John was passionate about service.  He shared the same convictions of so many we honor today, who wanted nothing more than to join a common cause and be part of something bigger than himself.  He channeled his love of cycling into charity bike rides with his church.  He joined the Army.  And as a combat medic, he fulfilled his dream of helping people.  He loved his job.

In April, an attacker wearing an Afghan uniform fired at a group of American soldiers.  And Army Corporal John Dawson became the first American servicemember to give his life to this new mission to train Afghan forces.  The words on John’s dog tag were those of Scripture:  “Greater love has no other than this, than to lay down your life for your friends.”

The Americans who rest beneath these beautiful hills, and in sacred ground across our country and around the world, they are why our nation endures.  Each simple stone marker, arranged in perfect military precision, signifies the cost of our blessings.  It is a debt we can never fully repay, but it is a debt we will never stop trying to fully repay.  By remaining a nation worthy of their sacrifice.  By living our own lives the way the fallen lived theirs — a testament that “Greater love has no other than this, than to lay down your life for your friends.”

We are so grateful for them.  We are so grateful for the families of our fallen.  May God bless our fallen heroes and their families, and all who serve.  And may He continue to bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:47 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts May 22, 2015: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Emails

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Full Text Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Emails

Source: FOIA, 5-22-15

U.S Department of State Freedom of Information Act….

 

Full Text Obama Presidency May 22, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Jewish American Heritage Month Adas Israel Synagogue

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Jewish American Heritage Month

Source: WH, 5-22-15

Adas Israel Congregation
Washington, D.C.

10:57 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Well, good morning, everybody!

AUDIENCE: Good morning!

THE PRESIDENT:  A slightly early Shabbat Shalom.  (Laughter.)  I want to thank Rabbi Steinlauf for the very kind introduction.  And to all the members of the congregation, thank you so much for such an extraordinary and warm welcome.

I want to thank a couple of outstanding members of Congress who are here.  Senator Michael Bennet — where did Michael Bennet go?  There he is.  (Applause.)  And Representative Sandy Levin, who is here.  (Applause.)  I want to thank our special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, for his important work.  There he is.  (Applause)  But as I said, most of all I want to thank the entire congregation of Adas Israel for having me here today.

Earlier this week, I was actually interviewed by one of your members, Jeff Goldberg.  (Applause.)  And Jeff reminded me that he once called me “the first Jewish President.”  (Laughter.)  Now, since some people still seem to be wondering about my faith — (laughter) — I should make clear this was an honorary title.  (Laughter.)  But I was flattered.

And as an honorary member of the tribe, not to mention somebody who’s hosted seven White House Seders and been advised by — (applause) — and been advised by two Jewish chiefs of staff, I can also proudly say that I’m getting a little bit of the hang of the lingo.  (Laughter.)  But I will not use any of the Yiddish-isms that Rahm Emanuel taught me because — (laughter) — I want to be invited back.  (Laughter.)  Let’s just say he had some creative new synonyms for “Shalom.”  (Laughter.)

Now, I wanted to come here to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month because this congregation, like so many around the country, helps us to tell the American story.  And back in 1876, when President Grant helped dedicate Adas Israel, he became the first sitting President in history to attend a synagogue service.  And at the time, it was an extraordinarily symbolic gesture — not just for America, but for the world.

And think about the landscape of Jewish history.  Tomorrow night, the holiday of Shavuot marks the moment that Moses received the Torah at Mount Sinai, the first link in a chain of tradition that stretches back thousands of years, and a foundation stone for our civilization.  Yet for most of those years, Jews were persecuted — not embraced — by those in power.  Many of your ancestors came here fleeing that persecution.
The United States could have been merely another destination in that ongoing diaspora.  But those who came here found that America was more than just a country.  America was an idea.  America stood for something.  As George Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island:  The United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

It’s important for us to acknowledge that too often in our history we fell short of those lofty ideals — in the legal subjugation of African Americans, through slavery and Jim Crow; the treatment of Native Americans.  And far too often, American Jews faced the scourge of anti-Semitism here at home.  But our founding documents gave us a North Star, our Bill of Rights; our system of government gave us a capacity for change.  And where other nations actively and legally might persecute or discriminate against those of different faiths, this nation was called upon to see all of us as equal before the eyes of the law.  When other countries treated their own citizens as “wretched refuse,” we lifted up our lamp beside the golden door and welcomed them in.  Our country is immeasurably stronger because we did.  (Applause.)

From Einstein to Brandeis, from Jonas Salk to Betty Friedan, American Jews have made contributions to this country that have shaped it in every aspect.  And as a community, American Jews have helped make our union more perfect.  The story of Exodus inspired oppressed people around the world in their own struggles for civil rights.  From the founding members of the NAACP to a freedom summer in Mississippi, from women’s rights to gay rights to workers’ rights, Jews took the heart of Biblical edict that we must not oppress a stranger, having been strangers once ourselves.

Earlier this year, when we marked the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma, we remembered the iconic images of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Dr. King, praying with his feet.  To some, it must have seemed strange that a rabbi from Warsaw would take such great risks to stand with a Baptist preacher from Atlanta.  But Heschel explained that their cause was one and the same.  In his essay, “No Religion is an Island,” he wrote, “We must choose between interfaith and inter-nihilism.”  Between a shared hope that says together we can shape a brighter future, or a shared cynicism that says our world is simply beyond repair.

So the heritage we celebrate this month is a testament to the power of hope.  Me standing here before you, all of you in this incredible congregation is a testament to the power of hope.  (Applause.)  It’s a rebuke to cynicism.  It’s a rebuke to nihilism.  And it inspires us to have faith that our future, like our past, will be shaped by the values that we share.  At home, those values compel us to work to keep alive the American Dream of opportunity for all.  It means that we care about issues that affect all children, not just our own; that we’re prepared to invest in early childhood education; that we are concerned about making college affordable; that we want to create communities where if you’re willing to work hard, you can get ahead the way so many who fled and arrived on these shores were able to get ahead.  Around the world, those values compel us to redouble our efforts to protect our planet and to protect the human rights of all who share this planet.

It’s particularly important to remember now, given the tumult that is taking place in so many corners of the globe, in one of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods, those shared values compel us to reaffirm that our enduring friendship with the people of Israel and our unbreakable bonds with the state of Israel — that those bonds, that friendship cannot be broken.  (Applause.)  Those values compel us to say that our commitment to Israel’s security — and my commitment to Israel’s security — is and always will be unshakeable.  (Applause.)

And I’ve said this before:  It would be a moral failing on the part of the U.S. government and the American people, it would be a moral failing on my part if we did not stand up firmly, steadfastly not just on behalf of Israel’s right to exist, but its right to thrive and prosper.  (Applause.)  Because it would ignore the history that brought the state of Israel about.  It would ignore the struggle that’s taken place through millennia to try to affirm the kinds of values that say everybody has a place, everybody has rights, everybody is a child of God.  (Applause.)

As many of you know, I’ve visited the houses hit by rocket fire in Sderot.  I’ve been to Yad Vashem and made that solemn vow:  “Never forget.  Never again.”  When someone threatens Israel’s citizens or its very right to exist, Israelis necessarily that seriously.  And so do I.  Today, the military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries is stronger than ever.  Our support of the Iron Dome’s rocket system has saved Israeli lives.  And I can say that no U.S. President, no administration has done more to ensure that Israel can protect itself than this one.  (Applause.)

As part of that commitment, there’s something else that the United States and Israel agrees on:  Iran must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to get a nuclear weapon.  (Applause.)  Now, there’s a debate about how to achieve that — and that’s a healthy debate.  I’m not going to use my remaining time to go too deep into policy — although for those of you who are interested — (laughter) — we have a lot of material out there.  (Laughter.)  But I do want everybody to just remember a few key things.

The deal that we already reached with Iran has already halted or rolled back parts of Iran’s nuclear program.  Now we’re seeking a comprehensive solution.  I will not accept a bad deal.  As I pointed out in my most recent article with Jeff Goldberg, this deal will have my name on it, so nobody has a bigger personal stake in making sure that it delivers on its promise.  (Applause.)  I want a good deal.

I’m interested in a deal that blocks every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon — every single path.  A deal that imposes unprecedented inspections on all elements of Iran’s nuclear program, so that they can’t cheat; and if they try to cheat, we will immediately know about it and sanctions snap back on.  A deal that endures beyond a decade; that addresses this challenge for the long term.  In other words, a deal that makes the world and the region — including Israel — more secure.  That’s how I define a good deal.

I can’t stand here today and guarantee an agreement will be reached.  We’re hopeful.  We’re working hard.  But nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.  And I’ve made clear that when it comes to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, all options are and will remain on the table.

Moreover, even if we do get a good deal, there remains the broader issue of Iran’s support for terrorism and regional destabilization, and ugly threats against Israel.  And that’s why our strategic partnership with Israel will remain, no matter what happens in the days and years ahead.  And that’s why the people of Israel must always know America has its back, and America will always have its back.  (Applause.)

Now, that does not mean that there will not be, or should not be, periodic disagreements between our two governments.  There will be disagreements on tactics when it comes to how to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that is entirely appropriate and should be fully aired.  Because the stakes are sufficiently high that anything that’s proposed has to be subjected to scrutiny — and I welcome that scrutiny.

But there are also going to be some disagreements rooted in shared history that go beyond tactics, that are rooted in how we might remain true to our shared values.  I came to know Israel as a young man through these incredible images of kibbutzim, and Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir, and Israel overcoming incredible odds in the ’67 war.  The notion of pioneers who set out not only to safeguard a nation, but to remake the world.  Not only to make the desert bloom, but to allow their values to flourish; to ensure that the best of Judaism would thrive.  And those values in many ways came to be my own values.  They believed the story of their people gave them a unique perspective among the nations of the world, a unique moral authority and responsibility that comes from having once been a stranger yourself.

And to a young man like me, grappling with his own identity, recognizing the scars of race here in this nation, inspired by the civil rights struggle, the idea that you could be grounded in your history, as Israel was, but not be trapped by it, to be able to repair the world — that idea was liberating.  The example of Israel and its values was inspiring.

So when I hear some people say that disagreements over policy belie a general lack of support of Israel, I must object, and I object forcefully.  (Applause.)  For us to paper over difficult questions, particularly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or about settlement policy, that’s not a true measure of friendship.

Before I came out here, the Rabbi showed me the room that’s been built to promote scholarship and dialogue, and to be able to find how we make our shared values live.  And the reason you have that room is because applying those values to our lives is often hard, and it involves difficult choices.  That’s why we study.  That’s why it’s not just a formula.  And that’s what we have to do as nations as well as individuals.  We have to grapple and struggle with how do we apply the values that we care about to this very challenging and dangerous world.

And it is precisely because I care so deeply about the state of Israel — it’s precisely because, yes, I have high expectations for Israel the same way I have high expectations for the United States of America — that I feel a responsibility to speak out honestly about what I think will lead to long-term security and to the preservation of a true democracy in the Jewish homeland.  (Applause.)  And I believe that’s two states for two peoples, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.  (Applause.)  Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people on their land, as well.  (Applause.)

Now, I want to emphasize — that’s not easy.  The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners.  (Laughter.)  The neighborhood is dangerous.  And we cannot expect Israel to take existential risks with their security so that any deal that takes place has to take into account the genuine dangers of terrorism and hostility.

But it is worthwhile for us to keep up the prospect, the possibility of bridging divides and being just, and looking squarely at what’s possible but also necessary in order for Israel to be the type of nation that it was intended to be in its earliest founding.  (Applause.)

And that same sense of shared values also compel me to speak out — compel all of us to speak out — against the scourge of anti-Semitism wherever it exists.  (Applause.)  I want to be clear that, to me, all these things are connected.  The rights I insist upon and now fight for, for all people here in the United States compels me then to stand up for Israel and look out for the rights of the Jewish people.  And the rights of the Jewish people then compel me to think about a Palestinian child in Ramallah that feels trapped without opportunity.  That’s what Jewish values teach me.  That’s what the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches me.  These things are connected.  (Applause.)

And in recent years, we’ve seen a deeply disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in parts of the world where it would have seemed unthinkable just a few years or decades ago.  This is not some passing fad; these aren’t just isolated phenomenon.  And we know from our history they cannot be ignored.  Anti-Semitism is, and always will be, a threat to broader human values to which we all must aspire.  And when we allow anti-Semitism to take root, then our souls are destroyed, and it will spread.

And that’s why, tonight, for the first time ever, congregations around the world are celebrating a Solidarity Shabbat.  It’s a chance for leaders to publicly stand against anti-Semitism and bigotry in all of its forms.  And I’m proud to be a part of this movement, and I’m proud that six ambassadors from Europe are joining us today.  And their presence here — our presence together — is a reminder that we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.  (Applause.)  Our traditions, our history, can help us chart a better course as long as we are mindful of that history and those traditions, and we are vigilant in speaking out and standing up against what is wrong.  It’s not always easy, I think, to speak out against what is wrong, even for good people.

So I want to close with the story of one more of the many rabbis who came to Selma 50 years ago.  A few days after David Teitelbaum arrived to join the protests, he and a colleague were thrown in jail.  And they spent a Friday night in custody, singing Adon Olam to the tune of “We Shall Overcome.”  And that in and of itself is a profound statement of faith and hope.  But what’s wonderful is, is that out of respect many of their fellow protestors began wearing what they called “freedom caps” — (laughter) — yarmulkes — as they marched.

And the day after they were released from prison, Rabbi Teitelbaum watched Dr. King lead a prayer meeting before crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  And Dr. King said, “We are like the children of Israel, marching from slavery to freedom.”

That’s what happens when we’re true to our values.  It’s not just good for us, but it brings the community together.  (Applause.)  Tikkun Olam — it brings the community together and it helps repair the world.  It bridges differences that once looked unbridgeable.  It creates a future for our children that once seemed unattainable.  This congregation — Jewish American life is a testimony to the capacity to make our values live.  But it requires courage.  It requires strength.  It requires that we speak the truth not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard.

So may we always remember that our shared heritage makes us stronger, that our roots are intertwined.  May we always choose faith over nihilism, and courage over despair, and hope over cynicism and fear.  As we walk our own leg of a timeless, sacred march, may we always stand together, here at home and around the world.

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

END
11:26 A.M. EDT

Political Musings May 19, 2015: Clinton answers press questions on emails, income, donations, Benghazi scandals

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Clinton answers press questions on emails, income, donations, Benghazi scandals

May 19, 2015

Ever since officially launching her presidential campaign Hillary Clinton has done almost everything possible to avoid talking to the press, her 28-day drought finally ended on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. While in Iowa at a roundtable event about small…

Full Text Political Transcripts May 19, 2015: Hillary Clinton answers 6 questions from the press in Iowa

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

Hillary Clinton answers 6 questions from the press in Iowa

Source: USA Today, 5-19-15

FIRST QUESTION: Do you regret the way the Clinton Foundation handled foreign donations when you were U.S. Secretary of State? Your opponents say the donations and your private email account are examples of the Clintons having one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for everyone else.

CLINTON: “I am so proud of the foundation. I’m proud of the work that it has done and is doing. It attracted donations, from people, organizations, from around the world, and I think that just goes to show that people are very supportive of the life-saving and life-changing work that it’s done here, at home and elsewhere. I’ll let the American people make their own judgments.”

SECOND QUESTION: Given the situation in Iraq, do you think we’re better off without Saddam Hussein in power?

CLINTON: “Look, I know that there have been a lot of questions about Iraq posed to candidates over the last weeks. I’ve been very clear that I made a mistake plain and simple. And I have written about it in my book. I’ve talked about it in the past and you know what we now see is a very different and very dangerous situation. The United States is doing what it can, but ultimately this has to be a struggle that the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people are determined to win for themselves. We can provide support, but they’re going to have to do it.”

THIRD QUESTION: On your income disclosure, you are in the top echelon of income earners in this country. How do you expect every day Americans to relate to you?

CLINTON: “Well, obviously, Bill and I have been blessed and we’re very grateful for the opportunities that we’ve had, but we’ve never forgotten where we came from, and we’ve never forgotten the country that we want to see for our granddaughter, and that means that we’re going to fight to make sure that everybody has the same chances to live up to his or her own God-given potential. So I think that most Americans understand that the deck is stacked for those at the top, and I am running a campaign that is very clearly stating we want to reshuffle that deck. We want to get back to having more opportunities for more people so that they can make more out of their own lives. And I think that’s exactly what America’s looking for.”

FOURTH QUESTION: Can you explain your relationship as secretary of state with Sidney Blumenthal? There’s a report out this morning that you exchanged several emails. Should Americans expect that if elected president that you would have that same type of relationship with these old friends that you’ve had for so long?

CLINTON: “I have many, many old friends, and I always think that it’s important when you get into politics to have friends that you had before you were in politics and to understand what’s on their minds. He’s been a friend of mine for a long time. He sent me unsolicited emails, which I passed on in some instances, and I see that that’s just part of the give-and-take. When you’re in the public eye, when you’re in an official position, I think you do have to work to make sure you’re not caught in the bubble and you only hear from a certain small group of people, and I’m going to keep talking to my old friends, who ever they are.”

FIFTH QUESTION: We learned today that the State Department might not release your emails until January 2016. A federal judge says they should be released sooner. Will you demand that they are released sooner, and to follow up on the question about the speeches, was there a conflict of interest in your giving paid speeches into the run-up of your announcing that you’re running for president?

CLINTON: “The answer to the first is: No. And the answer to the second is: I have said repeatedly, I want those emails out. Nobody has a bigger interest in getting them released than I do. I respect the State Department. They have their process, as they do for everybody, not just for me, but anything that they might do to expedite that process, I heartily support. You know, I want the American people to learn as much as we can about the work that I did with our diplomats and our development experts. Because I think that it will show how hard we worked, and the work we did for our country during the time that I was secretary of state, where I worked extremely hard on behalf of our values, and our interests and our security. And the emails are part of that. So I have said publicly — I’m repeating it here in front of all of you today — I want them out as soon as they can get out.”

SIXTH QUESTION: But will you demand their release?

CLINTON: “Well, they’re not mine. They belong to the State Department. So the State Department has to go through its process and as much as they can expedite that process, that’s what I’m asking them to do. Please move as quickly as they possibly can.”

“Thank you all very much”

 

Political Musings May 19, 2015: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announces presidential exploratory committee

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announces presidential exploratory committee

May 19, 2015

The crowded Republican presidential field is growing by the minute, although expected Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced on Monday afternoon, May 18, 2015 that he is launching a presidential exploratory committee. Jindal, 43 released a statement and launched what is…

News Headlines May 18, 2015: Bristol Palin’s wedding to Dakota Meyer called-off after marriage discovery

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Bristol Palin’s wedding to Dakota Meyer called-off after marriage discovery

May 18, 2015
Former Alaska Governor and 2008 Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin had the uncomfortable task on Monday, May 18, 2015 of announcing that her daughter Bristol’s May 23 wedding has been called-off. Palin made the announcement…

Full Text Obama Presidency May 18, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Steps to Demilitarize Local Police Forces

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Community Policing

Source: WH, 5-18-15 

Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center
Camden, New Jersey

2:42 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Have a seat.  Well, thank you so much.  It is good to be in Camden.  (Applause.)

I want to thank your Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno; your Congressman, Donald Norcross; and your Mayor, Dana Redd, for being here.  Give them all a big round of applause.  (Applause.) I want to thank the outstanding facility, our hosts.  The Salvation Army is doing great work, and the Ray Kroc Center here seems like just a wonderful, wonderful facility.  (Applause.)  So we’re very proud of them.

I want to thank Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson for his outstanding work.  (Applause.)  Where’s the Chief?  There he is.

So I’ve come here to Camden to do something that might have been unthinkable just a few years ago — and that’s to hold you up as a symbol of promise for the nation.  (Applause.)  Now, I don’t want to overstate it.  Obviously Camden has gone through tough times and there are still tough times for a lot of folks here in Camden.  But just a few years ago, this city was written off as dangerous beyond redemption — a city trapped in a downward spiral.  Parents were afraid to let their children play outside.  Drug dealers operated in broad daylight.  There weren’t enough cops to patrol the streets.

So two years ago, the police department was overhauled to implement a new model of community policing.  They doubled the size of the force — while keeping it unionized.  They cut desk jobs in favor of getting more officers out into the streets.  Not just to walk the beat, but to actually get to know the residents — to set up basketball games, to volunteer in schools, to participate in reading programs, to get to know the small businesses in the area.

Now, to be a police officer takes a special kind of courage. And I talked about this on Friday at a memorial for 131 officers who gave their lives to protect communities like this one.  It takes a special kind of courage to run towards danger, to be a person that residents turn to when they’re most desperate.  And when you match courage with compassion, with care and understanding of the community — like we’ve seen here in Camden — some really outstanding things can begin to happen.

Violent crime in Camden is down 24 percent.  (Applause.)    Murder is down 47 percent.  (Applause.)  Open-air drug markets have been cut by 65 percent.  (Applause.)  The response time for 911 calls is down from one hour to just five minutes.  And when I was in the center, it was 1.3 minutes, right when I was there. (Applause.)  And perhaps most significant is that the police and residents are building trust.  (Applause.)  Building trust.

Now, nobody is suggesting that the job is done.  This is still a work in progress.  The Police Chief would be the first one to say it.  So would the Mayor.  Camden and its people still face some very big challenges.  But this city is on to something. You’ve made real progress in just two years.  And that’s why I’m here today — because I want to focus on the fact that other cities across America can make similar progress.

Everything we’ve done over the past six years, whether it’s rescuing the economy, or reforming our schools, or retooling our job training programs, has been in pursuit of one goal, and that’s creating opportunity for all of us, all our kids.  But we know that some communities have the odds stacked against them, and have had the odds stacked against them for a very long time  — in some cases, for decades.  You’ve got rural communities that have chronic poverty.  You have manufacturing communities that got hit hard when plants closed and people lost jobs.  There are not only cities but also suburbs where jobs can be tough to find, and tougher to get to because of development patterns and lack of transportation options.  And folks who do work, they’re working harder than ever, but sometimes don’t feel like they can get ahead.

And in some communities, that sense of unfairness and powerlessness has contributed to dysfunction in those communities.  Communities are like bodies, and if the immunity system is down, they can get sick.  And when communities aren’t vibrant, where people don’t feel a sense of hope and opportunity, then a lot of times that can fuel crime and that can fuel unrest.
We’ve seen it in places like Baltimore and Ferguson and New York.  And it has many causes — from a basic lack of opportunity to some groups feeling unfairly targeted by their police forces. And that means there’s no single solution.  There have to be a lot of different solutions and different approaches that we try.
So one of the things that we did to address these issues was to create a task force on the future of community policing.  And this task force was outstanding because it was made up of all the different stakeholders — we had law enforcement; we had community activists; we had young people.  They held public meetings across the country.  They developed concrete proposals that every community in America can implement to rebuild trust and help law enforcement.

The recommendations were released in March; they were finalized today.  They include everything from enhanced officer training to improving the use of body cameras and other technologies to make sure that police departments are being smart about crime and that there’s enough data for them to be accountable as well.

And we’re trying to support the great work that’s happening at the local level where cities are already responding to these recommendations.  And before I go further, I just want the members of our task force to stand, because they’ve done some outstanding work and they deserve to be acknowledged.  Thank you. (Applause.)

Now, we’ve launched a Police Data Initiative that’s helping Camden and other innovative cities use data to strengthen their work and hold themselves accountable by sharing it with the public.  Departments might track things like incidents of force so that they can identify and handle problems that could otherwise escalate.

Here in Camden, officers deal with some 41 different data systems, which means they have to enter the same information multiple times.  So today, we’ve brought a volunteer, Elite Tech Team, to help — a group of data scientists and software engineers, and tech leaders.  They’re going to work with the police department here to troubleshoot some of the technical challenges so it’s even easier for police departments to do the things they already want to do in helping to track what’s going on in communities, and then also helping to make sure that that data is used effectively to identify where there are trouble spots, where there are problems, are there particular officers that may need additional help, additional training.  All that can be obtained in a really effective, efficient way.

Today, we’re also releasing new policies on the military-style equipment that the federal government has in the past provided to state and local law enforcement agencies.  We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them.  It can alienate and intimidate local residents, and send the wrong message.  So we’re going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments. (Applause.)

There is other equipment that may be needed in certain cases, but only with proper training.  So we’re going to ensure that departments have what they need, but also that they have the training to use it.

We’re doing these things because we’re listening to what law enforcement is telling us.  The overwhelming majority of police officers are good and honest and fair.  They care deeply about their communities.  They put their lives on the line every day to keep them safe.  Their loved ones wait and worry until they come through the door at the end of their shift.  So we should do everything in our power to make sure that they are safe, and help them do the job the best they can.

And what’s interesting about what Chief Thomson has done, and what’s happening here in Camden, is these new officers — who I have to confess made me feel old — (laughter) — because they all look like they could still be in school.  (Laughter.)  The approach that the Chief has taken in getting them out of their squad cars, into the communities, getting them familiar with the people that they’re serving — they’re enjoying their jobs more because they feel as if, over time, they can have more of an impact, and they’re getting more help from the community because the community has seen them and knows them before there’s a crisis, before there’s an incident.

So it’s not just crisis response.  It’s not after the fact there’s a crime, there’s a dead body, there’s a shooting, and now we’re going to show up.  It’s, we’re here all the time, and hopefully, we can prevent those shootings from happening in the first place.  (Applause.)

But one of the things I also want to focus on is the fact that a lot of the issues that have been raised here, and in places like Baltimore and Ferguson and New York, goes beyond policing.   We can’t ask the police to contain and control problems that the rest of us aren’t willing to face or do anything about.  (Applause.)

If we as a society don’t do more to expand opportunity to everybody who’s willing to work for it, then we’ll end up seeing conflicts between law enforcement and residents.  If we as a society aren’t willing to deal honestly with issue of race, then we can’t just expect police departments to solve these problems. If communities are being isolated and segregated, without opportunity and without investment and without jobs — if we politicians are simply ramping up long sentences for nonviolent drug crimes that end up devastating communities, we can’t then ask the police to be the ones to solve the problem when there are no able-bodied men in the community, or kids are growing up without intact households.  (Applause.)

We can’t just focus on the problems when there’s a disturbance — and then cable TV runs it for two or three or four days, and then suddenly we forget about it again, until the next time.  Communities like some poor communities in Camden or my hometown in Chicago, they’re part of America, too.  The kids who grow up here, they’re America’s children.  Just like children everyplace else, they’ve got hopes and they’ve got dreams and they’ve got potential.  And if we’re not investing in them, no matter how good Chief Thomson and the police are doing, these kids are still going to be challenged.  So we’ve all got to step up.  We’ve all got to care about what happens.

Chief Thomson will tell you that his officers read to young children in the communities not just to build positive relationships, but because it’s in the interest of the community to make sure these kids can read — so that they stay in school and graduate ready for college and careers, and become productive members of society.  That’s in his interest not just as a police chief, but also as a citizen of this country, and somebody who grew up in this areas and knows this area.

And that’s why we’ve partnered with cities and states to get tens of thousands more kids access to quality early childhood education.  No matter who they are or where they’re born, they should get a good start in life.  (Applause.)

That’s why we’ve partnered with cities, including Camden, to create what we call Promise Zones — (applause) — where all-hands-on-deck efforts to change the odds for communities start happening because we’re providing job training, and helping to reduce violence, and expanding affordable housing.

It’s why we’re ready to work with folks from both sides of the aisle to reform our criminal justice system.  We all want safety, and we all know how pernicious the drug culture can be in undermining communities.  But this massive trend toward incarceration even of nonviolent drug offenders, and the costs of that trend are crowding out other critical investments that we can make in public safety.  If we’re spending a whole lot of money on prisons, and we don’t have computers or books or enough teachers or sports or music programs in our schools, we are being counterproductive.  It’s not a good strategy.  (Applause.)

And so, in addition to the work we’re doing directly on the criminal justice front, we’re also launching something that we call My Brother’s Keeper — an initiative to ensure that all young people, but with a particular focus on young men of color, have a chance to go as far as their dreams will take them.  (Applause.)  Now, over the coming weeks, members of my Cabinet will be traveling around the country to highlight communities that are doing great work to improve the lives of their residents.

We know these problems are solvable.  We’re know that we’re not lacking for answers, we’re just lacking political will.  We have to see these problems for what they are — not something that’s happening in some other city to some other people, but something that’s happening in our community, the community of America.  (Applause.)

And we know that change is possible because we’ve seen it in places like this.  We’ve seen it, thanks to people like Officer Virginia Matias.  Where is Virginia?  There she is right there.  (Applause.)  Earlier this year, Vice President Biden and I got to sit with Officer Matias and rank-and-file law enforcement officers from around the country.  And Virginia was talking about how when she was growing up in East Camden, crime was so bad she wasn’t allowed to go to the store alone.  Her mom was once robbed at gunpoint.  When she was 17, her uncle was shot and killed in his own store.  Instead of turning away from Camden, she decided she wanted to become a cop where she grew up to help the community she loved.  (Applause.)  And today, she is a proud member of the Camden County Police Department.  (Applause.)

And she’s a constant presence in the community, getting to know everybody she passes on her beat, even volunteering in a kindergarten.  Officer Matias isn’t just helping to keep her community safe, she’s also a role model for young people of Camden.  And anybody who thinks that things aren’t getting better, she says, “I see kids playing outside, riding bikes in the neighborhood, on their porches having a conversation.  That’s how I measure change.”

That’s how we should all measure change.  I had a chance to meet with some of the young people here who participated in a little roundtable with the officers, and they’re extraordinary young people.  And they’ve got hopes and dreams just like Malia and Sasha, and they’re overcoming some bigger barriers than my children ever had to go through, or I had to go through.  And they’re strong, and they’re focused.

But in talking to them, some of them — the reason they’ve been able to make it and do well is because their parents don’t let them out outside.  Well, you know what, children shouldn’t have to be locked indoors in order to be safe.  That’s not right. Some of them still have concerns about friends of theirs that have taken a wrong path and gotten involved in the streets and drugs.  That’s not the environment we need our kids to be growing up in.

I challenge everybody to get to know some of these young people.  They’re outstanding, and they’re going to do great things in their lives.  (Applause.)  But the point is, is that they shouldn’t have to go through superhuman efforts just to be able to stay in school and go to college and achieve their promise.  That should be the norm.  That should be standard.  And if it isn’t, we’re not doing something right.  We as a society are not doing something right if it isn’t.  (Applause.)

So, ultimately, that’s how we’re going to measure change:  Rising prospects for our kids.  Rising prospects for the neighborhood.  Do our children feel safe on the streets?  Do they feel cared for by their community?  Do they feel like the police departments care about them?  Do they feel as if when they work hard they can succeed?  Do they feel like the country is making an investment in them?  Do they see role models for success?  Are there pathways to jobs that they can identify?  Do they know that if they put in effort, they can make it?  Are they going to be treated fairly regardless of the color of their skin or what their last name is?

It’s pretty basic.  I travel around the country — the one thing that makes me always so optimistic is our children.  And what you realize is everywhere, kids are — kids are kids.  Sometimes they’ll drive you crazy.  (Laughter.)  They’ll make mistakes.  But there’s an inherent goodness in them.  They want to do the right thing.  They just need to be given a chance.

And some of them aren’t going to be lucky enough to have the structures at home that they need — in which case then, we all have to pick up the slack.  And if we do, they’ll respond.  They will.  But we got to feel like that they’re our kids.  We got to see our children in them, in their eyes.  And we haven’t done enough of that.  But we can.

This is a moment of great promise; this is a moment of great hope.  And if we’re seeing such extraordinary improvement in Camden because of the good efforts of a lot of elected officials, and an outstanding police chief and some wonderful police officers, and a community that’s supportive, and nonprofit organizations like the Salvation Army and others that are doing some great work — if it’s working here, it can work anywhere. (Applause.)  It can work anywhere.

On the City Hall of Camden you got an inscription by Walt Whitman:  “In a dream, I saw a city invincible.”  In a dream I see a country invincible — if we care enough to make the effort on behalf of every child in this country.  (Applause.)

Camden is showing that it can be done.  I want America to show everybody around the world that it can be done.

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

END
3:05 P.M. EDT

Political Musings May 18, 2015: Obama finally joins Twitter as @POTUS

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Obama finally joins Twitter as @POTUS

May 18, 2015

President Barack Obama now has his very own Twitter account as president, with the handle @POTUS, President of the United States. The account was verified almost instantly. The president’s personal Twitter account went live late Monday morning, May…

Political Musings May 18, 2015: Senate moves toward passing fast track trade bill

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Senate moves toward passing fast track trade bill

May 18, 2015

After agreeing to a compromise earlier last week, the Senate passed two bills moving forward on the fast track trade, trade promotion authority (TPA) bill. On Thursday, May 14, 2015, the Senate voted 78 to 20 on a customs and…

Political Musings May 17, 2015: Bush delivers free speech to SMU graduates jabs Clintons’ $25 million speech fee

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Bush delivers free speech to SMU graduates jabs Clintons’ $25 million speech fee

May 17, 2015

Former President George W. Bush used his commencement address to Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) class of 2015 in Moody Coliseum in Dallas, Texas on Saturday afternoon, May 16, 2015 to encourage the C students that they too could…

Full Text Obama Presidency May 17, 2015: Vice President Joe Biden’s Yale University Class Day Speech Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the Vice President at Yale University Class Day

Source: WH,  5-17-15

Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut

2:55 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:   Hello, Yale!  (Applause.)  Great to see you all.  (Applause.)  Thank you very, very much.

Jeremy and Kiki, the entire Class of 2015, congratulations and thank you for inviting me to be part of this special day.  You’re talented.  You’ve worked hard, and you’ve earned this day.

Mr. President, faculty, staff, it’s an honor to be here with all of you.

My wife teaches full-time.  I want you to know that — at a community college, and has attended 8,640 commencements and/or the similar versions of Class Day, and I know they can hardly wait for the speaker to finish.  (Laughter.)  But I’ll do my best as quickly as I can.

To the parents, grandparents, siblings, family members, the Class of 2015 —- congratulations.  I know how proud you must be. But, the Class of 2015, before I speak to you —- please stand and applaud the ones who loved you no matter what you’re wearing on your head and who really made this day happen.  (Laughter and applause.)   I promise you all this is a bigger day for them than it is for you.  (Laughter.)

When President Obama asked me to be his Vice President, I said I only had two conditions:  One, I wouldn’t wear any funny hats, even on Class Day.  (Laughter.)  And two, I wouldn’t change my brand.  (Applause.)

Now, look, I realize no one ever doubts I mean what I say, the problem occasionally is I say all that I mean.  (Laughter.)  I have a bad reputation for being straight.  Sometimes an inappropriate times.  (Laughter.)  So here it goes.  Let’s get a couple things straight right off the bat:  Corvettes are better than Porsches; they’re quicker and they corner as well.  (Laughter and applause.)  And sorry, guys, a cappella is not better than rock and roll.  (Laughter and applause.)  And your pundits are better than Washington pundits, although I’ve noticed neither has any shame at all.  (Laughter and applause.)  And all roads lead to Toads?  Give me a break.  (Laughter and applause.)  You ever tried it on Monday night?  (Laughter.)  Look, it’s tough to end a great men’s basketball and football season.  One touchdown away from beating Harvard this year for the first time since 2006 -— so close to something you’ve wanted for eight years.  I can only imagine how you feel.  (Laughter.)  I can only imagine.  (Applause.)  So close.  So close.

But I got to be honest with you, when the invitation came, I was flattered, but it caused a little bit of a problem in my extended family.  It forced me to face some hard truths.  My son, Beau, the attorney general of Delaware, my daughter, Ashley Biden, runs a nonprofit for criminal justice in the state, they both went to Penn.  My two nieces graduated from Harvard, one an all-American.  All of them think my being here was a very bad idea.  (Laughter.)

On the other hand, my other son, Hunter, who heads the World Food Program USA, graduated from Yale Law School.  (Applause.)  Now, he thought it’s a great idea.  But then again, law graduates always think all of their ideas are great ideas.  (Laughter.)

By the way, I’ve had a lot of law graduates from Yale work for me.  That’s not too far from the truth.  But anyway, look, the truth of the matter is that I have a lot of staff that are Yale graduates, several are with me today.  They thought it was a great idea that I speak here.

As a matter of fact, my former national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, who is teaching here at Yale Law School, trained in international relations at Yale College, edited the Yale Daily News, and graduated from Harvard — excuse me, Freudian slip — Yale Law School.  (Laughter.)   You’re lucky to have him.  He’s a brilliant and decent and honorable man.  And I miss him.  And we miss him as my national security advisor.

But he’s not the only one.  My deputy national security advisor, Jeff Prescott, started and ran the China Law Center at Yale Law School.  My Middle East policy advisor and foreign policy speechwriter, Dan Benaim, who is with me, took Daily Themes -— got a B.  (Laughter.)  Now you know why I go off script so much.  (Laughter and applause.)

Look, at a Gridiron Dinner not long ago, the President said, I — the President — “I am learning to speak without a teleprompter, Joe is learning to speak with one.”  (Laughter.)  But if you looked at my speechwriters, you know why.

And the granddaughter of one of my dearest friends in life -— a former Holocaust survivor, a former foreign policy advisor, a former Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Congressman Tom Lantos -— is graduating today.  Mercina, congratulations, kiddo.  (Applause.)  Where are you?  You are the sixth — she’s the sixth sibling in her immediate family to graduate from Yale.  Six out of 11, that’s not a bad batting average.  (Laughter.)  I believe it’s a modern day record for the number of kids who went to Yale from a single family.

And, Mercina, I know that your mom, Little Annette is here.  I don’t know where you are, Annette.  But Annette was part of the first class of freshman women admitted to Yale University.  (Applause.)

And her grandmother, Annette, is also a Holocaust survivor, an amazing woman; and both I’m sure wherever they are, beaming today.  And I know one more thing, Mercina, your father and grandfather are looking down, cheering you on.

I’m so happy to be here on your day and all of your day.  It’s good to know there’s one Yalie who is happy I’m being here — be here, at least one.  (Laughter.)  On “Overheard at Yale,” on the Facebook page, one student reported another student saying:  I had a dream that I was Vice President and was with the President, and we did the disco funk dance to convince the Congress to restart the government.  (Laughter.)

Another student commented, Y’all know Biden would be hilarious, get funky.  (Laughter.)

Well, my granddaughter, Finnegan Biden, whose dad went here, is with me today.  When she saw that on the speech, I was on the plane, Air Force Two coming up, she said, Pop, it would take a lot more than you and the President doing the disco funk dance. The Tea Party doesn’t even know what it is.  (Laughter.)

Look, I don’t know about that.  But I’m just glad there’s someone — just someone — who dreams of being Vice President.  (Laughter and applause.)  Just somebody.  I never had that dream.  (Laughter.)  For the press out there, that’s a joke.

Actually, being Vice President to Barack Obama has been truly a great honor.  We both enjoy getting out of the White House to talk to folks in the real America -— the kind who know what it means to struggle, to work hard, to shop at Kiko Milano.  (Laughter and applause.)  Great choice.  (Laughter.)

I just hope to hell the same people responsible for Kiko’s aren’t in charge of naming the two new residential colleges.  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, look, folks, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should day to you today, but the more I thought about it, I thought that any Class Day speech is likely to be redundant.  You already heard from Jessie J at Spring Fling.  (Laughter.)  So what in the hell could I possibly say.  (Laughter.)

Look, I’m deeply honored that Jeremy and Kiki selected me.  I don’t know how the hell you trusted them to do that.  (Laughter.)  I hope you agree with their choice.  Actually I hope by the end of this speech, they agree with their choice.  (Laughter.)

In their flattering invitation letter, they asked me to bring along a sense of humor, speak about my commitment to public service and family, talk about resiliency, compassion, and leadership in a changing world.  Petty tall order.  (Laughter.)  I probably already flunked the first part of the test.

But with the rest let me say upfront, and I mean this sincerely, there’s nothing particularly unique about me.  With regard to resilience and compassion, there are countless thousands of people, maybe some in the audience, who’ve suffered through personal losses similar to mine or much worse with much less support to help them get through it and much less reason to want to get through it.

It’s not that all that difficult, folks, to be compassionate when you’ve been the beneficiary of compassion in your lowest moments not only from your family, but from your friends and total strangers.  Because when you know how much it meant to you, you know how much it mattered.  It’s not hard to be compassionate.

I was raised by a tough, compassionate Irish lady named Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden.  And she taught all of her children that, but for the grace of God, there go you — but for the grace of God, there go you.

And a father who lived his motto that, family was the beginning, the middle, and the end.  And like many of you and your parents, I was fortunate.  I learned early on what I wanted to do, what fulfilled me the most, what made me happy -— my family, my faith, and being engaged in the public affairs that gripped my generation and being inspired by a young President named Kennedy  — civil rights, the environment, trying to end an incredibly useless and divisive war, Vietnam.

The truth is, though, that neither I, nor anyone else, can tell you what will make you happy, help you find success.

You each have different comfort levels.  Everyone has different goals and aspirations.  But one thing I’ve observed, one thing I know, an expression my dad would use often, is real.  He used to say, it’s a lucky man or woman gets up in the morning — and I mean this sincerely.  It was one of his expressions.  It’s a lucky man or woman gets up in the morning, puts both feet on the floor, knows what they’re about to do, and thinks it still matters.

I’ve been lucky.  And my wish for all of you is that not only tomorrow, but 20 and 40 and 50 years from now, you’ve found that sweet spot, that thing that allows you to get up in the morning, put both feet on the floor, go out and pursue what you love, and think it still matters.

Some of you will go to Silicon Valley and make great contributions to empower individuals and societies and maybe even design a life-changing app, like how to unsubscribe to Obama for America email list — (laughter) — the biggest “pan-list” of all times.

Some of you will go to Wall Street and big Wall Street law firms, government and activism, Peace Corps, Teach for America.  You’ll become doctors, researchers, journalists, artists, actors, musicians.  Two of you -— one of whom was one of my former interns in the White House, Sam Cohen, and Andrew Heymann —- will be commissioned in the United States Navy.  Congratulations, gentlemen.  We’re proud of you.  (Applause.)

But all of you have one thing in common you will all seek to find that sweet spot that satisfies your ambition and success and happiness.

I’ve met an awful lot of people in my career.  And I’ve noticed one thing, those who are the most successful and the happiest — whether they’re working on Wall Street or Main Street, as a doctor or nurse, or as a lawyer, or a social worker, I’ve made certain basic observation about the ones who from my observation wherever they were in the world were able to find that sweet spot between success and happiness.  Those who balance life and career, who find purpose and fulfillment, and where ambition leads them.

There’s no silver bullet, no single formula, no reductive list.  But they all seem to understand that happiness and success result from an accumulation of thousands of little things built on character, all of which have certain common features in my observation.

First, the most successful and happiest people I’ve known understand that a good life at its core is about being personal.  It’s about being engaged.  It’s about being there for a friend or a colleague when they’re injured or in an accident, remembering the birthdays, congratulating them on their marriage, celebrating the birth of their child.  It’s about being available to them when they’re going through personal loss.  It’s about loving someone more than yourself, as one of your speakers have already mentioned.  It all seems to get down to being personal.

That’s the stuff that fosters relationships.  It’s the only way to breed trust in everything you do in your life.

Let me give you an example.  After only four months in the United States Senate, as a 30-year-old kid, I was walking through the Senate floor to go to a meeting with Majority Leader Mike Mansfield.  And I witnessed another newly elected senator, the extremely conservative Jesse Helms, excoriating Ted Kennedy and Bob Dole for promoting the precursor of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  But I had to see the Leader, so I kept walking.

When I walked into Mansfield’s office, I must have looked as angry as I was.  He was in his late ‘70s, lived to be 100.  And he looked at me, he said, what’s bothering you, Joe?

I said, that guy, Helms, he has no social redeeming value.  He doesn’t care — I really mean it — I was angry.  He doesn’t care about people in need.  He has a disregard for the disabled.

Majority Leader Mansfield then proceeded to tell me that three years earlier, Jesse and Dot Helms, sitting in their living room in early December before Christmas, reading an ad in the Raleigh Observer, the picture of a young man, 14-years-old with braces on his legs up to both hips, saying, all I want is someone to love me and adopt me.  He looked at me and he said, and they adopted him, Joe.

I felt like a fool.  He then went on to say, Joe, it’s always appropriate to question another man’s judgment, but never appropriate to question his motives because you simply don’t know his motives.

It happened early in my career fortunately.  From that moment on, I tried to look past the caricatures of my colleagues and try to see the whole person.  Never once have I questioned another man’s or woman’s motive.  And something started to change.  If you notice, every time there’s a crisis in the Congress the last eight years, I get sent to the Hill to deal with it.  It’s because every one of those men and women up there — whether they like me or not — know that I don’t judge them for what I think they’re thinking.

Because when you question a man’s motive, when you say they’re acting out of greed, they’re in the pocket of an interest group, et cetera, it’s awful hard to reach consensus.  It’s awful hard having to reach across the table and shake hands.  No matter how bitterly you disagree, though, it is always possible if you question judgment and not motive.

Senator Helms and I continued to have profound political differences, but early on we both became the most powerful members of the Senate running the Foreign Relations Committee, as Chairmen and Ranking Members.  But something happened, the mutual defensiveness began to dissipate.  And as a result, we began to be able to work together in the interests of the country.  And as Chairman and Ranking Member, we passed some of the most significant legislation passed in the last 40 years.

All of which he opposed — from paying tens of millions of dollars in arrearages to an institution, he despised, the United Nations — he was part of the so-called “black helicopter” crowd; to passing the chemical weapons treaty, constantly referring to, “we’ve never lost a war, and we’ve never won a treaty,” which he vehemently opposed.  But we were able to do these things not because he changed his mind, but because in this new relationship to maintain it is required to play fair, to be straight.  The cheap shots ended.  And the chicanery to keep from having to being able to vote ended — even though he knew I had the votes.

After that, we went on as he began to look at the other side of things and do some great things together that he supported like PEPFAR -— which by the way, George W. Bush deserves an overwhelming amount of credit for, by the way, which provided treatment and prevention HIV/AIDS in Africa and around the world, literally saving millions of lives.

So one piece of advice is try to look beyond the caricature of the person with whom you have to work.  Resist the temptation to ascribe motive, because you really don’t know -— and it gets in the way of being able to reach a consensus on things that matter to you and to many other people.

Resist the temptation of your generation to let “network” become a verb that saps the personal away, that blinds you to the person right in front of you, blinds you to their hopes, their fears, and their burdens.

Build real relationships -— even with people with whom you vehemently disagree.  You’ll not only be happier.  You will be more successful.

The second thing I’ve noticed is that although you know no one is better than you, every other persons is equal to you and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

I’ve worked with eight Presidents, hundreds of Senators.  I’ve met every major world leader literally in the last 40 years.  And I’ve had scores of talented people work for me.  And here’s what I’ve observed:  Regardless of their academic or social backgrounds, those who had the most success and who were most respected and therefore able to get the most done were the ones who never confused academic credentials and societal sophistication with gravitas and judgment.

Don’t forget about what doesn’t come from this prestigious diploma — the heart to know what’s meaningful and what’s ephemeral; and   the head to know the difference between knowledge and judgment.

But even if you get these things right, I’ve observed that most people who are successful and happy remembered a third thing:  Reality has a way of intruding.

I got elected in a very improbable year.  Richard Nixon won my state overwhelmingly.  George McGovern was at the top of the ticket.  I got elected as the second-youngest man in the history of the United States to be elected, the stuff that provides and fuels raw ambition.  And if you’re not careful, it fuels a sense of inevitability that seeps in.  But be careful.  Things can change in a heartbeat.  I know.  And so do many of your parents.

Six weeks after my election, my whole world was altered forever.  While I was in Washington hiring staff, I got a phone call.  My wife and three children were Christmas shopping, a tractor trailer broadsided them and killed my wife and killed my daughter.  And they weren’t sure that my sons would live.

Many people have gone through things like that.  But because I had the incredible good fortune of an extended family, grounded in love and loyalty, imbued with a sense of obligation imparted to each of us, I not only got help.  But by focusing on my sons, I found my redemption.

I can remember my mother — a sweet lady — looking at me, after we left the hospital, and saying, Joey, out of everything terrible that happens to you, something good will come if you look hard enough for it.  She was right.

The incredible bond I have with my children is the gift I’m not sure I would have had, had I not been through what I went through.  Who knows whether I would have been able to appreciate at that moment in my life, the heady moment in my life, what my first obligation was.

So I began to commute — never intending to stay in Washington.  And that’s the God’s truth.  I was supposed to be sworn in with everyone else that year in ’73, but I wouldn’t go down.  So Mansfield thought I’d change my mind and not come, and he sent up the secretary of the Senate to swear me in, in the hospital room with my children.

And I began to commute thinking I was only going to stay a little while — four hours a day, every day — from Washington to Wilmington, which I’ve done for over 37 years.  I did it because I wanted to be able to kiss them goodnight and kiss them in the morning the next day.  No, “Ozzie and Harriet” breakfast or great familial thing, just climb in bed with them.  Because I came to realize that a child can hold an important thought, something they want to say to their mom and dad, maybe for 12 or 24 hours, and then it’s gone.  And when it’s gone, it’s gone.  And it all adds up.

But looking back on it, the truth be told, the real reason I went home every night was that I needed my children more than they needed me.  Some at the time wrote and suggested that Biden can’t be a serious national figure.  If he was, he’d stay in Washington more, attend to more important events.  It’s obvious he’s not serious.  He goes home after the last vote.

But I realized I didn’t miss a thing.  Ambition is really important.  You need it.  And I certainly have never lacked in having ambition.  But ambition without perspective can be a killer.  I know a lot of you already understand this.  Some of you really had to struggle to get here.  And some of you have had to struggle to stay here.  And some of your families made enormous sacrifices for this great privilege.  And many of you faced your own crises, some unimaginable.

But the truth is all of you will go through something like this.  You’ll wrestle with these kinds of choices every day.  But I’m here to tell you, you can find the balance between ambition and happiness, what will make you really feel fulfilled.  And along the way, it helps a great deal if you can resist the temptation to rationalize.

My chief of staff for over 25 years, one of the finest men I’ve ever known, even though he graduated from Penn, and subsequently became a senator from the state of Delaware, Senator Ted Kaufman, every new hire, that we’d hire, the last thing he’d tell them was, and remember never underestimate the ability of the human mind to rationalize.  Never underestimate the ability of the human mind to rationalize — her birthday really doesn’t matter that much to her, and this business trip is just a great opportunity; this won’t be his last game, and besides, I’d have to take the redeye to get back.  We can always take this family vacation another time.  There’s plenty of time.

For your generation, there’s an incredible amount of pressure on all of you to succeed, particularly now that you have accomplished so much.  You’re whole generation faces this pressure.  I see it in my grandchildren who are honors students at other Ivy universities right now.  You race to do what others think is right in high school.  You raced through the bloodsport of college admissions.  You raced through Yale for the next big thing.  And all along, some of you compare yourself to the success of your peers on Facebook, Instagram, Linked-In, Twitter.

Today, some of you may have found that you slipped into the self-referential bubble that validates certain choices.  And the bubble expands once you leave this campus, the pressures and anxiousness, as well — take this job, make that much money, live in this place, hang out with people like you, take no real risks and have no real impact, while getting paid for the false sense of both.

But resist that temptation to rationalize what others view is the right choice for you -— instead of what you feel in your gut is the right choice —- that’s your North Star.  Trust it.  Follow it.  You’re an incredible group of young women and men.  And that’s not hyperbole.  You’re an incredible group.

Let me conclude with this.  I’m not going to moralize about to whom much is given, much is expected, because most of you have made of yourself much more than what you’ve been given.  But now you are in a privileged position.  You’re part of an exceptional generation and doors will open to you that will not open to others.  My Yale Law School grad son graduated very well from Yale Law School.  My other son out of loyalty to his deceased mother decided to go to Syracuse Law School from Penn.  They’re a year and a day apart in their age.  The one who graduated from Yale had doors open to him, the lowest salary offered back in the early ‘90s was $50,000 more than a federal judge made.  My other son, it was a struggle — equally as bright, went on to be elected one of the youngest attorney generals in the history of the state of Delaware, the most popular public official in my state.  Big headline after the 2012 election, “Biden Most Popular Man in Delaware — Beau.”  (Laughter.)

And as your parents will understand, my dad’s definition of success is when you look at your son and daughter and realize they turned out better than you, and they did.  But you’ll have opportunities.  Make the most of them and follow your heart.  You have the intellectual horsepower to make things better in the world around you.

You’re also part of the most tolerant generation in history.  I got roundly criticized because I could not remain quiet anymore about gay marriage.  The one thing I was certain of is all of your generation was way beyond that point.  (Applause.)

Here’s something else I observed — intellectual horsepower and tolerance alone does not make a generation great: unless you can break out of the bubble of your own making -— technologically, geographically, racially, and socioeconomically -— to truly connect with the world around you.  Because it matters.

No matter what your material success or personal circumstance, it matters.  You can’t breathe fresh air or protect your children from a changing climate no matter what you make.  If your sister is the victim of domestic violence, you are violated.  If your brother can’t marry the man he loves, you are lessened.  And if your best friend has to worry about being racially profiled, you live in a circumstance not worthy of us.  (Applause.)  It matters.

So be successful.  I sincerely hope some of you become millionaires and billionaires.  I mean that.  But engage the world around you because you will be more successful and happier.  And you can absolutely succeed in life without sacrificing your ideals or your commitments to others and family.  I’m confident that you can do that, and I’m confident that this generation will do it more than any other.

Look to your left, as they say, and look to your right.  And remember how foolish the people next to you look — (laughter) — in those ridiculous hats.  (Laughter.)  That’s what I want you to remember.  I mean this.  Because it means you’ve learned something from a great tradition.

It means you’re willing to look foolish, you’re willing to run the risk of looking foolish in the service of what matters to you.  And if you remember that, because some of the things your heart will tell you to do, will make you among your peers look foolish, or not smart, or not sophisticated.  But we’ll all be better for people of your consequence to do it.

That’s what I want you to most remember.  Not who spoke at the day you all assembled on this mall.  You’re a remarkable class.  I sure don’t remember who the hell was my commencement speaker.  (Laughter.)  I know this is not officially commencement.  But ask your parents when you leave here, who spoke at your commencement?  It’s a commencement speaker aversion of a commencement speaker’s fate to be forgotten.  The question is only how quickly.  But you’re the best in your generation.  And that is not hyperbole.  And you’re part of a remarkable generation.

And, you — you’re on the cusp of some of the most astonishing breakthroughs in the history of mankind -— scientific, technological, socially —- that’s going to change the way you live and the whole world works.  But it will be up to you in this changing world to translate those unprecedented capabilities into a greater measure of happiness and meaning -—  not just for yourself, but for the world around you.

And I feel more confident for my children and grandchildren knowing that the men and women who graduate here today, here and across the country, will be in their midst.  That’s the honest truth.  That’s the God’s truth.  That’s my word as a Biden.

Congratulations, Class of 2015.  And may God bless you and may God protect our troops.  Thank you.

END
3:37 P.M. EDT

Political Musings May 16, 2015: Out of Touch Bill, Hillary Clinton have made more than $30 million since 2014

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Out of Touch Bill, Hillary Clinton have made more than $30 million since 2014

May 16, 2015

Hillary Clinton may want to model herself as the champion of the middle class average American, but her and husband, former President Bill Clinton’s earnings in the last year paint a totally different picture. According the public financial…

Full Text Political Transcripts May 16, 2015: President George W. Bush’s Remarks by at SMU’s 100th Spring Commencement Convocation

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President George W. Bush at SMU’s 100th Spring Commencement Convocation

Source: Bush Center,  Saturday, May 16, 2015

SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY, MOODY COLISEUM, DALLAS, TEXAS (May 16, 2015) —
Thank you. Thank you very much. President Turner, thanks. Members of the Board of Trustees, Provost Ludden, faculty, staff, distinguished guests, parents, and—most importantly—the Class of 2015. (Applause.) Thank you for your warm welcome, and I appreciate the invitation to be with you.

You know, when I mentioned this speech to some pals, they were surprised I was going to give it. (Laughter.) I haven’t given a commencement address since leaving office. You know, my decision is quite practical. So I got a call from my landlord – (laughter) – Gerald Turner. (Laughter.) Rather than raising the rent or threatening to withhold our security deposit – (laughter) – I was relieved to hear President Turner ask if I believed in free speech. (Applause.) I said yeah. He said, “Perfect. Here’s your chance to give one.” (Laughter and applause.)

As a proud member of the SMU community, I am honored to be here – truly honored – to deliver the 100th Spring Commencement address. I admire President Turner’s persuasiveness – (laughter) – and leadership. He runs a fantastic university. (Applause.) It is dynamic, diverse, and destined for continued excellence. He has assembled a strong administrative team. He is supported by engaged alumni, and he has an outstanding Board of Trustees.

I’m fortunate to know many of the trustees. (Laughter.) Well, for example I’m good friends with the Chairman, Mike Boone. And there’s one trustee I know really well – (laughter) -a proud graduate of the SMU Class of 1968 who went on to become our nation’s greatest First Lady. (Applause.) Do me a favor and don’t tell Mother. (Laughter.) I know how much the trustees love and care for this great university. I see it firsthand when I attend the Bring-Your-Spouse-Night Dinners. (Laughter.)

I also get to drop by classes on occasion. I am really impressed by the intelligence and energy of the SMU faculty. I want to thank you for your dedication and thank you for sharing your knowledge with your students.

To reach this day, the graduates have had the support of loving families. Some of them love you so much they are watching from overflow sites across campus. (Laughter.) I congratulate the parents who have sacrificed to make this moment possible. It is a glorious day when your child graduates from college — and a really great day for your bank account. (Laughter and applause.) I know the members of the Class of 2015 will join me in thanking you for your love and your support. (Applause.)

Most of all, I congratulate the members of the Class of 2015. You worked hard to reach this milestone. You leave with lifelong friends and fond memories. You will always remember how much you enjoyed the right to buy a required campus meal plan. (Laughter.) You’ll remember your frequent battles with the Park ‘N’ Pony Office. (Laughter.) And you may or may not remember those productive nights at the Barley House. (Laughter and applause.)

You were founding members of the mighty SMU Mob, bouncing like mad and watching in wonder as your then-Student Body President, Señor Lobster – (laughter) – danced with joy after all those Pony victories right here in Moody. (Applause.) And you’ll think back to those carefree fall game days on the Boulevard – though I don’t recall seeing too many of you in the football stadium. (Laughter.)

To those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards, and distinctions, I say, “well done.” And as I like to tell the “C” students: You, too, can be President. (Laughter and applause.)

After four years of sitting through lectures, I have a feeling you’re not in the mood for another one. (Laughter.) What I have learned about graduation speeches is that they’re too long and rarely remembered. So I’ll keep this short. I just can’t attest to how memorable it will be.

I’ve also learned that it’s important to refer to someone associated with the University. So I picked one, an SMU trustee (who by the way is not here), Reverend Mark Craig. Now, I asked Mark to deliver the sermon at the First United Methodist Church in Austin before my second inauguration as Governor of Texas. I still remember his Fort Worth twang as he talked about Moses. God called Moses to action, and Moses repeatedly found excuses not to act. “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt? Oh, my Lord, I pray, send some other person. I have sheep to tend. And the people won’t believe me — I’m not a very good speaker.”

Moses wasn’t the only one who could mangle his language. (Laughter.) [Inaudible.]

Fortunately, Moses recognized the call to serve something greater than himself. He answered the call, led his people, and history was made.

You, too, will be called at some point. The question, as Mark aptly and artfully laid out, is: Will you be optimistic and hopeful, or pessimistic and cynical? Here are three reasons why you should be optimistic and hopeful.

One, you are graduating from a great university. Your SMU degree will open the door to a wide variety of career options. Millions will never have had this opportunity. SMU has laid a foundation so you can reason, and continue to learn throughout your life. It has given you the tools to be productive citizens.

One of the great strengths of America is our active public square. Issues are influenced by the will of the people. That is why an educated citizenry is so important to the success of our country. As SMU graduates, you are well-equipped to participate in these vital debates. My hope is that you speak out on the issues that matter to you. Participate in your Nation’s civic life as citizens, not spectators. You’ll come to learn that who you are is more important than what you have—and that you have responsibilities to your fellow citizens, your country, and your family. By taking part in American democracy, you will make our country stronger.

Secondly, you are blessed to live in the greatest Nation – ever. (Applause.) Here you can strive and succeed as far as you dare to dream. It says something about our country that millions around the world are willing to leave their homes and families and risk everything to come here and realize the American dream. Their pursuit of that dream invigorates our national soul. It renews our country’s character. And it adds vitality to our culture.

You live in a land that is compassionate and decent. Because we believe in the rights and dignity of our own citizenry, we are committed to defending the rights and dignity of people everywhere. America has liberated millions around the world from tyranny and terror. We’ve helped turn the tide against deadly disease in places like Africa. In our hearts we believe all are created equal under God. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is Almighty God’s gift to humanity.

At home, there are thousands of platoons in the Army of compassion working to honor those beliefs. No matter what your career path, enlist. When you help another, you enrich your heart, and you strengthen the fabric of our collective goodness.

Many of you have already made service a priority in your lives by volunteering during winter, spring, and summer breaks; and completing more than one-hundred community projects through Engaged Learning. I thank you for recognizing the timeless truth: of those to whom much is given, much is required.

As you serve others, you can inspire others. I’ve been inspired by the examples of many selfless servants. Winston Churchill, a leader of courage and resolve, inspired me during my Presidency—and, for that matter, in the post-presidency. Like Churchill, I now paint. (Laughter.) Unlike Churchill, the painting isn’t worth much without the signature. (Laughter.)

In 1941, he gave a speech to the students of his old school during Britain’s most trying times in World War II. It wasn’t too long, and it is well-remembered. Prime Minister Churchill urged, “Never give in … in nothing, great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

I hope you’ll remember this advice. But there’s a lesser-known passage from that speech that I also want to share with you:

“These are not dark days. These are great days. The greatest our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.”

When Churchill uttered these words, many had lost hope in Great Britain’s chance for survival against the Nazis. Many doubted the future of freedom. Today, some doubt America’s future, and they say our best days are behind us. I say, given our strengths—one of which is a bright new generation like you—these are not dark days. These are great days.

And finally, you can be hopeful because there is a loving God. Whether you agree with that statement or not is your choice. It is not your government’s choice. It is essential – (applause). It is essential to this nation’s future that we remember that the freedom to worship who we want, and how we want—or not worship at all—is a core belief of our founding.

I have made my choice. I believe that the Almighty’s grace and unconditional love will sustain you. I believe it will bring you joy amidst the trials of life. It will enable you to better see the beauty around you. It will provide a solid foundation amidst a rapidly changing, somewhat impersonal, technologically-driven world. It will show you how to love your neighbor, forgive more easily, and approach success with humility—and failure without fear.

It will inspire you to honor your parents and eventually be a better spouse and parent yourself. It will help you fully grasp the value of life—all life. It will remind you that money, power, and fame are false idols. And I hope and believe that God’s love will inspire you to serve others.

I want to thank you for letting me share this special day with you. I wish you all the very best. Stay in touch with your friends. Love your family. Treat this day as a step toward a lifetime of learning. And go forth with confidence. May God bless you. (Applause.)

Political Headlines May 15, 2015: Obamas have assets worth less than 7 million

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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PRESIDENCY, CONGRESS & CAMPAIGNS:

Obamas have assets worth less than 7 million

The White House released the financial disclosures for President Barack Obama and Vice president Joe Biden on Friday, May 15, 2015, indicating that the president has a net worth of between $2 and $7 million, whereas the Vice President is worth between $275,000 to $1.1 million. The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 requires disclosures each year, but only indicates broad ranges not exact amounts.

Political Headlines May 15, 2015: Mitt Romney loses to Evander Holyfield in second round of charity boxing match

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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PRESIDENCY, CONGRESS & CAMPAIGNS:

Mitt Romney loses to Evander Holyfield in second round of charity boxing match

Former 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney lasted to round two in his celebrity boxing match with Evander Holyfield on Friday evening, May 15, 2015, which raised more than $1 million for CharityVision, that cures blindness in developing countries. The match has kept Romney in the public eye even after he decided not to run again for the Republican presidential nomination.

Full Text Obama Presidency May 8, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Trade at Nike

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Trade

Source: WH, 5-8-15

Nike, Inc.
Beaverton, Oregon

9:44 A.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Oregon!  (Applause.)  Well, who arranged this day?  (Applause.)  Every time I come to Oregon this is what it looks like.  (Laughter.)  Yeah!  It never rains in Oregon, does it?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  Never.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Don’t come to California.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  Well, listen, it is wonderful to see all of you.  First of all, please give Mark another round of applause for his hospitality.  (Applause.)  And thanks to everyone at Nike for hosting us today, here in “Federer Platz.”  (Laughter.)  You know, the White House is cool.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got a basketball court — actually, it’s a tennis court that we repainted some lines — (laughter) — when I came into office.  So it’s a combination basketball-tennis court.  There is a putting green that President Eisenhower put in.  Can you imagine, by the way, if I had put in a putting green?  (Laughter.)  Things have changed.  (Laughter.)

But you’ve got all that and the 18th tee box from Pebble Beach.  (Applause.)  Come on.  I’m sure some of my staff is running around right now in the Michael Jordan and Mia Hamm buildings — (laughter) — they want to be lab rats for your new gear.  (Laughter.)

But it is wonderful to be here.  Please give it up for two people who fight every single day for Oregon workers — your Representatives in Congress — they do a great job — Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici.  They are both here.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Yay!  And there are two people who couldn’t make it here today, but they’re doing a great job and you should give them a round of applause as well, and that’s Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Kurt Schrader.  (Applause.)

So it is great to be at the world headquarters of such an iconic company — a company that helps athletes succeed from the individual to the world stage.  And as you’ve heard, I’ve come to Oregon to talk a little bit about trade — which initially may have had some people thinking, what, is Mariota going someplace that we didn’t know about?  (Laughter.)  He’s going to be great. He’s an outstanding young man.  He’s going to be terrific — and from Hawaii, by the way.  (Applause.)  Local boy.

But this is important, and I want to tell you why I think trade deals and our willingness to go out there and compete on the global stage is so important.

Before I came out here, I had a chance to meet with some    small business owners from across Oregon, whose workers make everything from bikes to tea to stationery to wine.  And they know how important this is to them.  Sometimes when we talk about trade, we think of Nike, or we think of Boeing, or we think of G.E. — we think about these big multinational companies.  But those small business leaders came here today because they understood that these markets outside the United States will help them grow, and will help them hire more folks — just as all the suppliers to Nike or Boeing or G.E. or any of these other companies understand this is going to be critical to their growth and their ability to create new jobs.

In fact, that’s why Ron Wyden is not here — because he’s in Washington, D.C. as we speak quarterbacking this effort on behalf of Oregon’s small business owners and workers.

Now, small businesses are the backbone of our economy.  Eventually, like Nike, they grow sometimes into really, really big companies.  They employ millions of people; 98 percent of exporters are small businesses.  They’re the ones who make Made in Oregon and Made in the USA mean something.  And they represent something essential about this country — the notion that if you’ve got a good idea and you’re willing to work at it, you can turn that idea into a business, you can growth that business, and eventually, who knows what might happen.  You can give other people a chance to earn a living even as you do well.  That’s America’s promise.  And it’s up to us to keep that promise alive.

Now, that promise was threatened for almost everybody just about seven years ago, when the economy nearly collapsed, and millions of Americans lost their jobs and their homes and their life savings.  But thanks to the hard work of the American people and entrepreneurs like the ones who are here today — and some pretty good policies from my administration — (laughter) — we’re in a different place today.  (Applause.)  We’re in a different place today.

This morning, we learned that our economy created 223,000 new jobs last month.  (Applause.)  The unemployment rate ticked down again to 5.4 percent — which is the lowest it’s been in almost seven years.  (Applause.)  That’s 3 million new jobs over the past 12 months — nearly the fastest pace in over a decade.  And all told, over the past 62 months in a row, America’s businesses have created 12.3 million new jobs.

I should add, by the way, 62 months ago is when I signed the Affordable Care Act.  So, obviously, it hasn’t done too bad in terms of employment in this country.  (Applause.)  I just thought I’d mention that.  (Applause.)  Since there were a lot of predictions of doom and gloom, I would just suggest those who were making those predictions go back and check the statistics.  (Laughter.)  Just saying.  (Laughter.)

So small businesses deserve a lot of credit for that.  In fact, over the past several years, small businesses have created nearly two out of every three new American jobs.  And the question is, how do we build on that success?  We’ve got to be relentless in our efforts to support small businesses who are creating jobs and helping to grow the economy.

And that’s been the purpose behind many of the policies I’ve fought for as President.  I’ve cut taxes for small businesses more than a dozen times.  I’ve pushed for investments in infrastructure and faster Internet.  It’s why we’ve made health care more accessible, affordable, portable — to give people the freedom to change jobs or launch that startup without worrying about losing their health insurance.

And passing trade agreements is part of that agenda if those trade agreements are the right kinds of trade agreements; if they make sure that they’re growing our businesses, and helping American workers by selling goods Made in America across the rest of the world.

And I’ve been talking a lot about this lately, because I view smart trade agreements as a vital piece of middle-class economics.  Not a contradiction to middle-class economics, it’s a part and parcel of it.

I believe that our country does best when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, everybody plays by the same set of rules.  And that means making sure everybody has got a good education.  It means making sure that women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work.  (Applause.)  It means making sure that folks have to have sick leave and family leave and that they can balance work and family in a fair way.  It means, working to increase the minimum wage all across this country — because folks who have some of the toughest jobs oftentimes get the lowest pay.

That’s all part of middle-class economics, but, you know what, so is trade.  We strive to make sure our own economy lives up to high standards, but in a lot of parts of the world, the rules are unfair.  The playing field is uneven.  That puts American businesses and American workers at a disadvantage.  So the question is, what should we do about it?

Some folks think we should just withdraw and not even try to engage in trade with these countries.  I disagree.  We have to make sure America writes the rules of the global economy.  And we should do it today, while our economy is in the position of global strength.  (Applause.)  Because if we don’t write the rules for trade around the world — guess what — China will.  And they’ll write those rules in a way that gives Chinese workers and Chinese businesses the upper hand, and locks American-made goods out.

That’s the choice we face.  We’re not going to be able to isolate ourselves from world markets.  We got to be in there and compete.  And the question is, are we going to make sure that the rules are fair so that our businesses and our workers are on a level playing field.  Because when they are, we win every time.  When the rules are fair, we win every time.  (Applause.)

So this is why I’m such a strong supporter of new trade agreements.  They’re going to help our workers compete and our businesses compete.  This is not a left issue or a right issue, or a business or a labor issue.  It is about fairness and equity and access.  And like other issues that we’ve waged slow, steady fights on over the last seven years, this is also a question of the past versus the future.

So the Trans-Pacific Partnership that we’re working on, it’s the biggest trade deal that we’re working on right now — has to do with the Asia Pacific region.  And it reflects our values in ways that, frankly, some previous trade agreements did not.  It’s the highest-standard, most progressive trade deal in history.  It’s got strong, enforceable provisions for workers, preventing things like child labor.  It’s got strong, enforceable provisions on the environment, helping us to do things that haven’t been done before, to prevent wildlife trafficking, or deforestation, or dealing with our oceans.   And these are enforceable in the agreement.

And Nike operates in the Pacific region, so they understand the competitive pressures they’re under.  Nike has factories all around the world.  And let’s face it, Mark I think doesn’t mind me saying it that some of these countries, they don’t have the standards for wages and labor conditions that we have here.

So when you look at a country like Vietnam, under this agreement, Vietnam would actually, for the first time, have to raise its labor standards.  It would have to set a minimum wage. It would have to pass safe workplace laws to protect its workers. It would even have to protect workers’ freedom to form unions — for the very first time.  That would make a difference.  That helps to level the playing field — (applause) — and it would be good for the workers in Vietnam, even as it helps make sure that they’re not undercutting competition here in the United States.

So that’s progress.  It doesn’t mean that suddenly working conditions in Vietnam will be like they are here at Nike.  (Laughter.)  Or here in Portland right away.  But it moves us in the right direction.

And if Vietnam, or any of the other countries in this trade agreement don’t meet these requirements, they’ll face meaningful consequences.  If you’re a country that wants in to this agreement, you have to meet higher standards.  If you don’t, you’re out.  If you break the rules, there are actual repercussions.  And that’s good for American businesses and American workers, because we already meet higher standards than most of the rest of the world, and that helps level the playing field.

And this deal would strengthen our hand overseas by giving us the tools to open other markets to our goods and services and make sure they play by the fair rules we help write.  The truth is, we have one of the most open markets in the world.  Folks are already selling stuff here.  We got to be able to sell there.  That requires us to enter into trade agreements to open up their markets.

I hear Oregon wine is actually pretty good.  (Applause.)  Somebody told me that the pinot noir in Oregon is top-notch, right?  I’ve got some winemakers right here.  (Applause.)  Well, I want to make sure Japanese wine consumers have the opportunity to partake — (laughter) — in our excellent Oregon wine.

We got some Oregon beef producers and ranchers around here. (Applause.)  Beef is really expensive in Japan.  Let’s make sure they try some Oregon steaks.  (Applause.)  It’s good stuff.

And that’s one of the best things that can happen for our businesses and our workers — opening up markets that have previously been closed, particularly markets where they’re already selling stuff here.  There’s a lack of reciprocity.  It’s not a fair deal right now.  We want to make it fair.

Now, I want to acknowledge — because this looks like a very well-read and informed crowd — (laughter) — that there have been a bunch of critics about trade deals generally and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  And what’s interesting is typically they’re my friends, coming from my party, and they’re my fellow travelers on minimum wage and on job training and on clean energy.  On every progressive issue, they’re right there with me. And then on this one, they’re like whooping on me.  (Laughter.)

But I tell you what.  I’ve run my last election, and the only reason I do something is because I think it’s good for American workers and the American people and the American economy.  (Applause.)  I don’t have any other rationale for doing what I do than I think it’s the best thing for the American people.  And on this issue, on trade, I actually think some of my dearest friends are wrong.  They’re just wrong.  And here’s why.

First of all, they say that this trade agreement will cost American jobs.  And they’re really basing this on some past experience, looking at what happened in the ‘90s, over the last 20 years, as there was a lot of outsourcing going on.  And you know what, past trade agreements, it’s true, didn’t always reflect our values or didn’t always do enough to protect American workers.  But that’s why we’re designing a different kind of trade deal

And the truth is that companies that only care about low wages, they’ve already moved.  They don’t need new trade deals to move.  They’ve already outsourced.  They’ve already located in search of low wages.

What this trade agreement would do is open the doors to the higher-skill, higher-wage jobs of the future — jobs that we excel at.  It would make sure our manufacturers who are operating at the higher end of the value chain are able to access these growing markets.  And the fact is, over the past few years, our manufacturers have been steadily creating jobs for the first time since the 1990s — under my administration.  After more than a decade away from the top spot, business leaders around the world have declared the United States is the world’s number one place to invest for a third year in a row.  (Applause.)  Third year in a row.

So the point is, outsourcing is already giving way to insourcing.  Companies are starting to move back here to do more advanced manufacturing, and this is a trend we expect to continue.  This trade deal would help that.

Just this morning, as Mark may have mentioned, Nike announced that, with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it will make new investments in advanced manufacturing — not overseas, but right here in the United States.  And far more Nike products would be made in the U.S.A.  (Applause.)  And that means thousands of new jobs in manufacturing and engineering and design at Nike facilities across the country, and potentially tens of thousands of new jobs along Nike’s supply chain here at home.  That’s what trade can do.  (Applause.)

Look, I’ve spent six and a half years trying to rescue this economy — six and a half years of trying to revitalize American manufacturing, including rescuing an American auto industry that was on its back and is now fully recovered.  So I would not risk any of that if I thought the trade deals were going to undermine it.  The reason I’m for this is because I think it will enhance it and advance it.  So that’s point number one.

Point number two — when you ask folks specifically, what do you oppose about this trade deal, they just say “NAFTA.”  NAFTA was passed 20 years ago.  That was a different agreement.  And in fact, this agreement fixes some of what was wrong with NAFTA by making labor and environmental provisions actually enforceable.  (Applause.)  I was just getting out of law school when NAFTA got passed.  (Laughter.)

Number three — you’ve got some critics saying that any deal would be rushed through; it’s a secret deal, people don’t know what’s in it.  This is not true.  Any agreement that we finalize with the other 11 countries will have to be posted online for at least 60 days before I even sign it.  Then it would go to Congress — and you know they’re not going to do anything fast.  (Laughter.)  So there will be months of review.  Every T crossed, every I dotted.  Everybody is going to be able to see exactly what’s in it.

There’s nothing fast-track about this.  This is a very deliberate track — (laughter) — which will be fully subject to scrutiny.  And I’m confident when people read the agreement for themselves, they’ll see that this is the most progressive trade deal in history.

Number four — critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation — food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations.  They’re making this stuff up.  (Applause.)  This is just not true.  No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.  This agreement would make sure our companies aren’t discriminated against in other countries.

We already treat companies from other countries fairly here. But our companies don’t always get treated fairly there.  So sometimes they need to have some way to settle disputes where it’s not subject to the whims of some government bureaucrat in that country.  That’s important.  We want our businesses to succeed in selling over there because that’s how our workers will get more jobs here in the United States.

And then finally, some critics talk about currency manipulation.  Now, this has been a problem in the past.  Some countries, they try to lower their currency so that it makes their goods cheaper, makes our more expensive.  There was a time when China was pretty egregious about this.  When I came into office, I started pounding on them.  Every time I meet with them, I’d be talking about currency.  And we pushed back hard, and China moved.  In real terms, their currency has appreciated about 30 percent since I came into office.  And we’re going to keep on going after it.  But that’s not an argument against this trade agreement.  If we give up the chance to help our businesses sell their stuff in the world’s fastest-growing markets, that doesn’t do anything to stop currency manipulation.

So the fact is, some folks are just opposed to trade deals out of principle, a reflexive principle.  And what I tell them is, you know what, if you’re opposed to these smart, progressive trade deals, then that means you must be satisfied with the status quo.  And the status quo hasn’t been working for our workers.  It hasn’t been working for our businesses.  And there are people here who will tell you why.

I’m going to just give you a couple of examples of small businesses who I had a chance to meet with today.  Egg Press is a Portland-based greeting card company.  (Applause.)  Really nice. They sell their cards in Australia, which is a member of this Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.  Their CEO, Tess Darrow — where’s Tess?  Raise your hand.  I saw her.  There she is.  (Applause.)  So Tess says that if they could more easily reach customers in Japan, as well, they’d sell half the volume that they do here in America.  That’s a lot.

Right now, the logistics of exporting to Japan are too complicated.  Products end up being held up for months at the border.  This agreement would help solve some of those problems so Tess can sell more greeting cards in Japan — presumably in Japanese.  (Laughter.)  Is there going to be — there will be a translation process, I assume.  Yes, absolutely.  I’m teasing.  (Laughter.)

So the trade deal would help eliminate barriers, and simplify customs, and hold countries accountable for getting products delivered swiftly.  The more Tess sells, the more she can grow, the more she can hire here in Oregon, here in the United States.

Oregon Fruit Products — makes canned fruits, berries, other products — depends on exports for 20 percent of its annual sales.  Right now, it exports to four members of this partnership that we’re putting together:  Japan, Australia, Singapore, and Canada.  Unfortunately, selling in these countries right now can mean dealing with unfair rules designed to prevent our products from being offered in their markets.  Under this agreement, that would change.  Exporting becomes simpler, more consistent.  That means more people around the world eating Oregon berries all year long.  Berry tasty.  (Applause.)

Sokol Blosser Winery — (applause) — we got a lot of drinkers here.  (Laughter.)  It’s a winery, family-run in Dayton, Oregon.  One of its top export markets is Japan.  Right now, there are high tariffs on American wine in that country.  Under this trade partnership, those tariffs would be eliminated, and wineries across America could see their sales grow overseas.  The brother–and-sister team that runs this vineyard — wave, guys — (applause) — they say, “If we can make it easier to do business with countries that are already our trading partners, countries that are allies, that’s a good thing.”

They’re right.  This deal would be a good thing.  So let’s “just do it.”  (Laughter and applause.)  It took a while for you to catch that, didn’t it?  (Laughter.)  I thought that was pretty obvious.  (Laughter.)

So, listen, I know a lot of folks who are skeptical about trade.  Past trade deals didn’t always live up to the hype.  Labor and environmental protections weren’t always strong enough. I saw for years, in Chicago and towns across Illinois, manufacturing collapsing, jobs drying up.  Outsourcing is real.  Folks didn’t just make that up.  Some of our manufacturing base shifted over the last 25 years, and it wasn’t good for manufacturing and it wasn’t good for those communities, and it wasn’t good for workers.  That’s the truth.  It had benefits — other jobs were created, we got cheaper goods.  But there was real displacement and real pain.  And so, for many Americans, this is not an abstraction; this is real.

But we’ve got to learn the right lessons from that.  The lesson is not that we pull up the drawbridge and build a moat around ourselves.  The lesson is, is that we’ve got to make sure that the trade deals that we do shape are ones that allow us to compete fairly.

So when I took office, I decided we could rethink the way we do trade in a way that actually works for working Americans.  I didn’t think this was the right thing to do just for companies.  If I didn’t think this was the right thing to do for working families, I would not be fighting for it.  If any agreement undercuts working families, I won’t sign it.  I ran for office to expand opportunity for everybody — the all-American idea that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or how you started out, or who you love, in America you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

So, yes, we should be mindful of the past, but we can’t ignore the realities of the new economy.  We can’t stand on the beaches and stop the global economy at our shores.  We’ve got to harness it on our terms.  This century is built for us.  It’s about innovation.  It’s about dynamism and flexibility and entrepreneurship, and information and knowledge and science and research.  That’s us.  So we can’t be afraid of it; we’ve got to seize it.  We’ve got to give every single American who wakes up, sends their kids to school, rolls up their sleeves, punches in every day the chance to do what they do best:  dream up, innovate, build, sell the best products and ideas in the world to every corner of the world.  (Applause.)

Because, Nike, we do not just have the best athletes in the world.  We also have the best workers in the world.  (Applause.) We also have the best businesses in the world.  And when the playing field is level, nobody beats the United States of America.  (Applause.)  Nobody beats the United States of America.

Just do it, everybody.  Thank you.  God bless you.  Thank you, Oregon.  Thank you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
10:14 A.M. PDT

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