Full Text Political Transcripts May 29, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Memorial Day Speech at Arlington National Cemetery

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at Arlington National Cemetery

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Source: WH, 5-29-17

Arlington, Virginia

11:30 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  And thank you, General Dunford and Secretary Mattis, for your moving words and for your service to our great nation.  Vice President Pence, Cabinet Secretaries, members of Congress, members of the Armed Forces and veterans — thank you for joining us as we honor the brave warriors who gave their lives for ours, spending their last moments on this Earth in defense of this country and of its people.

Words cannot measure the depth of their devotion, the purity of their love, or the totality of their courage.  We only hope that every day we can prove worthy not only of their sacrifice and service but of the sacrifice made by the families and loved ones they left behind.  Special, special people.

I especially want to extend our gratitude to Secretary John Kelly for joining us today.  Incredible man.  (Applause.)  I always like to call him General.  He understands more than most ever could or ever will the wounds and burdens of war.  Not only did Secretary proudly serve in the military for more than 40 years, enduring many hardships, but he and his incredible wife Karen have borne the single most difficult hardship of them all
— the loss of their son, Robert, in service to our country.  Robert died fighting the enemies of all civilizations in Afghanistan.

To John, Karen, Heather, Kate, Andrea and the entire Kelly family, today 300 million American hearts are joined together with yours.  We grieve with you.  We honor you.  And we pledge to you that we will always remember Robert and what he did for all of us.  Thank you, John.  (Applause.)

The Kelly family represents military families across the country who carry the burden of freedom on their shoulders. Secretary Kelly is joined today by his son-in-law, Jake, a Wounded Warrior.  And the Secretary’s son, Johnnie, will soon leave on his fifth deployment.  It is because of families like yours that all of our families can live in safety and live in peace.

To every Gold Star family who honors us with your presence, you lost sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers.  They each had their own names, their own stories, their own beautiful dreams.  But they were all angels sent to us by God, and they all share one title in common — and that is the title of hero.  (Applause.)  Real heroes.  Though they were here only a brief time before God called them home, their legacy will endure forever.

General Douglas MacArthur once said that “the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.”  Here at this hallowed shrine, we honor the noblest among us — the men and women who paid the ultimate price for victory and for freedom.  We pay tribute to those brave souls who raced into gunfire, roared into battle, and ran into hell to face down evil.  They made their sacrifice not for fame, or for money, or even for glory — but for country.

We are privileged to be joined today by a man whose life demonstrates the values of service and sacrifice:  Senator Bob Dole, here with his wife, Senator Elizabeth Dole.  (Applause.)   Senator Dole fought bravely in World War II, and was severely wounded by German fire.  In just a few weeks, Bob will be celebrating his 94th birthday.  (Applause.)

And, Bob, I know I speak for millions of grateful Americans when I say thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Bob.  We thank you not only for your service, but for helping us to remember your fallen comrades and the countless American patriots who gave their lives in the Second World War.

Since the first volley of gunfire in the Revolution, brave Americans in every generation have answered the call of duty and won victory for freedom in its hour of need.  Today, a new generation of American patriots are fighting to win the battle against terrorism — risking their lives to protect our citizens from an enemy that uses the murder of innocents to wage war on humanity itself.

We are joined today by the wife of Specialist Christopher Horton, who rests on these so beautiful grounds.  As Jane tells us, Chris “was a man who loved his country with every part of his being.”
In 2008, Chris enlisted in the Oklahoma Army National Guard.  He trained as a sniper, becoming known as one of the best shots anywhere at any time.  He was a talented, tough guy.  While Chris was in the National Guard, he was also a volunteer police officer.  In everything he did, he was thinking about how he could serve God, serve his family and serve his country.

In 2011, he deployed for the first time to Afghanistan. Chris knew his job was one of the most dangerous there was, but he was determined to go after the enemy at any cost to himself.  His missions helped target and kill terrorists who sought to destroy innocent people.  Just three months into his first deployment, Chris was near the Pakistan border, trying to eliminate an enemy cell that was doing so much damage and that was planting deadly roadside bombs against his unit and the units of many others.  Standing watch with his comrades, he died in the ensuing gun battle with enemy forces.  Chris sacrificed his life to protect his fellow soldiers — and to protect all Americans.  He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his courage. At only 26 years old, Chris secured his place in our hearts for eternity.

Jane, America, grieves with you.  Our whole entire nation sends you our support, our strength, and our deep, deep love.  You lost your husband, and America lost a hero.  And together, we will preserve his memory — today, tomorrow, and always.  Thank you, Jane.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Jane.  Thank you, Jane.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Jane.

We are also joined today by David and Rose Byers, the parents of Major Andrew Byers.  As a boy, Andrew dreamed of the chance to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point.  He worked hard, he earned that chance, and he graduated at the top of his class.  He became the commander of a Special HALO team, leading his fellow soldiers out of aircraft, hurtling into dangerous and unknown territory.

About this time last year, Andrew was sent on his third combat deployment.  This time he went to Afghanistan.  On November 3rd, he was one of 10 Special Forces operators to land by helicopter near a Taliban safe haven in northern Afghanistan. They trekked through a mile of waist-deep mud and climbed a steep cliff before finally reaching the village that they wanted to reach.  There, a night-long battle ensued.  Andrew and his team fought off wave after wave after wave of enemy fighters.  A grenade detonated, and as the Taliban began to surround the American and Afghan forces, Andrew ran through the smoke and through the hail of bullets to rescue an Afghan soldier.  In the midst of this torrent of gunfire and danger, Andrew worked heroically to open a gateway and get his men to safety — risking his life to save theirs.  And he did it.  Unbelievably, he did.  But in saving those lives, Andrew was killed right then and there by enemy fire.  Andrew has since been awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in battle.

To his parents, David and Rose, we stand in awe of your son and his courageous sacrifice.  On behalf of the American people, I express to you our everlasting gratitude for what your son did for his country, for his comrades, and for all of us.

Andrew’s father has said that he holds on to the promise of Joshua Chapter 1, Verse 9:  “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”   Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  What a man he was.

To every Gold Star family, God is with you, and your loved ones are with Him.  They died in wars so that we could live in peace.  I believe that God has a special place in heaven for those who laid down their lives so that others may live free from fear and this horrible oppression.

Now let us pledge to make the most of that freedom that they so gallantly and brilliantly fought for and they died to protect. Let us also pledge to tell the stories of Robert, Chris, Andrew, and all of America’s fallen warriors today and for the next 1,000 years.  (Applause.)

And while we cannot know the extent of your pain, what we do know is that our gratitude to them and to you is boundless and undying.  Boundless and undying.  We’ll always be there.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Their stories are now woven into the soul of our nation, into the Stars and Stripes on our flag, and into the beating hearts of our great, great people.

Today we also hold a special vigil for heroes whose story we cannot tell because their names are known to God alone — the unknown soldiers.  We do not know where they came from, who they left behind, or what they hoped to be.  But we do know what they did.  They fought and they died in a great and noble act of loyalty and love to their families and to our country.

The letter written that is now famous — one Civil War soldier captured it all and for all time.  He wrote to his wife, “If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.”  That is the love we hear whispering throughout this sacred place and from every tombstone on these hallowed grounds.  It is the love that binds this earth beneath us and it bleeds from the hearts of all of those who died so that we might live free.

We can never replace them.  We can never repay them.  But we can always remember.  And today, that is what we are doing — we remember.  Words cannot wipe away the tears or bring back those smiling faces.  But if Americans just take the time to look into your eyes and tell you how much we thank you and how dearly we pray for you and how truly we love you, then hopefully you can find solace through your pain.  And every time you see the sun rise over this blessed land please know your brave sons and daughters pushed away the night and delivered for us all that great and glorious dawn.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless our fallen heroes.  God bless their families.  God bless our military.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:50 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts April 25, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum National Days of Remembrance

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum National Days of Remembrance

Source: WH, 4-25-17

United States Capitol
Washington, D.C.

11:30 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Friends, members of Congress, ambassadors, veterans, and, most especially, to the survivors here with us today, it’s an honor to join you on this very, very solemn occasion.  I am deeply moved to stand before those who survived history’s darkest hour.  Your cherished presence transforms this place into a sacred gathering.

Thank you, Tom Bernstein, Alan Holt, Sara Bloomfield, and everyone at the Holocaust Memorial Council and Museum for your vital work and tireless contributions.

We are privileged to be joined by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, friend of mine — he’s done a great job and said some wonderful words — Ron Dermer.  The State of Israel is an eternal monument to the undying strength of the Jewish people.  The fervent dream that burned in the hearts of the oppressed is now filled with the breath of life, and the Star of David waves atop a great nation arisen from the desert.

To those in the audience who have served America in uniform, our country eternally thanks you.  We are proud and grateful to be joined today by veterans of the Second World War who liberated survivors from the camps.  Your sacrifice helped save freedom for the world — for the entire world.  (Applause.)

Sadly, this year marks the first Day of Remembrance since the passing of Elie Wiesel, a great person, a great man.  His absence leaves an empty space in our hearts, but his spirit fills this room.  It is the kind of gentle spirit of an angel who lived through hell, and whose courage still lights the path from darkness.  Though Elie’s story is well known by so many people, it’s always worth repeating.  He suffered the unthinkable horrors of the Holocaust.  His mother and sister perished in Auschwitz.  He watched his father slowly dying before his own young eyes in Buchenwald.  He lived through an endless nightmare of murder and death, and he inscribed on our collective conscience the duty we have to remember that long, dark night so as never to again repeat it.

The survivors in this hall, through their testimony, fulfill the righteous duty to never forget, and engrave into the world’s memory the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people.  You witnessed evil, and what you saw is beyond description, beyond any description.  Many of you lost your entire family, everything and everyone you loved, gone.  You saw mothers and children led to mass slaughter.  You saw the starvation and the torture.  You saw the organized attempt at the extermination of an entire people — and great people, I must add.  You survived the ghettos, the concentration camps and the death camps.  And you persevered to tell your stories.  You tell of these living nightmares because, despite your great pain, you believe in Elie’s famous plea, that “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”

That is why we are here today — to remember and to bear witness.  To make sure that humanity never, ever forgets.
The Nazis massacred 6 million Jews.  Two out of every three Jews in Europe were murdered in the genocide.  Millions more innocent people were imprisoned and executed by the Nazis without mercy, without even a sign of mercy.

Yet, even today, there are those who want to forget the past.  Worse still, there are even those filled with such hate, total hate, that they want to erase the Holocaust from history.  Those who deny the Holocaust are an accomplice to this horrible evil.  And we’ll never be silent — we just won’t — we will never, ever be silent in the face of evil again.  (Applause.)

Denying the Holocaust is only one of many forms of dangerous anti-Semitism that continues all around the world.  We’ve seen anti-Semitism on university campuses, in the public square, and in threats against Jewish citizens.  Even worse, it’s been on display in the most sinister manner when terrorists attack Jewish communities, or when aggressors threaten Israel with total and complete destruction.

This is my pledge to you:  We will confront anti-Semitism (Applause.)  We will stamp out prejudice.  We will condemn hatred.  We will bear witness.  And we will act.  As President of the United States, I will always stand with the Jewish people — and I will always stand with our great friend and partner, the State of Israel.

So today, we remember the 6 million Jewish men, women and children whose lives and dreams were stolen from this Earth.
We remember the millions of other innocent victims the Nazis so brutally targeted and so brutally killed.  We remember the survivors who bore more than we can imagine.  We remember the hatred and evil that sought to extinguish human life, dignity, and freedom.

But we also remember the light that shone through the darkness.  We remember sisters and brothers who gave everything to those they loved — survivors like Steven Springfield, who, in the long death march, carried his brother on his back.  As he said, “I just couldn’t give in.”

We remember the brave souls who banded together to save the lives of their neighbors — even at the risk of their own life.  And we remember those first hopeful moments of liberation, when at long last the American soldiers arrived in camps and cities throughout occupied Europe, waving the same beautiful flags before us today, speaking those three glorious words:  “You are free.”

It is this love of freedom, this embrace of human dignity, this call to courage in the face of evil that the survivors here today have helped to write onto our hearts.  The Jewish people have endured oppression, persecution, and those who have sought and planned their destruction.  Yet, through the suffering, they have persevered.  They have thrived.  And they have enlightened the world.  We stand in awe of the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people.

I want to close with a story enshrined in the Museum that captures the moment of liberation in the final days of the war.
It is the story of Gerda Klein, a young Jewish woman from Poland. Some of you know her.  Gerda’s family was murdered by the Nazis. She spent three years imprisoned in labor camps, and the last four months of the war on a terrible death march.  She assumed it was over.  At the end, on the eve of her 21st birthday, her hair had lost all of its color, and she weighed a mere 68 pounds.  Yet she had the will to live another day.  It was tough.

Gerda later recalled the moment she realized that her long-awaited deliverance had arrived.  She saw a car coming towards her.  Many cars had driven up before, but this one was different.  On its hood, in place of that wretched swastika, was a bright, beautiful, gleaming white star.  Two American soldiers got out. One walked up to her.  The first thing Gerda said was what she had been trained to say:  “We are Jewish, you know.”  “We are Jewish.”  And then he said, “So am I.”  It was a beautiful moment after so much darkness, after so much evil.

As Gerda took this solider to see the other prisoners, the American did something she had long forgotten to even expect — he opened the door for her.  In Gerda’s words, “that was the moment of restoration of humanity, of humanness, of dignity, and of freedom.”

But the story does not end there.  Because, as some of you know, that young American soldier who liberated her and who showed her such decency would soon become her husband.  A year later, they were married.  In her words, “He opened not only the door for me, but the door to my life and to my future.”

Gerda has since spent her life telling the world of what she witnessed.  She, like those survivors who are among us today, has dedicated her life to shining a light of hope through the dark of night.

Your courage strengthens us.  Your voices inspire us.  And your stories remind us that we must never, ever shrink away from telling the truth about evil in our time.  Evil is always seeking to wage war against the innocent and to destroy all that is good and beautiful about our common humanity.  But evil can only thrive in darkness.  And what you have brought us today is so much more powerful than evil.  You have brought us hope — hope that love will conquer hatred, that right will defeat wrong, and that peace will rise from the ashes of war.

Each survivor here today is a beacon of light, and it only takes one light to illuminate even the darkest space.  Just like it takes only one truth to crush a thousand lies and one hero to change the course of history.  We know that in the end, good will triumph over evil, and that as long as we refuse to close our eyes or to silence our voices, we know that justice will ultimately prevail.

So today we mourn.  We remember.  We pray.  And we pledge:  Never again.

Thank you.  God bless you, and God bless America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
11:45 A.M. EDT

 

Full Text Political Transcripts April 24, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Remarks to the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Trump’s Remarks to the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly

Full Text Political Transcripts April 17, 2017: President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump’s Remarks at the 2017 White House Easter Egg Roll

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at the 2017 White House Easter Egg Roll

Source: WH, 4-17-17

South Lawn

10:27 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  What a great voice.  Thank you very much.  Great job.  I want to thank everybody.  This is the 139th Easter Egg Roll.  Think of it — 139.  It began a long time ago — 1878.  And we will be stronger and bigger and better as a nation than ever before.  We’re right on track.  You see what’s happening, and we’re right on track.  So thank you, everybody, for being here.

We’re going to do cards for soldiers in a little bit, Melania and Barron and myself.  We’re going downstairs, we’re going to sign some cards to our great troops — they’re cards for troops — and we look forward to that.  And then we’re going to come out and join you, and enjoy your company for a roll, a great Easter Egg Roll.  And I don’t know if we’re going to be successful, but I know a lot of people down there are going to be successful.  I’ve seen those kids, and they’re highly, highly competitive.  (Laughter.)  That I can tell you.

I just want to thank First Lady Melania Trump.  She’s really worked hard on this.  (Applause.)  She has been working on this for a long time to make it perfect, and we wanted to keep it just right.  So I want to just ask her to speak.  But before she speaks, I want to congratulate her on this wonderful, wonderful day.  We’re going to have a lot of people — a lot of people — and they’re going to have a great time.

So, Melania, thank you very much.  And, Barron, thank you very much for being here.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Honey — First Lady, Melania Trump.  Thank you, everybody.

MRS. TRUMP:  Thank you.  Welcome to the White House.  This is the first time that my husband and I are hosting this wonderful tradition, and it’s great that you are all with us today.  I hope you have a great time, with many activities.

I want to thank the military band, all the staff and volunteers who worked tirelessly to ensure that you have a memorable experience.  I want to thank all the military with us today — (applause) — and all military in this great nation, and servicemen and servicewomen all around the world keeping us safe.

As we renew this tradition, thank you for joining us.  On behalf of the President and Barron, we wish you great fun and beautiful days coming ahead of us.  And Happy Easter.  Thank you.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Happy Easter.  And have a great, great time.  Have a great day.  Thank you, folks.  Thank you very much.  I’m coming down.  I’m going to be joining you.  Thank you very much.  My whole family is here.  Thank you.

END
10:31 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts February 2, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech at National Prayer Breakfast

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 2-2-17

Washington Hilton

9:11 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mark.  So nice.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  It’s a great honor to be here this morning.  And so many faith leaders — very, very important people to me — from across our magnificent nation, and so many leaders from all across the globe.

Today we continue a tradition begun by President Eisenhower some 64 years ago.  This gathering is a testament to the power of faith, and is one of the great customs of our nation, and I hope to be here seven more times with you.  (Laughter and applause.)

I want very much to thank our co-chairs, Senator Bowzman and Senator Coons, and all of the congressional leadership — they’re all over the place.  We have a lot of very distinguished guests.

And we have one guest who was just sworn in last night — Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State.  (Applause.)  Going to do a great job.  Some people didn’t like Rex because he actually got along with leaders of the world.  I said, no, you have to understand, that’s a good thing.  (Laughter.)  That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.  He’s respected all over the world, and I think he’s going to go down as one of our great, great secretaries.  We appreciate it.  Thank you, thank you, Rex.  (Applause.)

Thank you as well to Senate Chaplain Barry Black for his moving words.  And I don’t know, Chaplain, whether or not that’s an appointed position.  Is that an appointed position?  I don’t even know if you’re a Democrat or if you’re a Republican, but I’m appointing you for another year — the hell with it.  (Laughter and applause.)  And I think it’s not even my appointment, it’s the Senate’s appointment, but we’ll talk to them.  Your son is here.  Your job is very, very secure, okay?  (Laughter.)  Thank you, Barry.  Appreciate it very much.

I also want to thank my great friends, though, Roma.  Where’s Roma?  Beautiful Roma Downey.  The voice of an angel.  She’s got the voice — every time I hear it, that voice is so beautiful.  Everything is so beautiful about Roma, including her husband because he’s a special, special friend, Mark Burnett — for the wonderful introduction.  So true.  So true.  I said to the agent, I’m sorry.  The only thing more — I actually got on the phone and fired him myself because he said, you don’t want to do it, it’ll never work, it’ll never, ever work.  You don’t want to do it.  I said, listen — but I really fired him after it became the number-one show.  It became so successful, and he wanted a commission, and he didn’t want to do it.  That’s what I really said.  (Laughter.)

But we had tremendous success on “The Apprentice.”  And when I ran for President, I had to leave the show.  That’s when I knew for sure I was doing it.  And they hired a big, big movie star — Arnold Schwarzenegger -– to take my place.  And we know how that turned out.  (Laughter.)  The ratings went right down the tubes.  It’s been a total disaster.  And Mark will never, ever bet against Trump again.  And I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings, okay?  (Laughter.)

But we’ve had an amazing life together, the last 14, 15 years.  And an outstanding man, and thank you very much for introducing me.  Appreciate it.  It’s a great honor.  (Applause.)

I also want to thank my dear friend, Vice President Mike Pence, who has been incredible.  (Applause.)  And incredible wife, Karen.  And every time I was in a little trouble with something, where they were questioning me, they’d say, but he picked Mike Pence — (laughter) — so he has to know what he’s doing.  And it’s true, he’s been — you know, on the scale of 0 to 10, I rate him a 12, okay?  So I want to thank you.  Thank you very much.  Apprentice it.  (Applause.)

But most importantly today, I want to thank the American people.  Your faith and prayers have sustained me and inspired me through some very, very tough times.  All around America, I have met amazing people whose words of worship and encouragement have been a constant source of strength.  What I hear most often as I travel the country are five words that never, ever fail to touch my heart.  That’s:  “I am praying for you.”  I hear it so often — “I am praying for you, Mr. President.”  (Applause.)

No one has inspired me more in my travels than the families of the United States military, men and women who have put their lives on the line every day for their country and their countrymen.  I just came back yesterday from Dover Air Force Base to join the family of Chief William “Ryan” Owens, as America’s fallen hero was returned home.  Very, very sad, but very, very beautiful.  Very, very beautiful.  His family was there.  Incredible family, loved him so much.  So devastated — he was so devastated.  But the ceremony was amazing.  He died in defense of our nation.  He gave his life in defense of our people.  Our debt to him and our debt to his family is eternal and everlasting.

“Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  We will never forget the men and women who wear the uniform, believe me.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  From generation to generation, their vigilance has kept our liberty alive.  Our freedom is won by their sacrifice, and our security has been earned with their sweat and blood and tears.  God has blessed this land to give us such incredible heroes and patriots.  They are very, very special, and we are going to take care of them.  (Applause.)

Our soldiers understand that what matters is not party or ideology or creed, but the bonds of loyalty that link us all together as one.  America is a nation of believers.  In towns all across our land, it’s plain to see what we easily forget — so easily we forget this — that the quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success.  I will tell you that.  And I tell you that from somebody that has had material success and knows tremendous numbers of people with great material success — the most material success.  Many of those people are very, very miserable, unhappy people.  And I know a lot of people without that, but they have great families, they have great faith.  They don’t have money — at least not nearly to the extent — and they’re happy.  Those to me are the successful people, I have to tell you.  (Applause.)

I was blessed to be raised in a churched home.  My mother and father taught me that to whom much is given much is expected.  I was sworn in on the very bible from which my mother would teach us as young children.  And that faith lives on in my heart every single day.

The people in this room come from many, many backgrounds.  You represent so many religions and so many views.  But we are all united by our faith in our Creator and our firm knowledge that we are all equal in His eyes.  We are not just flesh and bone and blood.  We are human beings, with souls.  Our Republic was formed on the basis that freedom is not a gift from government, but that freedom is a gift from God.  (Applause.)

It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty.”  Jefferson asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”

Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs.  That is why I will get rid of, and totally destroy, the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.  I will do that — remember.  (Applause.)

Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us, and the world is under serious, serious threat in so many different ways.  And I’ve never seen it so much and so openly as since I took the position of President.  The world is in trouble, but we’re going to straighten it out.  Okay?  That’s what I do.  I fix things.  We’re going to straighten it out.  (Applause.)  Believe me.  When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it.  Just don’t worry about it.  (Laughter.)  They’re tough.  We have to be tough.  It’s time we’re going to be a little tough, folks.  We’re taken advantage of by every nation in the world, virtually.  It’s not going to happen anymore.  It’s not going to happen anymore.

We have seen unimaginable violence carried out in the name of religion.  Acts of wanton slaughter against religious minorities.  Horrors on a scale that defy description.  Terrorism is a fundamental threat to religious freedom.  It must be stopped, and it will be stopped.  It may not be pretty for a little while.  It will be stopped.  (Applause.)

We have seen — and, by the way, General, as you know, James “Mad Dog” — I shouldn’t say it in this room — Mattis.  Now, there’s a reason they call him “Mad Dog Mattis” — he never lost a battle.  Always wins them and always wins them fast.  He’s our new Secretary of Defense who will be working with Rex.  He’s right now in South Korea, going to Japan, going to some other spots.  And I’ll tell you what, I’ve gotten to know him really well.  He’s the real deal.  We have somebody who’s the real deal working for us, and that’s what we need.  So, you watch.  You just watch.  (Applause.)  Things will be different.

We have seen peace-loving Muslims brutalized, victimized, murdered and oppressed by ISIS killers.  We have seen threats of extermination against the Jewish people.  We have seen a campaign of ISIS and genocide against Christians, where they cut off heads.  Not since the Middle Ages have we seen that.  We haven’t seen that, the cutting off of heads.  Now they cut off their heads, they drown people in steel cages.  Haven’t seen this — I haven’t seen this.  Nobody has seen this for many, many years.

All nations have a moral obligation to speak out against such violence.  All nations have a duty to work together to confront it and to confront it viciously, if we have to.  So I want to express clearly today to the American people that my administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land.  America must forever remain a tolerant society where all faiths are respected, and where all of our citizens can feel safe and secure.  We have to feel safe and secure.

In recent days, we have begun to take necessary action to achieve that goal.  Our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world.  But these are those and there are those that would exploit that generosity to undermine the values that we hold so dear.  We need security.  There are those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle.  Not right.  We will not allow a beachhead of intolerance to spread in our nation.  You look all over the world and you see what’s happening.

So in the coming days, we will develop a system to help ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty, and that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination.  We want people to come into our nation, but we want people to love us and to love our values — not to hate us and to hate our values.  We will be a safe country.  We will be a free country.  And we will be a country where all citizens can practice their beliefs without fear of hostility or fear of violence.  America will flourish as long as our liberty and, in particular, our religious liberty is allowed to flourish.  (Applause.)

America will succeed as long as our most vulnerable citizens — and we have some that are so vulnerable — have a path to success.  And America will thrive as long as we continue to have faith in each other and faith in God.  (Applause.)

That faith in God has inspired men and women to sacrifice for the needy, to deploy to wars overseas, and to lock arms at home, to ensure equal rights for every man, woman and child in our land.  It’s that faith that sent the pilgrims across the oceans, the pioneers across the plains, and the young people all across America to chase their dreams.  They are chasing their dreams.  We are going to bring those dreams back.  As long as we have God, we are never, ever alone.  Whether it’s the soldier on the night watch or the single parent on the night shift, God will always give us solace and strength and comfort.

We need to carry on and to keep carrying on.  For us here in Washington, we must never, ever stop asking God for the wisdom to serve the public according to his will.  That’s why — (applause) — thank you.  That’s why President Eisenhower and Senator Carlson had the wisdom to gather together 64 years ago to begin this truly great tradition.  But that’s not all they did together.  Let me tell you the rest of the story.  Just one year later, Senator Carlson was among the members of Congress to send to the President’s desk a joint resolution that added “under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance.  That’s a great thing.  (Applause.)  Because that’s what we are and that is what we will always be, and that is what our people want:  one beautiful nation, under God.

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

END
9:30 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 23, 2016: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Last Christmas Weekly Address

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Merry Christmas from the President and the First Lady

Source: WH, 12-23-16

Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as Delivered

Weekly Address

The White House

December 24, 2016

THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas everybody!  One of the best parts of the holiday season is spending time with the special people in your life.  And for me, that means getting some help from my best friend for our annual Christmas Weekly Address.

THE FIRST LADY: Given how our first Christmas Weekly Address went, I realized that Barack needed all the help he could get.

[PAUSE]

THE FIRST LADY: Celebrating the holidays in the White House over these past eight years has been a true privilege.  We’ve been able to welcome over half a million guests… our outstanding pastry chefs have baked 200,000 holiday cookies… and Barack has treated the American people to countless dad jokes.

THE PRESIDENT: Although a few got a…Frosty reception.

THE FIRST LADY: This year’s White House holiday theme is “The Gift of the Holidays,” and our decorations reflect some of our greatest gifts as a nation: from our incredible military families, to the life-changing impact of a great education.

THE PRESIDENT: And the greatest gift that Michelle and I have received over the last eight years has been the honor of serving as your President and First Lady.  Together, we fought our way back from the worst recession in 80 years, and got unemployment to a nine-year low.  We secured health insurance for another twenty million Americans, and new protections for folks who already had insurance.  We made America more respected around the world, took on the mantle of leadership in the fight to protect this planet for our kids, and much, much more.

By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we first got here.  And I’m hopeful we’ll build on the progress we’ve made in the years to come.

Tomorrow, for the final time as the First Family, we will join our fellow Christians around the world to rejoice in the birth of our Savior.  And as we retell His story from that Holy Night, we’ll also remember His eternal message, one of boundless love, compassion and hope.

THE FIRST LADY:  The idea that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.  That we should treat others as we would want to be treated.  And that we care for the sick… feed the hungry… and welcome the stranger… no matter where they come from, or how they practice their faith.

THE PRESIDENT: Those are values that help guide not just my family’s Christian faith, but that of Jewish Americans, and Muslim Americans; nonbelievers and Americans of all backgrounds. And no one better embodies that spirit of service than the men and women who wear our country’s uniform and their families.

THE FIRST LADY: As always, many of our troops are far from home this time of year, and their families are serving and sacrificing right along with them.  Their courage and dedication allow the rest of us to enjoy this season.  That’s why we’ve tried to serve them as well as they’ve served this country.  Go to JoiningForces.gov to see how you can honor and support the service members, veterans and military families in your community – not just during the holidays, but all year round.

THE PRESIDENT: So as we look forward to the New Year, let’s resolve to recommit ourselves to the values we share.  And on behalf of the all the Obamas – Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo, and that troublemaker Sunny – Merry Christmas, everybody.

THE FIRST LADY: And we wish you and your family a happy and healthy 2017… thanks, and God bless.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 14, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Evening Hanukkah Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Evening Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-14-16

East Room

7:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, hello, hello!  (Applause.)  HelloGood evening, everybody!  Welcome to the White House, and Happy Hanukkah!  (Applause.)  It so happens we’re a little early this year.  (Laughter.)  But Michelle and I are going to be in Hawaii when Hanukkah begins, and we agreed that it’s never too soon to enjoy some latkes and jelly donuts.  (Laughter.)  This is our second Hanukkah party today, but in the spirit of the holiday, the White House kitchen has not run out of oil.  (Laughter.)  Dad jokes for every occasion.  (Laughter.)

I want to recognize some special guests that are with us today.  There are a number of members of Congress here who obviously are so supportive of the values that are represented by this holiday and extraordinarily strong friends of Israel.  We’ve got Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg in the house.  (Applause.)  We’ve got one of the country’s finest jurists, who I happened to have nominated to the Supreme Court and who’s going to continue to serve our country with distinction as the chief judge on the D.C. circuit, Merrick Garland is here.  (Applause.)

Our wonderful and outstanding and tireless Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, is here.  (Applause.)  As is our U.S. Trade Representative and former B-B-Y-O president, Mike Froman.  (Applause.)  And I want to give it up for our outstanding musical guests, Six-Thirteen, who just did a amazing performance for Michelle and I of a “Hamilton” remix talking about the Maccabees, and the President, and menorahs, and —

MRS. OBAMA:  It was good.

THE PRESIDENT:  If you ever have a chance to get the mix-tape, you should buy it.  (Laughter.)

Now, this is the eighth year that Michelle and I have hosted this little gathering.  And over the years, we’ve welcomed Jewish Supreme Court justices, Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress.  We celebrated Alan Gross’s return from captivity in Cuba.  (Applause.)  We got to celebrate a once-in-70,000-year event, Thanksgivvikuh — (laughter) — where we lit the “Menurkey.”  (Laughter.)  That was a turkey-shaped menorah, in case you forgot.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  We got it.

THE PRESIDENT:  So this is a White House tradition that we are proud to carry on.  It gives us a lot of nakhas.  (Laughter.)  If I pronounced that right, then that was a Hanukkah miracle.  (Laughter.)

Tonight, we come together for the final time to tell a familiar story — so familiar that even we Gentiles know it.  But as many times as we tell it, this 2,000-year-old tale never gets old.  In every generation, we take heart from the Maccabees’ struggle against tyranny, their fight to live in peace and practice their religion in peace.  We teach our children that even in our darkest moments, a stubborn flame of hope flickers and miracles are possible.  (Applause.)

That spirit from two millennia ago inspired America’s founders two centuries ago.  They proclaimed a new nation where citizens could speak and assemble, and worship as they wished.  George Washington himself was said to have been stirred by the lights of Hanukkah after seeing a soldier seek the warmth of a menorah in the snows of Valley Forge.  And years later, Washington wrote that timeless letter we have on display today in the White House — I hope you saw it when you walked in.  Washington assured the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island, that the United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”  (Applause.)  He went on to write that all that is required of those “who live under [the nation’s] protection” is that they be “good citizens.”

It’s easy, sometimes, to take these fundamental freedoms for granted.  But they, too, are miraculous.  They, too, have to be nurtured and safeguarded.  And it’s in defense of these ideals — precisely because the Jewish people have known oppression — that throughout our history, this community has been at the forefront of every fight for freedom.  It’s why Jews marched in Selma, why they mobilized after Stonewall, why synagogues have opened their doors to refugees, why Jewish leaders have spoken out against all forms of hatred.

And in my last months in office, I want to thank you for all your courage, and your conviction, and your outspokenness.  (Applause.)  The story of this community and the work you continue to do to repair the world forever reminds us to have faith that there are brighter days ahead.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  They’re a little cynical.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no, they’re not cynical.

MRS. OBAMA:  Little doubtful.

THE PRESIDENT:  The menorah we light today is a testament such resilient optimism.  It belonged to Rina and Joseph Walden, a young Polish couple who acquired it in the early 1900s.  When the Second World War came, the Waldens fled to France and took shelter on a farm.  And they hid their Jewishness, including their magnificent menorah, entrusting it to a courageous neighbor.  But one Hanukkah, they retrieved their menorah and lit it behind locked doors and covered windows.  That same week, the Nazis raided their neighbor’s house and burned it to the ground.  Of all the Walden family’s treasures, only this menorah survived.

A few years later, the Waldens moved to Israel, where their son Raphael met a young woman named Zvia Peres — the only daughter of one of Israel’s founding fathers and greatest statesmen.  And I had the honor to go to Jerusalem earlier this year to bid farewell to my dear friend Shimon Peres and reaffirm the commitment of the United States to the State of Israel.  We could not be more honored to have Shimon’s son, Chemi, his grandson, Guy, and his granddaughter, Mika, here with us tonight.  (Applause.)

The Walden-Peres family lit these lights when the State of Israel was new.  They’ve blazed it in the months after the Yom Kippur War and the Camp David Accords.  And tonight, Chemi and Mika will light this amazing heirloom in the White House.  And as they do, we hope all of you draw strength from the divine spark in Shimon Peres, whose miraculous life taught us that “faith and moral vision can triumph over all adversity.”  I hope it inspires us to rededicate ourselves to upholding the freedoms we hold dear at home and around the world — that we are able to see those who are not like us and recognize their dignity, not just those who are similar to us.  I hope it inspires us to continue to work for peace, even when it is hard — perhaps especially when it is hard.  (Applause.)

And, as Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport more than 200 years ago, “May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, in our paths.”

I’d now like to invite Rabbi Rachel Isaacs from Colby College and Temple Beth Israel in Waterville, Maine — which I said sounds cold — (laughter) — to say a few words and lead us in blessings.  But first, I have to get a box, because she’s a little shorter than I am.  (Laughter.)

(A prayer is offered.)

Well, we hope that you enjoy this celebration here at the White House.  On behalf of Michelle and myself, we could not be more grateful for your friendship and your prayers.  And we want to emphasize that although we will be leaving here on January 20th —

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  — we will meet you on the other side.  (Laughter.)  And we’ve still got a lot of work to do.  We look forward to doing that work with you, because it’s not something that we can do alone, and you’ve always been such an extraordinary group of friends that strengthen us in so many different ways.

I should also note that your singing was outstanding.  (Laughter.)  I think this was an exceptional group of voices here.  (Laughter.)

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

END
7:57 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 14, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-14-16

East Room

4:04 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Hello, everybody.  Welcome to the White House.  Michelle and I want to be the first to wish all of you a happy Hanukkah.  I figure we’ve got to be first because we’re about 10 days early.  (Laughter.)

We have some very special guests in the house to share some latkes with, so I want to call them out.  We are, first of all, honored to be joined by Rabbi Steven Exler, the outstanding senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.  (Applause.)  He also happens to be Secretary Jack Lew’s rabbi.  (Laughter.)   He taught my Director of Jewish Outreach, Chanan Weissman.  So he obviously is doing something right.  Also, let’s give it up for Koleinu, whose sound might be the most beautiful thing to come out of Princeton since the woman standing next to me.  (Applause.)  That was a good one, right?

MRS. OBAMA:  That was a good one.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Today in the White House, as you will soon do in your homes, we recall Hanukkah’s many lessons:  How a small group can make a big difference.  That’s the story of the Maccabees’ unlikely military victory, and of great moral movements around the globe and across time.  How a little bit can go a long way, like the small measure of oil that outlasted every expectation.  It reminds us that even when our resources seem limited, our faith can help us make the most of what little we have.  The small State of Israel and the relatively small Jewish population of this country have punched far above their weight in their contributions to the world.  So the Festival of Lights is also a reminder of how Isaiah saw the Jewish people, as a light unto the nations.

This is the season that we appreciate the many miracles, large and small, that have graced our lives throughout generations, and to recognize that the most meaningful among them is our freedom.  The first chapter of the Hanukkah story was written 22 centuries ago, when rulers banned religious rituals and persecuted Jews who dared to observe their faith.  Which is why today we are asked not only to light the menorah, but to proudly display it — to publicize the mitzvah.  And that’s why we’ve invited all these reporters who are here.  (Laughter.)

Everybody in America can understand the spirit of this tradition.  Proudly practicing our religion, whatever it might be — and defending the rights of others to do the same — that’s our common creed.  That’s what families from coast to coast confirm when they place their menorah in the window — not to share the candles’ glow with just your family, but also with your community and with your neighbors.

The story of Hanukkah, the story of the Jewish people, the story of perseverance — these are one and the same.  Elie Wiesel taught us that lesson probably better than just about anybody.  In one of his memories of the Holocaust, Elie watched a fellow prisoner trade his daily ration of bread for some simple materials with which to piece together a makeshift menorah.  And he wrote that he couldn’t believe the sacrifices this man was making to observe the holidays.  A stunned Elie asked him, “Hanukkah in Auschwitz?”  And the man replied, “Especially in Auschwitz.”

The world lost my friend, Elie Wiesel, this year.  We lost a keeper of our collective conscience.  But we could not be more honored today to be joined by his beloved family.  (Applause.)  His wife, Marion, is here.  (Applause.)  His wife, Marion, is here, beautiful as always.  His son, Elisha, is here.  His daughter-in-law, Lynn.  And his grandchildren, Elijah and Shira.  (Applause.)  So today we’re going to light a menorah that Shira made a few years ago when she was in kindergarten.  (Laughter.)  And as is appropriate to the spirit of the season, it’s made of simple materials.  It’s got bolts and tiles and glue.  (Laughter.)  And it looks like some balsa wood.

SHIRA WIESEL:  It’s actually melted wax.

THE PRESIDENT:  What is it?

SHIRA WIESEL:  It’s actually melted wax.

THE PRESIDENT:  Melted wax.  (Laughter.)  Just saying.

Over the years, your grandfather also corrected me several times.  (Laughter.)  And it was always very helpful.  (Laughter.)

We’ve lit a number of beautiful menorahs here at the White House.  Some that weathered storms like Katrina and Sandy; others that were crafted by spectacular artists from Israel and the United States.  But I’ve just got to say, this is my favorite.  (Laughter.)  I think this is the most beautiful one that we’ve ever lit.  (Laughter and applause.)  And it’s a reminder that a menorah is not valuable because it’s forged in silver or gold.  It’s treasured because it was shaped by the hands of a young girl who proves with her presence that the Jewish people survive.  (Applause.)  Through centuries of exile and persecution, and even the genocide of families like the Wiesels endured, the Hanukkah candles have been kindled.  Each wick an answer to the wicked.  Each light a signal to the world that yours is an inextinguishable faith.

Jewish leaders from the Maccabees to the Wiesels, to the college students who proudly sing Hebrew songs on campus, reaffirm our belief that light still drives out darkness, and freedom still needs fighters.

So let me close by saying I want to say how much Michelle and I appreciate the opportunities to have celebrated so many Hanukkahs with you in the White House.  You know, at the beginning of my presidency, some critics thought it would last for only a year.  (Laughter.)  But — miracle of miracles — (applause) — it has lasted eight years.  It’s lasted eight whole years.  (Laughter.)  Nes Gadol Haya Po.  (Applause.)

As many of you know, the name “Hanukkah” comes from the Hebrew word for “dedication.”  So we want to thank you again for your dedication to our country, to the historic progress that we’ve made, to the defense of religious freedom in the United States and around the world.  (Applause.)

And with that, let me invite Rabbi Exler to say a few words before Elijah and Shira light the candles and get this party started.

Mr. Rabbi.  (Applause.)

END
4:13 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 4, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception

Source: WH, 12-4-16

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

Well, good evening, everybody.  On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.  Over the past eight years, this has always been one of our favorite nights.  And this year, I was especially looking forward to seeing how Joe Walsh cleans up — pretty good.  (Laughter.)

I want to begin by once again thanking everybody who makes this wonderful evening possible, including David Rubenstein, the Kennedy Center Trustees — I’m getting a big echo back there — and the Kennedy Center President, Deborah Rutter.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

We have some outstanding members of Congress here tonight.  And we are honored also to have Vicki Kennedy and three of President Kennedy’s grandchildren with us here -– Rose, Tatiana, and Jack.  (Applause.)

So the arts have always been part of life at the White House, because the arts are always central to American life.  And that’s why, over the past eight years, Michelle and I have invited some of the best writers and musicians, actors, dancers to share their gifts with the American people, and to help tell the story of who we are, and to inspire what’s best in all of us.  Along the way, we’ve enjoyed some unbelievable performances -– this is one of the perks of the job that I will miss.

Thanks to Michelle’s efforts, we’ve brought the arts to more young people -– from hosting workshops where they learn firsthand from accomplished artists, to bringing “Hamilton” to students who wouldn’t normally get a ticket to Broadway.  And on behalf of all of us, I want to say thanks to my wife for having done simply — (applause) — yes.  (Applause.)  And she’s always looked really good doing it.  (Laughter.)  She does.  (Laughter.)

This is part of how we’ve tried to honor the legacy of President and Mrs. Kennedy.  They understood just how vital art is to our democracy — that we need song and cinema and paintings and performance to help us challenge our assumptions, to question the way things are, and maybe inspire us to think about how things might be.  The arts help us celebrate our triumphs, but also holds up a mirror to our flaws.  And all of that deepens our understanding of the human condition.  It helps us to see ourselves in each other.  It helps to bind us together as a people.

As President Kennedy once said, “In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation.”  Tonight, we honor five amazing artists who have dedicated their lives to telling their truth, and helping us to see our own.

At eight years old, Mavis Staples climbed onto a chair in church, leaned into the microphone, raised her eyes upwards and belted out the gospel.  When people heard that deep, old soul coming out of that little girl, they wept — which, understandably, concerned her.  (Laughter.)  But her mother told her, “Mavis, they’re happy.  Your singing makes them cry happy tears.”

It was those early appearances on the South Side of Chicago -– South Side!  — (laughter and applause) — with Mavis, her siblings, their father, Roebuck “Pops” Staples that launched the legendary Staple Singers.  Theirs was gospel with just a touch of country, a twist of the blues, little bit of funk.  There was a little bit of sin with the salvation.  (Laughter.)  And driven by Pops’ reverbed guitar, Mavis’ powerhouse vocals and the harmonies that only family can make, the Staple Singers broke new ground with songs like “Uncloudy Day.”  They had some truths to tell.  Inspired by Dr. King, Pops would tell his kids, “If he can preach it, we can sing it.”  And so they wrote anthems like “Freedom Highway,” and “When Will We Be Paid” — which became the soundtrack of the Civil Rights movement.

As a solo artist, Mavis has done it all and worked with just about everybody from Bob Dylan to Prince to Jeff Tweedy.  On albums like “We’ll Never Turn Back,” and “One True Vine,” she still is singing for justice and equality, and influencing a new generation of musicians and fans.  And each soulful note — even in heartbreak and even in despair -– is grounded in faith, and in hope, and the belief that there are better days yet to come.  “These aren’t just songs I’m singing to be moving my lips,” she says.  “I mean this.”  And we mean it too.  Six decades on, nobody makes us feel “the weight” like Mavis Staples.  Give her a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

Al Pacino calls the theater his “flashlight.”  It’s how he finds himself, where he sees truth.  And since Al first hit Broadway in 1969, his singular talent has been the gold standard for acting.

A great playwright once compared the way Al inhabits his characters to the way Louis Armstrong played jazz.  One director said that while “some actors play characters, Al Pacino becomes them.”  And we’ve all seen it.  In the span of five years — you think about it — he became Serpico, became Sonny Wortzik, twice became Michael Corleone for, let’s face it, what have got to be the two best movies of all time — (laughter) — became Tony Montana on screen, then became the owner of a couple of Tonys on stage.  And he’s always been this way.

At 13, Al committed so profoundly to a role in the school play that when his character was supposed to get sick on stage, Al actually got sick on stage.  (Laughter.)  I’m not sure how audiences felt about that.  (Laughter.)  Later, when he played Richard III and Jackie Kennedy visited him backstage, the actor playing the self-absorbed king didn’t even stand up to greet actual American royalty, which he says he still regrets.  (Laughter.)

Through it all, Al has always cared more for his “flashlight” than the spotlight.  He says he’s still getting used to the idea of being an icon.  But his gift, for all the inspiration and intensity that he brings to his roles, is that he lets us into what his characters are feeling.  And for that, we are extraordinarily grateful.  Al Pacino.  (Applause.)

In the late sixties, James Taylor got the chance to audition in front of Paul McCartney and George Harrison.  Ringo, I don’t know if you were there — but this is a true story.  (Laughter.)  “I was as nervous as a Chihuahua on methamphetamines” — (laughter) — is what James Taylor says.  Which is exactly the kind of metaphor that makes him such a brilliant songwriter.  (Laughter.)

But if James has a defining gift, it is empathy.  It’s why he’s been such a great friend to and Michelle and myself.  We’re so grateful to him and Kim for their friendship over the years. It’s why everybody from Carole King to Garth Brooks to Taylor Swift collaborates with him.  It’s what makes him among the most prolific and admired musicians of our time.  In fact, James recently went through all his songs and kept coming across the same stories — songs about fathers and traffic jams; love songs, recovery songs.  I really love this phrase:  “Hymns for agnostics.”  (Laughter.)  He says that in making music, “There’s the idea of comforting yourself.  There’s also the idea of taking something that’s untenable and internal and communicating it.”  And that’s why it feels like James is singing only to you when he sings.  It feels like he’s singing about your life.  The stories he tells and retells dwell on our most enduring and shared experiences.  “Carolina on My Mind” is about where you grew up, even if you didn’t grow up in Carolina.  “Mean Old Man” is probably somebody you know.  “Angels of Fenway” — well, actually, that’s just about the Red Sox.  So — (laughter) — if you’re a White Sox fan you don’t love that song, but it’s okay.  (Applause.)

James is the consummate truth-teller about a life that can leave us with more unresolved questions than satisfying answers, but holds so much beauty that you don’t mind.  And from his honesty about his own struggles with substance abuse to his decades of progressive activism, James Taylor has inspired people all over the world and helped America live up to our highest ideals.  Thank you, James Taylor.  (Applause.)

Without a preschool rivalry, we might not be honoring Martha Argerich.  The story goes that when Martha was two years old, a little boy taunted her, saying, “I bet you can’t play the piano!”  (Laughter.)  So she sat down at the keys, remembered a piece her teacher had played, and played it flawlessly.  By eight years old, she had made her concert debut.  By the time she was a teenager, she left her native Argentina to study in Vienna and won two major international competitions, launching one of the most storied and influential careers in classical music.  That little boy lost his bet.

Martha combines unparalleled technical prowess with passion and glittering musicianship.  From Bach to Schumann, she doesn’t just play the piano, she possesses it.  Martha can charge through a passage with astonishing power and speed and accuracy, and, in the same performance, uncover the delicate beauty in each note.  As a critic once wrote, “She is an unaffected interpreter whose native language is music.”

But what truly sets her apart and has cemented her place as one of the greatest pianists in modern history is her dogged commitment to her craft.  In an age of often superficial connections, where people too often seek fame and recognition, Martha has been guided by one passion, and that is fidelity to the music.  She can only be herself.  And that is the truest mark of an artist.  And the result is timeless, transcendent music for which we thank Martha Argerich.  (Applause.)

And finally, there have been some interesting things said about this next group, including being called “one of rock’s most contentiously dysfunctional families.”  (Laughter.)  So, yeah, it was unlikely that they’d ever get back together and that they called their reunion tour “Hell Freezes Over.”  (Laughter.)  I love that.  But here’s the thing — when you listen to the Eagles, you hear the exact opposite story, and that is perfect harmony.

You hear it in the crisp, overpowering a capella chords of “Seven Bridges Road”; dueling guitar solos in “Hotel California”; complex, funky riffs opening “Life in the Fast Lane.”  It’s the sound not just of a California band, but one of America’s signature bands — a supergroup whose greatest hits sold more copies in the United States than any other record in the 20th century.  And the 20th Century had some pretty good music.  (Laughter.)

So, here tonight, we have three of the Eagles:  Don Henley, the meticulous, introspective songwriter with an unmistakable voice that soars above his drum set.  Timothy Schmit, the bass player and topline of many of those harmonies.  And Joe Walsh, who’s as rowdy with a guitar lick as I’m told he once was in a hotel room.  (Laughter.)  Twice.  (Laughter.)  This is the White House, though.  (Laughter.)  And Michelle and I are about to leave.  As I’ve said before, we want to get our security deposit back.  (Laughter and applause.)

But, of course, the Eagles are also the one and only Glenn Frey.  And we all wish Glenn was still here with us.  We are deeply honored to be joined by his beautiful wife, Cindy, and their gorgeous children.  Because the truth is that these awards aren’t just about this reception or even the show we have this evening, which will be spectacular.  The Kennedy Center Honors are about folks who spent their lives calling on us to think a little harder, and feel a little deeper, and express ourselves a little more bravely, and maybe “take it easy” once in a while.  And that is Glenn Frey — the driving force behind a band that owned a decade, and did not stop there.  We are all familiar with his legacy.  And the music of the Eagles will always be woven into the fabric of our nation.

So we are extraordinarily honored to be able to give thanks for the Eagles.  And what’s true for them is true for all of tonight’s honorees:  remarkable individuals who have created the soundtrack to our own lives — on road trips, in jukebox diners; folks who have mesmerized us on a Saturday night out at the movies or at a concert hall.

Mavis Staples.  Al Pacino.  James Taylor.  Martha Argerich The Eagles.  Their legacies are measured not just in works of art, but the lives they’ve touched, and creating a stronger and more beautiful America.  They’re artists who have served our nation by serving their truth.  And we’re all better off for it.

So before we transport ourselves to what I’m sure will be a spectacular evening, please join me in saluting our extraordinary 2016 Kennedy Center Honorees.  (Applause.)

 

END                  5:44 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 1, 2016: Obamas Attend Last National Christmas Tree Lighting

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Full Text Political Transcripts November 29, 2016: First Lady Michelle Obama at the Annual Holiday Press Preview

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the First Lady at Annual Holiday Press Preview

Source: WH, 11-29-16

This year’s theme: The gift of service and sacrifice

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East Room

1:35 P.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Hi, everybody!  Look how good you guys look.  You ready for some action?

AUDIENCE:  Yes.

MRS. OBAMA:  Are you sure?  I don’t know, you sound like you don’t want cookies or anything like that.  (Laughter.)  You think you want some cookies?  You think so?  Okay, well, we’re going to get to it, but first I want to welcome everyone to the White House.

I want to start by thanking Hazel for that wonderful introduction and for all of her service and hard work in helping to make this home so beautiful.  I want to give a huge thank you to all of the volunteers, as Hazel mentioned, who traveled here from 33 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico to come here and put up these beautiful decorations and transform this White House into this holiday wonderland.  So I’m so grateful to you all.

And as we celebrate my family’s last holiday season in the White House, I’m thinking back to when we first came here to Washington and we promised to open up this house to as many people from as many backgrounds as possible.  And we truly wanted to make the White House the “People’s House,” particularly during the holiday seasons.  And over the past eight years, through the seasons, we’ve worked hard to achieve that goal by welcoming almost a half million guests to this house during the season.  And thanks to our amazing volunteers, we’ve adorned the White House with about a half million ornaments for our guests to enjoy, and we’ve brought smiles to the faces of all those who enjoyed the 200,000 holiday cookies prepared by our outstanding pastry chefs.  And you all will get to have some more of those today.  That will make 200,020 or so.

So, looking back, I am proud to say that we did our very best during the holidays to make Americans of all backgrounds and walks of life feel comfortable and welcome here in our nation’s house.  Now, we do all of this with the help of our extraordinary staff.  I mean, yes, we have wonderful volunteers, but we have folks who, each year, take a very limited budget and very little resources, and they make miracles happen in this house.

So, for our final holiday preview, I just want to take a moment to highlight just a few of the amazing folks who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes.  And I don’t know if they know I’m calling them out — I don’t even know if they’re in the room.  But I want to start with Deesha Dyer, who is the office — our Social Secretary.

MS. DYER:  I’m here.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Deesha, there you are.  There’s Deesha.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Deesha.  And you’re going to see Cris Comerford and Susie Morrison.  Cris is our Executive Chef and Susie is our Executive Pastry Chef.  I want to thank them both, as well as all of the chefs, all of the staff in the kitchen who worked so hard to do everything possible to make these holidays terrific.

I want to thank all of our ushers who never get credit.  I know they’re around here working away, but they’re the people who greet you, and they make sure that things are moving like they should in this house — our florists, who are tremendous.  And I rarely get to thank our electricians, our carpenters, because they make sure that chandeliers are moved and structures are built so that we can put things on, and they do this in a matter of days.  They turn this house upside down.  And to our calligraphers — you’ll see all their handiwork throughout the ornaments.  And I also always want to thank our incredible Marine Band, who you hear from throughout the season.  My husband’s favorite musical crew are his own Marine Band.

This is all possible because of all of these people.  And on behalf of the entire Obama family — me, Barack, Malia, Sasha, Grandma, Bo and Sunny — (laughter) — we are so proud of this team here, so proud of the time that we spent with you.  We’re grateful for everything you’ve done for us over the years.  So let’s give them a round of applause.  (Applause.)

So before I get choked up, let me officially kick off our final White House holiday season.  And as always, today, we are celebrating with our extraordinary military community, our military families.  We have our servicemembers.  We have veterans here today.  We have wounded warriors.  We have our military spouses!  (Applause.)  You go, spouses.  And of course, we have our outstanding, handsome, beautiful, smart, talented, engaging military kids.  Are there any here?  Oh here they are.  (Laughter.)  Let’s give them all a round of applause.  (Applause.)

For the past eight years, celebrating the holidays and having you all be the first that see the decorations, this has been one of our favorite White House traditions.  It reminds us that between all the shopping lists and the travel plans and all those big meals, that we cannot forget what the holidays are really about, and you all help us.  Our military families like all of you remind us of what matters.  Because even as you serve this country in uniform, or you hold everything together here at home as a military spouse, or you prepare to attend another new school as a military kid —

(A baby in the audience interrupts.)

MRS. OBAMA:  — and there’s that one back there talking about I don’t know what, but there’s a little one back there who has a lot to say.  (Laughter.)  But you all still find time to contribute even more to your communities and to this country.

You do it all.  You volunteer at local food banks.  You coach your kids’ sports teams on the weekends.  Many of you have even cut your Thanksgiving holiday short to come here and decorate the White House.

Just another example — we have Hazel up here — but one of our volunteers, her name is Jacqueline James.  She’s from Redlands, California.  Is Jacqueline here so we can really embarrass her?  She’s probably still working.  We’re going to do another reception for our volunteers later.  But let me tell you a little bit about Jacqueline.

During her husband’s 22 years in the Army, her family — she and her family, they spent the holidays in five different states and even on a base overseas.  During that time they managed to raise seven kids.  And just two weeks ago, they celebrated the birth of their fifteenth grandchild.  But their family’s service to this country did not end when Jacqueline’s husband retired, as they watched two of their sons do tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  And even though Jacqueline doesn’t consider herself the most artistic decorator, she volunteered at the White House this year because — and this is what she said — she said, “If patriotism is an art,” she said, “then I am a master.”

It’s that kind of commitment to serving others, that’s what the holidays are truly about and that’s what we honor with our holiday decorations every year at the White House.  And this year’s holiday theme is “The Gift of the Holidays.”  And as usual, we’re going to be celebrating our country’s greatest gifts with special decorations celebrating our military families.

Down in the Booksellers, when you walk in, the visitors that come will see a tree and a flag display composed of pictures of military families who my husband and I have met on bases and in communities around the world over the course of our time here.  The tree is hung with gold ornaments honoring America’s greatest heroes, the men and women who have given their lives for our country.  And right next to those displays is an iPad station that allows guests to send holiday wishes to our servicemembers, and we are hoping that each of the 68,000 guests that are going to visit during the holiday season will take a moment to pause and send a message to express their gratitude.

After that, they’ll move on to see a number of other decorations that celebrate the gifts we share as a nation.  For example, in the Library, we’re honoring the gift of a great education — which is important, right, school, college, all of that.  And we have trees in the Library made out of crayons and pencils, so you have to check that out if you haven’t already.  And to raise awareness about the millions of adolescent girls around the world who are not able to attend school, we’ve got two trees that are decorated with special ornaments, each of which has the word “girl” written in one of a dozen different languages.

So when guests head upstairs to this floor, they’re going to see that, in the Green Room, it’s filled with decorations representing the gifts provided by our White House Kitchen Garden with trees hung with ornaments in the shape of bees and fruit.  And of course, right next door, we have our 19-foot-tall White House Christmas tree.  It’s really big.  They have to take out the chandeliers and rearrange everything just to get the tree in the house.  And that’s in our Blue Room.  And in the State Dining Room, you’re going to spot the official White House gingerbread house.  So when you see it, guys, it’s made of all — everything on it is something you can eat.  And our pastry chefs have worked very hard to make this house possible.  It is beautiful.  They’ve got the replica of the new White House garden, and Bo and Sunny, and lots of cool stuff.

Now, the trees in that room — there are 56 LEGO gingerbread houses representing every state and territory in America.  And then somewhere around the house, we have supersize replicas of Bo and Sunny guarding their presents, because we don’t let them have their presents.  (Laughter.)  I’m just kidding, they get presents.  They’re fine.

Altogether, the folks who come through these halls over the next few weeks will see about — how many ornaments do you think are in this house?

CHILD:  Six.

MRS. OBAMA:  Six?  (Laughter.)  Ten?

CHILD:  A hundred.

MRS. OBAMA:  A hundred?  Getting closer.

CHILD:  Nine thousand.

MRS. OBAMA:  Nine thousand?

CHILD:  Two hundred.

MRS. OBAMA:  Let me tell you, it’s 70,000 ornaments.  I was pretty shocked at that.

So we can’t wait — that’s a lot of ornaments.  But we can’t wait to start welcoming people into their White House this holiday season.  And to everyone who created these stunning displays, all our volunteers, all our — all the folks who help make this happen, I want to once again say thank you.  You all did a phenomenal job once again in turning this house into a magical place.

And to all the military families, those of you who are here today and all those around the world, I want to once again honor you for your service and your sacrifice and your love of this nation.  It’s a lot that my family and I share along with you.  It has been such a complete pleasure to support you in this time.

So I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy holiday season, all right?  And with that, we get to have some fun, okay?  Are you guys ready — I’m just talking to the kids here.  (Laughter.)  You guys don’t get to have fun, but here’s what you get:  We will take your children from you for a moment.  (Laughter and applause.)  Don’t applaud too loudly.  They’re still here.  They can hear you.  (Laughter.)  And you can enjoy some cider and some cookies.

And you guys want to come with me?  We’ve got some surprises in the back, and your parents will be here.  We’ll try to bring them back in one piece.  I can’t guarantee that they will be neat.  (Laughter.)  There is dye and food color — sorry.  (Laughter.)  All of it is washable!

All right, you guys ready to come and join me?  You all, thank you all so much.  Come to the White House.  It’s really cool.  Take care.

END
1:47 P.M. EST

Politics November 25, 2016: First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes last Christmas tree of administration

HEADLINE NEWS

Headline_News

POLITICS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 25: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by her nephews Austin and Aaron Robinson and her dogs Bo and Sunny, receives the official White House Christmas tree at the North Portico of the White House November 25, 2016 in Washington, DC. The tree, a 19 feet tall Balsam fir, arrived at the White House on Friday and will be on display in the Blue Room during the holiday season. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 25: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by her nephews Austin and Aaron Robinson and her dogs Bo and Sunny, receives the official White House Christmas tree at the North Portico of the White House November 25, 2016 in Washington, DC. The tree, a 19 feet tall Balsam fir, arrived at the White House on Friday and will be on display in the Blue Room during the holiday season. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It is Christmastime at the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama received the day after Thanks giving Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, the last Christmas tree she will decorate at the White House of her husband President Barack Obama’s administration. Unlike the last seven years, Mrs. Obama was not joined by her daughters Malia and Sasha, who also skipped this year’s pardoning of the National Thanksgiving Turkey on Wednesday, Nov. 23. Instead, the Obamas are being joined this holiday season by their youngest nephews Austin and Aaron Robinson. Along with her nephews the Obamas dogs, Bo and Sunny tagged along.

This year’s winning White House Christmas tree is “a 19-foot Balsam-Veitch fir cross. The tree’s growers are Dave and Mary Vander Velden of the Whispering Pines Tree Farm in Oconto, Wisconsin the winners of this year’s National Christmas Tree Association contest. The Association has picked the tree since 1966.

CNN reported that the Vander Veldens’s tree did not grow as large as the official tree needs to be and will be placed somewhere else within the White House decorations, and instead a tree donated from a Pennsylvania farm will be used as the official tree adorning the Blue Room of the White House. The Vander Veldens presented the tree to the First Lady at the White House’s north portico after it arrived in the traditional horse-drawn carriage. The carriage had jingle bells, while “a four-piece military band played “O Christmas Tree.”

When Mrs. Obama received the tree, she asked her nephews, “What do you think?” and then joked about her holiday substitutes, “These are our replacement kids. This is what happens when you get teenagers. One is asleep – these two are up.” The First Lady enthusiastically concluded, “Christmas begins. The holiday starts! We’re ready – our last one. We’re excited about it.”

As the First Lady looked over the tree, she said, “This is the easiest part of the holiday season.” For the entire weekend the White House staff will be decorating the executive mansion for the holidays, on Tuesday, Nov. 29 Michelle presents the finished product to the press and public. Then Thursday, Dec. 1, the Obama’s will light the National Christmas Tree in the Ellipse.

Full Text Political Transcripts November 24, 2016: President-elect Donald Trump’s Thanksgiving message

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION:

President-elect Donald Trump’s Thanksgiving message

Source: Transition2017, 11-24-16

President-elect Donald J. Trump asks everyone to join together under the shared resolve to Make America Great Again for all people.

Full Text Political Transcripts November 24, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Coming Together On Thanksgiving

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Coming Together On Thanksgiving

Source: WH, 11-24-16

Remarks of President Barack Obama as Delivered
Weekly Address
The White House
November 24, 2016

Hi, everybody.  On behalf of the Obama family – Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Grandma, Bo, and Sunny – I want to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.  Like so many of you, we’ll spend the day with friends and family, turkey and touchdowns.  We’ll give thanks for each other, and for all that God has given us.  And we’ll reflect on what truly binds us as Americans.

That’s never been more important.  As a country, we’ve just emerged from a noisy, passionate, and sometimes divisive campaign season. After all, elections are often where we emphasize what sets us apart.  We face off in a contest of “us” versus “them.”  We focus on the candidate we support instead of some of the ideals we share.

But a few short weeks later, Thanksgiving reminds us that no matter our differences, we are still one people, part of something bigger than ourselves.  We are communities that move forward together.  We are neighbors who look out for one another, especially those among us with the least. We are always, simply, Americans.

That’s why, through the fog of Civil War, President Lincoln saw what mattered most – the unalienable truths for which so many gave their lives, and which made possible “a new birth of freedom.”  And so precisely when the fate of the Union hung in the balance, he boldly proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving, when the nation’s gifts “should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.”

Today, we continue to give thanks for those blessings, and to all who ensured that they would be our inheritance. We remember the determined patriots who landed at the edge of the world in search of freedom.  We give thanks to the brave men and women who defend that freedom in every corner of the world.  And we honor all people – from the First Americans to our newest arrivals – who continue to shape our nation’s story, enrich our heritage, and give meaning to our founding values, values we must never take for granted.  That in America, we are bound not by any one race or religion, but rather an adherence to a common belief – that all of us are created equal.  That we may think, worship, and speak, and love as we please.  That the gift of democracy is ours, and ours alone, to nurture and protect.

Never doubt, that is what makes us American – not where we come from, what we look like, or what faith we practice, but the ideals to which we pledge our allegiance.  It’s about our capacity to live up to the creed as old as our founding: “E Pluribus Unum” – that out of many, we are one.  And as long as we continue to welcome the contributions of all people, as long as we stand up for each other, speak out for what is right, and stay true to these ideals – not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard – then no one can ever take away our liberty.  Our best days will always be ahead.  And we will keep building a future where all of our children know the promise of America.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

###

Full Text Political Transcripts November 23, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Final Pardoning of the National Thanksgiving Turkey

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Pardoning of the National Thanksgiving Turkey

Source: WH, 11-22-16

President Barack Obama and nephews Austin and Aaron Robinson watch National Thanksgiving Turkey Tater flap during the pardon of the National Thanksgiving Turkey ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House, Nov. 23, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Barack Obama and nephews Austin and Aaron Robinson watch National Thanksgiving Turkey Tater flap during the pardon of the National Thanksgiving Turkey ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House, Nov. 23, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

2:42 P.M. EST

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

For generations, Presidents have faithfully executed two great American traditions:  issuing a proclamation that sets aside a Thursday in November for us to express gratitude, and granting pardons that reflect our beliefs in second chances.  And this week, we do both.  (Laughter.)

Of course, Thanksgiving is a family holiday as much as a national one.  So for the past seven years, I’ve established another tradition:  embarrassing my daughters with a “corny-copia” of dad jokes about turkeys.  (Laughter.)  This year, they had a scheduling conflict.  (Laughter.)  Actually, they just couldn’t take my jokes anymore.  (Laughter.)  They were fed up.

AUDIENCE:  Oooooh —

THE PRESIDENT:  Fortunately, I have by my side here today two of my nephews — Austin and Aaron Robinson — who, unlike Malia and Sasha, have not yet been turned cynical by Washington. (Laughter.)  They still believe in bad puns.  They still appreciate the grandeur of this occasion.  They still have hope. (Laughter.)

Malia and Sasha, by the way, are thankful that this is my final presidential turkey pardon.  What I haven’t told them yet is that we are going to do this every year from now on.  (Laughter.)  No cameras.  Just us.  Every year.  No way I’m cutting this habit cold turkey.  (Laughter and applause.)

Good one.  That was pretty funny.  (Laughter.)

Thanksgiving is a chance — (laughter) — to gather with loved ones, reflect on our many blessings, and, after a long campaign season, finally turn our attention from polls to poultry.  This year, we’re honored to be joined by two of the lucky ones, who were raised by the Domino family in Iowa:  Tater and Tot.

Now, Tater is here in a backup role, just in case Tot can’t fulfill his duties.  So he’s sort of like the Vice Turkey.  We’re working on getting him a pair of aviator glasses.  (Laughter.)

And it is my great privilege — well, it’s my privilege –actually, let’s just say it’s my job — (laughter) — to grant them clemency this afternoon.  As I do, I want to take a moment to recognize the brave turkeys who weren’t so lucky, who didn’t get to ride the gravy train to freedom — (laughter) — who met their fate with courage and sacrifice — and proved that they weren’t chicken.  (Laughter.)

(Baby cries.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, it’s not that bad.  Now, come one.  (Laughter.)

Of course, we have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  Six straight years of job creation — the longest streak ever.  Low unemployment.  Wages are rising again.  Inequality is narrowing.  The housing market is healing.  The stock market has nearly tripled.  Our high school graduation rate is at an all-time high.  And our uninsured rate is at an all-time low, thanks to the 20 million more Americans, including millions of children, who finally know the security of health insurance.  (Applause.)   That’s worth gobbling about.  (Laughter.)

Proud families across the country are finally complete now that marriage equality is the law of the land.  And there are many families of servicemembers who had empty chairs at the table in recent years but who on this Thanksgiving can celebrate with our brave troops and veterans who we’ve welcomed home.

Thanksgiving is also a reminder of the source of our national strength — that out of many, we are one; that we’re bound not by any one race or religion, but rather by an adherence to a common creed, that all of us are created equal.  And while accepting our differences and building a diverse society has never been easy, it has never been more important.  We are a people that look out for one another and get each other’s backs. We keep moving forward, defined by values and ideals that have been a light to all humanity.

We have to see ourselves in each other because we’ve all got families we love, and we all have hopes for their better future. And we lose sight of that sometimes, and Thanksgiving is a good time for us to remember that.  We have a lot more in common than divides us.

The holidays are also a time when it’s even more important to reach out to those who need a helping hand.  I believe we’re judged by how we care for the poor and the vulnerable, the sick and the elderly, the immigrant, the refugee, everybody who’s trying to get a second chance.  I believe that in order to truly live up to those ideals we have to continually fight discrimination in all its forms and always show the world that America is a generous and giving country.

We should also make sure everyone has something to eat on Thanksgiving — of course, except the turkeys, because they’re already stuffed.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE:  Ooooh —

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughter.)  So, later today, the Obama family will participate in our traditional Thanksgiving service project.  And when somebody at your table tells you that you’ve been hogging all the side dishes and you can’t have any more, I hope you respond with a creed that sums up the spirit of a hungry people:  Yes, We Cran.  (Laughter.)  That was good.  (Laughter.) You don’t think that’s funny?  Look, I know there are some bad ones in here, but this is the last time I’m doing this, so we’re not leaving any room for leftovers.  (Laughter.)

Let me just say — how am I doing?  Good?  Thumbs up?

Let me just say one last thing before I spare these turkeys’ lives.  On this Thanksgiving, I want to express my sincere gratitude to the American people for the trust that you’ve placed in me over these last eight years and the incredible kindness that you’ve shown my family.  On behalf of Michelle, and my mother-in-law, and our girls, we want to thank you so very, very much.

And now, from the Rose Garden, Tater and Tot will go to their new home at Virginia Tech — which is admittedly a bit Hokie.  (Laughter.)  They’ll get to live out their natural lives at a new facility called Gobblers Rest, where students and veterinarians will care for them.  And so let’s get on with the pardoning because it’s Wednesday afternoon and everyone knows that Thanksgiving traffic can put people in a “fowl” mood.

AUDIENCE:  Ooooh —

THE PRESIDENT:  Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.  Let’s go pardon these turkeys.  (Applause.)

END
2:51 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts October 31, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Halloween Event

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Halloween Event

Source: WH, 10-31-17

East Room

4:36 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Happy Halloween, everybody! (Applause.) Trick or treat. Well, it is great to see all of you guys. Your costumes are outstanding. Young man, no selfies in the middle of me talking. (Laughter.) And, Darth Vader, back up a little bit. I’m getting spooked. (Laughter.)

So we just want to say to all the families, all the kids, it is great to see you guys and we hope you have a great time today. You guys all look scary, or cool, or whatever you’re trying to be. (Laughter.) Awesome. Many of you look awesome. And we hope you have a great time. We hope, parents, that on this day at least, you don’t have to pay attention to Michelle and healthy eating. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Candy for everybody. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: And in fact, the more candy, the later you eat the candy, the better. (Laughter.) Because I think that you being up all night with a sugar rush is exactly what your parents are looking for. (Laughter.)

All right. So we hope you guys have a great time. And to the staff who are here, thank you, guys. I’m glad you guys took a little break from all the outstanding work. (Applause.)

And now, my understanding is, is that we’ve been working on a little dance. We don’t know how it’s going to go, but we think we should all just try it anyway. What do you think?

AUDIENCE: Yes!

THE PRESIDENT: Yes — don’t you think? All right. So who’s got the music? Let’s cue it up. Everybody get ready. (Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is played.)

END
4:37 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts May 30, 2016: President Barack Obama Remarks on Memorial Day 2016 at Arlington Cemetery

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Memorial Day, 2016

Source: WH, 5-30-16

Arlington Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:31 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning.

THE PRESIDENT:  Secretary Carter, General Dunford, Mr. Hallinan, Major General Becker, members of our Armed Forces, veterans, and most of all, our Gold Star families:  I’m honored to be with you once again as we pay our respects, as Americans, to those who gave their lives for us all.

Here, at Arlington, the deafening sounds of combat have given way to the silence of these sacred hills.  The chaos and confusion of battle has yielded to perfect, precise rows of peace.  The Americans who rest here, and their families — the best of us, those from whom we asked everything — ask of us today only one thing in return:  that we remember them.

If you look closely at the white markers that grace these hills, one thing you’ll notice is that so many of the years — dates of birth and dates of death — are so close together.  They belong to young Americans; those who never lived to be honored as veterans for their service — men who battled their own brothers in Civil War, those who fought as a band of brothers an ocean away, men and women who redefine heroism for a new generation.  There are generals buried beside privates they led.  Americans known as “Dad” or “Mom.”  Some only known to God.  As Mr. Hallinan, a Marine who then watched over these grounds has said, “everyone here is someone’s hero.”

Those who rest beneath this silence — not only here at Arlington, but at veterans’ cemeteries across our country and around the world, and all who still remain missing — they didn’t speak the loudest about their patriotism.  They let their actions do that.  Whether they stood up in times of war, signed up in times of peace, or were called up by a draft board, they embodied the best of America.

As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than leading our men and women in uniform; I have no more solemn obligation sending them into harm’s way.  I think about this every time I approve an operation as President.  Every time, as a husband and father, that I sign a condolence letter.  Every time Michelle and I sit at the bedside of a wounded warrior or grieve and hug members of a Gold Star Family.

Less than one percent of our nation wears the uniform, and so few Americans sees this patriotism with their own eyes or knows someone who exemplifies it.  But every day, there are American families who pray for the sound of a familiar voice when the phone rings.  For the sound of a loved one’s letter or email arriving.  More than one million times in our history, it didn’t come.  And instead, a car pulled up to the house.  And there was a knock on the front door.  And the sounds of Taps floated through a cemetery’s trees.

For us, the living — those of us who still have a voice — it is our responsibility, our obligation, to fill that silence with our love and our support and our gratitude — and not just with our words, but with our actions.  For truly remembering, and truly honoring these fallen Americans means being there for their parents, and their spouses, and their children — like the boys and girls here today, wearing red shirts and bearing photos of the fallen.  Your moms and dads would be so proud of you.  And we are, too.

Truly remembering means that after our fallen heroes gave everything to get their battle buddies home, we have to make sure our veterans get everything that they have earned, from good health care to a good job.  And we have to do better; our work is never done.  We have to be there not only when we need them, but when they need us.

Thirty days before he would be laid to rest a short walk from here, President Kennedy told us that a nation reveals itself not only by the people it produces, but by those it remembers.  Not everyone will serve.  Not everyone will visit this national sanctuary.  But we remember our best in every corner of our country from which they came.  We remember them by teaching our children at schools with fallen heroes’ names, like Dorie Miller Elementary in San Antonio.  Or being good neighbors in communities named after great generals, like McPherson, Kansas.  Or when we walk down 1st Sgt. Bobby Mendez Way in Brooklyn, or drive across the Hoover Dam on a bridge that bears Pat Tillman’s name.

We reveal ourselves in our words and deeds, but also by the simple act of listening.  My fellow Americans, today and every day, listen to the stories these Gold Star families and veterans have to tell.  Ask about who he or she was, why they volunteered. Hear from those who loved them about what their smile looked like, and their laugh sounded like, and the dreams they had for their lives.

Since we gathered here one year ago, more than 20 brave Americans have given their lives for the security of our people in Afghanistan.  We pray for them all, and for their families.  In Iraq, in our fight against ISIL, three Americans have given their lives in combat on our behalf.  And today, I ask you to remember their stories, as well.

Charles Keating, IV — Charlie, or Chuck, or “C-4” — was born into a family of veterans, All-American athletes and Olympians — even a Gold Medalist.  So, naturally, Charlie, and the love of his life, Brooke, celebrated their anniversary on the Fourth of July.  She called him the “huge goofball” everybody wanted to be friends with — the adventurer who surfed and spearfished and planned to sail around the world.

When the Twin Towers fell, he was in high school, and he decided to enlist — joined the SEALs because, he told his friends, it was the hardest thing to do.  He deployed to Afghanistan and three times to Iraq, earning a Bronze Star for valor.  Earlier this month, while assisting local forces in Iraq who had come under attack, he gave his life.

A few days later, one of his platoon mates sent Charlie’s parents a letter from Iraq.  “Please tell everyone Chuck saved a lot of lives today,” it said.  He left us, “with that big signature smile on his handsome face, as always.  Chuck was full of aloha, but was also a ferocious warrior.”  Today, we honor Chief Special Warfare Officer Charles Keating IV.

Louis Cardin was the sixth of seven children, a Californian with an infectious wit who always had a joke at the ready to help someone get through a tough time.  When his siblings ran around the house as kids, his mom, Pat, would yell after them:  “Watch that baby’s safety margin!”  Today, she realizes that what she was really doing was raising a Marine.  As a teenager, he proudly signed up.  Louie graduated high school on a Friday.  Three days later, on Monday morning, the Marines came to pick him up.  That was 10 years ago.  One morning this March, a Marine knocked on his mother’s door again.  On his fifth tour, at a fire base in Iraq, Louie gave his life while protecting the Marines under his command.

Putting others before himself was what Louie did best.  He chose to live in the barracks with his buddies even when he could have taken a house off base.  He volunteered to babysit for friends who needed a date night.  He’d just earned a promotion to mentor his fellow Marines.  When they brought Louie home, hundreds of strangers lined freeway overpasses and the streets of Southern California to salute him.  And today, we salute Staff Sergeant Louis Cardin.  (Applause.)

Joshua Wheeler’s sister says he was “exactly what was right about this world.  He came from nothing and he really made something of himself.”  As a kid, Josh was the one who made sure his brother and four half-sisters were dressed and fed and off to school.  When there wasn’t food in the cupboard, he grabbed his hunting rifle and came back with a deer for dinner.  When his country needed him, he enlisted in the Army at age 19.

He deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan — 14 times; earned 11 Bronze Stars, four for valor.  Last October, as ISIL terrorists prepared to execute 70 hostages, Josh and his fellow Special Ops went in and rescued them.  Every single one walked free.  “We were already dead,” one of the hostages said, “then God sent us a force from the sky.”  That force was the U.S. Army, including Josh Wheeler.

Josh was the doting dad who wrote notes to his kids in the stacks of books he read.  Flying home last summer to be with his wife, Ashley, who was about to give birth, he scribbled one note in the novel he was reading, just to tell his unborn son he was on his way.  Ashley Wheeler is with us here today, holding their 10-month-old son, David.  (Applause.)  Ashley says Josh’s memory makes her think about how can she be a better citizen.  And she hopes it’s what other people think about, too.  Today, this husband and father rests here, in Arlington, in Section 60.  And as Americans, we resolve to be better — better people, better citizens, because of Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler.

A nation reveals itself not only by the people it produces, but by those it remembers.  We do so not just by hoisting a flag, but by lifting up our neighbors.  Not just by pausing in silence, but by practicing in our own lives the ideals of opportunity and liberty and equality that they fought for.  We can serve others, and contribute to the causes they believed in, and above all, keep their stories alive so that one day, when he grows up and thinks of his dad, an American like David Wheeler can tell them, as well, the stories of the lives that others gave for all of us.

We are so proud of them.  We are so grateful for their sacrifice.  We are so thankful to those families of the fallen.  May God bless our fallen and their families.  May He bless all of you.  And may He forever bless these United States of America.  (Applause.)

END                 11:45 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts March 28, 2016: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at the 2016 Easter Egg Roll

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and First Lady at the 2016 Easter Egg Roll

Source: WH, 3-28-16

 

South Lawn

10:41 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  How’s everybody doing today?  (Applause.)  Happy Easter!  You guys brought the sun out, so we appreciate that so much.  This is always one of our favorite events of the year.  It’s so much fun.  And I don’t want to talk too long, but I do want to make sure that everybody thanks our outstanding Marine band, who does such a great job.  (Applause.)  I want to thank all the volunteers who have helped to make this day possible.  Give them a huge round of applause.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama!  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Yay!  Thank you, honey.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

MRS. OBAMA:  Here, you take Sunny.  Hi, everybody!  (Applause.)  Happy Easter Egg Roll Day!  Are you all having a good time?

AUDIENCE:  Yeah!

MRS. OBAMA:  It is going to be perfect weather.  The sun is coming out, which is always a great omen for the day.  We’re just thrilled to have you all here.  Today is a little bit bittersweet for us, because this is the Obama administration’s last Easter Egg Roll.

AUDIENCE:  Aww —

MRS. OBAMA:  Yes.  And if we think about what we’ve accomplished over these past seven years, it’s pretty incredible.  Because when Barack and I first got here, one of the goals that we had was to open up the White House to as many people from as many backgrounds as possible.  So open it up to our kids, to our musicians, to explore our culture, to expose families to healthy living, and to just have a lot of fun.

THE PRESIDENT:  And our military families.

MRS. OBAMA:  And also to our military families.  I’ve got the peanut crew back here reminding me of stuff.  But we can’t forget all of our military families, who we love, honor and respect, for their service and sacrifice.  (Applause.)

And since we started having Easter Egg Rolls, we’ve had more than 250,000 people come to this lawn every year.  It’s been amazing.  Today we’re going to have 35,000 people who will come in and out of the South Lawn over the course of the day.  And we couldn’t be more excited for this last Easter Egg Roll.  We have danced.  We have done yoga.  We’ve got our Soul Cyclers here.  We’ve got some tremendous athletes and entertainers and artists who are going to read and play games with you all.  We’ve got a little “whip” and a little “nae nae” — or however you do it.  (Laughter.)  Something like that.

So we just want you to have fun.  And the theme this year in our final year is pretty simple.  It’s:  Let’s celebrate.  Let’s celebrate all the good work that we’ve done, all the great messaging we’ve had.  All the amazing change that we’ve seen in this country.  And we want to celebrate our families.  We want to celebrate our nation — everything that makes us strong.  It’s our diversity, it’s our values.  That’s what makes us strong.

And me and this President, we have been honored to be here as your President and First Lady to be able to host you in our backyard every single year.  So I hope you guys have a terrific time.  We’re going to be out there doing a little egg-rolling.  We’re going to have a fun-run today.  I’m going to be running around the White House with a bunch of kids — and any adults who feel like they can hang.  (Laughter.)  You guys can run along with me.  Don’t feel shy.

So just have a good time.  And just know that we love you.  We love you all, and we’re grateful for the love and support that you’ve shown us all these years.  So thank you all.

THE PRESIDENT:  Happy Easter, everybody!

MRS. OBAMA:  Happy Easter!  (Applause.)  Let’s celebrate!

END
10:45 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 23, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Persecuted Christians at Christmas

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Persecuted Christians at Christmas

Source: WH, 12-23-15

During this season of Advent, Christians in the United States and around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  At this time, those of us fortunate enough to live in countries that honor the birthright of all people to practice their faith freely give thanks for that blessing.  Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.

In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL.

We join with people around the world in praying for God’s protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations.  As the old Christmas carol reminds us:

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 6, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Hanukkah

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Hanukkah

Source: WH, 12-6-15

Tonight, Jews in America, Israel, and around the world come together to light the first candle of the Festival of Lights. At its heart, Hanukkah is about the struggle for justice in the face of overwhelming obstacles. It’s a chance to reflect on the triumph of liberty over tyranny, the rejection of persecution, and on the miracles that can happen even in our darkest hours. It renews our commitment as Americans – as people who live by faith and conscience – to lead the way and act as unyielding advocates for the fundamental dignity of every human being.

During these eight days, let us be inspired by the light that can overcome darkness. As we recall the Maccabees’ struggle to free a people from oppression, let us rededicate ourselves to being the engine of the miracles we seek. May the lights of the menorah brighten your home and warm your heart, and from my family to yours, Chag Sameach.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 3, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Lighting of National Christmas Tree

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Lighting of National Christmas Tree

Source: WH, 12-3-15

Ellipse

6:06 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:   Merry Christmas everybody!  Thank you, Betty, for that introduction, for your extraordinary service as one of our park rangers, and for all of your –- and your great-grandmother’s -– contributions to this country.  Please give Betty a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  I want tips from Betty on how I can look that good at 94.  (Applause.)

I also want to thank Betty’s boss, Jonathan Jarvis, and for everybody from the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation for everything that they do to protect and care for America’s great outdoors –- and for helping us “find our park” this year and every year.  And thank you to Reese Witherspoon and each of tonight’s outstanding performers.  (Applause.)

Now, this is, of course, the most wonderful time of the year.  But we would be remiss not to take a moment to remember our fellow Americans whose hearts are heavy tonight –- who grieve for loved ones, especially in San Bernardino, California.  Their loss is our loss, too, for we’re all one American family.  We look out for each other in good times, and in bad.  And they should know that all of us care about them this holiday season.  They’re in our thoughts, they’re in our prayers, and we send them our love.  (Applause.)

Now, this is the 93rd time Americans have gathered by the White House to light the National Christmas Tree.  And as always, this tree is not alone -– all across America, in living rooms, and offices, churches, and town squares, families and neighbors are gathering to decorate trees of their own and get into the holiday spirit.  It’s a chance to come together and to focus on what really matters –- the simple gifts of family and friends.  The wonder and hope in a child’s eye.  And, of course, the spirit of giving and compassion that can help all of us find new meaning in the world around us.
That’s the message of the child whose birth families like mine celebrate on Christmas -– a prince born in a stable who taught us that we should love our neighbors as ourselves; and that we are our brothers’ keeper and our sisters’ keepers; that we should feed the hungry, visit the sick, welcome the stranger.  These are the lessons of Jesus Christ.  But they’re also the bedrock values of all faiths –- values to be cherished and embraced not only during the holidays, but to be practiced in our daily lives.

So during this holiday season, let’s come together as brothers and sisters around the humanity that we share.  Let’s reach out to those who can use a hand.  Let’s summon the spirit of togetherness that’s always helped to kindle America’s shining example to the world.  And let’s keep in our prayers those Americans who protect that ideal, especially those stationed far from home during the holidays.  Our men and women in uniform and their families sacrifice so much for us.  And it’s because of them that we can celebrate freely, that we can worship as we please, that we can come together on a night like this -– strong, and united, and free.

So on behalf of Michelle, and Malia, and Sasha, and Grandma, and Bo and Sunny, happy holiday to all of you.  (Applause.)  May God bless you all, and may God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
6:11 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: Pope Francis’s Speech to the UN General Assembly Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS:

Transcript: Pope Francis’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly

Source: WaPo, 9-25-15

The following is the prepared text of Pope Francis’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly, delivered Friday in New York. 

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your kind words. Once again, following a tradition by which I feel honored, the Secretary General of the United Nations has invited the Pope to address this distinguished assembly of nations. In my own name, and that of the entire Catholic community, I wish to express to you, Mr Ban Ki-moon, my heartfelt gratitude. I greet the Heads of State and Heads of Government present, as well as the ambassadors, diplomats and political and technical officials accompanying them, the personnel of the United Nations engaged in this 70th Session of the General Assembly, the personnel of the various programs and agencies of the United Nations family, and all those who, in one way or another, take part in this meeting. Through you, I also greet the citizens of all the nations represented in this hall. I thank you, each and all, for your efforts in the service of mankind.

This is the fifth time that a Pope has visited the United Nations. I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors Paul VI, in1965, John Paul II, in 1979 and 1995, and my most recent predecessor, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in 2008. All of them expressed their great esteem for the Organization, which they considered the appropriate juridical and political response to this present moment of history, marked by our technical ability to overcome distances and frontiers and, apparently, to overcome all natural limits to the exercise of power. An essential response, inasmuch as technological power, in the hands of nationalistic or falsely universalist ideologies, is capable of perpetrating tremendous atrocities. I can only reiterate the appreciation expressed by my predecessors, in reaffirming the importance which the Catholic Church attaches to this Institution and the hope which she places in its activities.

The United Nations is presently celebrating its seventieth anniversary. The history of this organized community of states is one of important common achievements over a period of unusually fast-paced changes. Without claiming to be exhaustive, we can mention the codification and development of international law, the establishment of international norms regarding human rights, advances in humanitarian law, the resolution of numerous conflicts, operations of peace-keeping and reconciliation, and any number of other accomplishments in every area of international activity and endeavour. All these achievements are lights which help to dispel the darkness of the disorder caused by unrestrained ambitions and collective forms of selfishness. Certainly, many grave problems remain to be resolved, yet it is clear that, without all those interventions on the international level, mankind would not have been able to survive the unchecked use of its own possibilities. Every one of these political, juridical and technical advances is a path towards attaining the ideal of human fraternity and a means for its greater realization.

For this reason I pay homage to all those men and women whose loyalty and self-sacrifice have benefitted humanity as a whole in these past seventy years. In particular, I would recall today those who gave their lives for peace and reconciliation among peoples, from Dag Hammarskjöld to the many United Nations officials at every level who have been killed in the course of humanitarian missions, and missions of peace and reconciliation.

Beyond these achievements, the experience of the past seventy years has made it clear that reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes. The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises. This will help limit every kind of abuse or usury, especially where developing countries are concerned. The International Financial Agencies are should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.

The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity. In this context, it is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself. To give to each his own, to cite the classic definition of justice, means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings. The effective distribution of power (political, economic, defense-related, technological, etc.) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power. Yet today’s world presents us with many false rights and – at the same time – broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power badly exercised: for example, the natural environment and the vast ranks of the excluded. These sectors are closely interconnected and made increasingly fragile by dominant political and economic relationships. That is why their rights must be forcefully affirmed, by working to protect the environment and by putting an end to exclusion.

First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity. Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).

The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste”.

The dramatic reality this whole situation of exclusion and inequality, with its evident effects, has led me, in union with the entire Christian people and many others, to take stock of my grave responsibility in this regard and to speak out, together with all those who are seeking urgently-needed and effective solutions. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope. I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climatic Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements.

Solemn commitments, however, are not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions. The classic definition of justice which I mentioned earlier contains as one of its essential elements a constant and perpetual will: Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius sum cuique tribuendi. Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime. Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.

The number and complexity of the problems require that we possess technical instruments of verification. But this involves two risks. We can rest content with the bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals – goals, objectives and statistical indicators – or we can think that a single theoretical and aprioristic solution will provide an answer to all the challenges. It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programmes, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.

To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc. This presupposes and requires the right to education – also for girls (excluded in certain places) – which is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children. Education conceived in this way is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for reclaiming the environment.

At the same time, government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development. In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labour, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.

For all this, the simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new Agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education. These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life and, more generally, what we could call the right to existence of human nature itself.

The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species. The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power, must serve as a summons to a forthright reflection on man: “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature” (BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bundestag, 22 September 2011, cited in Laudato Si’, 6). Creation is compromised “where we ourselves have the final word… The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves” (ID. Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008, cited ibid.). Consequently, the defence of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman (cf. Laudato Si’, 155), and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. ibid., 123, 136).

Without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development, the ideal of “saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (Charter of the United Nations, Preamble), and “promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (ibid.), risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or, even worse, idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.

War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.

To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm. The experience of these seventy years since the founding of the United Nations in general, and in particular the experience of these first fifteen years of the third millennium, reveal both the effectiveness of the full application of international norms and the ineffectiveness of their lack of enforcement. When the Charter of the United Nations is respected and applied with transparency and sincerity, and without ulterior motives, as an obligatory reference point of justice and not as a means of masking spurious intentions, peaceful results will be obtained. When, on the other hand, the norm is considered simply as an instrument to be used whenever it proves favourable, and to be avoided when it is not, a true Pandora’s box is opened, releasing uncontrollable forces which gravely harm defenseless populations, the cultural milieu and even the biological environment.

The Preamble and the first Article of the Charter of the United Nations set forth the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between the nations. Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass distraction, such as nuclear weapons. An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as “nations united by fear and distrust”. There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the non-proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.

The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy. I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.

In this sense, hard evidence is not lacking of the negative effects of military and political interventions which are not coordinated between members of the international community. For this reason, while regretting to have to do so, I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.

These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs. Not only in cases of religious or cultural persecution, but in every situation of conflict, as in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan and the Great Lakes region, real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be. In wars and conflicts there are individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls who weep, suffer and die. Human beings who are easily discarded when our only response is to draw up lists of problems, strategies and disagreements.

As I wrote in my letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 9 August 2014, “the most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities” and to protect innocent peoples.

Along the same lines I would mention another kind of conflict which is not always so open, yet is silently killing millions of people. Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies as a result of the narcotics trade. A war which is taken for granted and poorly fought. Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption. A corruption which has penetrated to different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life, and, in many cases, has given rise to a parallel structure which threatens the credibility of our institutions.

I began this speech recalling the visits of my predecessors. I would hope that my words will be taken above all as a continuation of the final words of the address of Pope Paul VI; although spoken almost exactly fifty years ago, they remain ever timely. “The hour has come when a pause, a moment of recollection, reflection, even of prayer, is absolutely needed so that we may think back over our common origin, our history, our common destiny. The appeal to the moral conscience of man has never been as necessary as it is today… For the danger comes neither from progress nor from science; if these are used well, they can help to solve a great number of the serious problems besetting mankind (Address to the United Nations Organization, 4 October 1965). Among other things, human genius, well applied, will surely help to meet the grave challenges of ecological deterioration and of exclusion. As Paul VI said: “The real danger comes from man, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests” (ibid.).

The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.

Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one which accepts transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful élite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good. To repeat the words of Paul VI, “the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it” (ibid.).

El Gaucho Martín Fierro, a classic of literature in my native land, says: “Brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law; keep a true bond between you always, at every time – because if you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured by those outside”.

The contemporary world, so apparently connected, is experiencing a growing and steady social fragmentation, which places at risk “the foundations of social life” and consequently leads to “battles over conflicting interests” (Laudato Si’, 229).

The present time invites us to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society, so as to bear fruit in significant and positive historical events (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 223). We cannot permit ourselves to postpone “certain agendas” for the future. The future demands of us critical and global decisions in the face of world-wide conflicts which increase the number of the excluded and those in need.

The praiseworthy international juridical framework of the United Nations Organization and of all its activities, like any other human endeavour, can be improved, yet it remains necessary; at the same time it can be the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations. And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good. I pray to Almighty God that this will be the case, and I assure you of my support and my prayers, and the support and prayers of all the faithful of the Catholic Church, that this Institution, all its member States, and each of its officials, will always render an effective service to mankind, a service respectful of diversity and capable of bringing out, for sake of the common good, the best in each people and in every individual.

Upon all of you, and the peoples you represent, I invoke the blessing of the Most High, and all peace and prosperity. Thank you.

Full Text Political Transcripts September 24, 2015: Pope Francis’ Address to Congress Transcript

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Transcript: Pope Francis’s speech to Congress

Source: WaPo, 9-24-15

The following is the prepared text of Pope Francis’s address to a joint meeting of Congress, delivered Thursday in Washington. (Follow our liveblog for the latest)

Mr. Vice-President,

Mr. Speaker,

Honorable Members of Congress,

Dear Friends,

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.

I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.

My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful

source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (ibid., 3). “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (ibid., 14).

In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

Four representatives of the American people.

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems

are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America!

Full Text Political Transcripts September 24, 2015: Speaker John Boehner’s Statement upon meeting Pope Francis before his address to Congress

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WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today welcomed Pope Francis to the United States Capitol, where he became the first Pope to ever address a joint meeting of Congress.  After the Pope’s visit, Boehner issued the following statement:

“What a day.  What a moment for our country.  I’m so proud that so many came to greet the Pope here at our Capitol, the world’s greatest symbol of democracy.  The Holy Father’s visit is surely a blessing for all of us.  With great blessings, of course, come great responsibility.  Let us all go forth with gratitude and reflect on how we can better serve one another.  Let us all go forth and live up to the words, God bless America.”

Full Text Political Transcripts September 23, 2015: Pope Francis Addresses President Barack Obama And Guests At White House Transcript

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Pope Francis Addresses President Obama And Guests At White House (Full Transcript)

Source: Huffington Post, 9-23-15

Mr. President,

I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans. As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families. I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.

During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles. I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.

Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.

Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.

We know by faith that “the Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home” (Laudato Si’, 13). As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.

The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom. I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.

Mr. President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!

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