OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 1, 2015
Source: WH, 6-26-15
11:14 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal. The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times — a never-ending quest to ensure those words ring true for every single American.
Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.
This morning, the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law. That all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love.
This decision will end the patchwork system we currently have. It will end the uncertainty hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples face from not knowing whether their marriage, legitimate in the eyes of one state, will remain if they decide to move [to] or even visit another. This ruling will strengthen all of our communities by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land.
In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. It is gratifying to see that principle enshrined into law by this decision.
This ruling is a victory for Jim Obergefell and the other plaintiffs in the case. It’s a victory for gay and lesbian couples who have fought so long for their basic civil rights. It’s a victory for their children, whose families will now be recognized as equal to any other. It’s a victory for the allies and friends and supporters who spent years, even decades, working and praying for change to come.
And this ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free.
My administration has been guided by that idea. It’s why we stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and why we were pleased when the Court finally struck down a central provision of that discriminatory law. It’s why we ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” From extending full marital benefits to federal employees and their spouses, to expanding hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones, we’ve made real progress in advancing equality for LGBT Americans in ways that were unimaginable not too long ago.
I know change for many of our LGBT brothers and sisters must have seemed so slow for so long. But compared to so many other issues, America’s shift has been so quick. I know that Americans of goodwill continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact; recognize different viewpoints; revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.
But today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully, real change is possible. Shifts in hearts and minds is possible. And those who have come so far on their journey to equality have a responsibility to reach back and help others join them. Because for all our differences, we are one people, stronger together than we could ever be alone. That’s always been our story.
We are big and vast and diverse; a nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, different experiences and stories, but bound by our shared ideal that no matter who you are or what you look like, how you started off, or how and who you love, America is a place where you can write your own destiny.
We are a people who believe that every single child is entitled to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
There’s so much more work to be done to extend the full promise of America to every American. But today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect.
That’s the consequence of a decision from the Supreme Court, but, more importantly, it is a consequence of the countless small acts of courage of millions of people across decades who stood up, who came out, who talked to parents — parents who loved their children no matter what. Folks who were willing to endure bullying and taunts, and stayed strong, and came to believe in themselves and who they were, and slowly made an entire country realize that love is love.
What an extraordinary achievement. What a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. What a reminder of what Bobby Kennedy once said about how small actions can be like pebbles being thrown into a still lake, and ripples of hope cascade outwards and change the world.
Those countless, often anonymous heroes — they deserve our thanks. They should be very proud. America should be very proud.
Thank you. (Applause.)
11:22 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 26, 2015
Source: WH, 6-25-15
Two years ago, President Obama announced the ConnectED Initiative, setting an ambitious goal to provide 99 percent of American students with access to next-generation broadband in their classrooms and libraries by 2018. Since that time, the public and private sectors have committed more than $10 billion of total funding and in-kind commitments as part of this five-year effort to transform American education. To leverage this technology, thousands of school and community leaders have pledged to help realize the President’s vision to move America’s schools into the digital age.
ConnectED is on track to achieve its goal of connecting students to tools they need for 21st century learning — and on its two year anniversary, we are announcing additional progress….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 25, 2015
Source: WH, 6-25-15
11:34 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Have a seat. Five years ago, after nearly a century of talk, decades of trying, a year of bipartisan debate — we finally declared that in America, health care is not a privilege for a few, but a right for all.
Over those five years, as we’ve worked to implement the Affordable Care Act, there have been successes and setbacks. The setbacks I remember clearly. (Laughter.) But as the dust has settled, there can be no doubt that this law is working. It has changed, and in some cases saved, American lives. It set this country on a smarter, stronger course.
And today, after more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or weaken this law; after a presidential election based in part on preserving or repealing this law; after multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court — the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.
This morning, the Court upheld a critical part of this law -– the part that’s made it easier for Americans to afford health insurance regardless of where you live. If the partisan challenge to this law had succeeded, millions of Americans would have had thousands of dollars’ worth of tax credits taken from them. For many, insurance would have become unaffordable again. Many would have become uninsured again. Ultimately, everyone’s premiums could have gone up. America would have gone backwards. And that’s not what we do. That’s not what America does. We move forward.
So today is a victory for hardworking Americans all across this country whose lives will continue to become more secure in a changing economy because of this law.
If you’re a parent, you can keep your kids on your plan until they turn 26 — something that has covered millions of young people so far. That’s because of this law.
If you’re a senior, or an American with a disability, this law gives you discounts on your prescriptions — something that has saved 9 million Americans an average of $1,600 so far.
If you’re a woman, you can’t be charged more than anybody else — even if you’ve had cancer, or your husband had heart disease, or just because you’re a woman. Your insurer has to offer free preventive services like mammograms. They can’t place annual or lifetime caps on your care because of this law.
Because of this law, and because of today’s decision, millions of Americans who I hear from every single day will continue to receive the tax credits that have given about eight in ten people who buy insurance on the new marketplaces the choice of a health care plan that costs less than $100 a month.
And when it comes to preexisting conditions — someday, our grandkids will ask us if there was really a time when America discriminated against people who get sick. Because that is something this law has ended for good. That affects everybody with health insurance — not just folks who got insurance through the Affordable Care Act. All of America has protections it didn’t have before.
As the law’s provisions have gradually taken effect, more than 16 million uninsured Americans have gained coverage so far. Nearly one in three Americans who was uninsured a few years ago is insured today. The uninsured rate in America is the lowest since we began to keep records. And that is something we can all be proud of.
Meanwhile, the law has helped hold the price of health care to its slowest growth in 50 years. If your family gets insurance through your job — so you’re not using the Affordable Care Act — you’re still paying about $1,800 less per year on average than you would be if we hadn’t done anything. By one leading measure, what business owners pay out in wages and salaries is now finally growing faster than what they spend on health insurance. That hasn’t happened in 17 years — and that’s good for workers and it’s good for the economy.
The point is, this is not an abstract thing anymore. This is not a set of political talking points. This is reality. We can see how it is working. This law is working exactly as it’s supposed to. In many ways, this law is working better than we expected it to. For all the misinformation campaigns, all the doomsday predictions, all the talk of death panels and job destruction, for all the repeal attempts — this law is now helping tens of millions of Americans.
And they’ve told me that it has changed their lives for the better. I’ve had moms come up and say, my son was able to see a doctor and get diagnosed, and catch a tumor early, and he’s alive today because of this law. This law is working. And it’s going to keep doing just that.
Five years in, this is no longer about a law. This is not about the Affordable Care Act as legislation, or Obamacare as a political football. This is health care in America.
And unlike Social Security or Medicare, a lot of Americans still don’t know what Obamacare is beyond all the political noise in Washington. Across the country, there remain people who are directly benefitting from the law but don’t even know it. And that’s okay. There’s no card that says “Obamacare” when you enroll. But that’s by design, for this has never been a government takeover of health care, despite cries to the contrary. This reform remains what it’s always been: a set of fairer rules and tougher protections that have made health care in America more affordable, more attainable, and more about you — the consumer, the American people. It’s working.
And with this case behind us, let’s be clear — we’ve still got work to do to make health care in America even better. We’ll keep working to provide consumers with all the tools you need to make informed choices about your care. We’ll keep working to increase the use of preventive care that avoids bigger problems down the road. We’ll keep working to boost the steadily improving quality of care in hospitals, and bring down costs even lower, make the system work even better. Already we’ve seen reductions, for example, in the number of readmissions at hospitals. That saves our society money, it saves families money, makes people healthier.
We’re making progress. We’re going to keep working to get more people covered. I’m going to work as hard as I can to convince more governors and state legislatures to take advantage of the law, put politics aside, and expand Medicaid and cover their citizens. We’ve still got states out there that, for political reasons, are not covering millions of people that they could be covering, despite the fact that the federal government is picking up the tab.
So we’ve got more work to do. But what we’re not going to do is unravel what has now been woven into the fabric of America. And my greatest hope is that rather than keep refighting battles that have been settled again and again and again, I can work with Republicans and Democrats to move forward. Let’s join together, make health care in America even better.
Three generations ago, we chose to end an era when seniors were left to languish in poverty. We passed Social Security, and slowly it was woven into the fabric of America and made a difference in the lives of millions of people. Two generations ago, we chose to end an age when Americans in their golden years didn’t have the guarantee of health care. Medicare was passed, and it helped millions of people.
This generation of Americans chose to finish the job — to turn the page on a past when our citizens could be denied coverage just for being sick. To close the books on a history where tens of millions of Americans had no hope of finding decent, affordable health care; had to hang their chances on fate. We chose to write a new chapter, where in a new economy, Americans are free to change their jobs or start a business, chase a new idea, raise a family, free from fear, secure in the knowledge that portable, affordable health care is there for us and always will be. And that if we get sick, we’re not going to lose our home. That if we get sick, that we’re going to be able to still look after our families.
That’s when America soars -– when we look out for one another. When we take care of each other. When we root for one another’s success. When we strive to do better and to be better than the generation that came before us, and try to build something better for generations to come. That’s why we do what we do. That’s the whole point of public service.
So this was a good day for America. Let’s get back to work. (Applause.)
11:45 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 25, 2015
Oral Arguments: March 4, 2015
|Transcript: 14-114. King v. Burwell||03/04/15|
|Audio; 14-114. King v. Burwell||03/04/15|
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 25, 2015
Source: WH, 6-18-15
I welcome His Holiness Pope Francis’s encyclical, and deeply admire the Pope’s decision to make the case – clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position – for action on global climate change.
As Pope Francis so eloquently stated this morning, we have a profound responsibility to protect our children, and our children’s children, from the damaging impacts of climate change. I believe the United States must be a leader in this effort, which is why I am committed to taking bold actions at home and abroad to cut carbon pollution, to increase clean energy and energy efficiency, to build resilience in vulnerable communities, and to encourage responsible stewardship of our natural resources. We must also protect the world’s poor, who have done the least to contribute to this looming crisis and stand to lose the most if we fail to avert it.
I look forward to discussing these issues with Pope Francis when he visits the White House in September. And as we prepare for global climate negotiations in Paris this December, it is my hope that all world leaders–and all God’s children–will reflect on Pope Francis’s call to come together to care for our common home.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 18, 2015
Source: WH, 6-18-15
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:20 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. This morning, I spoke with, and Vice President Biden spoke with, Mayor Joe Riley and other leaders of Charleston to express our deep sorrow over the senseless murders that took place last night.
Michelle and I know several members of Emanuel AME Church. We knew their pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who, along with eight others, gathered in prayer and fellowship and was murdered last night. And to say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel.
Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.
Mother Emanuel is, in fact, more than a church. This is a place of worship that was founded by African Americans seeking liberty. This is a church that was burned to the ground because its worshipers worked to end slavery. When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret. When there was a nonviolent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church’s steps. This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America.
The FBI is now on the scene with local police, and more of the Bureau’s best are on the way to join them. The Attorney General has announced plans for the FBI to open a hate crime investigation. We understand that the suspect is in custody. And I’ll let the best of law enforcement do its work to make sure that justice is served.
Until the investigation is complete, I’m necessarily constrained in terms of talking about the details of the case. But I don’t need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise. I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. Now is the time for mourning and for healing.
But let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.
The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked. And we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.
The good news is I am confident that the outpouring of unity and strength and fellowship and love across Charleston today, from all races, from all faiths, from all places of worship indicates the degree to which those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome. That, certainly, was Dr. King’s hope just over 50 years ago, after four little girls were killed in a bombing in a black church in Birmingham, Alabama.
He said they lived meaningful lives, and they died nobly. “They say to each of us,” Dr. King said, “black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely with [about] who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream.
“And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.”
Reverend Pinckney and his congregation understood that spirit. Their Christian faith compelled them to reach out not just to members of their congregation, or to members of their own communities, but to all in need. They opened their doors to strangers who might enter a church in search of healing or redemption.
Mother Emanuel church and its congregation have risen before –- from flames, from an earthquake, from other dark times -– to give hope to generations of Charlestonians. And with our prayers and our love, and the buoyancy of hope, it will rise again now as a place of peace.
12:28 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 18, 2015
Source: WH, 6-9-15
Chicago State University Convocation Hall
7:44 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Wow! (Applause.) Yes!
STUDENT: We love you so much, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, I love you guys! (Applause.) Look, I am beyond excited to be here with the winners of our first-ever FAFSA Video Challenge, the King College Prep Class of 2015! (Applause.)
So let me just explain, because you all know some of the best schools in the country submitted videos for this challenge. But when I saw your Scandal video, let me tell you, I was blown away. I was just blown away with — amazing. I was blown away by your creativity, but I was even more blown away by how hard you all worked to achieve your outstanding FAFSA completion rate here at KCP. In fact, as you saw, I was so impressed that I decided to send your video to the cast of the real Scandal. And they were so impressed that Shonda* Rhimes and Kerry Washington and the whole staff, they wanted to be a part of this graduation. And I want to thank Libby, because she was the only one who knew. She kept the secret. So let’s give the cast of Scandal another round of applause. Wasn’t that wonderful? (Applause.) That’s how special you all are. That is just how special you all are.
And I want to thank Libby for that wonderful introduction. I want to thank Jostens for their generosity. And, of course, I want to honor the Pendleton family for their courage and their grace and their love. I love these folks. (Applause.) Hadiya’s memory is truly a blessing and an inspiration to me and to my husband and to people across this country and around the world. And we are so grateful for her family’s presence here tonight. Love you all. Love you so much. (Applause.)
I also want to acknowledge President Watson, Provost Henderson, Jesse Ruiz, as well as the fabulous singers — way to go, guys! (Applause.) And our musicians, the best band in the land. (Applause.) And all of the amazing student speakers — you guys did such a phenomenal job. You’re amazing. (Applause.)
And of course, I want to give a big shoutout to Principal Narain for his outstanding leadership. Yes. (Applause.) He made sure my speech was up here, so I thank him for that. (Laughter.) But also, to the phenomenal teachers, the administrators, the school counselors, the staff who pushed you, who inspired you, who hunted you down in the hallway to fill out your FAFSA forms — well done. (Laughter and applause.)
And, graduates, I think we’ve got to give another show of love to the parents, the guardians, the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, the siblings — (applause) — everyone else who has been there for you throughout your lives — the folks who shook you out of bed in the morning, and didn’t let you go to sleep until your homework was done; the folks who believed in you; the folks who sacrificed for you and loved you even when you drove them crazy. Today is their day too. Let’s give them a round of applause. (Applause.) Yes! That’s it, blow kisses. That’s right, mom. Take your bow.
And of course, most of all, to the class of 2015 — you all, congratulations. You did it! You did it! You are here! You are here! (Applause.) And you all look so good, so glamorous, so handsome. But just think about how hard you worked to make it to this day — stayed up late studying, working on those college essays, preparing for those ACTs. I understand that you threw yourselves into your activities as well — the Jaguars won the Division 3A basketball regional championship. (Applause.) Pretty nice. The best band in the land performed with Jennifer Hudson — really? Jennifer Hudson? J-Hud? — and at the NFL Draft. (Applause.) I hear you all lit up the stage with Shrek the Musical — (applause) — Spring Concert I heard was pretty nice. But you all truly honored Dr. King’s legacy with your commitment to service-learning.
So, graduates, tonight, I am feeling so proud of you. I am feeling so excited for you. I am feeling so inspired by you. But there is one thing that I’m not feeling right now, and that is surprised. I am not at all surprised by how accomplished you all are. (Applause.) I’m not at all surprised by the dedication your teachers have shown, or by the sacrifices your families have made to carry you to this day. I’m not surprised because I know this community.
I was born and raised here on the South Side, in South Shore, and I am who I am today because of this community. (Applause.) I know the struggles many of you face — how you walk the long way home to avoid the gangs. How you fight to concentrate on your homework when there’s too much noise at home. How you keep it together when your families are having hard times making ends meet.
But more importantly, I also know the strengths of this community. I know the families on the South Side. And while they may come in all different shapes and sizes, most families here are tight, bound together by the kind of love that gets stronger when it’s tested.
I know that folks on the South Side work hard — the kind of hard where you forget about yourself and you just worry about your kids, doing everything it takes — juggling two and three jobs, taking long bus rides to the night shift, scraping pennies together to sign those kids up for every activity you can afford — Park District program, the Praise Dance Ministries — whatever it takes to keep them safe and on the right track. And I know that in this community, folks have a deep faith, a powerful faith, and folks are there for each other when times get hard, because we understand that “there but for the grace of God go I.” (Applause.)
And over the past six years as First Lady, I’ve visited communities just like this one all across this country — communities that face plenty of challenges and crises, but where folks have that same strong work ethic, those same good values, those same big dreams for their kids.
But unfortunately, all those positive things hardly ever make the evening news. Instead, the places where we’ve grown up only make headlines when something tragic happens — when someone gets shot, when the dropout rate climbs, when some new drug is ruining people’s lives.
So too often, we hear a skewed story about our communities — a narrative that says that a stable, hardworking family in a neighborhood like Woodlawn or Chatham or Bronzeville is somehow remarkable; that a young person who graduates from high school and goes to college is a beat-the-odds kind of hero.
Look, I can’t tell you how many times people have met my mother and asked her, “Well, how on Earth did you ever raise kids like Michelle and Craig in a place like South Shore?” And my mom looks at these folks like they’re crazy, and she says, “Michelle and Craig are nothing special. There are millions of Craigs and Michelles out there. And I did the same thing that all those other parents did.” She says, “I loved them. I believed in them. And I didn’t take any nonsense from them.” (Applause.)
And I’m here tonight because I want people across this country to know that story — the real story of the South Side. The story of that quiet majority of good folks — families like mine and young people like all of you who face real challenges but make good choices every single day. (Applause.) I’m here tonight because I want you all to know, graduates, that with your roots in this community and your education from this school, you have everything — you hear me, everything — you need to succeed. (Applause.)
And I’m here tonight because I want to share with you just two fundamental lessons that I’ve learned in my own life, lessons grounded in the courage, love and faith that define this community and that I continue to live by to this day.
Now, the first lesson is very simple, and that is, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. And I cannot stress that enough. During your four years here at King College Prep, you all were surrounded by folks who were determined to help you, as Jade said — teachers who stayed after class to explain an assignment, counselors who pushed you to apply to college, coaches who saw something special in you that no one had seen before.
And as you head to college or the military, or whatever else comes next, you will face plenty of obstacles. There will be times when you find yourself struggling. And at first, you might not know where to turn to for help. Or maybe you might be too embarrassed to ask. And trust me, I know how that feels.
See, when I started my freshman year at Princeton, I felt totally overwhelmed and out of place. I had never spent any meaningful time on a college campus. I had never been away from home for an extended period of time. I had no idea how to choose my classes, to — how to take notes in a large lecture. And then I looked around at my classmates, and they all seemed so happy and comfortable and confident. They never seemed to question whether they belonged at a school like Princeton.
So at first, I didn’t tell a soul how anxious and lonely and insecure I was feeling. But as I got to know my classmates, I realized something important. I realized that they were all struggling with something, but instead of hiding their struggles and trying to deal with them all alone, they reached out. They asked for help. If they didn’t understand something in class, they would raise their hand and ask a question, then they’d go to professor’s office hours and ask even more questions. And they were never embarrassed about it, not one bit. Because they knew that that’s how you succeed in life.
See, growing up, they had the expectation that they would succeed, and that they would have the resources they needed to achieve their goals. So whether it was taking an SAT-prep class, getting a math tutor, seeking advice from a teacher or counselor — they took advantage of every opportunity they had.
So I decided to follow their lead. I found an advisor who helped me choose my classes. I went to the multicultural student center and met older students who became my mentor. And soon enough, I felt like I had this college thing all figured out. And, graduates, wherever you are headed, I guarantee you that there will be all kinds of folks who are eager to help you, but they are not going to come knocking on your door to find you. You have to take responsibility to find them. (Applause.)
So if you are struggling with an assignment, go to a tutoring session. If you’re having trouble with a paper, get yourself to the writing center. And if someone isn’t helpful, if they are impatient or unfriendly, then just find somebody else. You may have to go to a second, or third, or a fourth person but if you keep asking. (Applause.) And if you understand that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of strength, then I guarantee you that you will get what you need to succeed.
And that brings me to the other big lesson that I want to share with you today. It’s a lesson about how to get through those struggles, and that is, instead of letting your hardships and failures discourage or exhaust you, let them inspire you. Let them make you even hungrier to succeed.
Now, I know that many of you have already dealt with some serious losses in your lives. Maybe someone in your family lost a job or struggled with drugs or alcohol or an illness. Maybe you’ve lost someone you love, someone you desperately wish could be here with you tonight. And I know that many of you are thinking about Hadiya right now and feeling the hole that she’s left in your hearts.
So, yes, maybe you’ve been tested a lot more and a lot earlier in life than many other young people. Maybe you have more scars than they do. Maybe you have days when you feel more tired than someone your age should ever really feel. But, graduates, tonight, I want you to understand that every scar that you have is a reminder not just that you got hurt, but that you survived. (Applause.) And as painful as they are, those holes we all have in our hearts are what truly connect us to each other. They are the spaces we can make for other people’s sorrow and pain, as well as their joy and their love so that eventually, instead of feeling empty, our hearts feel even bigger and fuller.
So it’s okay to feel the sadness and the grief that comes with those losses. But instead of letting those feelings defeat you, let them motivate you. Let them serve as fuel for your journey. See, that’s what folks in this community have always done. Just look at our history.
Take the story of Lorraine Hansberry, who grew up right here on the South Side. Lorraine was determined to be a playwright, but she struggled to raise the money to produce her first play. But Lorraine stayed hungry. And eventually, that play — “A Raisin in the Sun” — became the first play by an African American woman to make it to Broadway. (Applause.)
And how about Richard Wright, who spent his young adult years on the South Side. Richard’s father was a sharecropper who abandoned his family. And while Richard loved to read, the local library wouldn’t let him check out books because he was black. So Richard went ahead and wrote books of his own — books like “Native Son,” and “Black Boy,” that made him one of the greatest writers in American history. (Applause.)
And finally, tonight, I’m thinking about my own parents — yes, Marian and Frazier Robinson. See, neither of them went to college. They never had much money. But they were determined to see me and my brother get the best education possible. So my mom served on the PTA, and she volunteered at school so she could keep an eye on us.
As for my Dad, he worked as a pump operator at the city water plant. And even after he was diagnosed with MS in his thirties, and it became harder for him to walk and get dressed, he still managed to pull himself out of bed every morning, no matter how sick he felt. Every day, without fail, I watched my father struggle on crutches to slowly make his way across our apartment, out the door to work, without complaint or self-pity or regret. (Applause.)
Now, my Dad didn’t live to see me in the White House. He passed away from complications from his illness when I was in my twenties. And, graduates, let me tell you, he is the hole in my heart. His loss is my scar. But let me tell you something, his memory drives me forward every single day of my life. (Applause.) Every day, I work to make him proud. Every day, I stay hungry, not just for myself, but for him and for my mom and for all the kids I grew up with who never had the opportunities that my family provided for me.
And, graduates, today, I want to urge you all to do the same thing. There are so many folks in your school and in your families who believe in you, who have sacrificed for you, who have poured all of their love and hope and ambition into you. And you need to stay hungry for them. (Applause.)
There are so many young people who can only dream of the opportunities you’ve had at King College Prep — young people in troubled parts of the world who never set foot in a classroom. Young people in this community who don’t have anyone to support them. Young people like Hadiya, who were taken from us too soon and can never become who they were meant to be. You need to stay hungry for them.
And, graduates, look, I know you can do this. See, because if Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright could stay hungry through their hardships and humiliations; if Dr. Martin Luther King, the namesake of your school, could sacrifice his life for our country, then I know you can show up for a tutoring session. I know you can go to some office hours. (Applause.)
If Hadiya’s friends and family could survive the heartbreak and pain; if they could found organizations to honor her unfulfilled dreams; if they could inspire folks across this country to wear orange in to protest gun violence — then I know you all can live your life with the same determination and joy that Hadiya lived her life. I know you all can dig deep and keep on fighting to fulfill your own dreams.
Because, graduates, in the end, you all are the ones responsible for changing the narrative about our communities. (Applause.) Wherever you go next, wherever you go, you all encounter people who doubt your very existence — folks who believe that hardworking families with strong values don’t exist on the South Side of Chicago, or in Detroit, or in El Paso, or in Indian Country, or in Appalachia. They don’t believe you are real.
And with every word you speak, with every choice you make, with the way you carry yourself each day, you are rewriting the story of our communities. And that’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House. (Applause.) Because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us, or it can change those myths. (Applause.)
So, graduates, today, I want you all to join our team as we fight to get out the truth about our communities — about our inner cities and our farm towns, our barrios, our reservations. You need to help us tell our story — the story of Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright, the story of my family and your families, the story of our sacrifice, our hunger, our hard work.
Graduates, starting today, it is your job to make sure that no one ever again is surprised by who we are and where we come from. (Applause.) And you know how I know you can do this? Because you all — graduates of the King College Prep High School. You all are from so many proud communities — North Kenwood, Chatham, South Shore, Woodlawn, Hyde Park -– I could go on and on. You embody all of the courage and love, all of the hunger and hope that have always defined these communities –- our communities.
And I am so proud of you all. And I stay inspired because of you. And I cannot wait to see everything you all continue achieve in the years ahead.
So thank you. God bless you. I love you all. Congratulations. (Applause.)
END 8:08 P.M. CDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 9, 2015
Source: WH, 6-9-15
Washington Marriott Wardman Park
11:58 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. (Applause.) Everybody, please have a seat. Thank you so much.
Well, I don’t know whether this is appropriate, but I just told Sister Carol I love her. (Laughter.) On a big stage. It is true, though — I do. She is just wonderful. Her dedication to doing God’s work here on Earth, her commitment to serving “the least of these,” here steadiness, her strength, her steadfast voice have been an inspiration to me. We would not have gotten the Affordable Care Act done had it not been for her. I want to thank the entire Catholic Health Association for the incredible work you do. (Applause.)
And it’s true, I just love nuns, generally. (Laughter.) I’m just saying. (Laughter.)
It is an honor to join you on your 100th anniversary of bringing hope and healing to so many. I want to acknowledge Dignity Health and its CEO, Lloyd Dean — (applause) — honored by the Catholic Health Association last night for his outstanding support of our efforts to improve health care in America. He has been a great friend.
I want to thank Ascension Health, a great provider of care — that also recently raised its minimum wage. (Applause.) I want to thank Secretary Burwell and the members of Congress who are here today, because they have been obviously doing extraordinary work. (Applause.)
My first job in Chicago when I moved after college to work as a community organizer — my first job was funded by the Campaign for Human Development, an anti-poverty initiative of the Catholic Church. And my first office was at Holy Rosary Church on the South Side of Chicago, across from Palmer Park. (Applause.) You’re clapping there — she knows Holy Rosary. (Laughter.) And the task was to work with parishes and neighbors and faith and community leaders to bring low-income people together, to stitch neighborhoods together, clergy and laypeople. And the work was hard, and there were times where it was dispiriting. We had plenty of setbacks. There were times where I felt like quitting, where I wondered if the path I’d chosen was too hard.
But despite these challenges, I saw how kindness and compassion and faith can change the arc of people’s lives. And I saw the power of faith — a shared belief that every human being, made in the image of God, deserves to live in dignity; that all children, no matter who they are or where they come from or how much money they were born into, ought to have the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential; that we are all called, in the words of His Holiness Pope Francis, “to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness, and respect for every human being.”
And at the time, when I had just moved to Chicago, the Cardinal there was Cardinal Bernardin, an extraordinary man. And he understood that part of that commitment, part of that commitment to the dignity of every human being also meant that we had to care about the health of every human being. And he articulated that, and the Church articulated that, as we moved at the state level in the Illinois legislature, once I was elected there later on in life, to advance the proposition that health care is not a privilege, it is a right.
And that belief is at the heart of the Catholic Health Association’s mission. For decades, your member hospitals have been on the front lines, often serving the marginalized, the vulnerable and the sick and the uninsured. And that belief is at the heart of why we came together more than five years ago to reform our health care system — to guarantee that every American has access to quality, affordable care.
So I’m here today to say thank you for your tireless efforts to make health reform a reality. Without your commitment to compassionate care, without your moral force, we would not have succeeded. (Applause.) We would not have succeeded had it not been for you and the foundation you had laid. (Applause.)
And pursuing health care reform wasn’t about making good on a campaign promise for me. It was, remember, in the wake of an economic crisis with a very human toll and it was integral to restoring the basic promise of America — the notion that in this country, if you work hard and you take responsibility, you can get ahead. You can make it if you try. Everything we’ve done these past six years and a half years to rebuild our economy on a new foundation — from rescuing and retooling our industries, to reforming our schools, to rethinking the way we produce and use energy, to reducing our deficits — all of that has been in pursuit of that one goal, creating opportunity for all people. And health reform was a critical part of that effort.
For decades, a major barrier to economic opportunity was our broken health care system. It exposed working families to the insecurities of a changing economy. It saddled our businesses with skyrocketing costs that made it hard to hire or pay a good wage. It threatened our entire nation’s long-term prosperity, was the primary driver of our deficits.
And for hospitals like yours, the fact that so many people didn’t have basic care meant you were scrambling and scratching every single day to try to figure out how do we keep our doors open.
Leaders from Teddy Roosevelt to Teddy Kennedy wanted to reform it. For as long as there were Americans who couldn’t afford decent health care, as long as there were people who had to choose between paying for medicine or paying the rent, as long as there were parents who had to figure out whether they could sell or borrow to pay for a child’s treatment just a few months more, and beg for God’s mercy to make it work in time — as long as those things were happening, America was not living up to our highest ideals.
And that’s why providers and faith leaders like you called for expanding access to affordable care. Every day, you saw the very personal suffering of those who go without it. And it seemed like an insurmountable challenge. Every time there was enough political will to alleviate that suffering and to reform the health care system — whether it was under Democratic Presidents or Republican Presidents — you had special interests arraying and keeping the status quo in place. And each year that passed without reform the stakes kept getting higher.
By the time I took office, thousands of Americans were losing their health insurance every single day. Many people died each year because they didn’t have health insurance. Many families who thought they had coverage were driven into bankruptcy by out-of-pocket costs. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens had no coverage at all in this, the wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth. And despite being the only advanced economy in the world without universal health care, our health care costs grew to be the most expensive in the world with no slowing in sight. And that trend strained the budgets of families and businesses and our government.
And so we determined that we could not keep kicking that can down the road any longer. We could not leave that problem for another generation to solve, or another generation after that.
And remember, this was not easy. (Laughter.) There were those who thought health care reform was too messy, and too complicated, and too politically risky. I had pollsters showing me stuff, and 85 percent of folks at any given time had health care and so they weren’t necessarily incentivized to support it. And you could scare the heck out of them about even if they weren’t entirely satisfied with the existing system that somehow it would be terrible to change it. All kinds of warning signs about how tough this was — bad politics.
But for every politician and pundit who said we should wait, why rush, barely a day went by where I didn’t hear from hardworking Americans who didn’t have a moment left to lose. These were men and women from all backgrounds, all walks of life, all races, all faiths, in big cities, small towns, red states, blue states. Middle-class families with coverage that turned out not to be there for them when they needed it. Moms and dads desperately seeking care for a child with a chronic illness only to be told “no” again and again — or fearful as their child got older, what was there future going to be because they weren’t going to be able to get insurance once they left the house. Small business owners forced to choose between insuring their employees and keeping the “open” sign hanging in the window.
And every one of these stories tugged at me in a personal way — because I spoke about seeing my mom worry about how she was going to deal with her finances when she got very sick. And I was reminded of the fear that Michelle and I felt when Sasha was a few months old and we had to race to the hospital, in the emergency room learning that she had meningitis — that we caught only because we had a wonderful pediatrician and regular care. Never felt so scared or helpless in my life.
We were fortunate enough to have good health insurance. And I remember looking around in that emergency room and thinking what about the parents who aren’t that lucky? What about the parents who get hit with a bill of $20,000 or $30,000, and they’ve got no idea how to pay for it? What about those parents with kids who have a chronic illness like asthma and have to keep going back to the emergency room because they don’t have a regular doctor, and the bills never stop coming? Who’s going to stand up for them?
Behind every single story was a simple question: What kind of country do we want to be? Are we a country that’s defined by values that say access to health care is a commodity awarded to only the highest bidders, or by the values that say health care is a fundamental right? Do we believe that where you start should determine how far you go, or do we believe that in the greatest nation on Earth, everybody deserves the opportunity to make it — to make of their lives what they will?
The rugged individualism that defines America has always been bound by a shared set of values, an enduring sense that we’re in this together, that America is not a place where we simply turn away from the sick, or turn our backs on the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. It is a place sustained by the idea: I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper — that we have an obligation to put ourselves in our neighbor’s shoes and see each other’s common humanity.
And so, after a century of talk, after decades of trying, after a year of sustained debate, we finally made health care reform a reality here in America. (Applause.)
And despite the constant doom-and-gloom predictions, the unending Chicken Little warnings that somehow making health insurance fairer and easier to buy would lead to the end of freedom, the end of the American way of life — lo and behold, it did not happen. None of this came to pass. In fact, in a lot of ways, the Affordable Care Act worked out better than some of us anticipated.
Nearly one in three uninsured Americans have already been covered — more than 16 million people -– driving our uninsured rate to its lowest level ever. (Applause.) Ever. On top of that, tens of millions more enjoy new protections with the coverage that they’ve already got. That 85 percent who had health insurance, they may not know that they’ve got a better deal now than they did, but they do. Americans can no longer be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions — from you having had cancer to you having had a baby. Women can’t be charged more just for being a woman. (Applause.) And they get free preventive services like mammograms. And there are no more annual or lifetime caps on the care patients receive.
Medicare has been strengthened and protected. We’ve added 13 years to its actuarial life. The financial difference for business owners trying to invest and grow, and the families trying to save and spend — that’s real, too. Health care prices have risen at the lowest rate in 50 years. Employer premiums are rising at a rate tied for the lowest on record. The average family premium is $1,800 lower today than it would have been had trends over the decade before the ACA passed continued.
In the years to come, countless Americans who can now buy plans that are portable and affordable on a competitive marketplace will be free to chase their own ideas, unleash new enterprises across the country, knowing they’ll be able to buy health insurance.
And here’s the thing — that security won’t just be there for us. It will be there for our kids as they go through life. When they graduate from college, they’re looking for that first job, they can stay on our plans until they’re 26. When they start a family, pregnancy will no longer count against them as a preexisting condition. When they change jobs or lose a job, or strike out on their own to start a business, they’ll still be able to get good coverage. They’ll have that peace of mind all the way until they retire into a Medicare that now has cheaper prescription drugs and wellness visits to make sure that they stay healthy.
And while we were told again and again that Obamacare would be a job-killer — amazingly enough, some critics still peddle this notion — it turns out in reality, America has experienced 63 straight months of private sector job growth — a streak that started the month we passed the Affordable Care Act. (Applause.) The longest streak of private sector job growth on record — that adds up to 12.6 million new jobs. (Applause.)
So the critics stubbornly ignore reality. In reality, there is a self-employed single mom of three who couldn’t afford health insurance until health reform passed and she qualified for Medicaid in her state. And she was finally able to get a mammogram, which detected early-stage breast cancer and may have saved her life. That’s the reality, not the mythology.
In reality, there are parents in Texas whose autistic son couldn’t speak. Even with health insurance, they struggled to pay for his treatment. But health reform meant they could buy an affordable secondary plan that covered therapy for their son — and today, that little boy can tell his parents that he loves them. That’s the reality. (Applause.)
In reality, there’s a self-employed barber from Tennessee — who happens to be a Republican — who couldn’t afford health insurance until our new marketplace opened up. And once he bought a plan, he finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. In the old days, without coverage, he wouldn’t have even known that he was sick. And today, he’s now cancer-free.
So five years in, what we are talking about it is no longer just a law. It’s no longer just a theory. This isn’t even just about the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. This isn’t about myths or rumors that folks try to sustain. There is a reality that people on the ground day to day are experiencing. Their lives are better.
This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another. This is health care in America — which is why, once you get outside of Washington and leave behind the Beltway chatter and the politics, Americans support this new reality. When you talk to people who actually are enrolled in a new marketplace plan, the vast majority of them like their coverage. The vast majority are satisfied with their choice of doctors and hospitals and satisfied with their monthly premiums. They like their reality.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have more work to do. Sister Carol and I were talking backstage — we know we got more work to do. Like any serious attempt at change, there were disruptions in the rollout, there are policies we can put in place to make health care work even better. Secretary Burwell is talking about all the things we have to do together around delivery system reform. We have to protect the coverage that people have now and sign even more people up. We need more governors and state legislatures to expand Medicaid, which was a central part of the architecture of the overall plan. We have to continue to improve the quality of care. And we know we can still bring down costs.
And none of this is going to be easy. Nobody suggests that somehow our health care system is perfect as a consequence of the law being passed, but it is serving so many more people so much better. And we’re not going to go backwards. There’s something, I have to say, just deeply cynical about the ceaseless, endless partisan attempts to roll back progress. I mean, I understood folks being skeptical or worried before the law passed and there wasn’t a reality there to examine. But once you see millions of people of having health care, once you see that all the bad things that were predicted didn’t happen, you’d think that it would be time to move one.
Let’s figure out how to make it better. It seems so cynical to want to take coverage away from millions of people; to take care away from people who need it the most; to punish millions with higher costs of care and unravel what’s now been woven into the fabric of America.
And that kind of cynicism flies in the face of our history. Our history is one of each generation striving to do better and to be better than the last. Just as we’ll never go back to a time when seniors were left to languish in poverty or not have any health insurance in their golden years. There was a generation that didn’t have that guarantee of health care. We’re not going to go back to a time when our citizens can be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition. When tens of millions of people couldn’t afford decent, affordable care — that wasn’t a better America. That’s not freedom. The freedom to languish in illness, or to be bankrupt because somebody in your family gets stick — that’s not who we are. That’s not what we’re about.
Debra Lea Oren of Pennsylvania knows that. Debra suffers from osteoarthritis that was so severe that it put her in a wheelchair. And for years she couldn’t stand or walk at all, and was in constant pain — through no fault of her own, just the twists and turns of life. And without health insurance to get treatment, it seemed as though she might never again live a life that was full. Today, Debra is enrolled in affordable health coverage, was able to have surgery to replace her knees. She’s back on her feet. She walks her dogs, shops at the grocery store, gets to her doctor’s appointments. She’s cooking, she’s exercising, regaining her health.
Debra couldn’t be here today, but she recently wrote to me and she said: “I walk with my husband Michael and hold hands. It’s like a whole new world for me.” Just walking and holding hands — something that one of our fellow Americans for years could not do.
Every day, miracles happen in your hospitals. But remaking Debra’s world didn’t require a miracle. It just required that Debra have access to something that she and every other American has a right to expect, which is health care coverage.
And while there are outcomes that we can calculate and enumerate — the number of newly insured families, the number of lives saved — those numbers all add up to success in this reform effort. But there are also outcomes that are harder to calculate — in the tally of pain and tragedy and bankruptcies that have been averted, but also in the security of a parent who can afford to take her kid to the doctor; or the dignity of a grandfather who can get the preventive care that he needs; or the freedom of an entrepreneur who can start a new venture — or the joy of a wife who thought she’d never again take her husband’s hand and go for a walk.
In the end, that’s why you do what you do. Isn’t that what this is all about? Is there any greater measure of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness than those simple pleasures that are afforded because you have good health and you have some security?
More than five years ago, I said that while I was not the first President to take up this cause, I was determined to be the last. And now it’s up to all of us — the citizens in this room and across the country- — to continue to help make the right to health care a reality for all Americans. And if we keep faith with one another and keep working for each other to create opportunity for everybody who strives for it, then, in the words of Senator Ted Kennedy, “the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.”
It couldn’t have happened without you. (Applause.)
Thank you. God bless you all. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
12:25 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 9, 2015
Source: WH, 5-18-15
Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center
Camden, New Jersey
2:42 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody! (Applause.) Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Everybody, please have a seat. Have a seat. Well, thank you so much. It is good to be in Camden. (Applause.)
I want to thank your Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno; your Congressman, Donald Norcross; and your Mayor, Dana Redd, for being here. Give them all a big round of applause. (Applause.) I want to thank the outstanding facility, our hosts. The Salvation Army is doing great work, and the Ray Kroc Center here seems like just a wonderful, wonderful facility. (Applause.) So we’re very proud of them.
I want to thank Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson for his outstanding work. (Applause.) Where’s the Chief? There he is.
So I’ve come here to Camden to do something that might have been unthinkable just a few years ago — and that’s to hold you up as a symbol of promise for the nation. (Applause.) Now, I don’t want to overstate it. Obviously Camden has gone through tough times and there are still tough times for a lot of folks here in Camden. But just a few years ago, this city was written off as dangerous beyond redemption — a city trapped in a downward spiral. Parents were afraid to let their children play outside. Drug dealers operated in broad daylight. There weren’t enough cops to patrol the streets.
So two years ago, the police department was overhauled to implement a new model of community policing. They doubled the size of the force — while keeping it unionized. They cut desk jobs in favor of getting more officers out into the streets. Not just to walk the beat, but to actually get to know the residents — to set up basketball games, to volunteer in schools, to participate in reading programs, to get to know the small businesses in the area.
Now, to be a police officer takes a special kind of courage. And I talked about this on Friday at a memorial for 131 officers who gave their lives to protect communities like this one. It takes a special kind of courage to run towards danger, to be a person that residents turn to when they’re most desperate. And when you match courage with compassion, with care and understanding of the community — like we’ve seen here in Camden — some really outstanding things can begin to happen.
Violent crime in Camden is down 24 percent. (Applause.) Murder is down 47 percent. (Applause.) Open-air drug markets have been cut by 65 percent. (Applause.) The response time for 911 calls is down from one hour to just five minutes. And when I was in the center, it was 1.3 minutes, right when I was there. (Applause.) And perhaps most significant is that the police and residents are building trust. (Applause.) Building trust.
Now, nobody is suggesting that the job is done. This is still a work in progress. The Police Chief would be the first one to say it. So would the Mayor. Camden and its people still face some very big challenges. But this city is on to something. You’ve made real progress in just two years. And that’s why I’m here today — because I want to focus on the fact that other cities across America can make similar progress.
Everything we’ve done over the past six years, whether it’s rescuing the economy, or reforming our schools, or retooling our job training programs, has been in pursuit of one goal, and that’s creating opportunity for all of us, all our kids. But we know that some communities have the odds stacked against them, and have had the odds stacked against them for a very long time — in some cases, for decades. You’ve got rural communities that have chronic poverty. You have manufacturing communities that got hit hard when plants closed and people lost jobs. There are not only cities but also suburbs where jobs can be tough to find, and tougher to get to because of development patterns and lack of transportation options. And folks who do work, they’re working harder than ever, but sometimes don’t feel like they can get ahead.
And in some communities, that sense of unfairness and powerlessness has contributed to dysfunction in those communities. Communities are like bodies, and if the immunity system is down, they can get sick. And when communities aren’t vibrant, where people don’t feel a sense of hope and opportunity, then a lot of times that can fuel crime and that can fuel unrest.
We’ve seen it in places like Baltimore and Ferguson and New York. And it has many causes — from a basic lack of opportunity to some groups feeling unfairly targeted by their police forces. And that means there’s no single solution. There have to be a lot of different solutions and different approaches that we try.
So one of the things that we did to address these issues was to create a task force on the future of community policing. And this task force was outstanding because it was made up of all the different stakeholders — we had law enforcement; we had community activists; we had young people. They held public meetings across the country. They developed concrete proposals that every community in America can implement to rebuild trust and help law enforcement.
The recommendations were released in March; they were finalized today. They include everything from enhanced officer training to improving the use of body cameras and other technologies to make sure that police departments are being smart about crime and that there’s enough data for them to be accountable as well.
And we’re trying to support the great work that’s happening at the local level where cities are already responding to these recommendations. And before I go further, I just want the members of our task force to stand, because they’ve done some outstanding work and they deserve to be acknowledged. Thank you. (Applause.)
Now, we’ve launched a Police Data Initiative that’s helping Camden and other innovative cities use data to strengthen their work and hold themselves accountable by sharing it with the public. Departments might track things like incidents of force so that they can identify and handle problems that could otherwise escalate.
Here in Camden, officers deal with some 41 different data systems, which means they have to enter the same information multiple times. So today, we’ve brought a volunteer, Elite Tech Team, to help — a group of data scientists and software engineers, and tech leaders. They’re going to work with the police department here to troubleshoot some of the technical challenges so it’s even easier for police departments to do the things they already want to do in helping to track what’s going on in communities, and then also helping to make sure that that data is used effectively to identify where there are trouble spots, where there are problems, are there particular officers that may need additional help, additional training. All that can be obtained in a really effective, efficient way.
Today, we’re also releasing new policies on the military-style equipment that the federal government has in the past provided to state and local law enforcement agencies. We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them. It can alienate and intimidate local residents, and send the wrong message. So we’re going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments. (Applause.)
There is other equipment that may be needed in certain cases, but only with proper training. So we’re going to ensure that departments have what they need, but also that they have the training to use it.
We’re doing these things because we’re listening to what law enforcement is telling us. The overwhelming majority of police officers are good and honest and fair. They care deeply about their communities. They put their lives on the line every day to keep them safe. Their loved ones wait and worry until they come through the door at the end of their shift. So we should do everything in our power to make sure that they are safe, and help them do the job the best they can.
And what’s interesting about what Chief Thomson has done, and what’s happening here in Camden, is these new officers — who I have to confess made me feel old — (laughter) — because they all look like they could still be in school. (Laughter.) The approach that the Chief has taken in getting them out of their squad cars, into the communities, getting them familiar with the people that they’re serving — they’re enjoying their jobs more because they feel as if, over time, they can have more of an impact, and they’re getting more help from the community because the community has seen them and knows them before there’s a crisis, before there’s an incident.
So it’s not just crisis response. It’s not after the fact there’s a crime, there’s a dead body, there’s a shooting, and now we’re going to show up. It’s, we’re here all the time, and hopefully, we can prevent those shootings from happening in the first place. (Applause.)
But one of the things I also want to focus on is the fact that a lot of the issues that have been raised here, and in places like Baltimore and Ferguson and New York, goes beyond policing. We can’t ask the police to contain and control problems that the rest of us aren’t willing to face or do anything about. (Applause.)
If we as a society don’t do more to expand opportunity to everybody who’s willing to work for it, then we’ll end up seeing conflicts between law enforcement and residents. If we as a society aren’t willing to deal honestly with issue of race, then we can’t just expect police departments to solve these problems. If communities are being isolated and segregated, without opportunity and without investment and without jobs — if we politicians are simply ramping up long sentences for nonviolent drug crimes that end up devastating communities, we can’t then ask the police to be the ones to solve the problem when there are no able-bodied men in the community, or kids are growing up without intact households. (Applause.)
We can’t just focus on the problems when there’s a disturbance — and then cable TV runs it for two or three or four days, and then suddenly we forget about it again, until the next time. Communities like some poor communities in Camden or my hometown in Chicago, they’re part of America, too. The kids who grow up here, they’re America’s children. Just like children everyplace else, they’ve got hopes and they’ve got dreams and they’ve got potential. And if we’re not investing in them, no matter how good Chief Thomson and the police are doing, these kids are still going to be challenged. So we’ve all got to step up. We’ve all got to care about what happens.
Chief Thomson will tell you that his officers read to young children in the communities not just to build positive relationships, but because it’s in the interest of the community to make sure these kids can read — so that they stay in school and graduate ready for college and careers, and become productive members of society. That’s in his interest not just as a police chief, but also as a citizen of this country, and somebody who grew up in this areas and knows this area.
And that’s why we’ve partnered with cities and states to get tens of thousands more kids access to quality early childhood education. No matter who they are or where they’re born, they should get a good start in life. (Applause.)
That’s why we’ve partnered with cities, including Camden, to create what we call Promise Zones — (applause) — where all-hands-on-deck efforts to change the odds for communities start happening because we’re providing job training, and helping to reduce violence, and expanding affordable housing.
It’s why we’re ready to work with folks from both sides of the aisle to reform our criminal justice system. We all want safety, and we all know how pernicious the drug culture can be in undermining communities. But this massive trend toward incarceration even of nonviolent drug offenders, and the costs of that trend are crowding out other critical investments that we can make in public safety. If we’re spending a whole lot of money on prisons, and we don’t have computers or books or enough teachers or sports or music programs in our schools, we are being counterproductive. It’s not a good strategy. (Applause.)
And so, in addition to the work we’re doing directly on the criminal justice front, we’re also launching something that we call My Brother’s Keeper — an initiative to ensure that all young people, but with a particular focus on young men of color, have a chance to go as far as their dreams will take them. (Applause.) Now, over the coming weeks, members of my Cabinet will be traveling around the country to highlight communities that are doing great work to improve the lives of their residents.
We know these problems are solvable. We’re know that we’re not lacking for answers, we’re just lacking political will. We have to see these problems for what they are — not something that’s happening in some other city to some other people, but something that’s happening in our community, the community of America. (Applause.)
And we know that change is possible because we’ve seen it in places like this. We’ve seen it, thanks to people like Officer Virginia Matias. Where is Virginia? There she is right there. (Applause.) Earlier this year, Vice President Biden and I got to sit with Officer Matias and rank-and-file law enforcement officers from around the country. And Virginia was talking about how when she was growing up in East Camden, crime was so bad she wasn’t allowed to go to the store alone. Her mom was once robbed at gunpoint. When she was 17, her uncle was shot and killed in his own store. Instead of turning away from Camden, she decided she wanted to become a cop where she grew up to help the community she loved. (Applause.) And today, she is a proud member of the Camden County Police Department. (Applause.)
And she’s a constant presence in the community, getting to know everybody she passes on her beat, even volunteering in a kindergarten. Officer Matias isn’t just helping to keep her community safe, she’s also a role model for young people of Camden. And anybody who thinks that things aren’t getting better, she says, “I see kids playing outside, riding bikes in the neighborhood, on their porches having a conversation. That’s how I measure change.”
That’s how we should all measure change. I had a chance to meet with some of the young people here who participated in a little roundtable with the officers, and they’re extraordinary young people. And they’ve got hopes and dreams just like Malia and Sasha, and they’re overcoming some bigger barriers than my children ever had to go through, or I had to go through. And they’re strong, and they’re focused.
But in talking to them, some of them — the reason they’ve been able to make it and do well is because their parents don’t let them out outside. Well, you know what, children shouldn’t have to be locked indoors in order to be safe. That’s not right. Some of them still have concerns about friends of theirs that have taken a wrong path and gotten involved in the streets and drugs. That’s not the environment we need our kids to be growing up in.
I challenge everybody to get to know some of these young people. They’re outstanding, and they’re going to do great things in their lives. (Applause.) But the point is, is that they shouldn’t have to go through superhuman efforts just to be able to stay in school and go to college and achieve their promise. That should be the norm. That should be standard. And if it isn’t, we’re not doing something right. We as a society are not doing something right if it isn’t. (Applause.)
So, ultimately, that’s how we’re going to measure change: Rising prospects for our kids. Rising prospects for the neighborhood. Do our children feel safe on the streets? Do they feel cared for by their community? Do they feel like the police departments care about them? Do they feel as if when they work hard they can succeed? Do they feel like the country is making an investment in them? Do they see role models for success? Are there pathways to jobs that they can identify? Do they know that if they put in effort, they can make it? Are they going to be treated fairly regardless of the color of their skin or what their last name is?
It’s pretty basic. I travel around the country — the one thing that makes me always so optimistic is our children. And what you realize is everywhere, kids are — kids are kids. Sometimes they’ll drive you crazy. (Laughter.) They’ll make mistakes. But there’s an inherent goodness in them. They want to do the right thing. They just need to be given a chance.
And some of them aren’t going to be lucky enough to have the structures at home that they need — in which case then, we all have to pick up the slack. And if we do, they’ll respond. They will. But we got to feel like that they’re our kids. We got to see our children in them, in their eyes. And we haven’t done enough of that. But we can.
This is a moment of great promise; this is a moment of great hope. And if we’re seeing such extraordinary improvement in Camden because of the good efforts of a lot of elected officials, and an outstanding police chief and some wonderful police officers, and a community that’s supportive, and nonprofit organizations like the Salvation Army and others that are doing some great work — if it’s working here, it can work anywhere. (Applause.) It can work anywhere.
On the City Hall of Camden you got an inscription by Walt Whitman: “In a dream, I saw a city invincible.” In a dream I see a country invincible — if we care enough to make the effort on behalf of every child in this country. (Applause.)
Camden is showing that it can be done. I want America to show everybody around the world that it can be done.
Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.)
3:05 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on May 18, 2015
Source: SupremeCourt.gov, 4-28-15
|14-556-Question-1||Obergefell v. Hodges||Transcript||Audio|
|14-556-Question-2||Obergefell v. Hodges||Transcript||Audio|
Posted by bonniekgoodman on April 28, 2015
Posted by bonniekgoodman on April 28, 2015
Source: WH, 3-25-15
South Court Auditorium
10:42 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much, everybody. Everybody, have a seat. Thank you, Doctor, for that introduction. I want to thank Sylvia Burwell, our outstanding head of Health and Human Services. We’ve got some wonderful members of Congress here today who helped make this happen. And I want to offer a heartfelt thanks to all of the top medical professionals who are here today. We’ve got hospital leaders, we’ve got health care CEOs, doctors, patients, advocates, consumer groups, Democrats and Republicans, who have all come together and spent time and effort to make the Affordable Care Act, and America’s health care system, work even better.
What your efforts have meant is the start of a new phase, where professionals like you and organizations like yours come together in one new network with one big goal, and that is to continue to improve the cost and quality of health care in America.
A lot of you have already taken steps on your own. The American Cancer Society that’s represented here is committed to teaching its members about how new patient-centered approaches can improve cancer care. Governor Markell of Delaware, who’s here, has set a goal of having 80 percent of his citizens receive care through new and improved payment and delivery models within five years. And Dr. Glenn Madrid, of Grand Junction, Colorado, is using a new care model that allowed him to hire case coordinators and use better technology so that patients have access to him 24/7. I don’t know when that lets him sleep — but his patients are sleeping better.
And these are examples of efforts that show we don’t need to reinvent the wheel; you’re already figuring out what works to reduce infections in hospitals or help patients with complicated needs. What we have to do is to share these best practices, these good ideas, including new ways to pay for care so that we’re rewarding quality. And that’s what this network is all about.
In fact, just five years in, the Affordable Care Act has already helped improve the quality of health care across the board. A lot of the attention has been rightly focused on people’s access to care, and that obviously was a huge motivator for us passing the Affordable Care Act — making sure that people who didn’t have health insurance have the security of health insurance.
But what was also a central notion in the Affordable Care Act was we had an inefficient system with a lot of waste that didn’t also deliver the kind of quality that was needed that often put health care providers in a box where they wanted to do better for their patients, but financial incentives were skewed the other way.
And so the work that we’ve been able to do is already spurring the kinds of changes that we had hoped for. It’s helped reduce hospital readmission rates dramatically. It’s a major reason why we’ve seen 50,000 fewer preventable patient deaths in hospitals. And if you want to know what that means, ask Alicia Cole, who suffers — Alicia is right here — who suffers the long-term effects of a hospital-acquired infection. And she is here today because she doesn’t want anybody else to endure what she has. And it’s preventable if we set up good practices, and financial incentives, reimbursement incentives, are aligned with those best practices.
So making sure that the Affordable Care Act works as intended, to not only deliver access to care but also to improve the quality of care and the cost of care, that’s something that requires all of us to work together. That’s part of what the law is all about. It’s making health coverage more affordable and more effective for all of us. And in a lot of ways, it’s working better than many of us, including me, anticipated. (Laughter.)
Wherever you are, here’s why you should care about making this system more efficient, and here’s why you should care that we keep the Affordable Care Act in place.
If you get insurance through your employer, like most Americans do, the ACA gave you new savings and new protections. If you’ve got a pre-existing condition like diabetes or cancer, if you’ve had heartburn or a heart attack, this law means that you can no longer be charged more or denied coverage because of a preexisting condition, ever. It’s the end of the discrimination against the sick in America, and all of us are sick sometimes.
If you don’t have health insurance, you can go online to the marketplace and choose from an array of quality, affordable private plans. Every governor was given the option to expand Medicaid for his or her citizens, although only 28 have chosen to do so — so far. But after five years of the ACA, more than 16 million uninsured Americans have gained health care coverage — 16 million. In just over one year, the ranks of the uninsured have dropped by nearly one-third — one-third.
If you’re a woman, you can no longer be charged more just for being a woman. And you know there are a lot of women. (Laughter.) Like more than 50 percent. (Laughter.) Preventive care, like routine checkups and immunizations and contraception now come with no additional out-of-pocket costs.
If you’re a young person, you can now stay on your parents’ plan until you turn 26. And if you want to turn that new idea into a business, if you’re going to try different jobs, even a different career, you now have the freedom to do it because you can buy health care that’s portable and not tied to your employer. Most people have options that cost less than 100 bucks a month.
If you’re a business owner — because when we put forward the Affordable Care Act, there was a lot of question about how it would affect business; well, it turns out employer premiums rose at a rate tied for the lowest on record. If premiums had kept growing at the rate we saw in the last decade, then either the average family premium, paid by the family or paid by the business, would be $1,800 higher than it is today. That’s 1,800 bucks that businesses can use to higher and invest, or that’s 1,800 bucks that stays in that family’s bank account, shows up in their paycheck.
If you’re a senior — more than 9 million seniors and people with disabilities have saved an average of $1,600 on their prescriptions, adding up to over $15 billion in savings. There were fears promoted that somehow this was going to undermine Medicare. Well, it turns out the life of the Medicare Trust Fund has been extended by 13 years since this law has passed.
And, relevant to the topic today, we’re moving Medicare toward a payment model that rewards quality of care instead of quantity of care. We don’t want the incentives to be skewed so that providers feel obliged to do more tests; we want them to do the right tests. We want them, perhaps, to save — to invest some money on the front end to prevent disease and not just on the back end to treat disease. And so these changes are encouraging doctors and hospitals to focus on getting better outcomes for their patients.
As we speak, Congress is working to fix the Medicare physician payment system. I’ve got my pen ready to sign a good, bipartisan bill — (applause) — which would be really exciting. I love when Congress passes bipartisan bills that I can sign. (Laughter.) It’s always very encouraging. And I want to thank everybody here today for their work in supporting new models of care that will benefit all Americans.
But the bottom line is this for the American people: The Affordable Care Act, this law, is saving money for families and for businesses. This law is also saving lives — lives that touch all of us. It’s working despite countless attempts to repeal, undermine, defund, and defame this law.
It’s not the “job-killer” that critics have warned about for five years. When this law was passed, our businesses began the longest streak of private-sector job growth on record: 60 straight months, five straight years, 12 million new jobs.
It’s not the fiscal disaster critics warned about for five years. Health care prices are rising at the slowest rate in nearly 50 years, which has helped cut our deficit by two-thirds since I took office. Before the ACA, health care was the single biggest driver driving up our projected deficits. Today, health care is the single biggest factor driving those projections down.
I mean, we have been promised a lot of things these past five years that didn’t turn out to be the case: death panels, doom. (Laughter.) A serious alternative from Republicans in Congress. (Laughter.)
The budget they introduced last week would literally double the number of the uninsured in America. And in their defense, there are two reasons why coming up with their own alternative has proven to be difficult.
First, it’s because the Affordable Care Act pretty much was their plan before I adopted it — (laughter) — based on conservative, market-based principles developed by the Heritage Foundation and supported by Republicans in Congress, and deployed by a guy named Mitt Romney in Massachusetts to great effect. If they want to take credit for this law, they can. I’m happy to share it. (Laughter.)
And second, it’s because health reform is really hard and the people here who are in the trenches know that. Good people from both parties have tried and failed to get it done for 100 years, because every public policy has some trade-offs, especially when it affects one-sixth of the American economy and applies to the very personal needs of every individual American.
And we’ve made our share of mistakes since we passed this law. But we also know beyond a shred of a doubt that the policy has worked. Coverage is up. Cost growth is at a historic low. Deficits have been slashed. Lives have been saved. So if anybody wants to join us in the spirit of the people who have put aside differences to come here today and help make the law work even better, come on board.
On the other hand, for folks who are basing their entire political agenda on repealing the law, you’ve got to explain how kicking millions of families off their insurance is somehow going to make us more free. Or why forcing millions of families to pay thousands of dollars more will somehow make us more secure. Or why we should go back to the days when women paid more for coverage than men. Or a preexisting condition locked so many of us out of insurance.
And if that’s your argument, then you should meet somebody like Anne Ha, who is here. Anne is 28 years old. Where’s Anne? There you are. Anne runs her own business in Philadelphia. And she thought what many of us think when we’re young — I no longer qualify — (laughter) — that she was too young, too healthy to bother with health insurance. She went to the gym every day. She ate healthy, looks great, felt invincible. Why pay a doctor just to tell her she’s okay?
But then her mom called, as moms sometimes do, and told Anne to get insured against the “what ifs” of life. What if you get sick? What if you get into a car accident? So Anne, dutiful daughter that she was, went to HealthCare.gov, checked out her options in the marketplace. And thanks to the tax credits available to her under this law, she got covered for 85 bucks a month. Four months later, Anne was diagnosed with early-stage stomach cancer. Anne underwent surgery, endured chemo. Today, she’s recovering. She looks great. She’s here with us at the White House. She invited me to her wedding. I told her you don’t want the President at her wedding. (Laughter.)
“If I didn’t have insurance,” Anne wrote, “my stomach cancer would have gone undiscovered, slowly and silently killing me. But because I did have insurance, I was given a chance to live a long and happy life.” (Applause.)
And so in September, Anne is going to be marrying her fiancé, Tom. And she’s convinced him to get covered, too. And I do appreciate, Michelle appreciates the invitation. As I said, we have to mag people at the wedding, and it spoils the fun. (Laughter.)
But here are two lessons from Anne’s story. Number one: Listen to your mom. (Laughter.) Number two: The Affordable Care Act works. And it’s working not just to make sure that folks like Anne get coverage, but it’s also working to make sure that the system as a whole is providing better quality at a better price, freeing up our providers to do the things that led them to get into health care in the first place — and that’s help people. It works.
Five years ago, we declared that in the United States of America, the security of quality, affordable health care was a privilege — was not a privilege, but a right. And today, we’ve got citizens all across the country, all of you here today who are helping make that right a reality for every American, regardless of your political beliefs, or theirs. And we’re saving money in the process. And we’re cutting the deficit in the process. And we’re helping businesses in their bottom lines in the process. We’re making this country more competitive in the process.
And it’s not going to happen overnight. There are still all kinds of bumps along the way. Health care is complicated stuff. And the hospital executives who are here, and the doctors who are here, and the consumer advocates who are here can tell you — all the complications and the quirks not just to the Affordable Care Act, but just generally making the system more rational and more efficient, it takes some time. But we’re on our way. We’re making progress.
And if all of us summon the same focus, the same kind of courage and wisdom and hard work that so many of you in this room display; and if we keep working not against one another, but for one another, with one another, we will not just make progress in health care. We’re going to keep on making sure that across the board we’re living up to our highest ideals.
So I very much am appreciative of what all of you are doing. I’m very proud of you. And why don’t you guys get back to work? (Laughter.) Thank you very much. (Applause.)
10:59 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 25, 2015
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 17, 2015
Source: WH, 2-4-15
11:47 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’ve just had a chance to meet with these six wonderful young people who represent the very best that this country has to offer. And what sets them apart is that they all came here, were brought here by their parents, and up until recently have had a very difficult situation because of their immigration status.
The stories you hear from these young people are parents who aspired for a better life for their children; these folks coming here at the age of four months, or seven months, or 9-year-olds or 10-year-olds, oftentimes not realizing that their status was any different than their classmates and their friends and their neighbors. In some cases, they didn’t discover until they were about to go to college that there was a difference that might prevent them from giving back to their community and their country.
And because of the executive actions that we took with respect to DREAM Act kids, and because of the executive actions that I announced late last year with respect to many of their parents, what I’ve heard is life is transformed. Young people who didn’t think it would be possible for themselves to go to college suddenly are going to college. Young people who didn’t think that it might be possible to start a business suddenly find themselves in a position to look at starting a business. Young people who have memories of their mothers weeping because they couldn’t go to the funeral of their parent now have seen the prospect, the hope, that their lives can stabilize and normalize in some way.
I don’t think there’s anybody in America who’s had a chance to talk to these six young people who or the young DREAMers all across the country who wouldn’t find it in their heart to say these kids are Americans just like us and they belong here and we want to do right by them.
And so often in this immigration debate it’s an abstraction and we don’t really think about the human consequences of our positions. And part of the reason that I wanted to hear from these young people today, and part of the reason why I’ve heard from young DREAMers in the past is because it’s a constant reminder to me of why this is important.
Now, the House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would have these six young people deported. I think that’s wrong. And I think most Americans would think it was wrong if they had a chance to meet these young people. And legislation is going to be going to the Senate that, again, tries to block these executive actions. I want to be as clear as possible: I will veto any legislation that got to my desk that took away the chance of these young people who grew up here and who are prepared to contribute to this country that would prevent them from doing so. And I am confident that I can uphold that veto.
So as we move forward in this debate over the next several months, the next year, the next year and a half, I would call on members of Congress to think about all the talent that is already in this country, that is already working in many cases, is already making contributions — in some cases, are joining up in our military, or are already starting businesses, are already attending school — and let’s be true to our tradition as a nation of immigrants and as a nation of laws.
My strong preference is going to be to pass comprehensive immigration reform. And I know that there are Republicans out there who want to pass comprehensive immigration reform. In the Senate, they’ve shown that they are prepared to do the right thing. And rather than continue trying to go back to a system that everybody acknowledges was broken, let’s move forward with the incredible promise that these young people represent.
The last point I’ll make: There have been suggestions that we will not fund the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for patrolling our borders, as well as keeping our air travel safe, as well as patrolling our coasts — there’s been talk about not funding that department because of the disagreement around immigration reform. There’s no logic to that position. Particularly for Republicans who claim that they are interested in strong border security, why would you cut off your nose to spite your face by defunding the very operations that are involved in making sure that we’ve got strong border security, particularly at a time when we’ve got real concerns about countering terrorism?
So my strong suggestion would be that Congress go ahead, fund the Department of Homeland Security. We’re doing a tremendous amount of work at the borders. The concerns that people had about unaccompanied children tragically traveling from Central America, that spike has now diminished. We are below the levels that we were two years ago. We are working diligently with the Central American countries to make sure that young people there have hope and that their parents are getting a clear message of not sending them on this extraordinarily dangerous journey.
Let’s make sure the Department of Homeland Security is properly funded, we’re doing the right things at the borders, we’re doing the right things with respect to our airports. And then let’s get back to first principles; and remind ourselves that each of these young people here are going to be doing incredible things on behalf of this country.
And to all the DREAMers who are out there and all those who qualify for my executive action moving forward, I want you to know that I am confident in my ability to implement this program over the next two years, and I’m confident that the next President and the next Congress and the American people will ultimately recognize why this is the right thing to do. So I’m going to want all of you to get information so you can sign up if you qualify as well. All right?
Thank you very much, everybody. And thank you, guys, for sharing your incredible stories.
11:56 A.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 4, 2015
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 2, 2015
Source: WH, 2-2-15
Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2016 contains the Budget Message of the President, information on the President’s priorities, budget overviews organized by agency, and summary tables.
To download “Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2016″ as a single PDF click here (150 pages, 2.3 MB)
|Descriptions of The Budget Documents and General Notes||75 K|
|The Budget Message of the President||44 K|
|Building on a Record of Economic Growth and Progress||110 K|
|Investing in America’s Future||396 K|
|A Government of the Future||130 K|
|Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings||132 K|
|Summary Tables||1366 K|
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 2, 2015
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 29, 2015
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 21, 2015
“I’m Joni Ernst. As a mother, a soldier, and a newly elected senator from the great State of Iowa, I am proud to speak with you tonight.
“A few moments ago, we heard the President lay out his vision for the year to come. Even if we may not always agree, it’s important to hear different points of view in this great country. We appreciate the President sharing his.
“Tonight though, rather than respond to a speech, I’d like to talk about your priorities. I’d like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected, and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again.
“We heard the message you sent in November — loud and clear. And now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country.
“The new Republican Congress also understands how difficult these past six years have been. For many of us, the sting of the economy and the frustration with Washington’s dysfunction weren’t things we had to read about. We felt them every day.
“We felt them in Red Oak — the little town in southwestern Iowa where I grew up, and am still proud to call home today.
“As a young girl, I plowed the fields of our family farm. I worked construction with my dad. To save for college, I worked the morning biscuit line at Hardees.
“We were raised to live simply, not to waste. It was a lesson my mother taught me every rainy morning.
“You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry.
“But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet.
“Our parents may not have had much, but they worked hard for what they did have.
“These days though, many families feel like they’re working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it.
“Not just in Red Oak, but across the country.
“We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs. We see the hurt caused by canceled healthcare plans and higher monthly insurance bills. We see too many moms and dads put their own dreams on hold while growing more fearful about the kind of future they’ll be able to leave to their children.
“Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.
“That’s why the new Republican majority you elected started by reforming Congress to make it function again. And now, we’re working hard to pass the kind of serious job-creation ideas you deserve.
“One you’ve probably heard about is the Keystone jobs bill. President Obama has been delaying this bipartisan infrastructure project for years, even though many members of his party, unions, and a strong majority of Americans support it. The President’s own State Department has said Keystone’s construction could support thousands of jobs and pump billions into our economy, and do it with minimal environmental impact.
“We worked with Democrats to pass this bill through the House. We’re doing the same now in the Senate.
“President Obama will soon have a decision to make: will he sign the bill, or block good American jobs?
“There’s a lot we can achieve if we work together.
“Let’s tear down trade barriers in places like Europe and the Pacific. Let’s sell more of what we make and grow in America over there so we can boost manufacturing, wages, and jobs right here, at home.
“Let’s simplify America’s outdated and loophole-ridden tax code. Republicans think tax filing should be easier for you, not just the well-connected. So let’s iron out loopholes to lower rates — and create jobs, not pay for more government spending.
“The President has already expressed some support for these kinds of ideas. We’re calling on him now to cooperate to pass them.
“You’ll see a lot of serious work in this new Congress.
“Some of it will occur where I stand tonight, in the Armed Services Committee room. This is where I’ll join committee colleagues — Republicans and Democrats — to discuss ways to support our exceptional military and its mission. This is where we’ll debate strategies to confront terrorism and the threats posed by Al Qaeda, ISIL, and those radicalized by them.
“We know threats like these can’t just be wished away. We’ve been reminded of terrorism’s reach both at home and abroad; most recently in France and Nigeria, but also in places like Canada and Australia. Our hearts go out to all the innocent victims of terrorism and their loved ones. We can only imagine the depth of their grief.
“For two decades, I’ve proudly worn our nation’s uniform: today, as a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. While deployed overseas with some of America’s finest men and women, I’ve seen just how dangerous these kinds of threats can be.
“The forces of violence and oppression don’t care about the innocent. We need a comprehensive plan to defeat them.
“We must also honor America’s veterans. These men and women have sacrificed so much in defense of our freedoms, and our way of life. They deserve nothing less than the benefits they were promised and a quality of care we can be all be proud of.
“These are important issues the new Congress plans to address.
“We’ll also keep fighting to repeal and replace a health care law that’s hurt so many hardworking families.
“We’ll work to correct executive overreach.
“We’ll propose ideas that aim to cut wasteful spending and balance the budget — with meaningful reforms, not higher taxes like the President has proposed.
“We’ll advance solutions to prevent the kind of cyberattacks we’ve seen recently.
“We’ll work to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“And we’ll defend life, because protecting our most vulnerable is an important measure of any society.
“Congress is back to work on your behalf, ready to make Washington focus on your concerns again.
“We know America faces big challenges. But history has shown there’s nothing our nation, and our people, can’t accomplish.
“Just look at my parents and grandparents.
“They had very little to call their own except the sweat on their brow and the dirt on their hands. But they worked, they sacrificed, and they dreamed big dreams for their children and grandchildren.
“And because they did, an ordinary Iowan like me has had some truly extraordinary opportunities — because they showed me that you don’t need to come from wealth or privilege to make a difference. You just need the freedom to dream big, and a whole lot of hard work.
“The new Republican Congress you elected is working to make Washington understand that too. And with a little cooperation from the President, we can get Washington working again.
“Thank you for allowing me to speak with you tonight.
“May God bless this great country of ours, the brave Americans serving in uniform on our behalf, and you, the hardworking men and women who make the United States of America the greatest nation the world has ever known.”
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 20, 2015
Source: WH, 1-20-15
The White House is making the full text of the State of the Union widely available on its Medium page. The text, as prepared for delivery, is now online HERE, along with tools that allow people to follow along with the speech as they watch in real time, to view charts and infographics on key areas, to tweet their favorite lines, and to leave notes to provide feedback.
The full text of the State of the Union Address, as prepared for delivery, is posted now on Medium and can be viewed here: http://go.wh.gov/SOTUMedium
There is a ritual on State of the Union night in Washington. A little before the address, the White House sends out an embargoed copy of the President’s speech to the press (embargoed means that the press can see the speech, but they can’t report on it until a designated time). The reporters then start sending it around town to folks on Capitol Hill to get their reaction, then those people send it to all their friends, and eventually everyone in Washington can read along, but the public remains in the dark.
This year we change that.
For the first time, the White House is making the full text of the speech available to citizens around the country online. On Medium, you can follow along with the speech as you watch in real time, view charts and infographics on key areas, tweet favorite lines, and leave notes. By making the text available to the public in advance, the White House is continuing efforts to reach a wide online audience and give people a range of ways to consume the speech.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:
We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.
But tonight, we turn the page.
Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.
Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful for your service.
America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:
The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.
At this moment – with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production – we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.
Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?
Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?
Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another – or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?
In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan. And in the months ahead, I’ll crisscross the country making a case for those ideas.
So tonight, I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.
It begins with our economy.
Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds. She waited tables. He worked construction. Their first child, Jack, was on the way.
They were young and in love in America, and it doesn’t get much better than that.
“If only we had known,” Rebekah wrote to me last spring, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”
As the crisis worsened, Ben’s business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of time. Rebekah took out student loans, enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career. They sacrificed for each other. And slowly, it paid off. They bought their first home. They had a second son, Henry. Rebekah got a better job, and then a raise. Ben is back in construction – and home for dinner every night.
“It is amazing,” Rebekah wrote, “what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”
We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.
America, Rebekah and Ben’s story is our story. They represent the millions who have worked hard, and scrimped, and sacrificed, and retooled. You are the reason I ran for this office. You’re the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation. And it’s been your effort and resilience that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.
We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs to our shores. And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.
We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.
We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. And more Americans finish college than ever before.
We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.
At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years.
So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto.
Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007. But here’s the thing – those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making. We need to do more than just do no harm. Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.
Because families like Rebekah’s still need our help. She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but have to forego vacations and a new car so they can pay off student loans and save for retirement. Basic childcare for Jack and Henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota. Like millions of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn’t asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead.
In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity. We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the internet – tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.
That’s what middle-class economics is – the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success – we want everyone to contribute to our success.
So what does middle-class economics require in our time?
First – middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement – and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.
Here’s one example. During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority – so this country provided universal childcare. In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have – it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America – by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.
Here’s another example. Today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave. Forty-three million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own. And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.
Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.
These ideas won’t make everybody rich, or relieve every hardship. That’s not the job of government. To give working families a fair shot, we’ll still need more employers to see beyond next quarter’s earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their company’s long-term interest. We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice. But things like child care and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage – these ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families. That is a fact. And that’s what all of us – Republicans and Democrats alike – were sent here to do.
Second, to make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.
America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, and trained the best workforce in the world. But in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to do more.
By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education. Two in three. And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not smart for our future.
That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college – to zero.
Forty percent of our college students choose community college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt. Understand, you’ve got to earn it – you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time. Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible. I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today. And I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.
Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system, we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics. Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships – opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.
And as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend. Already, we’ve made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care. We’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need, and we’re making it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into civilian jobs. Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden, has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get new jobs. So to every CEO in America, let me repeat: If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done, hire a veteran.
Finally, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill.
Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined. Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs. Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming. But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist ten or twenty years ago – jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.
So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future. But we do know we want them here in America. That’s why the third part of middle-class economics is about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.
21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure – modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.
21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.
Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense. But ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.
21st century businesses will rely on American science, technology, research and development. I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine – one that delivers the right treatment at the right time. In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable. Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes – and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.
I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.
I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs – converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay. Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars. In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space. Good luck, Captain – and make sure to Instagram it.
Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber. Members of both parties have told me so. Where we too often run onto the rocks is how to pay for these investments. As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does, too. But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight. They’ve riddled it with giveaways the superrich don’t need, denying a break to middle class families who do.
This year, we have an opportunity to change that. Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest in America. Let’s use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and make it more attractive for companies to bring jobs home. Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford. And let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth. We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college. We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together.
Helping hardworking families make ends meet. Giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy. Maintaining the conditions for growth and competitiveness. This is where America needs to go. I believe it’s where the American people want to go. It will make our economy stronger a year from now, fifteen years from now, and deep into the century ahead.
Of course, if there’s one thing this new century has taught us, it’s that we cannot separate our work at home from challenges beyond our shores.
My first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America. In doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the world, but how. When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military – then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world. That’s what our enemies want us to do.
I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now – and around the globe, it is making a difference.
First, we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists – from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris. We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.
At the same time, we’ve learned some costly lessons over the last thirteen years.
Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who’ve now taken the lead, and we’ve honored our troops’ sacrifice by supporting that country’s first democratic transition. Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we’re partnering with nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America. In Iraq and Syria, American leadership – including our military power – is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.
Second, we are demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy. We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small – by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.
That’s how America leads – not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.
In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new. Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere; removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo. As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of “small steps.” These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba. And after years in prison, we’re overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs. Welcome home, Alan.
Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies – including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails – alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.
Third, we’re looking beyond the issues that have consumed us in the past to shape the coming century.
No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.
In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses and healthcare workers are rolling back Ebola – saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease. I couldn’t be prouder of them, and I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts. But the job is not yet done – and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.
In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules – in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, and how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief. And no challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.
2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does – 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.
I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what – I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.
That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement – the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.
There’s one last pillar to our leadership – and that’s the example of our values.
As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained. It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims – the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.
As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice – so it makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in half. Now it’s time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It’s not who we are.
As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties – and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks. So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I haven’t. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.
Looking to the future instead of the past. Making sure we match our power with diplomacy, and use force wisely. Building coalitions to meet new challenges and opportunities. Leading – always – with the example of our values. That’s what makes us exceptional. That’s what keeps us strong. And that’s why we must keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards – our own.
You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America, or a conservative America; a black America or a white America – but a United States of America. I said this because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home – a state of small towns, rich farmland, and one of the world’s great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.
Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision. How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever. It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws – of which there are many – but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and naïve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.
I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong.
I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long. I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best. I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California; and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, and New London. I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown; in Boston, West, Texas, and West Virginia. I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains; from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.
So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who, every day, live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, and our sister’s keeper. And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.
So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for – arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.
Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different.
Understand – a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.
A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.
A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.
A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up, with a sense of purpose and possibility, and asking them to join in the great mission of building America.
If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments – but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.
We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.
Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.
We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.
That’s a better politics. That’s how we start rebuilding trust. That’s how we move this country forward. That’s what the American people want. That’s what they deserve.
I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol – to do what I believe is best for America. If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree. And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.
Because I want this chamber, this city, to reflect the truth – that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, and help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.
I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids.
I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen – man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.
I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.
I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom like Rebekah can sit down and write a letter to her President with a story to sum up these past six years:
“It is amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”
My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America. We’ve laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter – together – and let’s start the work right now.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 20, 2015
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Source: WH, 12-20-14
Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
December 20, 2014
Hi, everybody. As 2014 comes to an end, we can enter the New Year with new confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts.
The steps we took nearly six years ago to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s. Over the past 57 months, our businesses have created nearly 11 million new jobs. And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again.
Our investments in American manufacturing have helped fuel its best stretch of job growth since the ‘90s. America is now the number one producer of oil and gas, saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas. The auto industry we rescued is on track for its strongest year since 2005. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance in the past year alone. And since I took office, we have cut our deficits by about two-thirds.
Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading. We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. We’re leading the global fight to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. We’re leading global efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China. We’re turning a new page in our relationship with the Cuban people.
And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over, and our war there will come to a responsible end. Today, more of our troops are home for the holidays than at any time in over a decade. Still, many of our men and women in uniform will spend this Christmas in harm’s way. And as Commander-in-Chief, I want our troops to know: your country is united in our support and gratitude for you and your families.
The six years since the financial crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everyone’s part. But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve got to show for it. More jobs. More insured. A growing economy. Shrinking deficits. Bustling industry. Booming energy.
Pick any metric you want – America’s resurgence is real. And we now have the chance to reverse the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes. We just have to invest in the things that we know will secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans. We have to make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not only for a few, but for all of us. And I look forward to working together with the new Congress next year on these priorities.
Sure, we’ll disagree on some things. We’ll have to compromise on others. I’ll act on my own when it’s necessary. But I will never stop trying to make life better for people like you.
Because thanks to your efforts, a new foundation is laid. A new future is ready to be written. We have set the stage for a new American moment, and I’m going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure we seize it.
On behalf of the Obama family, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.
Thanks, and have a wonderful holiday season.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on December 20, 2014