Political Musings December 26, 2014: Obamas celebrate Christmas marking the end of the War in Afghanistan

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obamas celebrate Christmas marking the end of the War in Afghanistan

By Bonnie K. Goodman

There was a definite theme and message President Barack Obama was trying to get across this Christmas, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014, that after 13 years the combat war in Afghanistan will officially be over on Dec. 31. The president and…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 25, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Happy Holidays from the President and First Lady Michelle Obama — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Happy Holidays from the President and First Lady

Source: WH, 12-25-14

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 25, 2014

THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas everybody!  Now, we’re not going to take much of your time because today is about family and being together with the ones you love.  And luckily for me, that means I get a little help on the weekly address, too.

THE FIRST LADY:  The holidays at the White House are such a wonderful time of year.

We fill the halls with decorations, Christmas trees, and carolers – and this year, we invited more than 65,000 people to join us.

Our theme was “A Children’s Winter Wonderland” – and Americans young and old had a chance to come together and celebrate the season.

THE PRESIDENT: And today, our family will join millions across the country in celebrating the birth of Jesus – the birth not just of a baby in a manger, but of a message that has changed the world: to reach out to the sick; the hungry; the troubled; and above all else, to love one another as we would be loved ourselves.

THE FIRST LADY: We hope that this holiday season will be a chance for us to live out that message—to bridge our differences and lift up our families, friends, and neighbors… and to reconnect with the values that bind us together.

And as a country, that also means celebrating and honoring those who have served and sacrificed for all of us—our troops, veterans, and their families.

THE PRESIDENT: In just a few days, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over.  Our longest war will come to a responsible end.  And that gives us an opportunity to step back and reflect upon all that these families have given us.  We’re able to gather with family and friends because our troops are willing to hug theirs goodbye and step forward to serve.  After a long day, we can come home because they’re willing to leave their families and deploy.  We can celebrate the holidays because they’re willing to miss their own.

THE FIRST LADY: And so, as our troops continue to transition back home—back to our businesses, our schools, our congregations, and our communities—it’s up to all of us to serve them as well as they have served us.

You can visit JoiningForces.gov to find out how you can honor and support the troops, veterans, and military families in your communities.

That’s something we can do not only during the holiday season, but all year round.

THE PRESIDENT: So Merry Christmas, everybody.  May God bless you all.  And we wish you and your family a happy and healthy 2015.

Full Text Obama Presidency December 17, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Afternoon and evening Hanukkah ReceptionsFull Text Obama Presidency December 15, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at “Christmas in Washington” — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks By The President At Evening Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-17-14 

State Floor

8:03 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!

AUDIENCE:  Hello!

THE PRESIDENT:  Happy Hanukkah!

AUDIENCE:  Happy Hanukkah!

THE PRESIDENT:  This is a particularly good-looking Hanukkah crowd.

MRS. OBAMA:  It’s good.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s very impressive.

Now, every year, Michelle and I like to invite just a few friends over for a small Hanukkah celebration.  (Laughter.)   Nothing fancy.  This is the second year we’ve invited so many friends that we ended up having to have two Hanukkah parties.  (Applause.)   We had one earlier this afternoon.  I have to tell you, this is the better party.  (Applause.)  Don’t tell anybody because —

MRS. OBAMA:  He said that earlier.

THE PRESIDENT:  I said that earlier.  (Laughter.)  But I really mean it this time.  (Applause.)

We are blessed to have so many friends and dignitaries here. I want to welcome Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, who’s here, and his wife, Rhoda –- (applause) — all our friends from the State of Israel, who remind us that the bonds between our two countries are unbreakable.  (Applause.)

We have leaders from across my administration, including our outstanding Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew.  (Applause.) Council of Economic Advisers Chair, Jason Furman.  Give Jason some more — Jason actually is the guy who gives me the jobs report every month.  Ever since he’s come on they’ve been really good.  So give Jason a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients is here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got the Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley. (Applause.)  We’ve got all kinds of members of Congress here, including our DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  (Applause.)  The president of the Anti-Defamation League, Abe Foxman.  (Applause.)  And a member of my team who’s leaving to become ADL’s next president, Jonathan Greenblatt.  (Applause.)

Now, I’m going to begin by saying what a glorious day this is — because, after five years, American Alan Gross is free.  (Applause.)  As all of you know, he was arrested five years ago by Cuban authorities simply for helping ordinary Cubans — including a small Jewish community in Cuba –- just for access information on the Internet.  Today, after 1,840 days, he is back where he belongs — with his wife Judy and his family.  And as you heard Alan say today, this is his best Hanukkah.

From his cell, Alan once wrote, “I refuse to accept that my country would leave me behind.”  And he is right.  We’re committed to the principle that no American ever gets left behind.  We do everything in our power to bring Americans home.  So we thank all those who helped to make sure that Alan was never forgotten.  And as now we’re moving forward, we know that the historic changes I announced today will mean greater opportunity and progress for both Americans and for Cubans, including the small but proud Jewish community in Cuba.  (Applause.)

So we are here to celebrate a story that took place more than 2,000 years ago, when a small group of Maccabees rose up to defeat their far more powerful oppressors.  In the face of —  what do we got playing there?  (Laughter.)  What you got on your phone?  I was trying to figure out the ringtone.  (Laughter.)

Where was I?  Small group of Maccabees — right!  Rose up to defeat their far more powerful oppressors.  In the face of   overwhelming odds, they reclaimed their city, and the right to worship as they choose.

And after their victory, the Maccabees found there wasn’t enough oil to keep the flame in their temple alive.  But they lit the oil that they had.  And miraculously, the flame that was supposed to burn for just one night burned for eight.  The Hanukkah story teaches us that our light can shine brighter than even we could imagine — with a little bit of faith, and making sure that it’s up to us to provide that first spark.

The menorahs that we’re about to light remind us of our power to make miracles happen.  It was one of four that were brought here from Israel, and was built by children in Yemin Orde, a village in Israel founded in 1953 to provide a safe haven to orphans and young immigrants after the Holocaust.  More than 60 years later, Yemin Orde still gives children in Israel a shot at a brighter future.  And tonight, Atakalit Tesfaye, a graduate of Yemin Orde, will help us light the Hanukkah candles.  (Applause.)

He will be joined by Dr. Adam Levine.  Now, I just want to be clear, this is not — (laughter) — Adam Levine, People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive — (laughter) — although he’s a pretty sexy guy.  (Laughter.)  This is actually Dr. Adam Levine, Time’s Person of the Year.  (Applause.)  Along with his compatriots, Adam, who recently returned from Liberia, has been doing heroic work for Ebola patients, saving lives.  (Applause.)

Yemin Orde is just one village.  But the story of Hanukkah teaches us that there’s no such thing as a futile act of courage, or a small act of faith.  One doctor can save a life.  One school can help a child.  That life, that child may change a village.  One person can be the spark that changes the world.

So as we gather with family and friends, let’s give thanks to the miracles that we’ve been blessed with in our own lives — miracles large and small — same ringtone.  (Laughter.)  During this Festival of Lights, let’s commit ourselves to making new miracles, and to sharing them with the world.

I’d now like to invite Rabbi Angela Buchdahl — from Manhattan — (applause) — to lead us in the blessing and candle-lighting.  (Applause.)

END
8:11 P.M. EST

 

Remarks by the President at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-17-14 

East Room

4:27 P.M. EST

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Happy Hanukkah, Mr. President!

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Happy Hanukkah to you!  (Laughter.)  You stole my line.  (Laughter.)  Happy Hanukkah, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Happy Hannukah.

MRS. OBAMA:  Welcome to the White House.  I want to welcome the members of Congress who are here today.  We’ve got some Bronfman Fellows — (applause) — who are here from the State of Israel.  (Applause.)  Obviously, the bonds between our two countries are unbreakable, and with the help of young people, they’re only going to grow stronger in the years to come.

Every year, Michelle and I like to invite just a few friends over for a little Hanukkah celebration.  (Laughter.)  Nothing fancy.  Actually, this is the second year we’ve invited so many friends that we’re hosting two parties instead of one.  This is our first party — it is the best party.  (Laughter.)  Don’t tell the others, though.

I want to begin with today’s wonderful news.  I’m told that in the Jewish tradition, one of the great mitzvahs is pidyon shvuyim.  (Applause.)  My Hebrew is not perfect, but I get points for trying.  But it describes the redemption, the freeing, of captives.  And that’s what we’re celebrating today, because after being unjustly held in Cuba for more than five years, American Alan Gross is free.  (Applause.)

Alan has dedicated his life to others — to helping people around the world develop their communities and improve their lives, including Israelis and Palestinians.  He’s a man of deep faith who once worked for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.  Five years ago, he was arrested by Cuban authorities simply for helping ordinary Cubans, including Cuba’s small Jewish community, access information on the Internet.  And ever since, those who have loved and cared for Alan never stopped working to bring him home:  Judy, his wife of 44 years, and their daughters, including his oldest daughter who walked down the aisle without her dad on her wedding day.  His mother, who passed away this year without being able to see her son one last time.  His whole family, including his sister-in-law, Gwen Zuares, who joins us here today — where is Gwen?  (Applause.)  Hey, Gwen.  His rabbi, his friends at his congregation in Maryland, Am Kolel, who kept him in their prayers every Shabbat.  Jewish and other faith leaders across the country and around the world, including His Holiness Pope Francis.  And members of Congress and those of us in the United States government.

And Alan has fought back.  He spoke out from his cell, he went on a hunger strike.  With his health deteriorating, his family worried he might not be able to make it out alive.  But he never gave up, and we never gave up.

As I explained earlier, after our many months of discussion with the Cuban government, Alan was finally released this morning on humanitarian grounds.  I spoke to him on his flight.  He said he was willing to interrupt his corned beef sandwich to talk to me.  (Laughter.)  I told him he had mustard in his mustache; I couldn’t actually see it.  (Laughter.)  But needless to say, he was thrilled.  And he landed at Andrews in a plane marked “The United States of America.”  (Applause.)

He’s going to be getting the medical attention that he needs.  He’s back where he belongs — in America, with his family, home for Hanukkah.  And I can’t think of a better way to mark this holiday, with its message that freedom is possible, than with the historic changes that I announced today in our Cuba policy.  (Applause.)  These are changes that are rooted in America’s commitment to freedom and democracy for all the Cuban people, including its small but proud Jewish community.  And Alan’s remarks about the need for these changes was extremely powerful.

So what brings us together is not just lox and latkes — (laughter) — although I have heard the latkes here are outstanding.  (Applause.)  Am I wrong?  Not as good as your mom’s, but they’re good.  (Applause.)

We’re here to celebrate a story that took place more than 2,000 years ago, when a small group of Maccabees rose up to defeat their far more powerful oppressors.  In the face of overwhelming odds, they reclaimed their city and the right to worship as they chose.  And in their victory, they found there wasn’t enough oil to keep the flame in their temple alive.  But they lit the oil they had and, miraculously, the flame that was supposed to burn for just one night burned for eight.  The Hanukkah story teaches us that our light can shine brighter than we could ever imagine with faith, and it’s up to us to provide that first spark.

This is something that Inbar Vardi and Mouran Ibrahim know very well.  They are Israeli ninth-graders at Hand in Hand, which is a bilingual school in Jerusalem.  (Applause.)  For more than a decade, it’s brought Jewish and Arab children together.  So Inbar is Jewish; Mouran is Muslim.

Just two weeks ago, their school’s first-grade classroom was set on fire by arsonists.  In the weeks that followed, they and their classmates could have succumbed to anger or cynicism, but instead they built this menorah, one of four that we brought here from Israel this year.  Each of its branches are dedicated to one of the values their school is founded on — values like community and dignity and equality and peace.  Inbar and Mouran flew here from Israel along with Rebecca Bardach, the mother of a first-grader and second-grader at Hand in Hand, and in just a few minutes the three of them are going to join us in lighting the Hanukkah candles here at the White House.  (Applause.)

So Inbar and Mouran and their fellow students teach us a critical lesson for this time in our history:  The light of hope must outlast the fires of hate.  That’s what the Hanukkah story teaches us.  That’s what our young people can teach us — that one act of faith can make a miracle.  That love is stronger than hate.  That peace can triumph over conflict.  And during this Festival of Lights, let’s commit ourselves to making some small miracles ourselves and then sharing them with the world.

I now want to invite Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson to the podium who can lead us in the blessings for the candle lighting.  Rabbi.  (Applause.)

(The blessings are given.)

END                  4:38 P.M. EST

 

 

 

Full Text Obama Presidency December 15, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at “Christmas in Washington” — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at “Christmas in Washington”

Source: WH, 12-15-14

National Building Museum

7:32 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Give it up for Santa’s biggest, baddest elf — our host, The Rock. (Applause.) Dwayne is tough as nails on the outside, but as you heard earlier, he is a big softie on the inside. Even played me once on “Saturday Night Live.” (Laughter.) You can see the resemblance. (Laughter.) I have a little more hair.

I want to thank all the incredible performers for dazzling us with their talents tonight. Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.) And we want to thank all the people behind the scenes who help make this wonderful event possible every single year.

For 33 years, “Christmas in Washington” has benefited a remarkable institution — Children’s National Medical Center. That’s where dedicated medical professionals provide world-class care to our most precious resource — our children — every single day of the year. Of course, this holiday is all about the birth of a child more than 2,000 years ago. A young soon-to-be mother and her husband of modest means traveled to Bethlehem and sought shelter for the night. They found it in a manger. And in the lowliest of surroundings a Savior was born who would change the world.

Jesus Christ lived a life of peace, of love, and kindness and forgiveness. He administered to the poor and to the sick, to the stranger and the outcast on society’s margins. His life of service teaches us that our individual salvation is wrapped up in the salvation of others. And two millennia later, it lifts the hearts of billions around the world, Christians and non-Christians alike.

In the hustle and bustle of Christmas season, may we all do our best to follow his example, to reach out to someone whose Christmas isn’t so jolly; to turn our blessings into kindness and compassion; to treat one another the way we would like to be treated. That’s the real Christmas spirit.

To all our men and women in uniform serving far from home, and to the families who miss them, we thank you for your service and sacrifice, and we’re thinking of you this holiday season. And to every American, from the Obama family to yours, Merry Christmas. God bless you, and God bless America.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 7:36 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 13, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Giving Thanks for Our Troops — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Giving Thanks for Our Troops

Source: WH, 12-13-14

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 13, 2014

Hi, everybody. It’s the holidays—a season to give thanks for our many blessings. The love of family. The joy of good friends. The bonds of community. The freedom we cherish as Americans. The peace and justice we seek in the world.

As we go about our days, as we gather with loved ones and friends, it’s important to remember: our way of life—the freedom, prosperity and security that we enjoy as Americans—is not a gift that is simply handed to us. It has to be earned—by every generation. And no one sacrifices more to preserve our blessings than our extraordinary men and women in uniform.

That’s why, on Monday, I’ll be visiting our troops at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey—to salute them for their service and thank them for their sacrifices. Since our nation was attacked on 9/11, these men and women, like so many others in uniform, have met every mission we’ve asked of them. They deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. In more than a decade of war, this 9/11 Generation has worked with the Afghan people to help them reclaim their communities and prevent terrorist attacks against our own country.

Now, many of our troops are returning from Afghanistan, and on Monday, I’ll be proud to help welcome them home. That’s because, this month, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over. Our war in Afghanistan is coming to a responsible end.

Of course, the end of our combat mission in Afghanistan doesn’t mean the end of challenges to our security.We’ll continue to work with Afghans to make sure their country is stable and secure and is never again used to launch attacks against America. The troops I’ll visit on Monday have been part of our mission to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria. They’ve been supporting our efforts in West Africa to fight the Ebola epidemic and save lives. Because in times of crisis and challenge, the world turns to America for leadership. And when the world calls on America, we call on the brave men and women of our armed forces to do what no one else can.

So this holiday season, as we give thanks for the blessings in our own lives, let’s also give thanks to our men and women in uniform who make those blessings possible. Even as some are coming home for the holidays, many more will be far from their families, who sacrifice along with them.

There are so many ways we can express our gratitude to our troops, their families and our veterans—everyone can do something. To find out what you can do, just go to JoiningForces.gov. As a nation, as Americans, let’s always keep striving to serve them as well as they have always served us.

Thanks, have a great weekend, and God bless our troops and their families.

Political Musings December 10, 2014: First Lady Michelle delivers Toys for Tots with Santa Obama as the big Elf

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

First Lady Michelle delivers Toys for Tots with Santa Obama as the big Elf

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This year President Barack Obama joined his wife First Lady Michelle Obama, on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 10, 2014 to deliver and sort toys for the “Marine Corps’ annual Toys for Tots campaign” at the joint Base…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 10, 2014: President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks At Toys for Tots Gift Sorting — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and the First Lady At Toys for Tots Gift Sorting

Source: WH, 12-10-14

Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling

1:42 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Ho, ho, ho.  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  That’s a pretty serious, ho, ho, ho.

THE PRESIDENT:  Ho, ho, ho.

MRS. OBAMA:  How is everybody doing?

THE PRESIDENT:  She’s doing good.

MRS. OBAMA: Happy holidays, merry Christmas.

THE PRESIDENT:  Merry Christmas.

MRS. OBAMA: How are all the kids?  Yay.  Well, we’re happy to be back.  As you can see, I brought a little help this year.  Welcome to Toys for Tots.  Your first year.  We’re going to break you in slowly, okay?

But let me start — we’re not going to talk long because we’re here to actually do some work.  But I want to just thank everybody who has been involved in this effort.  Of course, Lieutenant General Osman, who has just been a tremendous partner for so many years.  His leadership is really at the heart of what makes this drive possible.

But also Lieutenant General Richard Mills, Lieutenant Colonel David Johnson, and First Sergeant Lowery, as well.  Let’s give them all a round of applause for their tremendous leadership.  (Applause.)

Thank you all for all the hours that you spend picking up the donations, sorting in warehouses all throughout the area.  This wouldn’t be possible without you and, of course, your wonderful families here who help to make this possible.

We have a couple of other folks here.  We’ve got White House Communications Agency folks and their families.  Let’s give you guys a round of applause.  Thank you all so much for your work.  (Applause.)

And of course, to all of the Marines from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, plus their spouses and all of our military kids.  Yay, you guys.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yay!  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  As General Osman said, this is the sixth year that I’ve been involved in Toys for Tots.  And every year it’s just a tremendous privilege to be able to be a part of making Christmas just a little brighter for a few kids across the country.

And we try to make it a big deal at the White House.  We create competitions.  I think this year the office that collected the most toys got a Bo and Sonny visit.  (Laughter.)  So we did a good job this year.  I think this year we’re bringing in about a thousand toys from the White House.  And so we’re proud of our team at the White House for participating.

But we still have a lot of time.  And one of the things that I just want to remind the public is that there’s still time to donate.  And we really want to urge folks out there do everything in their power to donate to Toys for Tots.

And if you need to find out where to go, all you have to go — do is go to the Toys for Tots website.  People can donate online.  They can go by one of the drop-off centers.  And each year, I kind of remind people that at times one of the challenges is making sure we have enough toys for the older kids.  It’s always fun to buy the Barbie Dolls and the coloring books, but we have to remember that there are teenagers out there too that need those gifts.  And we try to make it a point to make sure that we’re buying cool clothes for kids and electronic products and educational materials for teenagers, as well.

So if you haven’t already donated, don’t forget our teenagers.  They’re looking for a merry Christmas as well.

So with that, I’m going to turn it over to my new helper, who I brought along with me.  He doesn’t need any introductions.  I don’t know how good he’ll be with sorting — (laughter) — because he doesn’t usually deal in shopping in any kind of way.  But we’ll watch him closely to see if he can figure out which ones are girls, zero to two, or unisex.  It gets really complicated.  So watch him, because he could really make your work harder.

So with that, it’s my pleasure to introduce my husband, the President of the United States.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  I’m the big elf.  (Laughter.)  I’m like Will Farrell.  (Laughter.)  It is great to be here.  I’m not going to talk long.  I just want to say thanks to all of you for participating.  I want to say thank you to Toys for Tots.  Quick statistic:  Since it started in the 1940s, Toys for Tots has distributed more than 469 million toys to more than 216 million children.  That’s a lot of dollhouses, that’s a lot of Ninja Turtles.

But really what Toys for Tots is about is generosity and giving back.  All of us are so blessed.  Look at these beautiful kids here and wonderful families.  We are lucky.  We’re lucky first and foremost to live in the United States of America, and we’re lucky to be able to look after our kids and there are parents out there who love their kids just as much but are going through a tough time.  And for us to be able to make sure that that holiday spirit extends a little bit beyond just our family but to people all around the country, it is a wonderful contribution.

While I’m here, I just want to say thank you to our Marine Corps for their extraordinary work.  Our men and women in uniform and our military families don’t just work to keep us safe; they’re also strengthening our country here at home.  They’re volunteering at schools, congregations, our communities.  With our combat mission coming to a close in Afghanistan, it means more of our extraordinary military members are going to be home for the holidays, back where they belong.  And that is the most important blessing of all.

But what’s also great is that we’re now seeing our incredible military — some who may be leaving the military — able to provide that same dedication, that same sense of service to organizations throughout the country.  Sometimes in a volunteer capacity, sometimes in a professional capacity.  And we are very proud of that.  Lieutenant General Osman is just a great example of the ongoing spirit of duty and service that is instilled in armed forces.  So we are so grateful to all of you.

With that, I want to wish everybody a merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and let’s get sorting.  I am positive that girls, zero to two, that’s perfect for the “Call of Duty” video game.  (Laughter.)  Isn’t that right?

MRS. OBAMA:  What video game?

THE PRESIDENT:  See, she didn’t even get the joke.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  I wasn’t listening.

THE PRESIDENT:  She wasn’t listening to me.  (Laughter.)  Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

END
1:50 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

Source: WH, 12-4-14 

Ellipse

6:12 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Merry Christmas, everybody!  (Applause.)  We saw this party going on out back and we thought we’d join you.

I want to thank Secretary Jewell for not only the introduction but for all that you and everybody who is part of the Interior Department and the Park Service do to protect the magnificent outdoors for our children and for future generations.  And I want to thank Jonathan Jarvis, Dan Wenk, and everybody at the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation for putting on this special event each and every holiday season.

I want everybody to give it up for our charming Christmas hosts tonight, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.  (Applause.)  We have so enjoyed the incredible performers, including the one and only Patti LaBelle.  (Applause.)  And, finally, thanks to all of you who are here and watching at home for joining us to celebrate this wonderful holiday tradition.

Back in 1923, school kids here in Washington wrote a letter to the White House asking if they could put a Christmas tree on the South Lawn.  And more than 90 years and a few different evergreens later — (laughter) — the National Christmas Tree still stands as a symbol of hope and holiday spirit, and we still gather as a country each year to light it.

We still have school kids involved, too.  But this year, they’ve given all the state and territory trees surrounding the National Christmas Tree their first digital upgrade.  Young women from all 50 states used their computers — using their coding skills to control the colors and patterns of the lights on the trees.  (Applause.)  So thanks to those wonderful students.  It is incredibly impressive.  It’s actually one of the few things that Tom Hanks cannot do.  (Laughter.)

But while lighting the tree has entered into the 21st century, the story that we remember this season dates back more than 2,000 years.  It’s the story of hope –- the birth of a singular child into the simplest of circumstances -– a child who would grow up to live a life of humility, and kindness, and compassion; who traveled with a message of empathy and understanding; who taught us to care for the poor, and the marginalized, and those who are different from ourselves.  And more than two millennia later, the way he lived still compels us to do our best to build a more just and tolerant and decent world.

It is a story dear to my family as Christians, but its meaning is one embraced by all peoples across our country and around the world, regardless of how they pray, or whether they pray at all.  And that’s to love our neighbors as ourselves.  To be one another’s keepers.  To have faith in one another, and in something better around the bend.  Not just at Christmastime, but all the time.

And, finally, this Christmas, we count our blessings and we give thanks to the men and women of our military who help make those blessings possible.  And as we hold our loved ones tight, let’s remember the military families whose loved ones are far from home.  They are our heroes, and they deserve our heartfelt gratitude and our wholehearted support.  (Applause.)

So on behalf of Michelle, Malia, Sasha, mom-in-law — (laughter) — and our reindeer Bo and Sunny — (laughter) — I want to wish all of them and I want to wish all of you a very, very merry Christmas, and a holiday filled with joy.

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

END
6:17 P.M. EST

Political Musings November 29, 2014: Obama family celebrates Thanksgiving, begin Christmas season at the White House

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama family celebrates Thanksgiving, begin Christmas season at the White House

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This past weekend President Barack Obama and his family celebrated Thanksgiving with all the White House traditions. First Obama pardoned the National Thanksgiving Turkey on Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 in a White House ceremony, afterwards the whole family volunteered at…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency November 27, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Happy Thanksgiving from the Obama Family — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Happy Thanksgiving from the Obama Family

Source: WH, 11-27-14

Washington, DC — In this week’s address, the President wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving and reflected on the history of our country and its celebration of diversity. He gave thanks for the many Americans who sacrifice every day, from volunteer workers who serve their communities, to men and women in uniform who serve us all. On Thanksgiving, a holiday that is uniquely American, he reminded us to focus on what unites — our commitment to American ideals like justice and equality and our gratitude and love for our country.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
November 27, 2014

On behalf of the Obama family — Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo, and Sunny — I want to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving. Like many of you, we’ll spend the day with family and friends, catching up, eating some good food and watching a little football. Before we lift a fork, we lend a hand by going out in the community to serve some of our neighbors in need. And we give thanks for each other, and for all of God’s blessings.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because, more than any other, it is uniquely American. Each of us brings our own traditions and cultures and recipes to the table — but we all share this day, united by the gratitude for the bounty of this nation. And we welcome the contributions of all people — no matter their origin or color or beliefs — who call America home, and who enrich the life of our nation. It is a creed as old as our founding: “E pluribus unum” — that our of many, we are one.

We are reminded that this creed, and America itself, was never an inevitability, but the result of ordinary people in every generation doing their part to uphold our founding ideals — by taking the blessings of freedom, and multiplying them for those who would follow. As President Kennedy once wrote, even as we give thanks for all that we’ve inherited from those who came before us — “the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they posessed,” we must also remember that “the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”

Today, we are grateful to all Americans who do their part to live by those ideals, including our brave men and women in uniform overseas and their families, who sacrifice so much to keep America safe. To our service members who are away from home, we say an extra prayer for you and your loved ones, and we renew our commitment to take care of you as well as you’ve taken care of us.

We are grateful to the countless Americans who serve their communities in soup kitchens and shelters, looking out for those who are less fortunate, and lifting up those who have fallen on hard times. This generosity, this compassion, this belief that we are each other’s keepers, is essential to who we are, not just on this day, but every day.

It’s easy to focus on what separates us. But as we gather with loved ones on this Thanksgiving, let’s remember and be grateful for what binds us together. Our love of country. Our commitment to justice and equality. Our belief that America’s best days are ahead, and that her destiny is ours to shape — and that our inherited ideals must be the birthright of all of our children.

That’s what today is all about: that out of many, we are one. Thank you, God bless you, and from my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

Full Text Obama Presidency November 26, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Pardoning of the National Turkey — Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Pardons a Thanksgiving Turkey

Source: WH, 11-26-14

President Barack Obama, National Turkey Federation Chairman Gary Cooper; and son Cole Cooper participate in the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey pardon ceremony in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Nov. 26, 2014.President Barack Obama, National Turkey Federation Chairman Gary Cooper; and son Cole Cooper participate in the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey pardon ceremony in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Nov. 26, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Remarks by the President at Pardoning of the National Turkey

Source: WH, 11-26-14 

Cross Hall

2:32 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:Good afternoon, everybody.Please have a seat.Normally we do this outside.The weather is not cooperating today.But I want to, first of all, on behalf of Malia and Sasha, wish everybody an early Happy Thanksgiving.I am here to announce what I’m sure will be the most talked-about executive action this month.(Laughter.)Today, I’m taking an action fully within my legal authority — (laughter) — the same kind of action taken by Democrats and Republican presidents before me — to spare the lives of two turkeys, Mac and Cheese, from a terrible and delicious fate.(Laughter.)

I want to thank Joel Brandenberger, the president of the National Turkey Federation; Gary Cooper, its chairman; and his son Cole Cooper, who personally raised Mac and Cheese.Give them a big round of applause.(Applause.)Cole is keeping a pretty careful eye there on Cheese.(Laughter.)Uh-oh, he’s getting pretty excited about this.

Thanks to all those who voted online to pick the official National Thanksgiving Turkey.Cheese wants you to know that he won.(Laughter.)Mac, the alternate, is not so badly off either.Let’s face it — if you’re a turkey, and you’re named after a side dish — (laughter) — your chances of escaping Thanksgiving dinner are pretty low.So these guys are well ahead of the curve.They really beat the odds.

It is important to know that turkeys have always had powerful allies.Many of you know that Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country.He is a bird of bad moral character…the turkey is, in comparison, a much more respectable bird.”(Laughter.)I think these two turkeys would agree with Mr. Franklin.And they’ll get to live out the rest of their days, respectably, at a Virginia estate with 10,000 {sic} acres of roaming space.

I know some will call this amnesty — (laughter) — but don’t worry, there’s plenty of turkey to go around.(Laughter.) In fact, later this afternoon, Michelle, Malia and Sasha and I will take two turkeys that didn’t make the cut to a local food pantry that works hard year-round to make sure that folks in our Nation’s Capital have food to eat and clothes to wear.I want to thank Jaindl Turkey Farm in Pennsylvania for donating once again those birds for — it’s, in fact, been six years in a row that they’ve made these contributions — and for making Thanksgiving dinner possible for some of our fellow Americans.

Finally, The Washington Post recently questioned the wisdom of the whole turkey pardon tradition.“Typically on the day before Thanksgiving,” the story went, “the man who makes decisions about wars, virus outbreaks, terrorism cells and other dire matters of state, chooses to pardon a single turkey … plus an alternate.”

Tell me about it.It is a little puzzling that I do this every year.(Laughter.)But I will say that I enjoy it because with all the tough stuff that swirls around in this office, it’s nice once in a while just to say:Happy Thanksgiving.And this is a great excuse to do it.

Tomorrow is a pretty special moment when we give thanks for the people we love, and where we’re mindful of the incredible blessings that we have received.We remember the folks who can’t spend their holiday at home, especially the brave men and women in uniform who help keep our country secure.And we celebrate a holiday that, at its best, is about what makes this nation great — and that’s its generosity and its openness, and, as President Franklin Roosevelt once said, our commitment, “to make a country in which no one is left out.”

Now, because I know everyone wants to get out of town, Mac and Cheese included — (laughter) — it is time for me to engage in the official act.So let’s see what we can do here with Cheese.

Come on, girls.(Laughter.)All right, are we ready?Cheese, you are hereby pardoned from the Thanksgiving dinner table.(Laughter.)Congratulations.(Applause.)

He looks pretty happy about it.(Laughter.)All right, if you want to take Cheese down, that’s okay.(Laughter.)I will tell you, though, turkeys don’t have the best-looking heads.(Laughter.)You know what I’m saying?You think they’re beautiful?

MR. COOPER:I think they’re beautiful — they’re red, white and blue —

THE PRESIDENT:There’s a patriotism element to it.(Laughter.)Absolutely.(To Malia and Sasha) — Do you want to pet him?

MALIA:No.(Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:Thank you.Good to see you.Appreciate you.

Thank you, everybody.Happy Thanksgiving.(Applause.)

END
2:38 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency November 8, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address This Veterans’ Day, Let’s Honor Our Veterans

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

WEEKLY ADDRESS: This Veterans’ Day, Let’s Honor Our Veterans

Source: WH, 11-8-14

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, in advance of Veterans’ Day, the President paid tribute to the men and women in uniform who have given so much in service of America. Veterans have risked their lives to protect our freedom, and we need to be there for them when they return from duty by ensuring they get the care they need and the opportunities they deserve. The President asked every American to thank and welcome home the veterans in their lives who, like all who fight for our country, are heroes worthy of our constant gratitude and support.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
November 8, 2014

Hi, everybody.  This weekend, I depart for Asia to advance American leadership and promote American jobs in a dynamic region that will be critical to our security and prosperity in the century ahead.  The democracies, progress and growth we see across the Asia Pacific would have been impossible without America’s enduring commitment to that region – especially the service of generations of Americans in uniform.  As we approach Veterans’ Day, we honor them – and all those who’ve served to keep us free and strong.

We salute that Greatest Generation who freed a continent from fascism and fought across Pacific Islands to preserve our way of life.  We pay tribute to Americans who defended the people of South Korea, soldiered through the brutal battles of Vietnam, stood up to a tyrant in Desert Storm and stopped ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.

And we celebrate our newest heroes from the 9/11 Generation – our veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  For more than 13 years, we have been at war in Afghanistan.  Next month, our combat mission will be over, and America’s longest war will come to a responsible end.

But the end of a war is just the beginning of our obligations to those who serve in our name.  These men and women will be proud veterans for decades to come, and our service to them has only just begun.  So as we welcome our newest veterans home, let’s honor them by giving them the thanks and respect they deserve.  And let’s make sure we’re there for their families and children, too – because they’ve also made great sacrifices for America.

Let’s honor our veterans by making sure they get the care and benefits they’ve earned.  That means health care that’s there for them when they need it.  It means continuing to reduce the disability claims backlog.  And it means giving our wounded warriors all the care and support they need to heal, including mental health care for those with post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury.  Some of the most moving moments I’ve experienced as Commander in Chief have been with our wounded warriors.  Some have to learn how to walk again, talk again, write their names again.  But no matter how hard it is, they never give up.  They never quit.  And we can’t ever quit on them.

Let’s honor our veterans by making sure they get their shot at the American Dream that they risked their lives to defend – by helping them find jobs worthy of their skills and talents, and making sure the Post-9/11 GI Bill stays strong so more veterans can earn a college education.  When our veterans have the opportunity to succeed, our whole nation is stronger.  And let’s work together to end the tragedy of homelessness among veterans once and for all – because anyone who has defended America deserves to live in dignity in America.

Finally, let’s honor our veterans by remembering that this isn’t just a job for government.  It’s a job for every American.  We’re all keepers of that sacred trust that says, if you put on a uniform and risk your life to keep us safe, we’ll do our part for you.  We’ll make sure you and your family get the support you need.  We’l have your backs – just like you had ours.

So this Veterans’ Day, and every day, let’s make sure all our veterans know how much we appreciate them.  If you see a veteran, go on up and shake their hand.  Look them in the eye.  Say those words that every veteran deserves to hear:  “Welcome home.  Thank you.  We need you more than ever to help us stay strong and free.”

Political Musings October 31, 2014: Obama celebrates Halloween with devilish cake, White House trick-or-treat party

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama along with First Lady Michelle Obama on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014 hosted trick-or-treaters at the White House, the treats however, were not as health conscious as the First Lady usually advocates. President Obama was so…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency September 23, 2014: President Barack Obama Wishes The American Jewish Community a Sweet, Happy, and Healthy New Year

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Wishing You a Sweet, Happy, and Healthy New Year

Shanah Tovah from the White House! On Wednesday evening, Jews in the United States and around the world will begin celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

The High Holidays offer the Jewish community a moment of pause, a time to reflect on the previous year and recommit to the unending task of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. Together, working with people of all faiths, we can bring greater peace and prosperity to the world in 5775.

In his 2014 video message for the High Holidays, President Obama extends his wishes for a sweet new year and discusses why this time of year is so significant.

Watch on YouTube

Read the remarks:

Hello. As Jews across America, Israel, and the world gather together for the High Holidays, Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to you and your families for a sweet and happy new year.

My good friend Elie Wiesel once said that God gave human beings a secret, and that secret was not how to begin but how to begin again. These days of awe are a chance to celebrate that gift, to give thanks for the secret, the miracle of renewal.

In synagogues and homes over the coming days, Jews will reflect on a year that carried its shares of challenges. We’ve been reminded many times that our world still needs repair. So here at home we continue the hard work of rebuilding our economy and restoring our American dream of opportunity for all. Around the world, we continue to stand for the dignity of every human being, and against the scourge of anti-Semitism, and we reaffirm the friendships and bonds that keep us strong, including our unshakeable alliance with the State of Israel.

So let’s approach this new year with new confidence and new hope. Let’s recommit ourselves to living out the values we share as individuals and as a country. Above all, let’s embrace this God-given miracle of renewal, this extraordinary opportunity to begin again in pursuit of justice, prosperity, and peace. From my family to yours, shanah tovah.

Full Text Obama Presidency July 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at White House Fourth of July Celebration

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Fourth of July Celebration

Source: WH, 7-4-14

South Lawn

5:56 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Happy Fourth of July!  Welcome to the White House!

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you!

MRS. OBAMA:  You’re welcome!

THE PRESIDENT:  No, thank you.  (Laughter.)

Now, this little party is something we’ve been doing every year, because there’s no group that we’d rather spend time with on this most American of holidays than with you — the extraordinary men and women of America’s military.  And because of you, we’re safe, we’re free.  We depend on you for our way of life, and the sacrifices you make are extraordinary.

Now, in the house we’ve got Army.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Navy.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Air Force.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Marines.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Coast Guard.  (Applause.)  And, most important, we’ve got the incredible spouses and children —  give it up for our outstanding military families.  (Applause.)

To help us celebrate, we’ve got our outstanding Marine Band.  (Applause.)  Later on, we’re going to bring out Pitbull and his band.  (Applause.)  So we want to see if you like to party.  (Laughter.)  And, of course, this is always a special day for us because this is Malia’s birthday.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  She can get her license!

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, she’s going to get her license.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  She is.  She’s getting her license, but she has to practice a little bit before that happens.  (Laughter.)

Now, this is a gorgeous day.  We want you to enjoy yourselves, so I’m going to keep my remarks brief.  But it is important to remember why we’re here.

Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago, our founders came together and declared a new nation and a revolutionary idea –the belief that we are all created equal; that we’re free to govern ourselves; that each of us is entitled to life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And in the generations that have followed — through war and peace, through depression and prosperity — these truths have guided us as we have built the greatest democratic, economic, and military force the world has ever known.

So today, immigrants from around the world dream of coming to our shores.  Young people aspire to study at our universities.  Other nations look to us for support and leadership in times of disaster, and conflict, and uncertainty.  And when the world looks to America, so often they look to all of you –- the men and women of our Armed Forces.  Every day, at home and abroad, you’re working to uphold those ideals first declared in that Philadelphia hall more than two centuries ago.  Every day, you give meaning to that basic notion that as Americans we take care of each other.  And so today, we honor all of you.

And we salute some of the folks who are here with us on this balcony.  We salute our soldiers — like Chief Warrant Officer Tom Oroho, who has served this nation in uniform for 27 years, including deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Two summers ago, Tom was at the beach, saw a young girl and her father who had been swept out to sea, and jumped into dangerous riptide and pulled them back to safety.  That’s the kind of service we expect from our outstanding soldiers.  Please give it up for Tom.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

We salute our sailors — like Seaman Reverlie Thomas, who came to America 21 years ago from Trinidad.  She served a tour in the Persian Gulf for the Navy.  Just a few hours ago here at the White House, I was proud to welcome Seaman Thomas and 24 other servicemembers and military spouses as our newest American citizens.  Thank you Reverlie, and congratulations.  (Applause.)

We salute our airmen — like Technical Sergeant Cheryl Uylaki, who manages the Fisher House at Dover Air Force Base, ensuring the families of our fallen are always provided comfort and care worthy of their profound sacrifice.  We’re so grateful to you, Cheryl, for your great work.  (Applause.)

We salute our Marines — like Sergeant Isaac Gallegos, who was severely wounded after an IED explosion in Iraq eight years ago.  He suffered burns on almost every inch of his face.  He was pronounced dead three separate times.  Undergone 161 surgeries.  But he is here standing with us today, pursuing a Master’s degree, working full-time for the Navy.  That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about Marines.  Give it up for Isaac.  (Applause.)

We salute our Coasties — like Lieutenant Commander Sean Plankey, who helped lead a cyber team in Afghanistan that supported our troops during firefights and helped prevent the detonation of remote-controlled IEDs, saving countless lives.  So thank you, Sean.  (Applause.)

And we salute our military families — the spouses who put their careers on hold for their loved ones; the children who pick up extra chores while Mom or Dad is deployed; the siblings and parents and extended family members who serve the country every single day.  You’re the reason Michelle and Jill Biden started the Joining Forces initiative — to make sure America is supporting you, too.  And today we honor your service here today.  (Applause.)

So as we pause on this Fourth of July to celebrate what makes us American, we salute all of you whose service and sacrifice renews that promise of America every single day.  On behalf of the entire country, Michelle and I simply want to say thank you to all of you for your courage and your strength, and your unending service to this nation.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody.  Have a great party.  Have a hotdog.  Have a hamburger.  We want to see you dancing.  God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END
6:05 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Naturalization Ceremony for Servicemembers and Military Spouses about Immigration Reform

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Naturalization Ceremony for Servicemembers and Military Spouses

Source: WH, 7-4-14

East Room

11:24 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  Please be seated.  Good morning and welcome to the White House.  And Happy Fourth of July!  (Applause.)

Deputy Secretary Mayorkas, thank you for taking care of the important part of this morning, which is administering the oath — that’s the thing that we want to make sure we got right.  (Laughter.)  To Acting Deputy Director Jones, to family, friends, distinguished guests — thank you all for being here.  And finally, to these 25 men and women, servicemembers and spouses, it is an honor to join everyone here, for the first time, in calling you “our fellow Americans.”

Now, this is one of my favorite events to do — and not just because we get to have a barbeque and watch fireworks later.  (Laughter.)  It’s because each of you has traveled a long journey to this moment — journeys that began in places like Jamaica and Germany, China and Guatemala.  And yet somehow — either because your parents brought you here as children, or because you made the choice yourselves as adults — you ended up here, in America.

And then many of you did something extraordinary:  You signed up to serve in the United States military.  You answered the call –- to fight and potentially to give your life for a country that you didn’t fully belong to yet.  You understood what makes us American is not just circumstances of birth, or the names in our family tree.  It’s that timeless belief that from many we are one; that we are bound together by adherence to a set of beliefs and unalienable rights; that we have certain obligations to each other, to look after each other, and to serve one another.  And over the years, that’s exactly what you’ve done.

Rodrigo Laquian came to the United States from the Philippines.  He joined the Navy because, he said, he “wanted to be a part of something big and important.  To be a part of a great cause.”  Today, Petty Officer Second Class Laquian is still part of that great cause — and today he’s also an American citizen.

Stephanie Van Ausdall moved here from Canada with her mom when she was 18 years old.  And today she’s 26 and a Sergeant in the Army.  Stephanie says she joined the military “to give my children someone to look up to and someone they can be proud of.”  Stephanie, I know that you’ve made your children and all of us very proud.

Oscar Gonzalez was born in Guatemala, and became a Marine last year.  Becoming a citizen, he says, means becoming part of a “society that strives and stands for good all around the world — just being a part of that makes me complete.”  Well, Oscar, welcoming you as an American citizen makes our country a little more complete, so thank you.

And then there are those of you who married an American servicemember, and as a military spouse, you’ve been serving our country as well.  Diana Baker is originally from Kenya and met her husband Kowaine in Germany.  Today she’s a nurse at Frederick Memorial Hospital in Maryland, and she and her husband have four beautiful children.  In Diana’s words, “Becoming a citizen of the United States is like joining a club of the best of the best.”  (Laughter.)  And I agree.  Congratulations, Diana, on joining the club.

Together, all of you remind us that America is and always has been a nation of immigrants.  Throughout our history, immigrants have come to our shores in wave after wave, from every corner of the globe.  Every one of us –- unless we’re Native American –- has an ancestor who was born somewhere else.

And even though we haven’t always looked the same or spoken the same language, as Americans, we’ve done big things together.  We’ve won this country’s freedom together.  We’ve built our greatest cities together.  We’ve defended our way of life together.  We’ve continued to perfect our union together.

And that’s what makes America special.  That’s what makes us strong.  The basic idea of welcoming immigrants to our shores is central to our way of life, it is in our DNA.  We believe our diversity, our differences, when joined together by a common set of ideals, makes us stronger, makes us more creative, makes us different.  From all these different strands, we make something new here in America.  And that’s why, if we want to keep attracting the best and brightest from beyond our borders, we’re going to have to fix our immigration system, which is broken, and pass commonsense immigration reform.

We shouldn’t be making it harder for the best and the brightest to come here, and create jobs here, and grow our economy here.  We should be making it easier.  And that’s why I’m going to keep doing —

(Audience member applauds.)

THE PRESIDENT:  He agrees with me.  (Laughter and applause.)  So I’m going to keep doing everything I can do to keep making our immigration system smarter and more efficient so hardworking men and women like all of you have the opportunity to join the American family and to serve our great nation.  So we can be stronger and more prosperous and more whole –- together.

I’ll close with a quick story.  George Mardikian was an immigrant from Armenia who became a famous chef.  And George had a quote that I think will ring true for most immigrants.  He said, “You who have been born in America, I wish I could make you understand what it is like not to be an American -– not to have been an American all your life -– and then, suddenly to be one, for that moment, and forever after.”

Today, on this Fourth of July, all across the country –- from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello to the Alamodome in Texas — immigrants from around the world are taking the oath of citizenship.  And many of them have worked and sacrificed for years to get to this moment.  All of them have done it for something none of us should ever take for granted:  the right to be called an American, from this moment, and forever after.

And that fact should give us hope and should make us confident about the future of our country.  Because as long as there are men and women like all of you who are willing to give so much for the right to call yourselves Americans, and as long as we do our part to keep the door open to those who are willing to earn their citizenship, then we’re going to keep on growing our economy, we’ll continue to journey forward, and we’ll remind the world of why the United States of America is and always will be the greatest nation on Earth.  We’re very proud of you.  Congratulations.

God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  And now I’d like to turn it over to Deputy Secretary Mayorkas.  Congratulations.  (Applause.)

END
11:31 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Celebrating Independence Day

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Celebrating Independence Day

Source: WH, 7-4-14 

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, President Obama commemorated Independence Day by noticing the contributions and sacrifices from individuals throughout the history of this country – from our Founding Fathers, to the men and women in our military serving at home and abroad.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
July 4, 2014

Hi, everybody. I hope you’re all having a great Fourth of July weekend.

I want to begin today by saying a special word to the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team, who represented America so well the past few weeks. We are so proud of you. You’ve got a lot of new believers. And I know there’s actually a petition on the White House website to make Tim Howard the next Secretary of Defense. Chuck Hagel’s got that spot right now, but if there is a vacancy, I’ll think about it.

It was 238 years ago that our founders came together in Philadelphia to launch our American experiment. There were farmers and businessmen, doctors and lawyers, ministers and a kite-flying scientist.

Those early patriots may have come from different backgrounds and different walks of life. But they were united by a belief in a simple truth — that we are all created equal; that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Over the years, that belief has sustained us through war and depression; peace and prosperity. It’s helped us build the strongest democracy, the greatest middle class, and the most powerful military the world has ever known. And today, there isn’t a nation on Earth that wouldn’t gladly trade places with the United States of America.

But our success is only possible because we have never treated those self-evident truths as self-executing. Generations of Americans have marched, organized, petitioned, fought and even died to extend those rights to others; to widen the circle of opportunity for others; and to perfect this union we love so much.

That’s why I want to say a special thanks to the men and women of our armed forces and the families who serve with them — especially those service members who spent this most American of holidays serving your country far from home.

You keep us safe, and you keep the United States of America a shining beacon of hope for the world. And for that, you and your families deserve not only the appreciation of a grateful nation, but our enduring commitment to serve you as well as you’ve served us.

God bless you all. And have a great weekend.

Full Text Obama Presidency June 14, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: The President Wishes America’s Dads a Happy Father’s Day

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: The President Wishes America’s Dads a Happy Father’s Day

Source: WH, 6-14-14

WASHINGTON, DC— In this week’s address, President Obama wished America’s dads a happy Father’s Day and underscored the crucial role fathers play in our society. The President encouraged Americans to support those living without a father figure through initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper.  He also highlighted actions he is taking on behalf of hardworking, responsible dads and moms, such as hosting the first-ever White House Working Families Summit later this month, and called on Congress to do its part to help offer more parents the chance to work hard and provide for their families.

Transcript | mp4 | mp3

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
June 14, 2014

Hi, everybody.  Sunday is Father’s Day.  If you haven’t got Dad a gift yet, there’s still time.  Just barely. But the truth is, what we give our fathers can never match what our fathers give us.

I know how important it is to have a dad in your life, because I grew up without my father around.  I felt the weight of his absence.  So for Michelle and our girls, I try every day to be the husband and father my family didn’t have when I was young.  And every chance I get, I encourage fathers to get more involved in their children’s lives, because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to have a child – it’s the courage to raise one.

Still, over the past couple years, I’ve met with a lot of young people who don’t have a father figure around.  And while there’s nothing that can replace a parent, any of us can do our part to be a mentor, a sounding board, a role model for a kid who needs one.  Earlier this year, I launched an initiative called My Brother’s Keeper – an all-hands-on-deck effort to help more of our young men reach their full potential.  And if you want to be a mentor to a young man in your community, you can find out how at WhiteHouse.gov/MyBrothersKeeper.

Now, when I launched this initiative, I said that government can’t play the primary role in a young person’s life.  Taking responsibility for being a great parent or mentor is a choice that we, as individuals, have to make.  No government program can ever take the place of a parent’s love.  Still, as a country, there are ways we can help support dads and moms who make that choice.

That’s why, earlier this week, we brought working dads from across America to the White House to talk about the challenges they face.  And in a few weeks, I’ll hold the first-ever White House Working Families Summit.  We’ve still got too many workplace policies that belong in the 1950s, and it’s time to bring them up to date for today’s families, where oftentimes, both parents are working.  Moms and dads deserve affordable child care, and time off to care for a sick parent or child without running into hardship.  Women deserve equal pay for equal work – and at a time when more women are breadwinners for a family, that benefits men, too.  And because no parent who works full-time should have to raise a family in poverty, it’s time for Congress to follow the lead of state after state, get on the bandwagon, and give America a raise.

Dads work hard.  So our country should do what we can to make sure their hard work pays off; to make sure life for them and their families is a little less stressful, and a little more secure, so they can be the dads their kids need them to be.  Because there’s nothing more precious in life than the time we spend with our children.  There’s no better feeling than knowing that we can be there for them, and provide for them, and help give them every shot at success.

Let’s make sure every dad who works hard and takes responsibility has the chance to know that feeling, not just on one Sunday, but every day of the year.

Thanks everybody, happy Father’s Day, and have a great weekend.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 21, 2014: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at the 2014 White House Easter Egg Roll

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

The 2014 White House Easter Egg Roll

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

Source:  WH, 4-21-14

Watch the Video

South Lawn

10:34 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, hello everybody.  Is everybody having fun?  (Applause.)  Happy Easter.  This is the biggest event that we have at the White House all year long and it is our most fun event, because we have a chance to see families from all across the country coming through here.  My main and only job, other than officiating over the roll at some point, is to introduce, alongside the Easter Bunny, the person who makes this all possible — we love her dearly — my wife, the First Lady, Michelle Obama.  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you, honey. Hey, everybody.  Happy Easter Egg Roll Day.  Isn’t this exciting?  It is so wonderful to have so many of you here today.  We are celebrating the 136th Easter Egg Roll.  The theme of this year’s roll is “Hop Into Health, Swing Into Shape.”  Yes, I love it.

And it’s going to be a great day.  We have beautiful weather, because the Easter Egg Roll is blessed.  And we’re going to have fun stuff going on.  We’ve got the Egg Roll.  We’ve got some storytelling.  We’ve got entertainment.  We’ve got wonderful athletes and performers like Cam and so many others.  We’ve got obstacle courses and yoga and face painting and egg hunts.  It’s just going to be terrific.  As Barack said, we love this event.  This is the largest event that we do here on the South Lawn.  We’re going to have more than 30,000 people on the lawn today.

And we’re just thrilled that this theme is focusing on one issue that is near and dear to my heart, and it’s making sure that our young people are active and healthy.  So while you’re here, parents, look around.  You’re going to learn how to make healthy snacks that the kids will actually eat.  I’m going to be over there on the chef’s stage doing some demonstrations.

And I want to make sure that kids know that healthy eating and being active can be fun, because what today is about is having a whole lot of fun.  And I hope you all do that, because we want our kids to be the healthiest and the strongest they can be, so they can do well in school and live up to all of their God-given potential.  Isn’t that right, parents?  That’s what we want for you all.  (Applause.)

And we want to thank the Easter Bunny, as always, for being here.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the hundreds of volunteers who make today possible.  (Applause.)  Thank you to our volunteers who have been out here setting up the South Lawn, who are going to make sure you guys get through these activities and have a great time.

So you all just enjoy.  That’s all you have to do from this point on, is have fun.  And we’ll be down there to participate in the Egg Roll.  The President is going to read.  I’m going to read a little bit.  So we’ll meet you down on the South Lawn, okay?

All right.  Have a great time.  Bye-bye.  (Applause.)

END
10:39 A.M.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 14, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at White House Easter Prayer Breakfast

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Easter Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 4-14-14 

East Room

9:27 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you, thank you, thank you very much.  Please, please have a seat.  Thank you so much.  Well, good morning, everybody.

Welcome to the White House and welcome to our annual Easter prayer breakfast.  As always, we are blessed to be joined by so many good friends from around the country.  We’ve got distinguished guests.  We’ve got faith leaders, members of my administration who are here.  And I will once again resist the temptation to preach to preachers.  (Laughter.)  It never works out well.  I am reminded of the admonition from the Book of Romans — “Do not claim to be wiser than you are.”  (Laughter.)  So this morning, I want to offer some very brief reflections as we start this Easter season.

But as I was preparing my remarks, something intervened yesterday.  And so I want to just devote a few words about yesterday’s tragedy in Kansas.  This morning our prayers are with the people of Overland Park.  And we’re still learning the details, but this much we know.  A gunman opened fire at two Jewish facilities — a community center and a retirement home.  Innocent people were killed.  Their families were devastated.  And this violence has struck the heart of the Jewish community in Kansas City.

Two of the victims — a grandfather and his teenage [grand] son — attended the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, which is led by our friend Reverend Adam Hamilton.  Some of you may know that during my inauguration, Reverend Hamilton delivered the sermon at the prayer service at the National Cathedral.  And I was grateful for his presence and his words.  He joined us at our breakfast last year.  And at the Easter service for Palm Sunday last night, he had to break this terrible news to his congregation.

That this occurred now — as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, as Christians were observing Palm Sunday –makes this tragedy all the more painful.  And today, as Passover begins, we’re seeing a number of synagogues and Jewish community centers take added security precautions.  Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers.  No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray.

And as a government, we’re going to provide whatever assistance is needed to support the investigation.  As Americans, we not only need to open our hearts to the families of the victims, we’ve got to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society.  And we have to keep coming together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism that can lead to hatred and to violence, because we’re all children of God.  We’re all made in His image, all worthy of his love and dignity.  And we see what happens around the world when this kind of religious-based or tinged violence can rear its ugly head.  It’s got no place in our society.

So this Easter Week, of course we recognize that there’s a lot of pain and a lot of sin and a lot of tragedy in this world, but we’re also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God.  We’re reminded how He loves us, so deeply, that He gave his only begotten Son so that we might live through Him.  And in these Holy Days, we recall all that Jesus endured for us — the scorn of the crowds and the pain of the crucifixion, in our Christian religious tradition we celebrate the glory of the Resurrection — all so that we might be forgiven of our sins and granted everlasting life.

And more than 2,000 years later, it inspires us still.  We are drawn to His timeless teachings, challenged to be worthy of His sacrifice, to emulate as best we can His eternal example to love one another just as He loves us.  And of course, we’re always reminded each and every day that we fall short of that example.  And none of us are free from sin, but we look to His life and strive, knowing that “if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us.”

I’ll tell you, I felt this spirit when I had the great honor of meeting His Holiness, Pope Francis, recently.  I think it’s fair to say that those of us of the Christian faith, regardless of our denomination, have been touched and moved by Pope Francis.  Now, some of it is his words — his message of justice and inclusion, especially for the poor and the outcast.  He implores us to see the inherent dignity in each human being.  But it’s also his deeds, simple yet profound — hugging the homeless man, and washing the feet of somebody who normally ordinary folks would just pass by on the street.  He reminds us that all of us, no matter what our station, have an obligation to live righteously, and that we all have an obligation to live humbly.  Because that’s, in fact, the example that we profess to follow.

So I had a wonderful conversation with Pope Francis, mostly about the imperatives of addressing poverty and inequality.  And I invited him to come to the United States, and I sincerely hope he will.  When we exchanged gifts he gave me a copy of his inspiring writings, “The Joy of the Gospel.”  And there is a passage that speaks to us today:  “Christ’s resurrection,” he writes, “is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world.”  And he adds, “Jesus did not rise in vain.  May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!”

So this morning, my main message is just to say thank you to all of you, because you don’t remain on the sidelines.  I want to thank you for your ministries, for your good works, for the marching you do for justice and dignity and inclusion, for the ministries that all of you attend to and have helped organize throughout your communities each and every day to feed the hungry and house the homeless and educate children who so desperately need an education.  You have made a difference in so many different ways, not only here in the United States but overseas as well.  And that includes a cause close to my heart, My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative that we recently launched to make sure that more boys and young men of color can overcome the odds and achieve their dreams.

And we’re joined by several faith leaders who are doing outstanding work in this area mentoring and helping young men in tough neighborhoods.  We’re also joined by some of these young men who are working hard and trying to be good students and good sons and good citizens.  And I want to say to each of those young men here, we’re proud of you, and we expect a lot of you.  And we’re going to make sure that we’re there for you so that you then in turn will be there for the next generation of young men.

And I mention all this because of all of our many partners for My Brother’s Keeper, it’s clergy like you and your congregations that can play a special role to be that spiritual and ethical foundation, that rock that so many young men need in their lives.

So I want to thank all of you who are already involved.  I invite those who are not to get more information, see if you can join in this effort as brothers and sisters in Christ who “never tire of doing good.”

In closing, I’ll just recall that old prayer that I think more than one preacher has invoked at the pulpit:  “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I’ve said enough.”  (Laughter.)  The Almighty is nudging me.  I thank you for joining us this morning of prayer.  I wish you all a blessed Holy Week and Easter, and I’d like to invite my friend Joel Hunter to deliver the opening prayer.  Come on up, Joel.  (Applause.)

END
9:39 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 14, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Passover

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement from the President on Passover

Source: WH, 4-14-14 

Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to all those celebrating Passover in the United States, in Israel, and around the world.

On Tuesday, just as we have every year of my presidency, my family will join the millions taking part in the ancient tradition of the Seder.  We will enjoy the company of friends and loved ones, retell a timeless story, and give thanks for the freedom we are so blessed to enjoy.

Yet even as we celebrate, our prayers will be with the people of Overland Park, Kansas and the family and friends of the three innocent people who were killed when a gunman, just one day before Passover, opened fire at a Jewish community center and retirement home on Sunday.  As Americans, we will continue to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society.  We will continue to come together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism, that can lead to hatred and violence.  And we will never lose faith that compassion and justice will ultimately triumph over hate and fear.

For that is one of the great lessons of the Exodus.  The tale of the Hebrew slaves and their flight from Egypt carries the hope and promise that the Jewish people have held in their hearts for thousands of years, and it is has inspired countless generations in their own struggles for freedom around the globe.

In America, the Passover story has always had special meaning.  We come from different places and diverse backgrounds, but we are bound together by a journey from bondage to liberty enshrined in our founding documents and continued in each generation.  As we were so painfully reminded on Sunday, our world is still in need of repair, but the story of the Exodus teaches us that with patience, determination, and abundant faith, a brighter future is possible.

Chag Sameach.

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