Full Text Political Transcripts July 12, 2016: Former President George W. Bush’s Speech at the Dallas Shooting Memorial Service



George W. Bush’s Speech at the Dallas Shooting Memorial Service

Source: Time,  7-12-16

Thank you all. Thank you, Senator. I, too, am really pleased that President Obama and Mrs. Obama have come down to Dallas. I also want to welcome vice president, Mrs. Biden, Mr. Mayor, Chief Brown, elected officials, members of the law enforcement community. Today, the nation grieves, but those of us who love Dallas and call it home have had five deaths in the family. Laura and I see members of law enforcement every day. We count them as our friends. And we know, like for every other American, that their courage is our protection and shield.

We’re proud [of] the men we mourn and the community that has rallied to honor them and support the wounded. Our mayor, and police chief and our police departments have been mighty inspirations for the rest of the nation.

These slain officers were the best among us. Lorne Ahrens, beloved husband to detective Katrina Ahrens and father of two. Michael Krol, caring son, brother, uncle, nephew and friend. Michael Smith, U.S. Army veteran, devoted husband and father of two.

Brent Thompson, Marine Corps vet, recently married. Patrick Zamarippa, U.S. Navy Reserve combat veteran, proud father and loyal Texas Rangers fan.

With their deaths, we have lost so much. We are grief stricken, heartbroken and forever grateful. Every officer has accepted a calling that sets them apart.

Most of us imagine if the moment called for, that we would risk our lives to protect a spouse or a child. Those wearing the uniform assume that risk for the safety of strangers. They and their families share the unspoken knowledge that each new day can bring new dangers.

But none of us were prepared, or could be prepared, for an ambush by hatred and malice. The shock of this evil still has not faded. At times, it seems like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates too quickly into de-humanization.

Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions. And this is…

And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose. But Americans, I think, have a great advantage. To renew our unity, we only need to remember our values.

We have never been held together by blood or background. We are bound by things of the spirit, by shared commitments to common ideals.

At our best, we practice empathy, imagining ourselves in the lives and circumstances of others. This is the bridge across our nation’s deepest divisions.

And it is not merely a matter of tolerance, but of learning from the struggles and stories of our fellow citizens and finding our better selves in the process.

At our best, we honor the image of God we see in one another. We recognize that we are brothers and sisters, sharing the same brief moment on Earth and owing each other the loyalty of our shared humanity.

At our best, we know we have one country, one future, one destiny. We do not want the unity of grief, nor do we want the unity of fear. We want the unity of hope, affection and high purpose.

We know that the kind of just, humane country we want to build, that we have seen in our best dreams, is made possible when men and women in uniform stand guard. At their best, when they’re trained and trusted and accountable, they free us from fear.

The Apostle Paul said, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of strength and love and self-control.” Those are the best responses to fear in the life of our country and they’re the code of the peace officer.

Today, all of us feel a sense of loss, but not equally. I’d like to conclude with the word of the families, the spouses, and especially the children of the fallen. Your loved one’s time with you was too short. They did not get a chance to properly say goodbye. But they went where duty called. They defended us, even to the end. They finished well. We will not forget what they did for us.

Your loss is unfair. We cannot explain it. We can stand beside you and share your grief. And we can pray that God will comfort you with a hope deeper than sorrow and stronger than death.

May God bless you.

Full Text Political Transcripts July 12, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Memorial Service for Fallen Dallas Police Officers



Remarks by the President at Memorial Service for Fallen Dallas Police Officers

Source: WH, 7-12-16

Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center
Dallas, Texas

1:46 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. President and Mrs. Bush; my friend, the Vice President, and Dr. Biden; Mayor Rawlings; Chief Spiller; clergy; members of Congress; Chief Brown — I’m so glad I met Michelle first, because she loves Stevie Wonder — (laughter and applause) — but most of all, to the families and friends and colleagues and fellow officers:

Scripture tells us that in our sufferings there is glory, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Sometimes the truths of these words are hard to see.  Right now, those words test us.  Because the people of Dallas, people across the country, are suffering.

We’re here to honor the memory, and mourn the loss, of five fellow Americans — to grieve with their loved ones, to support this community, to pray for the wounded, and to try and find some meaning amidst our sorrow.

For the men and women who protect and serve the people of Dallas, last Thursday began like any other day.  Like most Americans each day, you get up, probably have too quick a breakfast, kiss your family goodbye, and you head to work.  But your work, and the work of police officers across the country, is like no other.  For the moment you put on that uniform, you have answered a call that at any moment, even in the briefest interaction, may put your life in harm’s way.

Lorne Ahrens, he answered that call.  So did his wife, Katrina — not only because she was the spouse of a police officer, but because she’s a detective on the force.  They have two kids.  And Lorne took them fishing, and used to proudly go to their school in uniform.  And the night before he died, he bought dinner for a homeless man.  And the next night, Katrina had to tell their children that their dad was gone.  “They don’t get it yet,” their grandma said. “They don’t know what to do quite yet.”

Michael Krol answered that call.  His mother said, “He knew the dangers of the job, but he never shied away from his duty.”  He came a thousand miles from his home state of Michigan to be a cop in Dallas, telling his family, “This is something I wanted to do.”  Last year, he brought his girlfriend back to Detroit for Thanksgiving, and it was the last time he’d see his family.

Michael Smith answered that call — in the Army, and over almost 30 years working for the Dallas Police Association, which gave him the appropriately named “Cops Cop” award.  A man of deep faith, when he was off duty, he could be found at church or playing softball with his two girls.  Today, his girls have lost their dad, for God has called Michael home.

Patrick Zamarripa, he answered that call.  Just 32, a former altar boy who served in the Navy and dreamed of being a cop.  He liked to post videos of himself and his kids on social media.  And on Thursday night, while Patrick went to work, his partner Kristy posted a photo of her and their daughter at a Texas Rangers game, and tagged her partner so that he could see it while on duty.

Brent Thompson answered that call.  He served his country as a Marine.  And years later, as a contractor, he spent time in some of the most dangerous parts of Iraq and Afghanistan.  And then a few years ago, he settled down here in Dallas for a new life of service as a transit cop.  And just about two weeks ago, he married a fellow officer, their whole life together waiting before them.

Like police officers across the country, these men and their families shared a commitment to something larger than themselves.  They weren’t looking for their names to be up in lights.  They’d tell you the pay was decent but wouldn’t make you rich.  They could have told you about the stress and long shifts, and they’d probably agree with Chief Brown when he said that cops don’t expect to hear the words “thank you” very often, especially from those who need them the most.

No, the reward comes in knowing that our entire way of life in America depends on the rule of law; that the maintenance of that law is a hard and daily labor; that in this country, we don’t have soldiers in the streets or militias setting the rules.  Instead, we have public servants — police officers — like the men who were taken away from us.

And that’s what these five were doing last Thursday when they were assigned to protect and keep orderly a peaceful protest in response to the killing of Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge and Philando Castile of Minnesota.  They were upholding the constitutional rights of this country.

For a while, the protest went on without incident.  And despite the fact that police conduct was the subject of the protest, despite the fact that there must have been signs or slogans or chants with which they profoundly disagreed, these men and this department did their jobs like the professionals that they were.  In fact, the police had been part of the protest’s planning.  Dallas PD even posted photos on their Twitter feeds of their own officers standing among the protesters.  Two officers, black and white, smiled next to a man with a sign that read, “No Justice, No Peace.”

And then, around nine o’clock, the gunfire came.  Another community torn apart.  More hearts broken.  More questions about what caused, and what might prevent, another such tragedy.

I know that Americans are struggling right now with what we’ve witnessed over the past week.  First, the shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, and the protests, then the targeting of police by the shooter here — an act not just of demented violence but of racial hatred.  All of it has left us wounded, and angry, and hurt.  It’s as if the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, perhaps even widened.  And although we know that such divisions are not new — though they have surely been worse in even the recent past — that offers us little comfort.

Faced with this violence, we wonder if the divides of race in America can ever be bridged.  We wonder if an African-American community that feels unfairly targeted by police, and police departments that feel unfairly maligned for doing their jobs, can ever understand each other’s experience.  We turn on the TV or surf the Internet, and we can watch positions harden and lines drawn, and people retreat to their respective corners, and politicians calculate how to grab attention or avoid the fallout.  We see all this, and it’s hard not to think sometimes that the center won’t hold and that things might get worse.

I understand.  I understand how Americans are feeling.  But, Dallas, I’m here to say we must reject such despair.  I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem.  And I know that because I know America.  I know how far we’ve come against impossible odds.  (Applause.)  I know we’ll make it because of what I’ve experienced in my own life, what I’ve seen of this country and its people — their goodness and decency –as President of the United States.  And I know it because of what we’ve seen here in Dallas — how all of you, out of great suffering, have shown us the meaning of perseverance and character, and hope.

When the bullets started flying, the men and women of the Dallas police, they did not flinch and they did not react recklessly.  They showed incredible restraint.  Helped in some cases by protesters, they evacuated the injured, isolated the shooter, and saved more lives than we will ever know.  (Applause.)  We mourn fewer people today because of your brave actions.  (Applause.)  “Everyone was helping each other,” one witness said.  “It wasn’t about black or white.  Everyone was picking each other up and moving them away.”  See, that’s the America I know.

The police helped Shetamia Taylor as she was shot trying to shield her four sons.  She said she wanted her boys to join her to protest the incidents of black men being killed.  She also said to the Dallas PD, “Thank you for being heroes.”  And today, her 12-year old son wants to be a cop when he grows up.  That’s the America I know.  (Applause.)

In the aftermath of the shooting, we’ve seen Mayor Rawlings and Chief Brown, a white man and a black man with different backgrounds, working not just to restore order and support a shaken city, a shaken department, but working together to unify a city with strength and grace and wisdom.  (Applause.)  And in the process, we’ve been reminded that the Dallas Police Department has been at the forefront of improving relations between police and the community.  (Applause.)  The murder rate here has fallen.  Complaints of excessive force have been cut by 64 percent.  The Dallas Police Department has been doing it the right way.  (Applause.)  And so, Mayor Rawlings and Chief Brown, on behalf of the American people, thank you for your steady leadership, thank you for your powerful example.  We could not be prouder of you.  (Applause.)

These men, this department — this is the America I know.  And today, in this audience, I see people who have protested on behalf of criminal justice reform grieving alongside police officers.  I see people who mourn for the five officers we lost but also weep for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  In this audience, I see what’s possible — (applause) — I see what’s possible when we recognize that we are one American family, all deserving of equal treatment, all deserving of equal respect, all children of God.  That’s the America that I know.

Now, I’m not naïve.  I have spoken at too many memorials during the course of this presidency.  I’ve hugged too many families who have lost a loved one to senseless violence.  And I’ve seen how a spirit of unity, born of tragedy, can gradually dissipate, overtaken by the return to business as usual, by inertia and old habits and expediency.  I see how easily we slip back into our old notions, because they’re comfortable, we’re used to them.  I’ve seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change.  I’ve seen how inadequate my own words have been.  And so I’m reminded of a passage in *John’s Gospel [First John]:  Let us love not with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.  If we’re to sustain the unity we need to get through these difficult times, if we are to honor these five outstanding officers who we’ve lost, then we will need to act on the truths that we know.  And that’s not easy.  It makes us uncomfortable.  But we’re going to have to be honest with each other and ourselves.

We know that the overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally.  They are deserving of our respect and not our scorn.  (Applause.)  And when anyone, no matter how good their intentions may be, paints all police as biased or bigoted, we undermine those officers we depend on for our safety.  And as for those who use rhetoric suggesting harm to police, even if they don’t act on it themselves — well, they not only make the jobs of police officers even more dangerous, but they do a disservice to the very cause of justice that they claim to promote.  (Applause.)

We also know that centuries of racial discrimination — of slavery, and subjugation, and Jim Crow — they didn’t simply vanish with the end of lawful segregation.  They didn’t just stop when Dr. King made a speech, or the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act were signed.  Race relations have improved dramatically in my lifetime.  Those who deny it are dishonoring the struggles that helped us achieve that progress.  (Applause.)

But we know — but, America, we know that bias remains.  We know it.  Whether you are black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or of Middle Eastern descent, we have all seen this bigotry in our own lives at some point.  We’ve heard it at times in our own homes.  If we’re honest, perhaps we’ve heard prejudice in our own heads and felt it in our own hearts.  We know that.  And while some suffer far more under racism’s burden, some feel to a far greater extent discrimination’s sting.  Although most of us do our best to guard against it and teach our children better, none of us is entirely innocent.  No institution is entirely immune.  And that includes our police departments.  We know this.

And so when African Americans from all walks of life, from different communities across the country, voice a growing despair over what they perceive to be unequal treatment; when study after study shows that whites and people of color experience the criminal justice system differently, so that if you’re black you’re more likely to be pulled over or searched or arrested, more likely to get longer sentences, more likely to get the death penalty for the same crime; when mothers and fathers raise their kids right and have “the talk” about how to respond if stopped by a police officer — “yes, sir,” “no, sir” — but still fear that something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door, still fear that kids being stupid and not quite doing things right might end in tragedy — when all this takes place more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protest as troublemakers or paranoid.  (Applause.)  We can’t simply dismiss it as a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism.  To have your experience denied like that, dismissed by those in authority, dismissed perhaps even by your white friends and coworkers and fellow church members again and again and again — it hurts.  Surely we can see that, all of us.

We also know what Chief Brown has said is true:  That so much of the tensions between police departments and minority communities that they serve is because we ask the police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves.  (Applause.)  As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools.  We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment.  (Applause.)  We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs.  (Applause.)  We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book — (applause) — and then we tell the police “you’re a social worker, you’re the parent, you’re the teacher, you’re the drug counselor.”  We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs, and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience.  Don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind.  And then we feign surprise when, periodically, the tensions boil over.

We know these things to be true.  They’ve been true for a long time.  We know it.  Police, you know it.  Protestors, you know it.  You know how dangerous some of the communities where these police officers serve are, and you pretend as if there’s no context.  These things we know to be true.  And if we cannot even talk about these things — if we cannot talk honestly and openly not just in the comfort of our own circles, but with those who look different than us or bring a different perspective, then we will never break this dangerous cycle.

In the end, it’s not about finding policies that work; it’s about forging consensus, and fighting cynicism, and finding the will to make change.

Can we do this?  Can we find the character, as Americans, to open our hearts to each other?  Can we see in each other a common humanity and a shared dignity, and recognize how our different experiences have shaped us?  And it doesn’t make anybody perfectly good or perfectly bad, it just makes us human.  I don’t know.  I confess that sometimes I, too, experience doubt.  I’ve been to too many of these things.  I’ve seen too many families go through this.  But then I am reminded of what the Lord tells Ezekiel:  I will give you a new heart, the Lord says, and put a new spirit in you.  I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

That’s what we must pray for, each of us:  a new heart.  Not a heart of stone, but a heart open to the fears and hopes and challenges of our fellow citizens.  That’s what we’ve seen in Dallas these past few days.  That’s what we must sustain.

Because with an open heart, we can learn to stand in each other’s shoes and look at the world through each other’s eyes, so that maybe the police officer sees his own son in that teenager with a hoodie who’s kind of goofing off but not dangerous — (applause) — and the teenager — maybe the teenager will see in the police officer the same words and values and authority of his parents.  (Applause.)

With an open heart, we can abandon the overheated rhetoric and the oversimplification that reduces whole categories of our fellow Americans not just to opponents, but to enemies.

With an open heart, those protesting for change will guard against reckless language going forward, look at the model set by the five officers we mourn today, acknowledge the progress brought about by the sincere efforts of police departments like this one in Dallas, and embark on the hard but necessary work of negotiation, the pursuit of reconciliation.

With an open heart, police departments will acknowledge that, just like the rest of us, they are not perfect; that insisting we do better to root out racial bias is not an attack on cops, but an effort to live up to our highest ideals.  (Applause.)  And I understand these protests — I see them, they can be messy.  Sometimes they can be hijacked by an irresponsible few.  Police can get hurt.  Protestors can get hurt.  They can be frustrating.

But even those who dislike the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” surely we should be able to hear the pain of Alton Sterling’s family.  (Applause.)  We should — when we hear a friend describe him by saying that “Whatever he cooked, he cooked enough for everybody,” that should sound familiar to us, that maybe he wasn’t so different than us, so that we can, yes, insist that his life matters.  Just as we should hear the students and coworkers describe their affection for Philando Castile as a gentle soul — “Mr. Rogers with dreadlocks,” they called him — and know that his life mattered to a whole lot of people of all races, of all ages, and that we have to do what we can, without putting officers’ lives at risk, but do better to prevent another life like his from being lost.

With an open heart, we can worry less about which side has been wronged, and worry more about joining sides to do right.  (Applause.)  Because the vicious killer of these police officers, they won’t be the last person who tries to make us turn on one other.  The killer in Orlando wasn’t, nor was the killer in Charleston.  We know there is evil in this world.  That’s why we need police departments.  (Applause.)  But as Americans, we can decide that people like this killer will ultimately fail.  They will not drive us apart.  We can decide to come together and make our country reflect the good inside us, the hopes and simple dreams we share.

“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

For all of us, life presents challenges and suffering — accidents, illnesses, the loss of loved ones.  There are times when we are overwhelmed by sudden calamity, natural or manmade.  All of us, we make mistakes.  And at times we are lost.  And as we get older, we learn we don’t always have control of things — not even a President does.  But we do have control over how we respond to the world.  We do have control over how we treat one another.


America does not ask us to be perfect.  Precisely because of our individual imperfections, our founders gave us institutions to guard against tyranny and ensure no one is above the law; a democracy that gives us the space to work through our differences and debate them peacefully, to make things better, even if it doesn’t always happen as fast as we’d like.  America gives us the capacity to change.

But as the men we mourn today — these five heroes — knew better than most, we cannot take the blessings of this nation for granted.  Only by working together can we preserve those institutions of family and community, rights and responsibilities, law and self-government that is the hallmark of this nation.  For, it turns out, we do not persevere alone.  Our character is not found in isolation.  Hope does not arise by putting our fellow man down; it is found by lifting others up.  (Applause.)

And that’s what I take away from the lives of these outstanding men.  The pain we feel may not soon pass, but my faith tells me that they did not die in vain.  I believe our sorrow can make us a better country.  I believe our righteous anger can be transformed into more justice and more peace.  Weeping may endure for a night, but I’m convinced joy comes in the morning.  (Applause.)  We cannot match the sacrifices made by Officers Zamarripa and Ahrens, Krol, Smith, and Thompson, but surely we can try to match their sense of service.  We cannot match their courage, but we can strive to match their devotion.

May God bless their memory.  May God bless this country that we love.  (Applause.)

2:26 P.M. CDT

Politics July 8, 2016: Obama to return early from Europe to visit Dallas after police shooting




Obama to return early from Europe to visit Dallas after police shooting

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama is cutting his trip to Europe short after the worst attack on police since 9/11. President Obama made a statement about the shooting in Dallas on Friday, July 8, 2016, from the NATO conference in Poland, calling it “a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement.” On Thursday evening, July 7, a sniper purposely opened fire on police officers at a Black Lives Matter protest where 11 police officers were shot and five killed.

The White House announced the president’s intended visit to Dallas early next week late Friday afternoon. Earlier in the day, President Obama ordered the flags to fly at half-staff and made a statement condemning the attack.

Speaking from Poland, Obama said, “I believe I speak for every single American when I say we are horrified over these events, and we stand united with the people and the police department in Dallas. There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement. Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done.”

The statement was Obama’s second in two days after police officers shot and killed African-American men in Louisiana and Minnesota. Police killed Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and the incidents were recorded and posted online. The shootings sparked the protest in Dallas.

The sniper Micah Xavier Johnson, 25 was former Army reservist, acted alone and specifically targeted white police officers. Police took out the shooter. Dallas Police Chief David Brown told the public that Johnson was “upset about Black Lives Matter, he said he was upset about the recent police shootings.”

Both presumptive nominees, Republican Donald Trump, and Democrat Hillary Clinton, responded to the attack in the morning and canceled their campaign events on Friday. Trump issued a statement and video condemning the shooting as an “an attack on our country” and a “coordinated, premeditated assault on the men and women who keep us safe.”

Clinton’s first response was on Twitter where she wrote, “I mourn for the officers shot while doing their sacred duty to protect peaceful protesters, for their families & all who serve with them. -H.” Clinton later spoke at the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s conference in Philadelphia.

Full Text Political Transcripts June 16, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Statement to the Press after Meeting with the Families of the Orlando Shooting Victims



Remarks by the President in a Statement to the Press

Source: WH, 6-16-16

Dr. P. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Orlando, Florida

3:40 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Four days ago, this community was shaken by an evil and hateful act.  Today, we are reminded of what is good. That there is compassion, empathy and decency, and most of all, there is love.  That’s the Orlando that we’ve seen in recent days.  And that is the America that we have seen.

This afternoon, the Vice President and I had the opportunity to meet with many of the families here.  As you might imagine, their grief is beyond description.  Through their pain and through their tears, they told us about the joy that their loved ones had brought to their lives.  They talked about their sons or their daughters — so many young people, in their 20s and 30s; so many students who were focused on the future.  One young woman was just 18 years old.  Another, said her father, was a happy girl with so many dreams.

There were siblings there talking about their brothers and their sisters and how they were role models that they looked up to.  There were husbands and wives who had taken a solemn vow; fathers and mothers who gave their full hearts to their children. These families could be our families.  In fact, they are our family — they’re part of the American family.  Today, the Vice President and I told them, on behalf of the American people, that our hearts are broken, too, but we stand with you and that we are here for you, and that we are remembering those who you loved so deeply.

As a nation, we’ve also been inspired by the courage of those who risked their lives and cared for others.  Partners whose last moments were spent shielding each other.  The mother who gave her life to save her son.  The former Marine whose quick thinking saved dozens of lives.

Joe and I had the chance to thank Mayor Dyer, Chief Mina, Sheriff Demings, all who responded in heroic ways; the outstanding police and first responders who were able to, through their professionalism and quick response, rescue so many people. We also owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all the doctors, all the nurses who have worked day and night to treat the injured, save lives and prevent even more anguish.  As one of the doctors here said, “after the worst of humanity reared its ugly head…the best of humanity came roaring back.”  Let me get that quote more precisely — “after the worst of humanity reared its evil head…the best of humanity came roaring back.”

Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, if, in fact, we want to show the best of our humanity, then we’re all going to have to work together at every level of government, across political lines, to do more to stop killers who want to terrorize us.  We will continue to be relentless against terrorist groups like ISIL and al Qaeda.  We are going to destroy them.  We are going to disrupt their networks, and their financing, and the flow of fighters in and out of war theaters.  We’re going to disrupt their propaganda that poisons so many minds around the world.

We’re going to do all that.  Our resolve is clear.  But given the fact that the last two terrorist attacks on our soil — Orlando and San Bernardino — were homegrown, carried out it appears not by external plotters, not by vast networks or sophisticated cells, but by deranged individuals warped by the hateful propaganda that they had seen over the Internet, then we’re going to have to do more to prevent these kinds of events from occurring.  It’s going to take more than just our military. It’s going to require more than just our intelligence teams.  As good as they are, as dedicated as they are, as focused as they are, if you have lone wolf attacks like this, hatched in the minds of a disturbed person, then we’re going to have to take different kinds of steps in order to prevent something like this from happening.

Those who were killed and injured here were gunned down by a single killer with a powerful assault weapon.  The motives of this killer may have been different than the mass shooters in Aurora or Newtown, but the instruments of death were so similar. And now, another 49 innocent people are dead.  Another 53 are injured.  Some are still fighting for their lives.  Some will have wounds that will last a lifetime.  We can’t anticipate or catch every single deranged person that may wish to do harm to his neighbors, or his friends, or his coworkers, or strangers.  But we can do something about the amount of damage that they do. Unfortunately, our politics have conspired to make it as easy as possible for a terrorist or just a disturbed individual like those in Aurora and Newtown to buy extraordinarily powerful weapons — and they can do so legally.

Today, once again, as has been true too many times before, I held and hugged grieving family members and parents, and they asked, why does this keep happening?  And they pleaded that we do more to stop the carnage.  They don’t care about the politics. Neither do I.  Neither does Joe.  And neither should any parent out there who’s thinking about their kids being not in the wrong place, but in places where kids are supposed to be.

This debate needs to change.  It’s outgrown the old political stalemates.  The notion that the answer to this tragedy would be to make sure that more people in a nightclub are similarly armed to the killer defies common sense.  Those who defend the easy accessibility of assault weapons should meet these families and explain why that makes sense.  They should meet with the Newtown families — some of whom Joe saw yesterday — whose children would now be finishing fifth grade — on why it is that we think our liberty requires these repeated tragedies.  That’s not the meaning of liberty.

I’m pleased to hear that the Senate will hold votes on preventing individuals with possible terrorist ties from buying guns, including assault weapons.  I truly hope that senators rise to the moment and do the right thing.  I hope that senators who voted no on background checks after Newtown have a change of heart.  And then I hope the House does the right thing, and helps end the plague of violence that these weapons of war inflict on so many young lives.

I’ve said this before — we will not be able to stop every tragedy.  We can’t wipe away hatred and evil from every heart in this world.  But we can stop some tragedies.  We can save some lives.  We can reduce the impact of a terrorist attack if we’re smart.  And if we don’t act, we will keep seeing more massacres like this — because we’ll be choosing to allow them to happen.  We will have said, we don’t care enough to do something about it.

Here in Orlando, we are reminded not only of our obligations as a country to be resolute against terrorists, we are reminded not only of the need for us to implement smarter policies to prevent mass shootings, we’re also reminded of what unites us as Americans, and that what unites us is far stronger than the hate and the terror of those who target us.

For so many people here who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, the Pulse Nightclub has always been a safe haven, a place to sing and dance, and most importantly, to be who you truly are — including for so many people whose families are originally from Puerto Rico.  Sunday morning, that sanctuary was violated in the worst way imaginable.  So whatever the motivations of the killer, whatever influences led him down the path of violence and terror, whatever propaganda he was consuming from ISIL and al Qaeda, this was an act of terrorism but it was also an act of hate.  This was an attack on the LGBT community.  Americans were targeted because we’re a country that has learned to welcome everyone, no matter who you are or who you love.  And hatred towards people because of sexual orientation, regardless of where it comes from, is a betrayal of what’s best in us.

Joe and I were talking on the way over here — you can’t make up the world into “us” and “them,” and denigrate and express hatred towards groups because of the color of their skin, or their faith, or their sexual orientation, and not feed something very dangerous in this world.

So if there was ever a moment for all of us to reflect and reaffirm our most basic beliefs that everybody counts and everybody has dignity, now is the time.  It’s a good time for all of us to reflect on how we treat each other, and to insist on respect and equality for every human being.

We have to end discrimination and violence against our brothers and sisters who are in the LGBT community — here at home and around the world, especially in countries where they are routinely persecuted.  We have to challenge the oppression of women, wherever it occurs — here or overseas.  There’s only “us” — Americans.

Here in Orlando, in the men and women taken from us, those who loved them, we see some of the true character of this country — the best of humanity coming roaring back; the love and the compassion and the fierce resolve that will carry us through not just through this atrocity, but through whatever difficult times may confront us.

It’s our pluralism and our respect for each other — including a young man who said to a friend, he was “super proud” to be Latino.  It’s our love of country — the patriotism of an Army reservist who was known as “an amazing officer.”  It’s our unity — the outpouring of love that so many across our country have shown to our fellow Americans who are LGBT, a display of solidarity that might have been unimaginable even a few years ago.

Out of this darkest of moments, that gives us hope — seeing people reflect, seeing people’s best instincts come out, maybe in some cases, minds and hearts change.  It is our strength and our resilience — the same determination of a man who died here who traveled the world, mindful of the risks as a gay man, but who spoke for us all when he said, “we cannot be afraid…we are not going to be afraid.”

May we all find that same strength in our own lives.  May we all find that same wisdom in how we treat one another.  May God bless all who we lost here in Orlando.  May He comfort their families.  May He heal the wounded.  May He bring some solace to those whose hearts have been broken.  May He give us resolve to do what’s necessary to reduce the hatred of this world, curb the violence.  And may He watch over this country that we call home.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END                3:58 P.M. EDT

Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 June 13, 2016: Hillary Clinton’s Speech About the Orlando Shooting Transcript



Hillary Clinton’s Speech About the Orlando Shooting

Source: Time, 6-13-16

Thank you. (APPLAUSE)

Thank you all very much.


Thank you. Thank you all.


Thank you. Thank you. I am — I’m absolutely — I’m absolutely delighted to be back in Cleveland and to be here at the Industrial Innovation Center. I’ve had a chance to learn about the great work you do here. I especially want to applaud Team Wendy for everything you do to protect our troops, first responders.


And others from traumatic brain injury. It is so important that we continue to support those who protect us.

AUDIENCE: We want Hillary!

CLINTON: Thank you.

AUDIENCE: We want Hillary!

CLINTON: Thank you all.

AUDIENCE: We want Hillary!


CLINTON: It is good to be back in Cleveland, I can tell you that.


I want to thank — I wan to thank your extraordinary senator, Sherrod Brown, for his leadership, for that very kind and generous introduction. You are very fortunate to — to have him representing you. I want to thank your congresswoman, Marcia Fudge…


Who is both indomitable and indefatigable. She is such a tenacious advocate for the people she represents. I want to acknowledge the mayor, Mayor Jackson, who was here, County Executive Budish (ph). And I particularly want to recognize the passing of George Voinovich, and he devoted his life to serving the people of Ohio as mayor of Cleveland, as governor and senator. And we send our prayers and sympathy to his family.

I also want to thank Dan Moore, the owner and founder of this company and Team Wendy for his belief in Cleveland, for his commitment to create jobs. I can’t wait to work with him to do more of what he has accomplished here.


You know, originally, I had intended to come to Cleveland under very different circumstances. We are heading into a general election that could be the most consequential of our lifetimes. But today is not a day for politics.

On Sunday, Americans woke up to a nightmare that’s become mind numbingly familiar. Another act of terrorism in a place no one expected. A madman filled with hate, with guns in his hands, and just a horrible sense of vengeance and vindictiveness in his heart, apparently consumed by rage against LGBT Americans, and by extension, the openness and diversity that defines our American way of life.

We will learn more about the killer in the days to come. We know that he pledged allegiance to ISIS, that they are now taking credit and that part of their strategy is to radicalize individuals and encourage attacks against the United States, even if they are not coordinated with ISIS leadership. But there’s a lot we still don’t know, including what other mix of motives drove him to kill.

The more we learn about what happened, the better we’ll be able to protect our people going forward. In the days ahead, we will also learn more about the many lives he viciously cut short, many of them young people, just starting out in their lives. They were travel agents and pharmacy techs, college students and amusement park workers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and they had one thing in common. They all had a lot more to give.

CLINTON: We should take a moment today amid our busy lives to think about them, to pray for everyone who was killed, for the wounded, those who are fighting to regain their lives and futures, for our first responders who walked into danger one more time. As a mother, I can’t imagine what those families are going through.

But let’s also remember the other scenes we saw on Sunday. We saw the faces of some of those first responders who rushed into danger and tried to save as many people as they could. We saw survivors like Chris Hansen who risked their lives to help others.

People gathering outside hospitals to comfort anxious family members, waiting for news of their loved ones and waiting, too, to learn more about what they could do to make sure this never happened again.

Religion leaders condemning hate and appealing for peace. People lining up to donate blood. Americans refusing to be intimidated or divided.

Yesterday I called Mayor Dyer of Orlando and offered my support and my appreciation for the leadership that he and the other officials have shown. This is a moment when all Americans need to stand together.

No matter how many times we endure attacks like this, the horror never fades. The murder of innocent people breaks our hearts, tears at our sense of security and makes us furious.

Now we have to steal our resolve to respond. And that’s what I want to talk to you about. How we respond.

The Orlando terrorist may be dead, but the virus that poisoned his mind remains very much alive. And we must attack it with clear eyes, steady hands, unwavering determination and pride in our country and our values.


I have no doubt — I have no doubt we can meet this challenge if we meet it together. Whatever we learn about this killer, his motives in the days ahead, we know already the barbarity that we face from radical jihadists is profound.

In the Middle East, ISIS is attempting a genocide of religious and ethnic minorities. They are slaughtering Muslims who refuse to accept their medieval ways. They are beheading civilians, including executing LGBT people. They are murdering Americans and Europeans, enslaving, torturing and raping women and girls.

In speeches like this one, after Paris, Brussels and San Bernardino, I have laid out a plan to defeat ISIS and the other radical jihadist groups in the region and beyond.

The attack in Orlando makes it even more clear, we cannot contain this threat. We must defeat it. And the good news is that the coalition effort in Syria and Iraq has made recent gains in the last months.

So we should keep the pressure on ramping up the air campaign, accelerating support for our friends fighting to take and hold ground and pushing our partners in the region to do even more.

We also need continued American leadership to help resolve the political conflicts that fuel ISIS recruitment efforts.

But as ISIS loses actual ground in Iraq and Syria, it will seek to stage more attacks and gain stronger footholds wherever it can, from Afghanistan, to Libya, to Europe.

The threat is metastasizing. We saw this in Paris. And we saw it in Brussels. We face a twisted ideology and poisoned psychology that inspires the so-called lone wolves, radicalized individuals who may or may not have contact and direction from any formal organization.

CLINTON: So, yes, efforts to defeat ISIS on the battlefield must succeed. But it will take more than that.


We have to be just as adaptable and versatile as our enemies. As president, I will make identifying and stopping lone wolves a top priority.


I will put a team together from across our government, the entire government, as well as the private sector and communities to get on top of this urgent challenge. And I will make sure our law enforcement and intelligence professionals have all the resources they need to get the job done.

As we do this, there are three areas that demand attention. First, we and our allies must work hand-in-hand to dismantle the networks that move money, and propaganda, and arms and fighters around the world.


We have to flow — we have to stem the flow of jihadists from Europe and Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and then back again. The only way to do this is by working closely with our partners, strengthening our alliances, not weakening them or walking away from them.

Second, here at home, we must harden our own defenses. We have to do more to support our first responders, law enforcement and intelligence officers who do incredible work every day at great personal risk to keep our country safe.


I have seen firsthand how hard their job is, and how well they do it.

In Orlando, at least one police officer was shot in the head. Thankfully, his life was saved by a Kevlar helmet, something folks here at Team Wendy know a lot about.


It has often been said that our law enforcement, our intelligence agencies, our first responders have to be right 100 percent of the time, but terrorists only have to be right once.

What a heavy responsibility. These men and women deserve both our respect and gratitude. And they deserve the right tools, and resources and training. Too often, state and local officials can’t get access to intelligence from the federal government that would help them do their jobs.

We need to change that. We also need to work…


We also need to work with local law enforcement and business owners on ways to protect vulnerable, so-called soft targets, like nightclubs and shopping malls and hotels and movie theaters and schools and houses of worship.

Now, I know a lot of Americans are asking how it was possible that someone already on the FBI’s radar could have still been able to commit an attack like the one in Orlando, and what more we can do to stop this kind of thing from happening again.

Well, we have to see what the investigation uncovers. If there are things that can and should be done to improve our ability to prevent, we must do them. We already know we need more resources for this fight. The professionals who keep us safe would be the first to say we need better intelligence to discover and disrupt terrorist plots before they can be carried out.

That’s why I have proposed an intelligence surge to bolster our capabilities across the board with appropriate safeguards here at home.

Even as we make sure our security officials get the tools they need to prevent attacks, it’s essential that we stop terrorists from getting the tools they need to carry out the attack.


CLINTON: And that is especially true when it comes to assault weapons like those used in Orlando and San Bernardino.


I believe weapons of war have no place on our streets and we may have our disagreements about gun safety regulations, but we should all be able to agree on a few essential things.

If the FBI is watching you for a suspected terrorist link, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked.

And you shouldn’t be able to exploit loopholes and evade criminal background checks by buying online or at a gun show.

And yes, if you’re too dangerous to get on a plane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun in America.

Now, I know some will say that assault weapons and background checks are totally separate issues having nothing to do with terrorism. Well, in Orlando and San Bernardino terrorists used assault weapons, the AR-15. And they used it to kill Americans. That was the same assault weapon used to kill those little children in Sandy Hook.

We have to make it harder for people who should not have those weapons of war. And that may not stop every shooting or every terrorist attack, but it will stop some and it will save lives and it will protect our first responders.

And I want you to know, I’m not going to stop fighting for these kinds of provisions.

Now, the third area that demands attention is preventing radicalization and countering efforts by ISIS and other international terrorist networks to recruit in the United States and Europe.

For starters, it is long past time for the Saudis, the Qataris and the Kuwaitis and others to stop their citizens from funding extremist organizations. And they should stop supporting radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.

We also have to use all our capabilities to counter jihadist propaganda online. This is something that I spend a lot of time on at the State Department.

As president, I will work with our great tech companies from Silicon Valley to Boston to step up our game. We have to a better job intercepting ISIS’ communications, tracking and analyzing social media posts and mapping jihadist networks, as well as promoting credible voices who can provide alternatives to radicalization.

And there is more to do offline as well.

CLINTON: Since 9/11, law enforcement agencies have worked hard to build relationships with Muslim American communities. Millions of peace-loving Muslims live, work and raise their families across America. And they are the most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it’s too late, and the best positioned to help us block it. So we should be intensifying contacts in those communities, not scapegoating or isolating them.


Last year, I visited a pilot program in Minneapolis that helps parents, teachers, imams, mental health professionals and others recognize signs of radicalization in young people and work with law enforcement to intervene before it’s too late.

I’ve also met with local leaders pursuing innovative approaches in Los Angeles and other places. And we need more efforts like that in more cities across America. And as the director of the FBI has pointed out, we should avoid eroding trust in that community, which will only make law enforcement’s job more difficult.

Inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric and threatening to ban the families and friends of Muslim Americans as well as millions of Muslim business people and tourists from entering our country hurts the vast majority of Muslims who love freedom and hate terror.


So does saying that we have to start special surveillance on our fellow Americans because of their religion. It’s no coincidence that hate crimes against American Muslims and mosques have tripled after Paris and San Bernardino. That’s wrong. And it’s also dangerous. It plays right into the terrorists’ hands.

Still, as I have said before, none of us can close our eyes to the fact that we do face enemies who use their distorted version of Islam to justify slaughtering $ innocent people. They’d take us all back to the Stone Age if they could, just as they have in parts of Iraq and Syria.

The terrorist in Orlando targeted LGBT Americans out of hatred and bigotry. And an attack on any American is an attack on all Americans.

(APPLAUSE) And I want to say this to all the LGBT people grieving today in Florida and across our country. You have millions of allies who will always have your back.


And I am one of them.


From Stonewall to Laramie, and now Orlando, we’ve seen too many examples of how the struggle to live freely, openly and without fear has been met by violence. We have to stand together, be proud together. There is no better rebuke to the terrorists and all those who hate.

Our open, diverse society is an asset in the struggle against terrorism, not a liability. It makes us stronger and more resistant to radicalization. And this raises a larger point about the future of our country.

America is strongest when we all believe that we have a stake in our country and our future.

CLINTON: This vision has sustained us from the beginning. The belief that, yes, we are all created equal and the journey we have made to turn that into reality over the course of our history, that we are not a land of winners and losers, that we should all have the opportunity to live up to our God-given potential. And we have a responsibility to help others do so as well.


As I look at American history, I see that this has always been a country of “we” not “me.” We stand together because we are stronger together. E pluribus unum. One — out of many, one — has seen us through the darkest chapters of our history. Ever since 13 squabbling colonies put aside their disagreements and united because they realized they were going to rise together or fall separately, generation after generation has fought and marched and organized to widen the circle of dignity and opportunity. Ending slavery. Securing and expanding the right to vote. Throwing open the doors of education. Building the greatest middle class the world has ever seen.

And we are stronger when more people can participate in our democracy.


And we are stronger when everyone can share in the rewards of our economy and contribute to our communities, when we bridge our divides and lift each other up instead of tearing each other down. Now we have overcome a lot together and we will overcome the threats of terror and radicalization and all of our other challenges. Here in Ohio and across America, I’ve listened to people talk about the problems that keep you up at night.

The bonds that hold us together as communities, as one national community, are strained by an economy with too much inequality and too little upward mobility. By social and political divisions that have diminished our trust in each other and our confidence in our shared future. I have heard that, and I want you to know as your president I will work every day to break down all the barriers holding you back and keeping us apart. We’re gonna get an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top, we’re gonna forge a new sense of connection and shared responsibility to each other and our nation.

And finally,

(APPLAUSE) finally let me remind us all, I remember, I remember how it felt, on the day after 9/11, and I bet many of you do as well. Americans from all walks of life rallied together with a sense of common purpose on September the 12th and in the days and weeks and months that followed. We had each others’ backs. I was a senator from New York. There was a Republican president, a Republican governor, and a Republican mayor. We did not attack each other. We worked with each other to protect our country and to rebuild our city (ph).


President Bush went to a Muslim community center just six days after the attacks to send a message of unity and solidarity. To anyone who wanted to take out their anger on our Muslim neighbors and fellow citizens, he said, “That should not, and that will not, stand in America.” It is time to get back to the spirit of those days, spirit of 9/12. Let’s make sure we keep looking to the best of our country, to the best within each of us. Democratic and Republican presidents have risen to the occasion in the face of tragedy. That is what we are called to do my friends and I am so confident and optimistic that is exactly what we will do.

Thank you all so much.


Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 June 13, 2016: Donald Trump’s Speech on the Orlando Shooting and National Security Transcript



Donald Trump’s Speech on the Orlando Shooting and National Security

Source: Time, 6-13-16

TRUMP: (OFF-MIKE) This was going to be a speech on Hillary Clinton and all of the bad things and we all know what’s going on, and especially how poor she’d do as president in these very, very troubled times of radical Islamic terrorism.

TRUMP: Even her former Secret Service agent, who’s seen her under pressure and in times of stress, has stated that she lacks the temperament and integrity to be our president. There will be plenty of opportunity to discuss these important issues at a later time, and I will deliver that speech very, very soon.

But today, there’s only one thing to discuss, the growing threat of terrorism inside of our borders. The attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was the worst terror strike on our soil since September 11th, and the worst mass shooting in our country’s history.

So many people — it’s just hard to believe, but just so many people dead, so many people gravely injured, so much carnage, such a disgrace. The horror is beyond description. The families of these wonderful people are totally devastated, and they will be forever. Likewise, our whole nation and indeed the whole world is devastated.

We express our deepest sympathies to the victims, the wounded, and their families. We mourn as one people for our nation’s loss, and pledge our support to any and all who need it. I would like to ask now that we all observe a moment of silence for the victims of this attack.

Thank you. Our nation stands together in solidarity with the members of Orlando’s LGBT community. They have been through something that nobody could ever experience. This is a very dark moment in America’s history. A radical Islamic terrorist targeted the nightclub, not only because he wanted to kill Americans, but in order to execute gay and lesbian citizens, because of their sexual orientation.

It’s a strike at the heart and soul of who we are as a nation. It’s an assault on the ability of free people to live their lives, love who they want, and express their identity. It’s an attack on the right of every single American to live in peace and safety in their own country.

We need to respond to this attack on America as one united people, with force, purpose, and determination. But the current politically correct response cripples our ability to talk and to think and act clearly. We’re not acting clearly, we’re not talking clearly, we’ve got problems.

If we don’t get tough, and if we don’t get smart, and fast, we’re not going to have our country anymore. There will be nothing, absolutely nothing, left. The killer, whose name I will not use, or ever say, was born in Afghan, of Afghan parents, who immigrated to the United States.

His father published support for the Afghan Taliban, a regime which murders those who don’t share its radical views, and they murdered plenty. The father even said he was running for president of Afghanistan. The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place, was because we allowed his family to come here.

That is a fact, and it’s a fact we need to talk about. We have a dysfunctional immigration system, which does not permit us to know who we let into our country, and it does not permit us to protect our citizens properly. We have an incompetent administration.

And if I’m elected president, that will not change, I will tell you, that will not change over the next four years. We have an administration that will not change. But if I get in there, it’s going to change, and it’s going to change quickly. We’re going from totally incompetent to just the opposite, believe me.


TRUMP: Thank you.

With 50 people dead and perhaps more ultimately and dozens more wounded, we cannot afford to talk around issues anymore. We have to address these issues head-on. I called for a ban after San Bernardino and was met with great scorn and anger but now many years and I have to say many years but many are saying that I was right to do so. And although the pause is temporary we must find out what is going on. We have to do it.

It will be lifted — this ban — when and as a nation we’re in a position to properly and perfectly screen these people coming into our country. They’re pouring in and we don’t know what we’re doing. The immigration laws of the United States give the president powers to suspend entry into the country of any class of persons. Now, any class — it really is determined and to be determined by the president for the interests of the United States. And it’s as he or she deems appropriate. Hopefully it’s he in this case.


Thank you. I will use this power to protect the American people. When I’m elected I will suspend immigration from areas of the world where there’s a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies until we fully understand how to end these threats. After a full …


Thank you.

And by the way we have no choice. After a full and partial and long — really long overdue security assessment we will develop a responsible immigration policy that serves the interests and values of America.


We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer. Many of the principles of radical Islam are incompatible with Western values and institutions.

(APPLAUSE) Remember this, radical Islam is anti-woman, anti-gay and anti- American.


I refuse to allow America to become a place where gay people, Christian people, Jewish people are targets of persecution and intimation by radical Islamic preachers of hate and violence.


This is not just a national security issue. It’s a quality of life issue. If we want to protect the quality of life for all Americans — women and children, gay and straight, Jews and Christians and all people then we need to tell the truth about radical Islam and we need to do it now.


We need to tell the truth also about how radical Islam is coming to our shores. And it’s coming …


With these people, folks, it’s coming. We’re importing radical Islamic terrorism into the West through a failed immigration system and through an intelligence community held back by our president. Even our own FBI director has admitted that we cannot effectively check the backgrounds of people we’re letting into America. All of the September 11th hijackists were issued visas. Large numbers of Somali refugees in Minnesota have tried to join ISIS.

The Boston bombers came here through political asylum. The male shooter in San Bernardino again whose name I will not mention was the child of immigrants from Pakistan and he brought his wife, the other terrorist from Saudi Arabia through another one of our easily exploited visa programs.


TRUMP: Immigration from Afghanistan into the United States has increased nearly five fold — five fold in just one year. According to Pew Research, 99 percent of the people in Afghanistan support oppressive sharia law. We admit many more, and that’s just the way it is. We admit many more from other countries in the region.

And I’ll tell you what: They share these oppressive views and values. We want to remain a free and open society. Then, and if we do, then we have to control our borders. We have to control, and we have to control them now, not later. Right now.


Thank you.

Yet Hillary Clinton, for months, and despite so many attacks, repeatedly refused to even say the words radical Islam until I challenged her yesterday. And, guess what, she will probably say them. She sort of has said them, but let’s see what happens. She really has no choice, but she doesn’t want to.

However, she’s really been forced, and she has been forced to say these words. She supports, and the reason is, she supports so much of what is wrong, and what is wrong with this country, and what’s going wrong with our country and our borders. She has no clue, in my opinion, what radical Islam is and she won’t speak honestly about it if she does, in fact, know. She’s in total denial, and her continuing reluctance to ever name the enemy broadcasts weakness across the entire world — true weakness.

I don’t know if you know this, but just a few weeks before San Bernardino, the slaughter, that’s all it was was a slaughter, Hillary Clinton explained her refusal to say the words “radical Islam.” Here is what she said, exact quote, “Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people, and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” That is Hillary Clinton.

So, she says the solution is to ban guns. They tried that in France which has among the toughest gun laws anywhere in the world, and 130 people were brutally murdered by Islamic terrorists in cold blood. Her plan is to disarm law abiding Americans, abolishing the Second Amendment, and leaving only the bad guys and terrorists with guns. No good. Not going to happen, folks. Not going to happen. Not going to happen. (APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

She wants to take away American’s guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us. Let them come into the country, we don’t have guns. Let them come in, let them have all the fun they want.

I will be meeting with the NRA, which has given me their earliest endorsement in a presidential race, to discuss how to ensure Americans have the means to protect themselves in this age of terror. I will be always defending the Second Amendment.


Thank you. Thank you.

The bottom line is that Hillary supports policies that bring the threat of radical Islam into American and allow it to grow oversees, and it is growing. In fact, Hillary Clinton’s catastrophic immigration plan will bring vastly more radical Islamic immigration into this country, threatening not only our society but our entire way of life. When it comes to radical Islamic terrorism, ignorance is not bliss. It’s deadly — totally deadly.

The Obama administration, with the support of Hillary Clinton and others, has also damaged our security by restraining our intelligence gathering and we have, just, no intelligence gathering information. We need this information so badly, and he stopped it. We don’t have the support. We don’t have the support of the law enforcement system because Obama is not letting them do their job. They are not being allowed to do their job. And, they can do it well — better than anybody.

We need a new leader. We need a new leader fast.


TRUMP: Thank you.

They have put political correctness above common sense, above your safety, and above all else. I refuse to be politically correct.


I want to do the right thing. I want to straighten things out and I want to make America great again.


The days of deadly ignorance will end, and they will end soon if I’m elected. As president I will give our intelligence community, law enforcement and military the tools they need to prevent terrorist attacks. They don’t have those tools now.


We need an intelligence gathering system second to none. Second to none. That includes better cooperation between state, local and federal officials, and with our allies, very importantly. I will have an Attorney General, a Director of National Intelligence and a Secretary of Defense who’ll know how to fight a war on radical Islamic terrorism.


And they will have the support that they need to get the job done right, not like it is right now. It’s not right.


We also must ensure the American people are provided the information they need to understand the threat. The Senate subcommittee on Immigration has already identified hundreds of immigrants charged with terrorist activities inside the United States since September 11th. Nearly a year ago, the Senate Subcommittee asked President Obama’s Department of Justice, State and Homeland Security to provide the immigration history of all terrorists inside the United States. These Departments refused to comply. Nobody even knows why. They refused to comply.

President Obama must release the full and complete immigration histories of all individuals implicated in terrorist activities of any kind since September 11th. So important. The public has a right to know how these people got here, how they came on to this great land, why are they here?


We have to screen applicants to know whether they are affiliated with or supporting radical groups and beliefs, very simple. We have to control the amount of future immigration into this country and we have to prevent large pockets of radicalization from forming inside America. Not complicated.


Every – and just think of this. Take a look. Every single event, even a single individual can be devastating, and all you have to do is take a look at what happened in Orlando and what happened in other cases. Just a single event. And just one person. Can you imagine what they’ll do in large groups, which we’re allowing now to come here.

Truly our President doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s failed us and he’s failed us badly. Under his leadership this situation will not get any better, it will only get worse. And I’ve been saying that for a long time. Each year the United States permanently admits 100,000 immigrants from the Middle East and many more from Muslim countries outside of the Middle East. Our government has been admitting ever- growing numbers, year after year, without any effective plan for our own security.

In fact, Clinton’s State Department was in charge of admissions and the admissions process for people applying to enter from overseas. Having learned nothing from these attacks, she now plans to massively increase admissions without a screening plan including a 500 percent increase in Syrian refugees coming into our country. Tell me, tell me – how stupid is that?

This could be a better, bigger, more horrible version than the legendary Trojan Horse ever was. Altogether, under the Clinton plan, you’d be admitting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East with no system to vet them, or to prevent the radicalization of the children and their children. Not only their children, by the way, they’re trying to take over our children and convince them how wonderful ISIS is and how wonderful Islam is and we don’t know what’s happening.

TRUMP: The burden is on Hillary Clinton to tell us why she believes immigration from these dangerous countries should be increased without any effective system to really to screen. We’re not screening people.

So why don’t we have an effective screening system? We don’t. We’re being laughed at all over the world. The burden is on Hillary Clinton to tell us why we should admit anyone into our country who supports violence of any kind against gay and lesbian Americans. The burden is on Hillary Clinton to tell us how she will pay for it, her plan will cost hundreds of billions of dollars long term.

Wouldn’t this be money better spent rebuilding America for our current population including the many poor people already living here. We have cities, we have inner cities…


We have poverty all over and this is how we’re spending billions of dollars. We have to stop the tremendous flow of Syrian refugees into the United States. We don’t know who they are, they have no documentation and we don’t know what they’re planning and we won’t unless we have proper supervisor and proper leadership in which case they’re out of here. What I want…


What I want is common sense. I want a mainstream immigration policy that promotes American values. That’s a choice I put before the American people. A mainstream immigration policy designed to benefit America or Hillary Clinton’s radical immigration policy designed to benefit politically correct special interests. That’s all it is. We’ve got to get smart and tough and vigilant and we’ve got to do it now because later is too late — going to be too late for our country.

The media talks about home grown terrorism but Islamic radicalism and that’s a very, very important term — a term that the president refuses to use and the networks that nurture it are imports from overseas whether you like it or whether you don’t like it. Yes, there are many radicalized people already inside our country as a result of poor policies of the past.

But the whole point is that we will be much, much and it will be easier to deal with our current problem if we don’t keep on bringing people who add to the problem. And that’s what they’re doing. We’re letting all of these people — hundreds of thousands of people come in and all they’re doing is adding to this incredible problem we have.

For instance, the controversial mosque attended by the Boston bombers had at its founder and as its founder an immigrant from overseas charged in an assassination plot. This shooter and amazingly in Orlando was the child of an immigrant father who supported one of the most repressive regimes on earth. Why would we admit people who support violent hatred?

Hillary Clinton can never claim to be a friend of the gay community as long as she continues to support immigration policies that bring Islamic extremists to our country and who suppress women, gays and anyone who doesn’t share their views or values.


She can’t have it both ways. She can’t claim to be supportive of these communities while trying to increase the number of people coming in who want to oppress these same communities. How does this kind of immigration make our lives better? How does this kind of immigration make our country better? Why does Hillary Clinton want to bring people in in vast numbers who reject our values? Why? Explain.

Ask yourself who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community, Donald Trump with actions or Hillary Clinton with her words?

TRUMP: I will tell you who the better friend is and some day I believe that will be proven out bigly (ph).


And by the way the LGBT community is just — what’s happened to them is just so sad and to be thinking about where their policies are currently with this administration is a disgrace to that community, I will tell you right now.

Clinton wants to allow radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country. They enslave women, and they murder gays. I don’t want them in our country.


Immigration is a privilege, and we should not let anyone into this country who doesn’t support our communities. All of our communities, every single one of them. Americans already admitted four times more immigrants than any country on Earth, anybody in the world. Four times more. At least, because we don’t even know who’s coming in. And we continue to admit millions more with no real checks or scrutiny.

Not surprisingly, wages for our workers haven’t budged. In almost 20 years. You wonder why we get the crowds, you wonder why we get this tremendous support, you wonder why I’ve gotten more votes than any Republican in any primary in the history of the Republican Party? Take a look at that. Take a look at your security, take a look at the wages. For 18 years they’ve been stagnant, they’ve even gone down.

So whether it’s a matter of national security, or financial security, we can’t afford to keep on going like this. Cannot afford it. We owe $19 trillion in debt. And no longer have any options. Our communities from all backgrounds are ready for some relief. This is not an act of offense against anyone. It’s really an act of defense. I want us all, all of us, to work together. We have to form a partnership, with our Muslim communities. We have Muslim communities in this country that are great, and we have to form that partnership.

Now, the Muslim community, so important. They have to work with us. They have to cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad. They know it. And they have to do it, and they have to do it forthwith. I want to fix our schools. I want to fix our bridges. And our jobs market, we’re going to have it rocket again, we’re going to make great trade deals. But I want every American to succeed including Muslims.

But the Muslims have to work with us. They have to work with us. They know what’s going on. They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death, and destruction.

Hillary Clinton wants to empty out the Treasury to bring people into the country that include individuals who preach hate against our citizens. I want to protect our citizens, all of our citizens. The terrorist attack on Pulse nightclub demands a full and complete investigation into every single aspect of the assault. In San Bernardino, as an example, people who knew what was going on, they knew exactly, but they used the excuse of racial profiling for not reporting it. They said oh, “We thought so but we didn’t want to use racial profiling.” Which was probably an excuse given to them by their lawyer, so they don’t get in trouble.

We need to know what the killer discussed with his relatives, parents, friends and associates. We need to know if he was affiliated with any radical mosques or radical activists and what, if any, is their immigration status. We have to know, and we have to know fast. We need to know if he traveled anywhere and who he traveled with. We need to know, and we need to make sure, every single last person involved in this plan, including anyone who knew something but didn’t tell us, is brought to justice, so when people know what’s going on and they don’t tell us, and we have an attack, and people die, these people have to have consequences. Big consequences.


America must do more — much more — to protect its citizens, especially people who are potential victims of crimes based on their backgrounds or sexual orientation, as you just saw in Orlando.

TRUMP: It also means we must change our foreign policy. The decision to overthrow the regime in Libya, then pushing for the overthrow of the regime in Syria, among other things, without plans for the day after, have created space for ISIS to expand and grow like nobody has ever seen before.

These actions, along with our disastrous Iran deal, have also reduced our ability to work in partnership with our Muslim allies in the region. That is why our new goal must be to defeat Islamic terrorism not nation building. No more nation building. It’s never going to work.

And by the way we’ve spent almost $5 trillion over the years on trying to nation build in the Middle East and it has been complete and total disaster. We’re further away now than we were 15 years ago. For instance, the last major NATO mission was Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya. That mission helped to unleash ISIS on a new continent.

I’ve said NATO need to change its focus and stop terrorism. We have to focus on terrorism and we have to stop terrorism. Since I’ve raised that criticism and it’s OK. I’ve gotten no credit for it but these are minor details — NATO has since announced a new initiative — front page of the Wall Street Journal four days ago focused on just that. America must unite the whole civilized world in the fight against Islamic terrorism.


Pretty much like we did with communism during the Cold War. We tried it President Obama’s way, doesn’t work. He gave the world his apology tour. We got ISIS and many other problems in return. That’s what we got. Remember the famous apology tour. We’re sorry for everything.

I’d like to conclude my remarks today by again expressing our solitarily with the people of Orlando who have come under this horrific attack. When I’m president I pledge to protect and defend all Americans who live inside our borders. Wherever they come from, wherever they were born, I don’t care. All Americans living here and following our laws not other laws will be protected.


Thank you. Thank you. We’re going to be tough and we’re going to be smart and we’re going to do it right. America will be a tolerant and open society. America will also be a safe society. We will protect our borders at home. We will defeat ISIS overseas. We have no choice. We will ensure every parent can raise their children in peace and safety. We will make America rich again. We will make America safe again. We will make America great again. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.


Thank you. Thank you very much, everybody. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Full Text Political Transcripts June 12, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Mass Shooting and Terrorism at LGBT Nightclub in Orlando



Remarks by the President on Mass Shooting in Orlando

Source: WH, 6-12-16

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:59 P.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Today, as Americans, we grieve the brutal murder — a horrific massacre — of dozens of innocent people.  We pray for their families, who are grasping for answers with broken hearts.  We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city.  Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate.  And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.

I just finished a meeting with FBI Director Comey and my homeland security and national security advisors.  The FBI is on the scene and leading the investigation, in partnership with local law enforcement.  I’ve directed that the full resources of the federal government be made available for this investigation.

We are still learning all the facts.  This is an open investigation.  We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer.  The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism.  And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what — if any — inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups.  What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred.  Over the coming days, we’ll uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us.

This morning I spoke with my good friend, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and I conveyed the condolences of the entire American people.  This could have been any one of our communities.  So I told Mayor Dyer that whatever help he and the people of Orlando need — they are going to get it.  As a country, we will be there for the people of Orlando today, tomorrow and for all the days to come.

We also express our profound gratitude to all the police and first responders who rushed into harm’s way.  Their courage and professionalism saved lives, and kept the carnage from being even worse.  It’s the kind of sacrifice that our law enforcement professionals make every single day for all of us, and we can never thank them enough.

This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends — our fellow Americans — who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live.  The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub — it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.

So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.  And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.

Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history.  The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle.  This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub.  And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be.  And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.

In the coming hours and days, we’ll learn about the victims of this tragedy.  Their names.  Their faces.  Who they were.  The joy that they brought to families and to friends, and the difference that they made in this world.  Say a prayer for them and say a prayer for their families — that God give them the strength to bear the unbearable.  And that He give us all the strength to be there for them, and the strength and courage to change.  We need to demonstrate that we are defined more — as a country — by the way they lived their lives than by the hate of the man who took them from us.

As we go together, we will draw inspiration from heroic and selfless acts — friends who helped friends, took care of each other and saved lives.  In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another.  We will not give in to fear or turn against each other.  Instead, we will stand united, as Americans, to protect our people, and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us.

May God bless the Americans we lost this morning.  May He comfort their families.  May God continue to watch over this country that we love.  Thank you.


END                                                          2:04 P.M. EDT

Statement from Press Secretary Josh Earnest:

The President was briefed this morning by Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, on the tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims. The President asked to receive regular updates as the FBI, and other federal officials, work with the Orlando Police to gather more information, and directed that the federal government provide any assistance necessary to pursue the investigation and support the community.


Statement from Vice President Joe Biden’s spokesperson:

The Vice President was briefed this morning by his national security advisor on the heinous attack that took place overnight at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Vice President Biden offered his prayers for all those killed and injured in the shooting and sends his condolences to all the families and loved ones of the victims.  He is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to receive regular updates as we know more.

Full Text Obama Presidency October 1, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Shootings at Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon Transcript



Statement by the President on the Shootings at Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

6:22 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  There’s been another mass shooting in America — this time, in a community college in Oregon.

That means there are more American families — moms, dads, children — whose lives have been changed forever.  That means there’s another community stunned with grief, and communities across the country forced to relieve their own anguish, and parents across the country who are scared because they know it might have been their families or their children.

I’ve been to Roseburg, Oregon.  There are really good people there.  I want to thank all the first responders whose bravery likely saved some lives today.  Federal law enforcement has been on the scene in a supporting role, and we’ve offered to stay and help as much as Roseburg needs, for as long as they need.

In the coming days, we’ll learn about the victims — young men and women who were studying and learning and working hard, their eyes set on the future, their dreams on what they could make of their lives.  And America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love.

But as I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough.  It’s not enough.  It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel.  And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple of months from now.

We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did.  And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be.  But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people.  We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.

Earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying, “The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun-safety laws — even in the face of repeated mass killings.”  And later that day, there was a mass shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.  That day!  Somehow this has become routine.  The reporting is routine.  My response here at this podium ends up being routine.  The conversation in the aftermath of it.  We’ve become numb to this.

We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Newtown, after Aurora, after Charleston.  It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.

And what’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation.  Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out:  We need more guns, they’ll argue.  Fewer gun safety laws.

Does anybody really believe that?  There are scores of responsible gun owners in this country –they know that’s not true.  We know because of the polling that says the majority of Americans understand we should be changing these laws — including the majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America.  So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer?  We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.  So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.

We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings.  Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours.  So we know there are ways to prevent it.

And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue.  Well, this is something we should politicize.  It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.  I would ask news organizations — because I won’t put these facts forward — have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side on your news reports.  This won’t be information coming from me; it will be coming from you.  We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so.  And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths.  How can that be?

This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America.  We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.  When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer.  When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer.  When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities.  We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives.  So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense.

So, tonight, as those of us who are lucky enough to hug our kids a little closer are thinking about the families who aren’t so fortunate, I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws, and to save lives, and to let young people grow up.  And that will require a change of politics on this issue.  And it will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision.  If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.

And I would particularly ask America’s gun owners — who are using those guns properly, safely, to hunt, for sport, for protecting their families — to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you.

And each time this happens I’m going to bring this up.  Each time this happens I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we’re going to have to change our laws.  And this is not something I can do by myself.  I’ve got to have a Congress and I’ve got to have state legislatures and governors who are willing to work with me on this.

I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as President to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances.  But based on my experience as President, I can’t guarantee that.  And that’s terrible to say.  And it can change.

May God bless the memories of those who were killed today.  May He bring comfort to their families, and courage to the injured as they fight their way back.  And may He give us the strength to come together and find the courage to change.

Thank you.

6:35 P.M. EDT

Full Text Transcripts Obama Presidency June 26, 2015: President Barack Obama Delivers Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney Sings Amazing Grace



Remarks by the President in Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney

Source: WH, 6-26-15

President Obama delivers remarks in Charleston, SC

College of Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina

2:49 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Giving all praise and honor to God.  (Applause.)

The Bible calls us to hope.  To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.

“They were still living by faith when they died,” Scripture tells us. “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth.”

We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith.  A man who believed in things not seen.  A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance.  A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.

To Jennifer, his beloved wife; to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters; to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.

I cannot claim to have the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well.  But I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger.  (Laughter.)  Back when I didn’t have visible grey hair.  (Laughter.)  The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor — all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.

Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived; that even from a young age, folks knew he was special.  Anointed.  He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful — a family of preachers who spread God’s word, a family of protesters who sowed change to expand voting rights and desegregate the South.  Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching.

He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23.  He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth, nor youth’s insecurities; instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years, in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith, and purity.

As a senator, he represented a sprawling swath of the Lowcountry, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America.  A place still wracked by poverty and inadequate schools; a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment.  A place that needed somebody like Clem.  (Applause.)

His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long.  His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded, the votes he cast were sometimes lonely.  But he never gave up.  He stayed true to his convictions.  He would not grow discouraged.  After a full day at the capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him.  There he would fortify his faith, and imagine what might be.

Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean, nor small.  He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently.  He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone, but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen.  He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.  No wonder one of his senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us — the best of the 46 of us.”

Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant.  But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of the AME church.  (Applause.)  As our brothers and sisters in the AME church know, we don’t make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation, but…the life and community in which our congregation resides.”  (Applause.)

He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words; that the “sweet hour of prayer” actually lasts the whole week long — (applause) — that to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation; that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.

What a good man.  Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized — after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man.  (Applause.)

You don’t have to be of high station to be a good man.  Preacher by 13.  Pastor by 18.  Public servant by 23.  What a life Clementa Pinckney lived.  What an example he set.  What a model for his faith.  And then to lose him at 41 — slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.

Cynthia Hurd.  Susie Jackson.  Ethel Lance.  DePayne Middleton-Doctor.  Tywanza Sanders.  Daniel L. Simmons.  Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.  Myra Thompson.  Good people.  Decent people. God-fearing people.  (Applause.)  People so full of life and so full of kindness.  People who ran the race, who persevered.  People of great faith.

To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief.  Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church.  The church is and always has been the center of African-American life — (applause) — a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety; praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah — (applause) — rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad; bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement.  They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice; places of scholarship and network; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart — (applause) — and taught that they matter.  (Applause.)  That’s what happens in church.

That’s what the black church means.  Our beating heart.  The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate.  When there’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel — (applause) — a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes.  (Applause.)

When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws.  When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps.  A sacred place, this church.  Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion — (applause) — of human rights and human dignity in this country; a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all.  That’s what the church meant.  (Applause.)

We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history.  But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act.  It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress.  (Applause.)  An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination; violence and suspicion.  An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.

Oh, but God works in mysterious ways.  (Applause.)  God has different ideas.  (Applause.)

He didn’t know he was being used by God.  (Applause.)  Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group — the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle.  The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court — in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness.  He couldn’t imagine that.  (Applause.)

The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston, under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley — (applause) — how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond — not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.

Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace.  (Applause.)

This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. (Applause.)  The grace of the families who lost loved ones.  The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons.  The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals — the one we all know:  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  (Applause.)  I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.  (Applause.)

According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned.  Grace is not merited.  It’s not something we deserve.  Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God — (applause) — as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.  Grace.

As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind.  (Applause.)  He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves.  (Applause.)  We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other — but we got it all the same.  He gave it to us anyway.  He’s once more given us grace.  But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.

For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens.  (Applause.)  It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders.  But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge — including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise — (applause) — as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride.  (Applause.)  For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.  We see that now.

Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers.  It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — (applause) — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong.  (Applause.) It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds.  It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union.  By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.  (Applause.)

But I don’t think God wants us to stop there.  (Applause.)  For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present.  Perhaps we see that now.  Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.  (Applause.)

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate.  (Applause.)  Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system — (applause) — and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.  (Applause.)

Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal.  (Applause.)  So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote.  (Applause.)  By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American — by doing that, we express God’s grace.  (Applause.)

For too long —

AUDIENCE:  For too long!

THE PRESIDENT:  For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.  (Applause.) Sporadically, our eyes are open:  When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school.  But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day; the countless more whose lives are forever changed — the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.

The vast majority of Americans — the majority of gun owners — want to do something about this.  We see that now.  (Applause.)  And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country — by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.  (Applause.)

We don’t earn grace.  We’re all sinners.  We don’t deserve it.  (Applause.)  But God gives it to us anyway.  (Applause.)  And we choose how to receive it.  It’s our decision how to honor it.

None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight.  Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race.  We talk a lot about race.  There’s no shortcut.  And we don’t need more talk.  (Applause.)  None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy.  It will not.  People of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies, as our democracy requires — this is a big, raucous place, America is.  And there are good people on both sides of these debates.  Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete.

But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.  (Applause.)  Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual — that’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society.  (Applause.)  To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change — that’s how we lose our way again.

It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history — we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”  (Applause.)  What is true in the South is true for America.  Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other.  That my liberty depends on you being free, too.  (Applause.)  That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past — how to break the cycle.  A roadway toward a better world.  He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind — but, more importantly, an open heart.

That’s what I’ve felt this week — an open heart.  That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think — what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”

That reservoir of goodness.  If we can find that grace, anything is possible.  (Applause.)  If we can tap that grace, everything can change.  (Applause.)

Amazing grace.  Amazing grace.

(Begins to sing) — Amazing grace — (applause) — how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.  (Applause.)

Clementa Pinckney found that grace.

Cynthia Hurd found that grace.

Susie Jackson found that grace.

Ethel Lance found that grace.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.

Tywanza Sanders found that grace.

Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.

Myra Thompson found that grace.

Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us.  May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure.  May grace now lead them home.  May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America.  (Applause.)

3:28 P.M. EDT

History Musings June 23, 2015: The Confederacy hostile to African Americans safe haven for American Jews


History Buzz


Note: The following includes an extensive excerpt from the author’s unpublished thesis entitled, “Unconditional Loyalty to the Cause: Southern Whiteness, Jewish Women, and Anti-Semitism, 1860-1913” for the MA in Judaic Studies program at Concordia University.

After the shooting attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 where Dylann Roof, 21 shot and killed nine African Americans, in what is being deemed a racist attack, the debate over South Carolina‘s official usage of the Confederate flag is again heating up. On Saturday, June 20, protesters gathered objecting to the flag remaining at the capital, thousands signed a petition on moveon.org. There are now calls for the flag to be removed from its official spot in South Carolina’s state capitol of Columbia.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP Presidential nominee set the bar high calling for the flag’s removal in a tweet on Saturday, June 20, 2015, where he called it a “symbol of racial hatred.” Romney shares the same views as President Barack Obama, who has long called for the flag’s removal. One by one, the Republican presidential candidates weighed in on the issue, many called an issue for the state to decide, a few called for its downright removal including front runner Jeb Bush. In the wake of the movement to remove the flag, SC governor Nikki Haley, Charleston’s mayor, and a group of bipartisan legislators agreed on Monday, June 22, the flag has to go. The state started the process by removing the flag from the Citadel just a day later on Tuesday, June 23.

South Carolina is not the only state to look to end the Confederate flag’s continued life; Virginia will no longer allow the flag to appear on any license plates. The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, June 18 that it was not a violation of the first amendment for the government deny certain images or words be placed on specialty license plates. The case revolved around the Texas Motor Vehicles Board refusing the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) a license plate design with the Confederate flag on it. Retailers including Walmart, Etsy, Sears and Amazon.com will no longer sell any items with the Confederate flag on them. The calls are not just to remove Confederate flags, but statues and monuments relating to the Confederacy trying wipe away a major part of American history.

In a long held tradition sacred for the state, South Carolina flies in addition to the American flag the Confederate flag. South Carolina has fought to keep flying the flag, which they deem an important part of “their heritage.” For many others it is a symbol of the Civil War and slavery, a “dark” time in American history. After the Charleston church shooting, and the perpetrator’s racist motives and plans becoming clearer, many are calling for the flag to be removed from the state capitol grounds in Columbia. In 2000, after a similar fight, civil rights activists had a minor victory when the flag was removed from inside the statehouse and capitol dome, however, it remained flying on the grounds.

For Southerners the flag has historical significance for other especially after the shooting it is considered even more so a symbol of racial hatred and a reminder of slavery. The Confederate south was not racially hostile to every racial group that did not fit the mold of a white Christian, in fact American Jews found an oasis in the antebellum and Civil War south, free of the anti-Jewish prejudice that was prevalent in the North at that time. Part of the reason was that American Jews joined and found common ground with Southern White Christians and partook in every aspect of Southern life, the good, the bad, slavery, racism, participating in every aspect of the Civil War on the side of the South and the Confederacy.

Even from Colonial times, life in America for Jews offered more freedom than they could hope for in Europe.  In North America, the division of society was based less on religion, as had been the case in Europe, but on skin color. The first slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619, even before the arrival of the first Jews in 1654, and although slavery was not the system that it would become, by the time Jews began arriving, the distinction between black and white was set in colonial society.  Slavery spread throughout the American colonies with Rhode Island acting as an exemption.  There are two primary reasons that motivated a slavery system in America; slave labor was a driving force behind economic development, as well as the main method in determining class status.

Whiteness equaled to freedom, while slave ownership, and the number of slaves owned indicated wealth and social status; it allowed the poorest of whites to remain always above blacks in the social ladder. In a society were race was more important than religion, Jews believed they could escape religious persecution because they were white, and they could exploit this fact to gain freedom and social acceptance. Fifty years after their entrance into America, Jews had already integrated and assimilated themselves through the practice of owning slaves; Jewish involvement in the slave trade and slavery was another way to integrate with America’s Christian population. The South’s peculiar institution of slavery touched every Jew that chose to live in the South in the antebellum period, and in the antebellum period, this was a large portion of America’s Jewish population.

The population of Jewish in the southern colonies and then states was practically old as their founding. Robert Rosen writing in The Jewish Confederates points out, Southern Jews were an integral part of the Confederate States of America and had been breathing the free air of Dixie for 200 years” by the time the Civil War ended.[i] The historian Steven Hertzberg recounts in Strangers within the Gate City: The Jews of Atlanta, 1845-1915, “Jews had resided in the South since the seventeenth century, and a party of 42 Jews landed at Savannah in July 1733, just five months after the arrival of Georgia’s first colonists.  At the time of the first federal census in 1790, nearly half of the approximately 1,300 to 1,500 Jews in the United States lived below the Mason-Dixon Line, and Charleston, with an estimated 200 Jewish inhabitants, sheltered the second largest Jewish community in the country.” [ii]

By 1820, Charleston would surpass New York as the most populous Jewish city in the new nation with a total 700 Jews living there. Although during this period, a good portion of America’s Jews made their home in the South their numbers were small in comparison to the Southern white majority. Clive Webb argues in Fight Against Fear: Southern Jews and Black Civil Rights, “Jews never constituted more than a tiny percentage of the southern population. Their desire for social acceptance ensured their compliance with the laws and customs of their adopted homeland.  In particular this involved their acceptance of slavery and then racial segregation.” [iii]

Jews thoroughly accepted slavery; its practices and rules, and ingrained it into the fabric and day to day living of their lives. Whichever economic pursuit Southern Jews were involved in, or their economic status in Southern society; they were fervent advocates of slavery. Jews participated in the plantation lifestyle; adhered to Southern norms in their treatment of their slaves, and were even involved in slave trading. On Jewish owned plantations, slaves would work as either field hands, or house servants, while urban dwelling Jews would own slaves that worked in their homes and businesses or hired them out, while a smaller number of Jews even participated in the slave trade.

Jews participated in these practices because they wanted to feel they belonged to the chivalry and elite Southern society.  Participating in the slave system was the primary method for Southern Jews to belong to white Southern society, but also partaking in the South’s code of honor, and duels were another, historian “Mark I. Greenberg points out that Jews adopted the Southern way of life, including the code of honor, dueling, slavery and Southern notions about race and states’ rights.”[iv]

Adhering to the majority allowed Jews to be as “white” as Southern Christians, and they also could contrast sharply with the slave population, move up in American society, and take part equally in the American democratic dream; a position of equality continually denied to Jews in their European countries of origin. Historians Marvin Perry and Frederick Schweitzer write in Antisemitism: Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the Present, “The views of southern Jews on race and slavery differed little from other white southerners who regarded slavery as the natural condition of blacks. An insecure minority eager to be accepted as equals by the society which they dwelled, southern Jews, like other southerners, did not challenge the slave system.” [v]

Many Jews were recent immigrants who did not want to instigate the segregationist anti-Semitism they experienced in Europe by their opposition. As Webb argues “Confronted with such a hostile political climate, Jews had little choice but to accept slavery. Those who did harbor doubts about the ethics of the slave system kept such thoughts to themselves for fear of provoking an anti-Semitic backlash. Gary Zola has indeed suggested that at times this determination to avoid conflict caused southern Jews to support slavery even more aggressively than other whites.”[vi]

This whiteness allowed many Southern Jews to shared similar experiences and beliefs about slavery as their Christian counterparts did, and were devoted to the cause. America’s Jews as Jacob Rader Marcus writes had “a readiness, if not an eagerness, to adapt themselves to the life and culture about them”[vii]  In fact Southern Jewry’s participation in the South cultural and societal norms such as slavery and the honor code did serve as Jews’ acceptance into the Christian society as white Southerners.  As Lauren Winner claims, “Recent scholarship has attempted to argue that Jews were accepted fully into the society of the Old South. One recent enterprising scholar claimed that Jews in antebellum South Carolina, because they dueled, sported hoop skirts, and owned slaves, were full participants in Southern society.”[viii]

Southern Jews did enjoy a relative prejudice free life in the antebellum South, “Nowhere else in the United States had Jews been as fully accepted into the mainstream of society. Nowhere else in the United States had Jews become as fully integrated into the political and economic fabric of everyday life.”[ix] In their opinion, it was a privilege they held dear, and supported the South’s peculiar institutions to hold on to this acceptance.

There was still one aspect however; Southern Jews differed from the rest of the Southern white population: religion.  Jews could not participate in Christian evangelism that was so prevalent in the South during that period.  As Lauren Winner points out in her article “Taking up the Cross: Conversion among black and white Jews in the Civil War South”, “That Jews could not engage in that essential feature of the South’s social landscape-evangelicalism-is, in this scholar’s estimation, inconsequential at best.” [x]  That was why is was so essential in Southern Jewry’s opinion to integrate and participate in the South’s other customs to ensure they would be considered white, and avoid any religious animosity, and anti-Jewish prejudice was more prevalent in the North.

In nineteenth century, America slavery became probably the most divisive issue both politically and socially, and one of the main causes leading to the Civil War (1861-1865). As the doyen of history of Jews during the Civil War Bertram Korn indicates, “had Negro slavery not been an integral aspect of the life of the Old South, there would have been no conflict, no secession, no war.  Differences there might have been, but not violence and bloodshed.  Slavery was the single indigestible element in the life of the American people which fostered disunion, strife, and carnage, just as the concomitant race problem has continued to an important degree to be a divisive force in American life to this day.”[xi]

Its effects were not unnoticed on America’s small but ever growing Jewish population. Slavery was predominately a Southern issue although its moral and political ramifications affected the entire American population. Americans took positions on the issue, while many remained indifferent. There was however, a small minority of northern reformers who believed that slavery should be abolished in the South, and they worked towards this goal much to the resentment of Americans both in the North and much more vehemently in the South.

As relative newcomers to America, the majority of the Jewish population did not speak out against slavery; essentially all of the South’s small Jewish population supported slavery, since it was their entrée into acceptance by the Christian majority. Korn, notes “No Jewish political figure of the Old South ever expressed reservations about the justice of slavery or the rightness of the Southern position.”[xii]

Even when slavery was becoming more controversial, and Civil War loomed Southern Jews still continued their support of slavery. As Arthur Hertzberg writes in The Jews of America: Four Centuries of an Uneasy Encounter : A History, “In the 1850s most people in America hoped that the issue of slavery could be avoided; so did most Jews. In the Southern states Jews almost unanimously supported the proslavery interests.”[xiii] Hasia Diner concurs explaining in The Jews of the United States, “Nothing demonstrated this fact better than the Civil War and the issue of slavery. Southern Jews regarded the matter no differently than did their neighbors. Three thousand Jewish men fought in gray uniforms, and Jewish women aided the cause with volunteer work.”[xiv]

Jews were loyal to slavery, the Southern way of life, and the Confederate cause. As Abolitionist Rabbi Bernhard Felsenthal observed “Israelites residing in New Orleans are man by man—with very few exceptions—ardently in favor of secession, and many among them are intense fanatics.” [xv] Most Southern Jews supported the South’s secession from the Union and the newly established Confederacy, whether they were citizens of the South for many years or recently arrived immigrants. The South had been good to its Jewish population they flourished economically, politically and socially in a Christian society, essentially without anti-Semitism.

Most Jews however, believed their support for the Confederacy; states’ rights, and slavery were the key to maintaining acceptance as a part of the white majority. As Oscar R. Williams in “Historical Impressions of Black Jewish Relations Prior to World War II” writes, “During the Civil War Jews defended the system which insured them acceptance and success in the South.” [xvi] While Webb writes that “Through their loyal support for secession, southern Jews therefore hoped to reinforce their social acceptance.”[xvii] As Robert Rosen describes in Confederate Charleston, “The Charleston Jewish community gave its enthusiastic support to the Confederacy. Having found in South Carolina from colonial times a haven from religious persecution, a freedom to practice their religion, and the freedom to engage in all forms of commerce, the Jews of Charleston showed great devotion to the Confederate cause.”[xviii]

All over the South, Jews heeded the call to support the Confederate cause. The obvious choice for most men was to join a company in the Confederate army, many Southern Jews could not physically give their support, they used the other means they had in the powers to help in the Confederacy, for some it was political and most often monetary contributions. Southern Jewry’s devotion to the Confederacy translated into the actions in support of the Southern cause approximately two to three thousand Jewish men fought for the gray, while on the home front the women worked as loyal volunteers, as nurses resisting Northern, Yankee troops’ growing occupation of their beloved South. Rosen claims, “Thus, overwhelmingly, and almost unanimously, some with fear and trepidation, others with courage and enthusiasm, some with reservations, others with a firm unflinching resolve, Southern Jewry cast its lot with the Confederate States of America.”[xix]

So fierce was Jewish devotion to Southern ideals that when as Rosen writes “in April 1861 the Jewish messenger of New York City called upon American Jewry to “rally as one man for the Union and Constitution,” the Jews of Shreveport responded with a resolution denouncing the newspaper and its editor
“We, the Hebrew congregation of Shreveport,” the resolution began, “scorn and repel your advice, although we might be called Southern rebels; still, as law-abiding citizens, we solemnly pledge ourselves to stand by, protect, and honor the flag, with its stars and stripes, the Union and Constitution of the Southern Confederacy, with our lives, liberty, and all that is dear to us.”[xx] Southern rabbis agreed with the congregations’ support of the war and preached and prayed for the Confederacy in their services: “This once happy country is enflamed by the fury of war; a menacing enemy is arrayed against the rights, and liberties and freedom of this, our Confederacy;…Here I stand now with many thousands of the sons of the sunny South, to face the foe, to drive him back, and to defend our natural rights, O Lord…Be unto the Army of the Confederacy as though were of the old, unto us, thy chosen people-Inspire them with patriotism!”[xxi]

Southern Jewish men that remained on the home front during the war also made tremendous contributions in support of the war. Many men continued their mercantile businesses, or as peddlers or in their stores, supplying the troops as well as those that remained on the home front. They also worked as innkeepers, tanners, apothecaries, doctors or teachers.[xxii] Many who unable to literally go off to fight in the war would join the home guard or militia to protect the city or town where they lived. The Jewish men who remained on the home front were also involved in philanthropic efforts.

The most common form of philanthropy was the creation of benevolent societies to help the poor affected the war, donate money to hospitals, and bury dead Confederate Jewish soldiers in Jewish cemeteries. Southern rabbis remained fervent advocates of the South and the Confederacy throughout the war, as were their Christian counterparts; they prayed for and praised the Confederacy in their services. Rabbi James Gutheim of Montgomery, AL, had recently arrived in the South 1843, prayed for it at the onset of the war, asking for divine intervention for “our beloved country, the Confederate States of America. May our young Republic increase in strength, prosperity and renown.”[xxiii]

Southern Jews supported the Confederacy because they believed they had a haven from the anti-Semitism that hounded them in Europe this was especially true for new and recent immigrants from Central Europe, whom compromised a majority of Southern Jews serving in the Confederate Army. Rosen continues, “Many like “Ike” Hermann, had found the land of Canaan. Others, like Gustavus Poznanski, had found their Jerusalem, their Palestine. Still others, like Marcus Baum, Jacob Samuels, Adolph Proskauer and Herschell Kempner, had finally found their Fatherland.”[xxiv]  Leopold Weil a Jewish cotton merchant wrote at the time “This land has been good to all of us…I shall fight to my last breath and to the full extent of my fortune to defend that in which I believe.”[xxv] Weil did he enlisted in the Confederate Army as a lieutenant.

Southern Jewry was motivated to support the Confederacy as Webb explains, “there were a number of reasons why Jews championed the Confederate cause. Like many southern Jews, Leopold Weil attained privilege and prosperity through the exploitation of slave labor. The South also offered safe haven to thousands of Jews who fled persecution in Europe. Although Weil recognized that slavery was immoral, he was not prepared to abandon a land that “has been good to all of us.”[xxvi] Even many years after the war Southern Jews could declaring how good the South was for immigrant Jews  Isaac “Ike” Hermann, a private 1st Georgia Infantry proclaimed  “I found in [the South] an ideal and harmonious people; they treated me as one of their own; in fact for me, it was the land of Canaan where milk and honey flowed.” [xxvii] Testifying that Southern Jewry in the antebellum period had found in the South the haven from prejudice they had been looking for.

When Civil War erupted after the Southern states seceded from the Union, women in the South faced an upheaval as their way of life was threatened to be changed forever.  For Southern Jewish women were fiercely attached to the Southern way of life, and this manifested itself into a deep loyalty for the Confederacy and support that it would win the war.  As historians Hasia Diner and Beryl Lieff Benderly indicate in Her Works Prise Her: A History of Jewish Women in America from Colonial Times to the Present, “When the Civil War split America, Jews, as Americans, supported both sides, either as passionate proponents of the Union or devoted sons and daughters of the Confederacy.” [xxviii]  Jacob Rader Marcus, the doyen of American Jewish history concurs in Memoirs of American Jews, 1775-1865, “The apogee of patriotism was reached by the Southern women, including Jewesses.”[xxix]  While Marli F. Weiner explains in Mistresses and Slaves: Plantation Women in South Carolina, 1830-80, “In the antebellum South gender and race were the two most significant shapers of individual experiences.  Other factors such as class, region, religion, family skill, personality even appearance, were also important, of course but being born free or enslaved, male or female determined the possibilities and limitations for each individual.” [xxx]

The majority of these Jewish women were not recent immigrants, but American born and shared the lifestyle and values of their Christian counterparts. As Diner and Benderly recount, “Rosana [Osterman], the Levy sisters, and the Natchez M[a]yer daughters were not, of course, recent immigrants but rather the American-born descendants of earlier migrant generations.  But they, like Jews throughout the country, both newly arrived and long established, saw themselves as wholehearted Americans and fashioned their lives and identities in response to an American reality quite unlike anything Jews had ever experienced elsewhere.”[xxxi]  These women were Jewish southern belles and lived their lives accordingly.

These Southern Jewish women were integrated in Southern society, and were attached to lifestyle they had become accustomed to, and as the war, demonstrated Southerners and the Confederacy were more tolerant of Jews than the Union army that ravaged the South, Southern Jewish recognized this and devotedly aligned themselves with their beloved South at all costs.  Marcus writes, “The Southern Jewesses were fanatically, almost hysterically, passionate in their sympathies for their new regime.  Were they trying to prove that they were more ardent than their neighbors? Why?”[xxxii]

Like many other Christian women in the South, Southern women contributed on many levels through volunteer work, as war supply collectors, sewing circles, and nursing, but the far more committed chose to rebel against the Union officials. Jewish women especially took advantage of this new politicizing position the war granted women by demonstrating their loyalty to the South, through fiercer methods, often through illegal means including, smuggling, espionage, and belligerency.  Practicing slavery and being perceived as white, and generally adhering to the South’s social norms helped Southern Jewry escape Anti-Semitism.\

When Civil War erupted the North was threatening the Southern oasis Jews had created, virtually free of old prejudices.  The North in contrast, was more anti-Semitic and welcomed less its Jewish population into the Christian majority. Although the majority of Southerners Jews tried to defend the Confederacy and the land that had been so good to them, Southern women left on the home front were supporters that were even more ardent. As Catherine Clinton explains, “The Civil War, many Southern Jews felt, would change all this. Not unlike African Americans, who have believed throughout U.S. history that military service would guarantee them rights of full citizenship, Southern Jews expected that if they embraced the Confederate cause wholeheartedly, they would in turn be embraced by the Confederacy and accorded a new role in the society of the new nation.”[xxxiii]

Southern Jewish women adhered to the similar place other Southern women took in society, but also in supporting the Confederacy, Southern Jewish women took on added role defending Southern Jewry whiteness and place in Southern Christian society with their war efforts.  To the end, Southern Jews were even more enthusiastic towards their allegiance to all Southern practices, especially Jewish women.

Southern Jewish women knew that the Southern way of life was integral to maintaining the racial equilibrium for Jews and for avoiding anti-Semitism.  As Steven Hertzberg writes in Strangers Within The Gate City: The Jews Of Atlanta, 1845- 1915, “While suspicion engendered by their foreign birth and alien religion may have induced some Jews to conform outwardly to regional values as a means of protective coloration, most willingly embraced Southern attitudes because they had a consuming desire to succeed in their new home.”[xxxiv]  These women would go to great lengths to support the Confederacy in the manner they best knew how, and within the limits of the white womanhood, they wished to maintain.  They felt if they would defend the Confederacy on the home front, after the war they would keep being defined as white Southerners, and find a sense of belonging in the land they were living in.

The Jews’ harmony living in a Southern Christian society however was not without anti-Semitism. Seth Forman explain in his article “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Jewish: Desegregation in the South and the Crisis of Jewish Liberalism,” “All of this does not mean that the position of Southern Jews was not in any way precarious. Living in a region characterized largely by an overpowering caste system and fierce racial bigotry, Southern Jews treaded lightly and made their way in a place that was largely ambivalent about their presence.” [xxxv] Webb concurs, “Southern Jews did not succeed entirely in eroding anti-Semitism.” [xxxvi]

Even with all Southern Jewry’s efforts and support for Southern institutions, they could not entirely escape anti-Jewish prejudice in the South, since it essentially began with their arrival in 1733, as Hertzberg claims “even in the colonies which were hospitable to Jews.”[xxxvii]  Winner explains, “The new nation did not come to fruition, and neither did Southern Jews’ expectations of their support of the Confederacy. To the contrary, they found that during wartime, their support was not welcomed but, rather, received warily. Protestant Confederates blamed Southern Jews when any aspect of the war effort went wrong, accusing them of espionage, racketeering, and conspiracy.”[xxxviii]

With trying times, and the increase of the Jewish population in 1850 caused an increase in anti-Semitism. A general dislike of all aliens and foreigners increased during the Civil War. Korn describes, “Additional social factors peculiar to life in the South tended to strengthen and heighten the reaction to Jews: a general dislike of all aliens and foreigners which, during the War, created the legend that the Union Army was a band of German and Irish hirelings and mercenaries, while the Confederate Army was said to be exclusively native; a wide-spread suspicion of the merchant and storekeeper, typical of a society dominated by the plantation owner and farmer.”[xxxix]

Jews however, hoped that their strict adherence to Southern norms, with either keep anti-Semitism to a minimum or restrict any further occurrence of anti-Jewish activity. As the Civil War was becoming a reality, Jewish support for the Confederacy, states’ rights, and ultimately slavery was the key according to the Southern Jewish population to acceptance as a part of the white majority. Forman writes, “For the most part, however, these kinds of actions were mitigated by countervailing Southern ideas concerning the equality of all white men, the overriding concern with the subordination of black Americans, and the usefulness of the Jews as merchants and artisans. Spread thinly throughout the vast region, the Jews in the South tended to avoid taking public stands on controversial issues. When the issue of slavery tore the country in two during the Civil War, for example, Southern Jews largely accepted slavery and supported the South.[xl]

The rise in anti-Semitism commenced as the war turned towards the worse for the South, defeat was imminent, and the economy worsened with food and supplies difficult to acquire as the war raged on. Jews were blamed because their religion differed, clashing with the Christian Fundamentalism of the Confederate South, Jews roles as merchants and Judah P. Benjamin prominent political role in the Confederate government as attorney general, secretary of state and secretary of war. This only magnified after the South lost the war, the blame shifted over to the Southern population, despite the fact that very few Jews had any political or economic power.

Leonard Dinnerstein explains in Antisemitism in America, that Southern Jews despite living among evangelical Christian only sporadically experienced Anti-Semitism, and this was usually just in the most trying economic times. “Thus Jews as a group, despite their opportunities in the United States, never quite relaxed, and always kept a watchful eye open for Christian bias. Such prejudice was not uniformly exhibited and it often depended on historical circumstances and the strengths or trials of distinct Christian groups at different times in history as to how the beliefs would be exercised. Sometimes numbers made a difference; when Jews were strong in number they often felt more secure and comfortable. Other times local values dictated their reception and demeanor.”[xli]

Although the South had always been a Christian and religious area, the war was only reinforced this, and brought religion to the forefront. As the war raged on Southerners began invoking Christian religious language in relation to the Southern cause, and the Confederacy, which separated Jews from the pre-war unified white majority; classifying them as foreigners both religiously, and with the implications that Jews were Yankees, Northerners. Myron Berman states, “public demonstrations of piety and the use of Christian concepts became more pronounced in the course of the war.”[xlii]

This was because of the fundamentalist style that Southerners were invoking in their religious practices. Diane Ashton explains in her article “Shifting Veils: Religion, Politics and Womanhood Among Jewish Women During the Civil War,” “First in the North and later in the South, the belief that America played a pivotal role in bringing the second coming of Christ reached an apogee just before and during the Civil War. Southern anti-Semitism was fueled in part by a more fundamentalist style reading the New Testament than was common in most Northern Churches. The Confederacy went so far as to define itself as a Christian nation in its constitution. Southern clergy mounted frequent revivals among the troops, both to obtain God’s favor and to enable soldiers to fight without fear of death. Historian Harry Stout explained that the Confederacy declared many fast days, a practice previously more common in the North, to bind the civilians troops alike to display their patriotism and piety-then defined as the same thing.”[xliii]

As the situation in the Civil War was becoming increasingly worse for the Confederacy, Southerner’s anti-Semitism arose, when before the before the war these sentiments had publicly been kept to a minimum, and Jews were for the most part tolerated in Southern society. Korn explains, “Granted an original suspicion and dislike of the Jew before the War, the four-year-long travail of the Confederacy was certain to emphasize it.”[xliv] Southern Christians began to blame to the Jewish leaders of the Confederacy for the South’s loses. Diane Ashton writes that “Denunciations of Jews became more commonplace during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Southerners explained their defeat as God’s chastisement for widespread sinfulness.”[xlv] The Confederate anti-Jewish feelings however, were mostly reserved for Judah Benjamin and Jewish merchants. Southern newspapers and magazines would refer to Jews as “Yankees among us” or as shylocks.[xlvi]

Judah Benjamin was the Secretary of War and then State for the Confederate government, and he took the blame for many of the South’s defeats and problems. The fact that he was a Jew led a citizen of North Carolina, John Beauchamp Jones to swear that “all the distresses of the people were owing to a Nero-like despotism, originating in the brain of Benjamin, the Jew.”[xlvii] Henry L.
also reiterates that Benjamin was blamed for war loses because of his religion as opposed to his actually polices and military decisions. As Feingold writes in Zion in America: The Jewish Experience from Colonial Times to the Present, “In 1862 Judah Benjamin, who had suffered much calumny because of his being Jewish, was censured by the Confederate Congress for failing to send war supplies to Roanoke and thus causing its loss to the Union Army. He did not reveal that if he had complied with Roanoke’s request, Norfolk would have been left vulnerable.”[xlviii] Winner states, “Benjamin was only one of the many Confederate Jews whom Confederate Christians plugged into age-old stereotypes of the Jew qua extortionist, thief, shylock, of Jews driven by, in the words of historian John Higham, “cunning” and “avarice.”[xlix]

This anti-Jewish prejudice also was seen in the Confederate military. Jewish Confederate’s in the military were faced with prejudice and ridicule, and were often prevented from receiving promotions that were due to them or they were reluctantly given to them. Winner writes, “Captain R. E. Park recounted that his colonel attempted to block the promotion of Mobile’s Captain Proskauer because the Colonel was suspicious of Jews’ loyalty to the Confederacy. A Jewish Colonel assigned to a Texas regiment experienced such ridicule and antagonism that within forty-eight hours of joining up with his new regiment, he left.”[l]

On the home front, the situation was not quite different; Southern Jews faced anti-Jewish prejudice in their daily lives. In the United States at the time is not uncharacteristic for Jews to be scapegoats blamed for an economic situation, which was out of their control, and a product of the war rather than anything else. In these desperate times Christian Southerners were looking for scapegoats and the rising prices for living essential made the Jew and particularly the Jewish merchant the ideal scapegoat, and the fact that most Jews were merchants, an important component of the Confederate economy did not help the increase of anti-Jewish prejudice. Ashton claims this economic blame was widespread writing “Across the South, both small merchants and public figures like Benjamin were blamed for the region’s economic woes and its military defeat. Although Richmond‘s major industries were not in Jewish hands, Jews were among those blamed for the South‘s economic ills as the war dragged on.”[li]

Southerners often saw the high prices merchants charged as extortion, and they viewed the Jewish merchants as “extortionists.” George Rable notes in The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics, “Many Confederates looked for scapegoats and discovered an ancient one: foreign-born Jewish merchants. Henry S. Foote denounced “shylocks,” Examiner editorials deplored “synagogue” influences, and Texas vigilance committees harassed Jewish businessmen.” [lii] While Winner explains, “Confederate Christians, as Gary L. Bunker and John Appel have shown, portrayed Jews as vultures hoping to gain from wartime shortages.”[liii] The majority of anti-Jewish sentiment experienced in America was in direct relation to economics. As Leonard Rogoff clarifies in his article “Is the Jew White?: The Racial Place of the Southern Jew,” “The Jewish racial question was not a social or political issue in the antebellum South: whatever anti-Semitism Southern Jews encountered was primarily economic or religious.” [liv]

Southern women had additional responsibilities resulting from the men being away at war, and dealing with the desperation in the South’s situation at home. The women were faced with providing for their families while the war that kept dragging on, without the men to provide for them many women had little to go on to survive, even the wealthier ones dealt with these issues. This also contributed to the image of the image of the Jewish merchant as a profiteer of the poor. As Feingold notes, “Jewish merchants in the Southland felt the sting of anti-Semitic slander as civilian goods became scarce.”[lv]

These women actively and most time violently attacked the Jewish merchants for raising the cost of food and supplies. The most violent occurrence was in Georgia, where Jewish merchants were accused repeatedly as Winner explains of “unpatriotic conduct.” Fear and suspicion of Jewish merchants was only exacerbated by the extreme shortages that became frequent as the war progressed.”[lvi] In desperation, these women blamed their unfortunate situation on the merchants particularly Jewish buying into the anti-Semitic rhetoric about Jewish merchants. The women went in at gunpoint, justifying their criminal activity by as Winner writes accusing “the owner of speculating and making a fortune while their husbands died in defense of their country;”[lvii] they then proceeded to steal all the supplies and goods they possibly could from the store. Korn claims, “These examples indicate a trend which was characteristic of many sections of the Confederacy — the Jews being held responsible for the inflation of prices and the shortages of goods a pattern which bears a remarkable likeness to the background of the Grant Order.”[lviii]

Southerners seemed to believe that Jews controlled on its commerce and trade. A leader in this anti-Jewish opinion was Congressman Hilton of Florida. To illustrate his point Hilton would recount the story of a blockade-runner, who although was found out by the authorities, but before they could confiscate his goods. Winner writes “Florida Jews, however, had somehow learned the whereabouts of the blockade runner, and “at least one hundred” Jews, flocked there, led even to this remote point of the scent of gain, and they had to be driven actually at point of bayonet.”[lix]

In Richmond, Virginia, the Christian population had a similar opinion of its Jewish merchants; that they had the ability to acquire goods and luxury items that were impossible for anybody else in the South to acquire when a blockade was enforced. Winner writes, “they called one store, one by a German Jew, “Noah’s Ark” because it “seemed capable of producing anything from a needle to firearms.”[lx] Although this opinion of Jewish merchants as profiteers was prevalent in South, by those who were suffering from the war, this opinion was common with outsiders as well. As Miller explains “One Englishman described how Jews stood by the Confederacy only in hopes of turning a profit: “The Israelites, as usual, far surpassed the Gentiles in shrewdness to the auspicious moment, and laid in stocks.”[lxi]

Jews were also accused of other illegal activities however, including passing counterfeit money and running the blockade. This anti-Jewish prejudice manifested itself in the South’s newspapers, particularly the Richmond Examiner. As Feingold explains, “The Richmond Examiner filled its pages with anti-Semitic diatribes which began by complaining about Jewish war profiteering and ended by accusing them of being responsible for Confederate defeats on the field of battle.”[lxii] One particular instance was on January 7, 1864, when the paper printed a rumor that an unnamed Congressman had obtained passports for three Jews to leave the Confederacy. Congressman Henry S. Foote of Tennessee took this as an opportunity to vent his prejudice towards Jews. As Korn writes Congressman Foote “was generally known that he disliked Jews and took advantage of every opportunity to vent his hatred upon them, no matter how flimsy the evidence.”

Foote called for an investigation, but Congress was not interested in pursue the matter. Additionally the Richmond Daily Examiner, Jan. 8, 1864 reported another instance where Jews appeared as balking their responsibilities to the Confederacy: “very recently, two immensely wealthy Israelitish merchants on Broad Street, departed for the North leaving their wives and daughters to carry on the business of their stores.” [lxiii]  The anti-Jewish prejudice above all accused Jews of being unpatriotic and supportive of the South, especially during the Confederacy’s most trying times. These accusations often led to South Christians demonstrating fierce anti-Jewish prejudice towards their Jewish neighbors. One town; Thomasville, Georgia passed a legal resolution to banish all of their Jewish resident, while another town found the Jewish residents guilty of “evil and unpatriotic conduct.”[lxiv]

Upper class Southern Jewish women for the most part did not experience anti-Semitism, but as Ashton states, “For Jewish women of this period, anti-Semitism could not be said to have been universal and open, but rather sporadic and threatening.”[lxv] There always the possibility that anti-Semitism could occur and that altered the behavior of Jewish women. Ashton recounts, “To navigate that social and political turbulence, to maintain established ties, or to forge new alliances, Jewish women displayed either their patriotism, their religious piety, or their common understanding that good women are supposed to maintain family and social ties. Their personal perception of their own needs and of the degree of danger they faced determined their highly individualized shaping of their community during the Civil War. After determining whom they loved and needed and whom they could trust, they displayed those aspects of their own identities that would in turn enable them to present themselves as trustworthy.” [lxvi]

Despite the sporadic incidents towards the end of the war Jews in the South faced less anti-Semitism on a whole than then their Northern counterparts did. Southern Christians did in fact accept individual Jews into kinship, developing friendships with them, and socializing with Jews. Jews were more accepted into the South by the Christian majority, because of slavery and the racial issue but also as Rosen claims, “It was OK to be anti-Semitic in Boston in the 19th century. Jewish immigrants were discriminated against in New York. There was less of this in New Orleans and Charleston, I think because of the diversity of religions in Southern cities, the lack of Puritanism, which was anti-Semitic generally.”[lxvii]

The North’s Union Army committed the worst incident of anti-Semitism during the Civil War. The Shylock stereotype was behind Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s reasons for ordering General Order Number 11, on December 17, 1862 , expelling Jews from areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. General Order Number 11stands out in American history as the first instance of a policy of official anti-Semitism on a large scale. The anti-Semitic order had deeper roots; many Northerners and Union army officials harbored anti-Jewish resentments. Jews in Union occupied Southern cities and towns faced the brunt of this prejudice. As Korn explains in his authoritative work, American Jewry and the Civil War (1951); “Some of the most prominent people in the Union were imbued with prejudice against the Jews.”[lxviii]

The racial situation in the South and the practice of slavery were one of the primary reasons Jews were able to avoid widespread anti-Semitism; Seth Forman points out “But the racial divide was the most substantial reason why anti-Semitism in the South remained tempered.”[lxix] While Korn writes, “The institution also furthered the Jew’s social acceptance. By providing a class of defenseless victims, slavery acted as an escape valve for frustrations which might otherwise have been expressed more frequently as anti-Jewish sentiment.” [lxx] Southern Jewry truly believed they could avoid anti-Jewish prejudice in the South by complying with the slavery system, and adhering to rest of Southern society.

It was primarily the issue of shared whiteness the smoothed the way for, and elevated Jewish social status at all levels. Southern Jews reached higher levels in the Confederate government, than they would see for nearly 75 years in any administration in the United States government. Southern Jews took up preeminent positions in the new Confederate nation, reaching ranks that were unheard for Jews anywhere even in the North. Judah Benjamin took up the most important positions, essentially being Confederate President, Jefferson Davis’ right hand man. Benjamin held numerous positions in the Confederate cabinet including, Attorney General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State.

Although Jews represented a small portion of the Southern population, they disproportionately held high-ranking positions in the Confederacy, including, “the Quartermaster General, the Surgeon General, several Congressmen, and other high public and military officers of the Confederacy.”[lxxi] Other Southern Jews that reached high positions included David Camden De Leon who was appointed the Surgeon General after the outbreak of the Civil War. His brother Edwin also held a prominent position, as an overseas representative for the Confederacy. De Leon was responsible for persuading European nations to recognize the Confederacy.

Now 150 years after the Civil War ended, and the Confederacy took its last breath, immortalized in a life “Gone with the Wind,” and a mythology still referred by many Southern states, including South Carolina, it is widely forgotten, that the Confederacy was not entirely a nation of hatred for all who were not White Christians. American Jewry found a haven in the South, experiencing some anti-Semitism, but not nearly at the level, they did in the North, or that Southern Jewry ever faced in the hands of the Confederate government or their southern neighbors as they did by the Union army and a future President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant.

The Confederacy did imbue subservience for African Americans in the form of slavery, but Jewish activists now, need to remember their own participation in the full life of the slave holding antebellum South and Confederacy. The white supremacist hatred that caused the Charleston Church shooting historically was not born in the Confederacy, but in its death, during Reconstruction and its aftermath resulting in the rise of Jim Crow segregationalist laws, and vicious hatred of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) where a defeated South could not find its footing after losing the life they loved.

In mourning a mythological Confederacy, this hatred was born, but with the civil rights movement’s victories, and the election of the first African American president, this hatred is but sporadic. Removing every monument or reminder of the Confederacy is not the solution to the problem, we need to learn from history not erase it. Although the Confederacy and its flag and confederate symbols and monuments are bearing the brunt of the blame now, the United States as whole is facing continuing problems with race relations. The epidemic of police shooting African Americans is predominately in the North or so-called border states. Unfortunately, persistent racism in the North has no symbol like the Confederate flag to blame, but it is still there, and is still a problem. As President Obama stated in his famous speech in March 2008 as a Democratic candidate, the country as a whole needs to strive for a “More Perfect Union” in order to end racism in the entire United States of America.

[i] “Robert Rosen, The Jewish Confederates,” Susannah J. Uralp, ed. Civil War Citizens: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in America’s Bloodiest Conflict, 157.
[ii]  Steven Hertzberg, Strangers within the Gate City: The Jews of Atlanta, 1845-1915, (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1978), 13-14.
[iii]  Clive Webb, Fight Against Fear: Southern Jews and Black Civil Rights, (University of Georgia Press, 2001), 2.
[iv]   Robert N. Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, (University of South Carolina Press, 2000), p. 15-16
[v]   Marvin Perry and Frederick M. Schweitzer, Antisemitism: Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the Present, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 241.
[vi]  Webb, Fight Against Fear, 7.
[vii]  Leonard Dinnerstein and Mary Dale Palsson, eds., Jews of the South, (Louisiana State University Press, 1973), 25.
[viii] Catherine Clinton, Southern Families at War: Loyalty and Conflict in the Civil War South, (Oxford University Press, 2000)p. 194.
[ix] Arthur W. Bergeron Jr., Lawrence Lee Hewitt, Louisianians in the Civil War, (Columbia, MO.: University of Missouri Press, 2002, 73.
[x]  Lauren F. Winner, “Taking up the Cross: Conversion among black and white Jews in the Civil War South” in Catherine Clinton, ed. Southern Families at War : Loyalty and Conflict in the Civil War South, (Oxford University Press, 2000), 194.
[xi]  Dinnerstein, Jews and the South, 89, 90.
[xii]  Dinnerstein, Jews and the South, 27.
[xiii]  Arthur Hertzberg, The Jews of America: Four Centuries of an Uneasy Encounter : A History, (Columbia University Press, 1998), 111.
[xiv]  Hasia Diner, The Jews of the United States, 1654 to 2000, (University of California Press, 2004), 155.
[xv] Bergeron, Louisianians in the Civil War, 2002. 75, 76.
[xvi]  Maurianne Adams and John H. Bracey, eds., Strangers & Neighbors: Relations between Blacks & Jews in the United States, ( University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), 35.
[xvii]  Webb, Fight Against Fear, 11.
[xviii]  Robert Rosen, Confederate Charleston, University of South Carolina Press, 88.
[xix]   Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, 14.
[xx]   Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, 38.
[xxi]   Lewis M. Killian, White Southerners, (University of Massachusetts Press, 1985), 73.
[xxii]  Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, 219.
[xxiii]  LTC John C. Whatley VI, Jews in the Confederacy.
[xxiv]  Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, 14.
[xxv]   Webb, Fight Against Fear, 11.
[xxvi]   Webb, Fight Against Fear, 11.
[xxvii] Isaac Hermann, Memoirs of a Veteran Who Served as a Private in the 60s in the War Between the States, (CSA Press, 1911). The biblical reference is to Exod. 3:17.
[xxviii]  Hasia R. Diner and Beryl Lieff Benderly, Her Works Prise Her: A History of Jewish Women in America from Colonial Times to the Present, (Basic Books, 2002), 100.
[xxix]  Jacob Rader Marcus, Memoirs of American Jews, 1775-1865, (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1955), 21
[xxx]  Marli F. Weiner, Mistresses and Slaves: Plantation Women in South Carolina, 1830-80, (1997), 1.
[xxxi]  Diner and Benderly, Her Works Praise Her, 106.
[xxxii]  Jacob R. Marcus, The American Jewish Woman: A Documentary History, 31.
[xxxiii]  Clinton, Southern Families at War, 195.
[xxxiv] Hertzberg, Strangers Within The Gate City, 26
[xxxv]   Seth Forman, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Jewish: Desegregation in the South and the Crisis of Jewish Liberalism,” 121.
[xxxvi]   Webb, Fight Against Fear, 8.
[xxxvii]   Arthur. Hertzberg, The Jews in America: Four Centuries of an Uneasy Encounter : a History, (Simon and Schuster, 1989), 47.
[xxxviii]   Clinton, Southern Families at War,  195.
[xxxix]   Korn, “Jews and Negro Slavery in the Old South, 1789-1865,” in Dinnerstein, Jews in the South, 136.
[xl]   Seth Forman, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Jewish: Desegregation in the South and the Crisis of Jewish Liberalism,” 121.
[xli]  Leonard Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, (Oxford University Press, 1994), xi.
[xlii]   Diane Ashton, “Shifting Veils: Religion, Politics and Womanhood Among Jewish Women During the Civil War” in Pamela S. Nadell and Jonathan D. Sarna, eds., Women and American Judaism: Historical Perspectives, (University Press of New England, 2001), 83.
[xliii]   Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, 82.
[xliv]   Dinerstein, Jews in the South, 136.
[xlv]   Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, 83.
[xlvi]   Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, 83.
[xlvii]   Dinerstein, Jews in the South, 137.
[xlviii]   Henry L. Feingold, Zion in America: The Jewish Experience from Colonial Times to the Present, (Twayne Publishers, 1974), 93.
[xlix]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[l]    Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[li]   Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, 83.
[lii]    George C. Rable, The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics, (University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 185. (Michelbacher, Sermon Delivered, 3-14.)
[liii]    Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[liv]    Leonard Rogoff, “Is the Jew White?: The Racial Place of the Southern Jew,” 195.
[lv]    Feingold, Zion in America, 93.
[lvi]    Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lvii]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lviii]   Dinnerstein, Jews in the South, 141, 142.
[lix]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lx]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lxi]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lxii]   Feingold, Zion in America, 93
[lxiii]   Dinnerstein, Jews in the South, 150.
[lxiv]   Feingold, Zion in America, 93.
[lxv]    Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, p. 83.
[lxvi]    Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, p. 83.
[lxvii]  http://www.truthinstitute.org/AJC_010701J_Conf.htm
[lxviii]  Bertram W. Korn, American Jewry and the Civil War, (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1951), 164.
[lxix]  Seth Forman, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Jewish: Desegregation in the South and the Crisis of Jewish Liberalism,” 121.
[lxx]  Adams and Bracey, eds., Strangers & Neighbors, 175.
[lxxi]  Dinnerstein, Jews in the South, 239.

Full Text Obama Presidency June 18, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Charleston Church Shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina Transcript



Statement by the President on the Shooting in Charleston, South Carolina

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.

Thank you.

12:28 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 29, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Ukraine



Statement by the President on Ukraine

Source: WH, 7- 29-14

South Lawn

3:39 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.

In the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, and countries around the world, families are still in shock over the sudden and tragic loss of nearly 300 loved ones senselessly killed when their civilian airliner was shot down over territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.  These grieving families and their nations are our friends and our allies.  And amid our prayers and our outrage, the United States continues to do everything in our power to help bring home their loved ones, support the international investigation, and make sure justice is done.

Since the shoot-down, however, Russia and its proxies in Ukraine have failed to cooperate with the investigation and to take the opportunity to pursue a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine.  These Russian-backed separatists have continued to interfere in the crash investigation and to tamper with the evidence.  They have continued to shoot down Ukrainian aircraft in the region.  And because of their actions, scores of Ukrainian civilians continue to die needlessly every day.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to support the separatists and encourage them, and train them, and arm them.  Satellite images, along with information we’ve declassified in recent days, show that forces inside Russia have launched artillery strikes into Ukraine — another major violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.  And we have information that Russia continues to build up its own forces near the Ukrainian border and that more Russian military equipment, including artillery, armored vehicles, and air defense equipment, has been transferred across the border to these separatists.

Since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, the United States has worked to build a strong international coalition to support Ukraine, its sovereignty, its territorial integrity, its right to determine its own destiny, and to increase the pressure on Russia for actions that have undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and ability to make its own decisions.  The core of that coalition is the United States and our European allies.

In recent days, I’ve continued to coordinate closely with our allies and our partners to ensure a unified response to the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and Russia’s continued arming of the separatists.  And I’ve spoken several times with Prime Minister Rutte of the Netherlands and Prime Minister Abbott of Australia.

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom, President Hollande of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, and Prime Minister Renzi of Italy. We are united in our view that the situation in Ukraine ought to be resolved diplomatically and that a sovereign, independent Ukraine is no threat to Russian interests.  But we’ve also made it clear, as I have many times, that if Russia continues on its current path, the cost on Russia will continue to grow.  And today is a reminder that the United States means what it says.  And we will rally the international community in standing up for the rights and freedom of people around the world.

Today, and building on the measures we announced two weeks ago, the United States is imposing new sanctions in key sectors of the Russian economy:  energy, arms, and finance.  We’re blocking the exports of specific goods and technologies to the Russian energy sector.  We’re expanding our sanctions to more Russian banks and defense companies.  And we’re formally suspending credit that encourages exports to Russia and financing for economic development projects in Russia.

At the same time, the European Union is joining us in imposing major sanctions on Russia — its most significant and wide-ranging sanctions to date.  In the financial sector, the EU is cutting off certain financing to state-owned banks in Russia. In the energy sector, the EU will stop exporting specific goods and technologies to Russia, which will make it more difficult for Russia to develop its oil resources over the long term.  In the defense sector, the EU is prohibiting new arms imports and exports and is halting the export of sensitive technology to Russia’s military users.

And because we’re closely coordinating our actions with Europe, the sanctions we’re announcing today will have an even bigger bite.

Now, Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the sanctions that we’ve already imposed have made a weak Russian economy even weaker.  Foreign investors already are increasingly staying away. Even before our actions today, nearly $100 billion in capital was expected to flee Russia.  Russia’s energy, financial, and defense sectors are feeling the pain.  Projections for Russian economic growth are down to near zero.  The major sanctions we’re announcing today will continue to ratchet up the pressure on Russia, including the cronies and companies that are supporting Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine.

In other words, today, Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of genuine progress.  And it doesn’t have to come to this — it didn’t have to come to this.  It does not have to be this way.  This is a choice that Russia, and President Putin in particular, has made. There continues to be a better choice — the choice of de-escalation, the choice of joining the world in a diplomatic solution to this situation, a choice in which Russia recognizes that it can be a good neighbor and trading partner with Ukraine even as Ukraine is also developing ties with Europe and other parts of the world.

I’m going to continue to engage President Putin as well as President Poroshenko and our European partners in pursuit of such a diplomatic solution.  But it is important for Russia to understand that, meanwhile, we will continue to support the people of Ukraine, who have elected a new President, who have deepened their ties with Europe and the United States, and that the path for a peaceful resolution to this crisis involves recognizing the sovereignty, the territorial integrity, and the independence of the Ukrainian people.

Today, the people of Ukraine I hope are seeing once again that the United States keeps its word.  We’re going to continue to lead the international community in our support for the Ukrainian people, and for the peace, the security, and the freedom that they very richly deserve.

Thanks very much.

Q    Is this a new Cold War, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, it’s not a new Cold War.  What it is, is a very specific issue related to Russia’s unwillingness to recognize that Ukraine can chart its own path.

And I think that if you listen to President Poroshenko, if you listen to the Ukrainian people, they’ve consistently said they seek good relations with Russia.  What they can’t accept is Russia arming separatists who are carrying out terribly destructive activities inside of Ukraine, thereby undermining the ability of Ukraine to govern itself peacefully.  That’s something that no country should have to accept.

And the sooner the Russians recognize that the best chance for them to have influence inside of Ukraine is by being good neighbors and maintaining trade and commerce, rather than trying to dictate what the Ukrainian people can aspire to, rendering Ukraine a vassal state to Russia — the sooner that President Putin and Russia recognizes that, the sooner we can resolve this crisis in ways that doesn’t result in the tragic loss of life that we’ve seen in eastern Ukraine.

Q    So far sanctions haven’t stopped Vladimir Putin.  Are sanctions going to be enough?  And are you considering lethal aid for Ukraine?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, keep in mind, the issue at this point is not the Ukrainian capacity to outfight separatists.  They are better armed than the separatists.  The issue is how do we prevent bloodshed in eastern Ukraine.  We’re trying to avoid that.  And the main tool that we have to influence Russian behavior at this point is the impact that it’s having on its economy.

The fact that we’ve seen Europeans who have real, legitimate economic concerns in severing certain ties with Russia stepping up the way they have today I think is an indication of both the waning patience that Europe has with nice words from President Putin that are not matched by actions, but also a recognition as a consequence of what happened with the Malaysian Airlines flight that it is hard to avoid the spillover of what’s happening in Ukraine impacting Europeans across the board.

And so we think that the combination of stronger U.S. and European sanctions is going to have a greater impact on the Russian economy than we’ve seen so far.  Obviously, we can’t in the end make President Putin see more clearly.  Ultimately that’s something that President Putin has to do by — on his own.  But what we can do is make sure that we’ve increased the costs for actions that I think are not only destructive to Ukraine but ultimately are going to be destructive to Russia, as well.

All right.  Guys, I’ve got to get going.

3:49 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 21, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Situation in Ukraine, Malaysian Airline Flight MH17 and Israel’s Military Operation in Gaza




Statement by the President on the Situation in Ukraine and Gaza

Source: WH, 7-21-14 

South Lawn

11:16 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  I want to make a brief statement about the tragedy in Ukraine.  Before I do, though, I want to note that Secretary Kerry has departed for the Middle East.  As I’ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas.  And as a result of its operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.  I’ve also said, however, that we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives.  And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.

So Secretary Kerry will meet with allies and partners.  I’ve instructed him to push for an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.  The work will not be easy.  Obviously, there are enormous passions involved in this and some very difficult strategic issues involved.  Nevertheless, I’ve asked John to do everything he can to help facilitate a cessation to hostilities.  We don’t want to see any more civilians getting killed.

With respect to Ukraine, it’s now been four days since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.  Over the last several days, our hearts have been absolutely broken as we’ve learned more about the extraordinary and beautiful lives that were lost — men, women and children and infants who were killed so suddenly and so senselessly.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with their families around the world who are going through just unimaginable grief.  I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a number of leaders around the world whose citizens were lost on this flight, and all of them remain in a state of shock but, frankly, also in a state of outrage.

Our immediate focus is on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened, and putting forward the facts.  We have to make sure that the truth is out and that accountability exists.

Now, international investigators are on the ground.  They have been organized.  I’ve sent teams; other countries have sent teams.  They are prepared, they are organized to conduct what should be the kinds of protocols and scouring and collecting of evidence that should follow any international incident like this.  And what they need right now is immediate and full access to the crash site.  They need to be able to conduct a prompt and full and unimpeded as well as transparent investigation.  And recovery personnel have to do the solemn and sacred work on recovering the remains of those who were lost.

Ukrainian President Poroshenko has declared a demilitarized zone around the crash site.  As I said before, you have international teams already in place prepared to conduct the investigation and recover the remains of those who have been lost.  But, unfortunately, the Russian-backed separatists who control the area continue to block the investigation.  They have repeatedly prevented international investigators from gaining full access to the wreckage.  As investigators approached, they fired their weapons into the air.  These separatists are removing evidence from the crash site, all of which begs the question — what exactly are they trying to hide?

Moreover, these Russian-backed separatists are removing bodies from the crash site, oftentimes without the care that we would normally expect from a tragedy like this.  And this is an insult to those who have lost loved ones.  This is the kind of behavior that has no place in the community of nations.

Now, Russia has extraordinary influence over these separatists.  No one denies that.  Russia has urged them on.  Russia has trained them.  We know that Russia has armed them with military equipment and weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons.  Key separatist leaders are Russian citizens.  So given its direct influence over the separatists, Russia and President Putin, in particular, has direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation.  That is the least that they can do.

President Putin says that he supports a full and fair investigation.  And I appreciate those words, but they have to be supported by actions.  The burden now is on Russia to insist that the separatists stop tampering with the evidence, grant investigators who are already on the ground immediate, full and unimpeded access to the crash site.  The separatists and the Russian sponsors are responsible for the safety of the investigators doing their work.  And along with our allies and partners, we will be working this issue at the United Nations today.

More broadly, as I’ve said throughout this crisis and the crisis in Ukraine generally, and I’ve said this directly to President Putin, as well as publicly, my preference continues to be finding a diplomatic resolution within Ukraine.  I believe that can still happen.  That is my preference today, and it will continue to be my preference.

But if Russia continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and to back these separatists, and these separatists become more and more dangerous and now are risks not simply to the people inside of Ukraine but the broader international community, then Russia will only further isolate itself from the international community, and the costs for Russia’s behavior will only continue to increase.

Now is the time for President Putin and Russia to pivot away from the strategy that they’ve been taking and get serious about trying to resolve hostilities within Ukraine in a way that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and respects the right of the Ukrainian people to make their own decisions about their own lives.

And time is of the essence.  Our friends and allies need to be able to recover those who were lost.  That’s the least we can do.  That’s the least that decency demands.  Families deserve to be able to lay their loved ones to rest with dignity.  The world deserves to know exactly what happened.  And the people of Ukraine deserve to determine their own future.


11:25 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 18, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Ukraine and Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17



Statement by the President on Ukraine

Source: WH, 7-18-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

11:52 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.

Yesterday, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 took off from Amsterdam and was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border.  Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken — men, women, children, infants — who had nothing to do with the crisis in Ukraine.  Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions.

We know at least one American citizen, Quinn Lucas Schansman, was killed.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family for this terrible loss.

Yesterday, I spoke with the leaders of Ukraine, Malaysia, and the Netherlands.  I told them that our thoughts and prayers are with all the families and that the American people stand with them during this difficult time.  Later today, I’ll be speaking to Prime Minister Abbott of Australia, which also suffered a terrible loss.

By far, the country that lost the most people on board the plane was the Netherlands.  From the days of our founding, the Dutch have been close friends and stalwart allies of the United States of America.  And today, I want the Dutch people to know that we stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, in our grief and in our absolute determination to get to the bottom of what happened.

Here’s what we know so far.  Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine.  We also know that this is not the first time a plane has been shot down in eastern Ukraine.  Over the last several weeks, Russian-backed separatists have shot down a Ukrainian transport plane and a Ukrainian helicopter, and they claimed responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet. Moreover, we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia.  This includes arms and training.  It includes heavy weapons, and it includes anti-aircraft weapons.

Here’s what must happen now.  This was a global tragedy.  An Asian airliner was destroyed in European skies, filled with citizens from many countries.  So there has to be a credible international investigation into what happened.  The U.N. Security Council has endorsed this investigation, and we will hold all its members — including Russia — to their word.  In order to facilitate that investigation, Russia, pro-Russian separatists, and Ukraine must adhere to an immediate cease-fire.  Evidence must not be tampered with.  Investigators need to access the crash site.  And the solemn task of returning those who were lost on board the plane to their loved ones needs to go forward immediately.

The United States stands ready to provide any assistance that is necessary.  We’ve already offered the support of the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board, which has experience in working with international partners on these types of investigations.  They are on their way, personnel from the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board.

In the coming hours and days, I’ll continue to be in close contact with leaders from around the world as we respond to this catastrophe.  Our immediate focus will be on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened, and putting forward the facts.

I want to point out there will likely be misinformation as well.  I think it’s very important for folks to sift through what is factually based and what is simply speculation.  No one can deny the truth that is revealed in the awful images that we all have seen.  And the eyes of the world are on eastern Ukraine, and we are going to make sure that the truth is out.

More broadly, I think it’s important for us to recognize that this outrageous event underscores that it is time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine.  For months, we’ve supported a pathway to peace, and the Ukrainian government has reached out to all Ukrainians, put forward a peace plan, and lived up to a cease-fire, despite repeated violations by the separatists — violations that took the lives of Ukrainian soldiers and personnel.

Moreover, time and again, Russia has refused to take the concrete steps necessary to deescalate the situation.  I spoke to President Putin yesterday in the wake of additional sanctions that we had imposed.  He said he wasn’t happy with them, and I told him that we have been very clear from the outset that we want Russia to take the path that would result in peace in Ukraine, but so far at least, Russia has failed to take that path.  Instead, it has continued to violate Ukrainian sovereignty and to support violent separatists.  It has also failed to use its influence to press the separatists to abide by a cease-fire.  That’s why, together with our allies, we’ve imposed growing costs on Russia.

So now is, I think, a somber and appropriate time for all of us to step back and take a hard look at what has happened.  Violence and conflict inevitably lead to unforeseen consequences.  Russia, these separatists, and Ukraine all have the capacity to put an end to the fighting.  Meanwhile, the United States is going to continue to lead efforts within the world community to de-escalate the situation; to stand up for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine; and to support the people of Ukraine as they courageously work to strengthen their democracy and make their own decisions about how they should move forward.

Before I take just a couple of questions let me remark on one other issue.  This morning, I spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel about the situation in Gaza.  We discussed Israel’s military operation in Gaza, including its efforts to stop the threat of terrorist infiltration through tunnels into Israel.  I reaffirmed my strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself.  No nation should accept rockets being fired into its borders, or terrorists tunneling into its territory.  In fact, while I was having the conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, sirens went off in Tel Aviv.

I also made clear that the United States, and our friends and allies, are deeply concerned about the risks of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life.  And that’s why we’ve indicated, although we support military efforts by the Israelis to make sure that rockets are not being fired into their territory, we also have said that our understanding is the current military ground operations are designed to deal with the tunnels, and we are hopeful that Israel will continue to approach this process in a way that minimizes civilian casualties and that all of us are working hard to return to the cease-fire that was reached in November of 2012.

Secretary Kerry is working to support Egypt’s initiative to pursue that outcome.  I told Prime Minister Netanyahu that John is prepared to travel to the region following additional consultations.

Let me close by making one additional comment.  On board Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, there were apparently nearly 100 researchers and advocates traveling to an international conference in Australia dedicated to combating AIDS/HIV.  These were men and women who had dedicated their own lives to saving the lives of others and they were taken from us in a senseless act of violence.

In this world today, we shouldn’t forget that in the midst of conflict and killing, there are people like these — people who are focused on what can be built rather than what can be destroyed; people who are focused on how they can help people that they’ve never met; people who define themselves not by what makes them different from other people but by the humanity that we hold in common.  It’s important for us to lift them up and to affirm their lives.  And it’s time for us to heed their example.

The United States of America is going to continue to stand for the basic principle that people have the right to live as they choose; that nations have the right to determine their own destiny; and that when terrible events like this occur, the international community stands on the side of justice and on the side of truth.

So with that, let me take just a couple questions.  I’ll start with you, Julie.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Just on a technical matter, does the U.S. believe that this passenger jet was targeted, or that those people who shot it down may have been going after a military — thought they were going after a military aircraft?  And more broadly, this incident does seem to escalate the crisis in Ukraine to a level we haven’t seen before.  Does that change your calculus in terms of what the U.S. and perhaps Europe should be doing in terms of a response?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think it’s too early for us to be able to guess what the intentions of those who might have launched this surface-to-air missile might have had.  The investigation is going to be ongoing, and I think what we’ll see is additional information surfacing over the next 24 hours, 72 hours, the next week, the next month.

What we know right now, what we have confidence in saying right now is that a surface-to-air missile was fired and that’s what brought the jet down.  We know — or we have confidence in saying that that shot was taken within a territory that is controlled by the Russian separatists.

But I think it’s very important for us to make sure that we don’t get out ahead of the facts.  And at this point, in terms of identifying specifically what individual or group of individuals or personnel ordered the strike, how it came about, those are things that I think are still going to be subject to additional information that we’re going to be gathering.  And we’re working with the entire international community to make sure that the focus is on getting to the bottom of this thing and being truthful.

And my concern is obviously that there’s been a lot of misinformation generated in eastern Ukraine generally.  This should snap everybody’s heads to attention and make sure that we don’t have time for propaganda, we don’t have time for games.  We need to know exactly what happened.  And everybody needs to make sure that we’re holding accountable those who committed this outrage.

With respect to the second question, as you’re aware, before this terrible incident happened we had already ratcheted up sanctions against Russia.  And I think the concern not just of Russian officials but of the markets about the impact that this could have on the Russian economy is there for all to see.

I made clear to President Putin that our preferred path is to resolve this diplomatically.  But that means that he and the Russian government have to make a strategic decision:  Are they going to continue to support violent separatists whose intent is to undermine the government of Ukraine?  Or are they prepared to work with the government of Ukraine to arrive at a cease-fire and a peace that takes into account the interests of all Ukrainians?

There has been some improved language at times over the last month coming from the Kremlin and coming from President Putin, but what we have not seen is an actual transition and different actions that would give us confidence that that’s the direction that they want to take.

And we will continue to make clear that as Russia engages in efforts that are supporting the separatists, that we have the capacity to increase the costs that we impose on them.  And we will do so.  Not because we’re interested in hurting Russia for the sake of hurting Russia, but because we believe in standing up for the basic principle that a country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity has to be respected, and it is not the United States or Russia or Germany or any other country that should be deciding what happens in that country.

Q    At this point do you see any U.S. military role that could be effective?

THE PRESIDENT:  We don’t see a U.S. military role beyond what we’ve already been doing in working with our NATO partners and some of the Baltic States, giving them reassurances that we are prepared to do whatever is required to meet our alliance obligations.

Steve Holland.

Q    Sir, thank you.  How much blame for this do you put on President Putin?  And will you use this incident now to push the Europeans for stronger action?

THE PRESIDENT:  We don’t exactly know what happened yet, and I don’t want to, as I said before, get out ahead of the facts.  But what I do know is, is that we have seen a ticking up of violence in eastern Ukraine that, despite the efforts of the Ukrainian government to abide by a cease-fire and to reach out and agree to negotiations, including with the separatists, that has been rebuffed by these separatists.  We know that they are heavily armed and that they are trained.  And we know that that’s not an accident.  That is happening because of Russian support.

So it is not possible for these separatists to function the way they’re functioning, to have the equipment that they have — set aside what’s happened with respect to the Malaysian Airlines — a group of separatists can’t shoot down military transport planes or, they claim, shoot down fighter jets without sophisticated equipment and sophisticated training.  And that is coming from Russia.

So we don’t yet know exactly what happened with respect to the Malaysian Airlines, although obviously we’re beginning to draw some conclusions given the nature of the shot that was fired.  There are only certain types of anti-aircraft missiles that can reach up 30,000 feet and shoot down a passenger jet.  We have increasing confidence that it came from areas controlled by the separatists.  But without having a definitive judgment on those issues yet, what we do know is, is that the violence that’s taking place there is facilitated in part — in large part — because of Russian support.  And they have the ability to move those separatists in a different direction.

If Mr. Putin makes a decision that we are not going to allow heavy armaments and the flow of fighters into Ukraine across the Ukrainian-Russian border, then it will stop.  And if it stops, then the separatists will still have the capacity to enter into negotiations and try to arrive at the sort of political accommodations that Mr. Putin himself says he wants to see.  He has the most control over that situation, and so far, at least, he has not exercised it.

Q    Tougher sanctions in Europe — will you push for them?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that this certainly will be a wake-up call for Europe and the world that there are consequences to an escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine; that it is not going to be localized, it is not going to be contained.  What we’ve seen here is — just in one country alone, our great allies, the Dutch, 150 or more of their citizens being killed.  And that, I think, sadly brings home the degree to which the stakes are high for Europe, not simply for the Ukrainian people, and that we have to be firm in our resolve in making sure that we are supporting Ukraine in its efforts to bring about a just cease-fire and that we can move towards a political solution to this.

I’m going to make this the last question.  Lisa Lerer, Bloomberg.

Q    Do we know yet if there were other Americans on board beyond the person you mentioned?  And how do you prevent stricter restrictions, economic sanctions from shocking the global economy and —

THE PRESIDENT:  We have been pretty methodical over the last 24 hours in working through the flight manifest and identifying which passengers might have had a U.S. passport.  At this point, the individual that I mentioned is the sole person that we can definitively say was a U.S. or dual citizen.

Because events are moving so quickly, I don’t want to say with absolute certainty that there might not be additional Americans, but at this stage, having worked through the list, been in contact with the Malaysian government, which processed the passports as folks were boarding, this is our best assessment of the number of Americans that were killed.  Obviously that does nothing to lessen our outrage about all those families.  Regardless of nationality, it is a heartbreaking event.

With respect to the effect of sanctions on the economy, we have consistently tried to tailor these sanctions in ways that would have an impact on Russia, on their economy, on their institutions or individuals that are aiding and abetting in the activities that are taking place in eastern Ukraine, while minimizing the impacts on not only the U.S. economy but the global economy.

It is a relevant consideration that we have to keep in mind.  The world economy is integrated; Russia is a large economy; there’s a lot of financial flows between Russia and the rest of the world.  But we feel confident that at this point the sanctions that we’ve put in place are imposing a cost on Russia, that their overall impact on the global economy is minimal.  It is something that we have to obviously pay close attention to, but I think Treasury, in consultation with our European partners, have done a good job so far on that issue.

Thank you very much, everybody.

12:15 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 17, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy and on the Malaysia Airlines Jet Shot Down Over Ukraine



Remarks by the President on the Economy — Wilmington, DE

Source: WH, 7-17-14 

Port of Wilmington
Wilmington, Delaware

2:10 P.M.
THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Everybody, please have a seat.  Please have a seat.  It is wonderful to be back in Delaware.

Before I begin, obviously the world is watching reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border.  And it looks like it may be a terrible tragedy.  Right now, we’re working to determine whether there were American citizens onboard.  That is our first priority.  And I’ve directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government.  The United States will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why.  And as a country, our thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the passengers, wherever they call home.

I want to thank Jeremie for that introduction.  Give Jeremie a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  It is great to be in the state that gave us Joe Biden.  (Applause.)  We’ve got actually some better-looking Bidens with us here today.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got Beau and his wife, Hallie, are here.  Give them a big round of applause.  We love them.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Governor Jack Markell.  (Applause.)  Senator Chris Coons, Congressman John Carney, County Executive Tom Gordon, and the Mayor of Wilmington, Dennis Williams.  (Applause.)  We’ve also got two terrific members of my Cabinet — Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is here — (applause) — and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is here.  (Applause.)

Jack Lew’s signature is actually on your money.  (Laughter.) Although it’s kind of illegible.  We teased him when he first became Treasury Secretary that he was going to have to fix his signature a little bit because it looked just like a caterpillar running along the bottom.  (Laughter.)

Now, the bridge behind me used to carry 90,000 cars every day — 90,000.  Since last month, it’s been closed for repairs.  Once workers are done repairing it, this bridge will be safer, it will be more reliable for commuters and for commerce.  And thanks to a competitive grant program called TIGER — a program, by the way, that was part of the Recovery Act that we initiated when I first came into office and Joe Biden helped to manage — this port is rebuilding a wharf that will finally let Wilmington compete with other ports for the biggest cargo ships.  (Applause.)  For the biggest cargo ships.  So far, TIGER grants have given a boost to 270 infrastructure projects and thousands of jobs all across 50 states.

And that’s what I’m here to talk about today — and I’ve been talking about this all week — creating more good jobs rebuilding America, and the opportunity that we have to seize to rebuild the American middle class.

After the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, in part because of the actions we took, primarily because of the strength and determination of the American people, our businesses have now added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  (Applause.)  Construction and housing are rebounding.  The auto industry is booming — it was in a tailspin when we came in.  Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s.  The unemployment rate is at its lowest point since September of 2008 — which is one of the fastest one-year drops in nearly 30 years.  (Applause.)

And the decisions we made — not only to rescue our economy, but to start rebuilding it on a firmer foundation — those decisions are starting to pay off.  We are more energy independent.  For the first time in nearly 20 years, we produce more oil here in the United States than we buy from abroad.  First time in 20 years we’re doing that.  (Applause.)
At the same time, we’re actually reducing our carbon pollution, and we’re creating new jobs in clean and renewable energies — three times as much wind power; 10 times as much solar power.

In education, our high school graduation rate is at a record high.  More young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  401(k)s are growing.  Fewer homes are underwater.  Millions more now have the peace of mind of having quality, affordable health care if they need it.  And the deficit is coming down to boot, been cut more than half.  (Applause.)

So by almost every economic measure, we’re doing a whole lot better now than we were when I came into office.  And as I said, most of it is thanks to you, the resilience and the resolve of the American people.  Because of that we’ve recovered faster and come farther than almost any other advanced country on Earth.  And business leaders, for the first time in a decade, around the world are saying that China is not the best place to invest; the United States of America is the most promising place to invest.

So we’ve got this huge opportunity to keep this momentum going, to keep growing the economy, but also to make sure that growth is broadly shared.  We got to make sure we’re creating not just more jobs, but also raising middle-class wages and incomes, and making it easier for folks, if they’re working hard and doing the right thing, to raise a family.

We got to make sure that we’re not just graduating more kids, we’ve got to also train more workers and make college more affordable.  We got to make sure our economy works for every American.  That’s why I ran for President.  That’s what I’m focused on every day.  And this is more than just some fleeting political story or made-up scandal; this is the challenge of our times — making sure that if you work hard and you’re responsible, anybody can get ahead in this country.  That’s what America is about.  And we can achieve that if we just see a few changes in Washington’s priorities.

So, today, I’m here to talk about just one example: creating good jobs of the sort that Jeremie just talked about — good jobs rebuilding America.  We know that in the 21st century economy, businesses are going to set up shop wherever they find the best roads, the best bridges, the fastest Internet connection, the fastest rail lines, the smartest airports, the best power grid.  First-class infrastructure attracts investment and it creates first-class jobs.  Unfortunately, right now, our investment in transportation lags behind a lot of other countries.  China is doing more.  Germany is doing more.  They’re putting money back into building the infrastructure we need to grow over the long term.

And if Washington were working the way it was supposed to, Congress would be creating jobs right now, jobs just like Jeremie talked about — jobs like these guys in the hard hats are doing right now rebuilding bridges and roads and airports and ports all across the country.  (Applause.)  It helps us now and it helps up create jobs tomorrow.  That’s what we should be doing.

But instead of creating jobs rebuilding our infrastructure in a predictable, sustainable way, the debate in Washington lately has been about something called the Highway Trust Fund.  It’s how America is supposed to support states on transportation projects.  Congress has to keep it funded, otherwise states have to put projects on hold, put construction workers back on the unemployment line.

The good news is, Democrats and Republicans are about to pass a short-term fix that will keep funding going for about another nine or ten months.  And I support that.  I mean, the least we can do is just support the jobs that are already there, keep Americans on the job.  But if that’s all Congress does, then we’re going to have the same kind of funding crisis nine months from now.  And that’s not how normally you fund infrastructure, because you got to plan it and you got to think about how are we helping folks and how are we helping states and cities and municipalities create plans for the future and make sure that the funding streams are level.  We don’t need unhelpful and unnecessary deadlines that crunch a few months from now.  And we shouldn’t have been this close to the deadline in the first place.

As your governor has pointed, even smaller transportation projects can take years to design and plan and build.  A few months of funding doesn’t cut it.  And so Jack said, “To call this a Band-Aid is an insult to a Band-Aid.”  That’s a pretty good line.   (Laughter.)  I’m going to have to try that out.  (Applause.)

So Congress shouldn’t be too proud.  It shouldn’t pat itself on the back for kicking the can down the road every few months.  Instead of barely paying our bills in the present, we should be planning and investing in our future.  That’s how the economy grows for everybody.  The American people work hard every single day, and your efforts shouldn’t be threatened every few months by a manufactured crisis in Washington.  Everything doesn’t have to be done at the last minute every time.

So what I’ve done is earlier this year put forward a plan to rebuild our transportation infrastructure in a long-term responsible way, a plan that would support millions of jobs, would give cities and states and private investors the certainty they need to hire more workers faster.  It would help small businesses ship their goods faster.  It would help parents get home from their commute faster so they can see their kids.

And it wouldn’t add to what is already a rapidly shrinking deficit because we pay for it in part by closing loopholes for companies that are shipping profits overseas and are avoiding paying their fair share of taxes.  So that’s what we need, a broad-based plan.  We got $2 trillion worth of deferred maintenance in this country in roads and bridges and sewer systems and water mains.  And we could put a lot of people back to work right now getting that done.  And we’re going to have to do it eventually anyway.

But so far, Congress has refused to act on the idea — which is strange because infrastructure should not be a partisan issue.  If you think about it, it was a Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, who built the Interstate Highway System.  Lincoln built the Transcontinental Railroad.  Both parties historically have understood that investing in this country for the long run pays off.  When we invest in infrastructure we’re making sure that the economy is growing not just for the next five years, but for another century.  That’s what right now Republicans in Congress don’t seem to be focused on.  But until they do get focused on it, I’m going to do whatever I can to create jobs rebuilding America on my own.  (Applause.)

So today, we’re launching what we call the Build America Investment Initiative.  And as part of it, we’re creating a one-stop shop for cities and states looking to partner with the private sector to fund infrastructure projects.  There are lots of investors who want to back infrastructure projects because, when it’s done right, they then get a steady, long-term investment.  They get a steady return.

And lots of states and local governments would welcome more private investment, but they need a partner in the federal government to help do some matchmaking and work through some of the complexities of private financing of infrastructure.  So my administration is going to help states and cities apply for federal loans, get more public-private partnerships up and running, get more investment flowing into communities like Wilmington.

And this builds on other actions we’ve taken to speed up the permitting process for big projects, and attract new manufacturing jobs to America, and raise more workers’ wages, help women fight for fair pay, ease loan burdens for millions of students.  We’re taking steps on our own, still hoping that Congress at some point actually does something.  (Applause.)

I keep hearing from folks all across the country who tell me if members of Congress have the same priorities that most Americans do, if they felt the same sense of urgency that you feel in your own lives, we could help a lot of families right now.
Instead of playing politics, we should be creating jobs by investing in what makes our economy strong -– infrastructure and manufacturing and energy, and research and development, and education.  All these things lead to new industries.
We should be training our workers to fill new jobs.  We should be preparing our kids to face global competition.  We should be making sure that hard work pays off with a higher minimum wage.

We should be seizing these opportunities.  And there’s a simple principle behind it.  When the middle class does good, and when people have ladders into the middle class if they work hard, everybody does better.  You have more customers for businesses.  Folks at the very top do better.  America grows best from the middle out, not from the top down.  That’s when we succeed.

So I’m going to keep on looking for areas where Republicans and Democrats agree to move this country forward.  But I’m not going to stand by when politics and inaction are holding us back.  (Applause.)
Wherever and whenever I have a chance to help families like yours I’m going to do it.  When I have a chance to help communities like Wilmington, I’m going to do it.  That’s when my administration takes these executive actions, when Congress won’t act.

And so far, the only response we’ve gotten from the Republicans is a lawsuit.  (Laughter.)  They’re suing me for doing my job, instead of going ahead and doing their job.  That’s disappointing.  It’s a political stunt.  And, by the way, they’re using taxpayer money to do it.  It’s your money that they’re wasting on this, which no serious lawyers think makes any sense.  It’s just a political stunt.  We could be spending the time, energy, and effort and money to help your families.

And maybe the folks behind this think it will help them politically.  I guarantee you, it’s not helping you.  We could do so much more if we rally around a sense of patriotism that says we can disagree on issues once in a while, but come on, let’s focus on our country, let’s focus on our people — a sense of common purpose, the understanding we rise or fall as one nation and as one people.  That’s how we built this country together.  And that’s what Washington has to remember.
And the one thing I know for certain — if we work together, if we believe in one another, then we’re going to keep on rebuilding our middle class.  We’re going to restore the American Dream for the next generation.  We will continue to make sure that America is the place where no matter what you look like, or where you come from, or how you started, you can make it if you try.  You’ve shown it here in Delaware.  We can show it all across the country.  We just need a little more focus in Washington.  So keep the pressure on everybody.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  God bless you.  Let’s build some bridges.  Let’s build some roads.  God bless America.

2:26 P.M. EDT

International Headlines July 17, 2014: Malaysia Airlines Jet Crashes in Ukraine Shot Down by Russian Buk Missile 295 Dead



Malaysia Airlines Jet Crashes in Ukraine, May Have Been Shot Down

Source: NYT, 7-17-14

A plane with nearly 300 people aboard crashed in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border on Thursday, and Ukraine’s president did not rule out that it might have been shot down….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency April 22, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Mudslide Devastation in Washington State



Statement by the President on the Mudslide Devastation in Washington State

Source: WH, 4-22-14

Oso Firehouse
Oso, Washington

4:13 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, good afternoon, everybody.  I just had a chance to tour some of the damage from last month’s mudslide.  And, most importantly, I had a chance to spend some time with the families whose loved ones have been lost.  I also had a chance to thank some of the amazing first responders, the firefighters, police officers, search and rescue crews, and members of the Washington National Guard who have been working around the clock to help this community recover from this devastating incident.

Governor Inslee, Senator Murray, Senator Cantwell, Congresswoman DelBene, Congressman Larsen, and the rest of the elected officials who are here, they’ve been relentless in making sure that Oso had the resources that it needs.  And from the day of the tragedy, I’ve instructed my team to make sure that they get what they need to make sure that the search and rescue mission is going forward the way it should.

A FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team was on the ground immediately after the mudslide, and a search and rescue team was deployed to help locate and recover victims.  We immediately approved an emergency declaration to provide additional resources to state and local responders.  And I followed that by approving a major disaster declaration to help residents and business owners rebuild, and to help state and local and tribal governments with emergency work.

Today, that work continues.  There are still families who are searching for loved ones.  There are families who have lost everything, and it’s going to be a difficult road ahead for them.  And that’s why I wanted to come here — just to let you know that the country is thinking about all of you and have been throughout this tragedy.

We’re not going anywhere.  We’ll be here as long as it takes.  Because while very few Americans have ever heard of Oso before the disaster struck, we’ve all been inspired by the incredible way that the community has come together and shown the love and support that they have for each other in ways large and small.

Over the past month, we’ve seen neighbors and complete strangers donate everything from chainsaws to rain jackets to help with the recovery effort.  We’ve seen families cook meals for rescue workers.  We’ve seen volunteers pull 15-hour days, searching through mud up to 70 feet deep.  One resident said, “We’re Oso.  We just do it.”  That’s what this community is all about.  And I think the outstanding work of Sheriff Willy Harper here helping to coordinate all of this — I was saying, he’s a pretty young sheriff, but he has shouldered this burden in an incredible way.  And we’re very, very proud of him, as we are of all the local responders.

This is family.  And these are folks who love this land, and it’s easy to see why — because it’s gorgeous.  And there’s a way of life here that’s represented.  And to see the strength in adversity of this community I think should inspire all of us, because this is also what America is all about.

When times get tough, we look out for each other.  We get each other’s backs.  And we recover and we build, and we come back stronger.  And we’re always reminded that we’re greater together.  That’s how we’ll support each other every step of the way.

I have to say that the families that I met with showed incredible strength and grace through unimaginable pain and difficulty.  Uniformly, though, they all wanted to say thank you to the first responders.  They were deeply appreciative of the efforts that everybody has made.  And I know that many of the first responders have heard that directly, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat that we’re very appreciative of what you’ve done.

And I also want to say that some terrific lessons were learned in the midst of very hard times during this process, because almost uniquely, we had not just coordination between state, local and federal officials, but also coordination between volunteers and those officials.  And I know that it required some improvisation and some kinks getting worked out, but it was important for the family members themselves and the community themselves to be hands-on and participate in this process — particularly a community like this one where folks are hearty and know how to do things, and take great pride in being self-reliant.  It was important that they weren’t just bystanders in this process, they were involved every step of the way.

One last point I’ll make.  I’ve received a number of letters from residents — either Darrington, or Arlington, or Oso itself — over the last several weeks, and one in particular struck me.  It was from a firefighter who I may have met today; he didn’t identify himself.  But he pointed out how those who were operating the heavy machinery during this whole process did so with an incredible care and delicacy because they understood that this wasn’t an ordinary job, this wasn’t just a matter of moving earth; that this was a matter of making sure that we were honoring and respecting the lives that had been impacted.

And two things were of note in that letter:  Number one, that this firefighter pointed out properly the incredible work that’s been done under very tough circumstances.  Number two, he was pointing out what others were doing, not what he was doing.  And to see a community come together like this and not be interested in who’s getting credit, but just making sure that the job gets done, that says a lot about the character of this place.

And so we’re very, very proud of all of you.  Michelle and I grieve with you.  The whole country is thinking about you.  And we’re going to make sure that we’re there every step of the way as we go through the grieving, the mourning, the recovery.  We’re going to be strong right alongside you.

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

4:21 P.M. PDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 13, 2014: President Obama’s Statement on the Shooting the Overland Jewish Community Center in Kansas



Statement by President Obama on Today’s Shooting in Kansas

Source:  WH, 4-13-14

This afternoon we heard reports of a horrific shooting in Overland Park, Kansas.  Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends who lost a loved one and everyone affected by this tragedy.  I have asked my team to stay in close touch with our federal, state and local partners and provide the necessary resources to support the ongoing investigation. While we do not know all of the details surrounding today’s shooting, the initial reports are heartbreaking. I want to offer my condolences to all the families trying to make sense of this difficult situation and pledge the full support from the federal government as we heal and cope during this trying time.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 9, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Fort Hood Memorial Service



Remarks by the President at Fort Hood Memorial Service

Source: WH, 4-9-14

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama depart after the President placed a coin on each of the three boxes for those who died, during a memorial service for the victims of the Fort Hood shootings.President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pay their respects during a memorial service for the victims of the Fort Hood shootings, at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, April 9, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Fort Hood Killeen, Texas

2:06 P.M. CDT THE PRESIDENT:  In our lives — in our joys and in our sorrows — we’ve learned that there is “a time for every matter under heaven.”  We laugh and we weep.  We celebrate and we mourn.  We serve in war and we pray for peace.  But Scripture also teaches that, alongside the temporal, one thing is eternal. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.” Deputy Secretary Fox; General Dempsey; Secretary McHugh; Generals Odierno and Milley; and most of all, the families of the soldiers who have been taken from us; the wounded — those who have returned to duty and those still recovering; and the entire community of Fort Hood, this “Great Place”:  It is love, tested by tragedy, that brings us together again. It was love for country that inspired these three Americans to put on the uniform and join the greatest Army that the world has ever known.  Sergeant First Class Daniel Ferguson.  Staff Sergeant Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez.  Sergeant Timothy Owens. And Danny and Carlos joined two decades ago, in a time of peace, and stayed as the nation went to war.  Timothy joined after 9/11, knowing he could be sent into harm’s way.  Between them, they deployed nine times.  Each served in Iraq.  Danny came home from Afghanistan just last year.  They lived those shining values — loyalty, duty, honor — that keep us strong and free. It was love for the Army that made them the soldiers they were.  For Danny, said his fiancée, being in the Army “was his life.”  Carlos, said a friend, was “the epitome of what you would want a leader to be in the Army.”  Timothy helped counsel his fellow soldiers.  Said a friend, “He was always the person you could go talk to.” And it was love for their comrades, for all of you, that defined their last moments.  As we’ve heard, when the gunman tried to push his way into that room, Danny held the door shut, saving the lives of others while sacrificing his own.  And it’s said that Timothy — the counselor, even then — gave his life, walking toward the gunman, trying to calm him down. For you, their families, no words are equal to your loss.  We are here on behalf of the American people to honor your loved ones and to offer whatever comfort we can.  But know this:  We also draw strength from you.  For even in your grief, even as your heart breaks, we see in you that eternal truth: “Love never ends.” To the parents of these men — as a father, I cannot begin to fathom your anguish.  But I know that you poured your love and your hopes into your sons.  I know that the men and soldiers they became — their sense of service and their patriotism — so much of that came from you.  You gave your sons to America, and just as you will honor them always, so, too, will the nation that they served. To the loves of their lives — Timothy’s wife Billy and Danny’s fiancée Kristen — these soldiers cherished the Army, but their hearts belonged to you.  And that’s a bond that no earthly power can ever break.  They have slipped from your embrace, but know that you will never be alone.  Because this Army and this nation stands with you for all the days to come. To their children — we live in a dangerous world, and your fathers served to keep you safe and us safe.  They knew you have so much to give our country; that you’d make them proud.  Timothy’s daughter Lori already has.  Last Wednesday night, she posted this message online: “I just want everyone to think for a moment.”  Love your family, she said, “because you never know when [they’re] gonna be taken from you.  I love you, daddy.” And to the men and women of Fort Hood — as has already been mentioned, part of what makes this so painful is that we have been here before.  This tragedy tears at wounds still raw from five years ago.  Once more, soldiers who survived foreign warzones were struck down here at home, where they’re supposed to be safe.  We still do not yet know exactly why, but we do know this:  We must honor their lives, not “in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.” We must honor these men with a renewed commitment to keep our troops safe, not just in battle but on the home front, as well.  In our open society, and at vast bases like this, we can never eliminate every risk.  But as a nation, we can do more to help counsel those with mental health issues, to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are having such deep difficulties.  As a military, we must continue to do everything in our power to secure our facilities and spare others this pain. We must honor these men by doing more to care for our fellow Americans living with mental illness, civilian and military.  Today, four American soldiers are gone.  Four Army families are devastated.  As Commander-in-Chief, I’m determined that we will continue to step up our efforts — to reach our troops and veterans who are hurting, to deliver to them the care that they need, and to make sure we never stigmatize those who have the courage to seek help. And finally, we must honor these men by recognizing that they were members of a generation that has borne the burden of our security in more than a decade of war.  Now our troops are coming home, and by the end of this year our war in Afghanistan will finally be over. In an era when fewer Americans know someone in uniform, every American must see these men and these women — our 9/11 Generation — as the extraordinary citizens that they are.  They love their families.  They excel at their jobs.  They serve their communities.  They are leaders.  And when we truly welcome our veterans home, when we show them that we need them — not just to fight in other countries, but to build up our own — then our schools and our businesses, our communities and our nation will be more successful, and America will be stronger and more united for decades to come. Sergeant First Class Daniel Ferguson.  Staff Sergeant Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez.  Sergeant Timothy Owens.  Like the 576 Fort Hood soldiers who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were taken from us much too soon.  Like the 13 Americans we lost five years ago, their passing shakes our soul.  And in moments such as this, we summon once more what we’ve learned in these hard years of war.  We reach within our wounded hearts.  We lean on each other.  We hold each other up.  We carry on.  And with God’s amazing grace, we somehow bear what seems unbearable. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”  May God watch over these American soldiers, may He keep strong their families whose love endures, and may God continue to bless the United States of America with patriots such as these. END 2:18 P.M. CDT

Political Musings December 15, 2013: Obama honors Newtown victims a year later, renews gun control push





Obama honors Newtown victims a year later, renews gun control push

By Bonnie K. Goodman

On the one year anniversary of the mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 President Barack Obama and the nation remembered the 26 victims of the second worse mass school shooting….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 3, 2013: President Barack Obama Highlights Mental Health Care Six Months After Newtown Shooting





Obama Highlights Mental Health Care Six Months After Newtown

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-3-13

Win McNamee/Getty Image

Six months after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Obama is hosting a conference at the White House to bring mental health issues “out of the shadows.”

“The main goal of this conference is not to start a conversation. So many of you have spent decades waging long and lonely battles to be heard. Instead, it’s about elevating that conversation to a national level and bringing mental illness out of the shadows,” Obama said. “We want to let people living with mental health challenges know that they are not alone.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 3, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the National Conference on Mental Health



The National Conference on Mental Health

Source: WH, 6-3-13

Watch the full video

Remarks by the President at National Conference on Mental Health

President Obama Speaks at the National Conference on Mental Health

President Obama Speaks at the National Conference on Mental Health

Source: WH, 6-3-13 

East Room

10:00 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Welcome to the White House.  And thank you, Janelle, for that introduction and sharing your story, and making such a difference through your organization.  We’re really proud to have you here.

I want to thank Secretary Sebelius, Secretary Arne Duncan, Secretary Ric Shinseki for their leadership and helping to organize this event.  And I also want to acknowledge some outstanding members of Congress who are here and who care deeply about this issue.

And finally, I want to thank all of you for participating in this national conference on mental health.  We wanted to bring together folks who’ve suffered from mental illness and families who’ve supported them.  We wanted to bring together advocates and educators, faith leaders, veterans, local officials.

All of you have shown an extraordinary commitment to what is a critical goal, and that is to make sure that people aren’t suffering in silence and that we have the capacity to pull together all the resources and support and love that’s out there to go after an extraordinary challenge in our society.

The main goal of this conference is not to start a conversation — so many of you have spent decades waging long and lonely battles to be heard.  Instead, it’s about elevating that conversation to a national level and bringing mental illness out of the shadows.

We want to let people living with mental health challenges know that they are not alone, and we’ve got to be making sure that we’re committed to support those fellow Americans, because struggling with a mental illness or caring for someone who does can be isolating.  And I think everybody here who’s experienced the issue in one way or another understands that.  It begins to feel as if not only are you alone, but that you shouldn’t burden others with the challenge and the darkness, day in, day out — what some call a cloud that you just can’t seem to escape — begins to close in.

The truth is, in any given year, one in five adults experience a mental illness — one in five.  Forty-five million Americans suffer from things like depression or anxiety, schizophrenia or PTSD.  Young people are affected at a similar rate.  So we all know somebody — a family member, a friend, a neighbor — who has struggled or will struggle with mental health issues at some point in their lives.  Michelle and I have both known people who have battled severe depression over the years, people we love.  And oftentimes, those who seek treatment go on to lead happy, healthy, productive lives.

So we know that recovery is possible, we know help is available, and yet, as a society, we often think about mental health differently than other forms of health.  You see commercials on TV about a whole array of physical health issues, some of them very personal.  (Laughter.)  And yet, we whisper about mental health issues and avoid asking too many questions.

The brain is a body part too; we just know less about it.  And there should be no shame in discussing or seeking help for treatable illnesses that affect too many people that we love.  We’ve got to get rid of that embarrassment; we’ve got to get rid of that stigma.  Too many Americans who struggle with mental health illnesses are still suffering in silence rather than seeking help, and we need to see it that men and women who would never hesitate to go see a doctor if they had a broken arm or came down with the flu, that they have that same attitude when it comes to their mental health.

We see it in veterans who come home from the battlefield with the invisible wounds of war, but who feel somehow that seeking treatment is a sign of weakness when in fact it’s a sign of strength.  We see it in parents who would do anything for their kids, but who often fight their mental health battle alone -– afraid that reaching out would somehow reflect badly on them.

We see it in the tragedies that we have the power to prevent.  And I want to be absolutely clear:  The overwhelming majority of people who suffer from mental illnesses are not violent.  They will never pose a threat to themselves or others.  And there are a whole lot of violent people with no diagnosable mental health issues.  But we also know that most suicides each year involve someone with a mental health or substance abuse disorder.  And in some cases, when a condition goes untreated, it can lead to tragedy on a larger scale.

We can do something about stories like these.  In many cases, treatment is available and effective.  We can help people who suffer from a mental illness continue to be great colleagues, great friends, the people we love.  We can take out some pain and give them a new sense of hope.  But it requires all of us to act.  And there are a few ways we can do our part.

First, we’ve got to do a better job recognizing mental health issues in our children, and making it easier for Americans of all ages to seek help.  Today, less than 40 percent of people with mental illness receive treatment — less than 40 percent.  Even though three-quarters of mental illnesses emerge by the end of — by the age of 24, only about half of children with mental health problems receive treatment.  Now think about it:  We wouldn’t accept it if only 40 percent of Americans with cancers got treatment.  We wouldn’t accept it if only half of young people with diabetes got help.  Why should we accept it when it comes to mental health?  It doesn’t make any sense.

The good news is, there are plenty of groups that are stepping up to change that.  So a former colleague of mine, Gordon Smith, a former Republican Senator, lost his son to suicide 10 years ago.  And I remember him speaking so eloquently about it.  Gordon is now the head of the National Association of Broadcasters, and today, the National Association of Broadcasters is announcing a new campaign designed to change attitudes about mental illness through TV ads and social media,   because Gordon doesn’t want other parents to go through the agonizing loss that he’s endured.  So we thank you, Gordon, for that great work.  (Applause.)

You’ve got secondary school principals who are holding assemblies on mental health.  You’ve got organizations like the YMCA who are volunteering to train staff to recognize the signs of depression and other mental illnesses in our young people.  You got leaders from different faith communities who are getting their congregations involved.  And dozens of other organizations have today made similar commitments, so we’ve very thankful to all of you.

There are other people who are leading by example.  My great friend, Patrick Kennedy, when he was running for reelection back in 2006, he could have avoided talking about his struggles with bipolar disorder and addiction.  Let’s face it, he’s a Kennedy.  (Laughter.)   He was — his seat was pretty safe.  Everybody loved him.  And yet, Patrick used his experience as a way to connect and to lift up these issues, not hide from them.

And one day, a woman came up to Patrick at a senior center and told him she was afraid to tell her friends she was taking medication for a mental illness because she was worried they might treat her differently.  She told Patrick, “You’re the only one who knows aside from my son.”  And so Patrick started realizing how much power there could be for people to speak out on these issues.  And Patrick carried these stories back with him to Washington, where he worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including his dad, to make sure the mental health services you get through your insurance plan at work are covered the same way that physical health services are — a huge victory.  (Applause.)

So because of Patrick’s efforts and the colleagues who worked with him, it’s easier for millions of people to join him on the road to recovery, which brings me to a second point.  It’s not enough to help more Americans seek treatment -– we also have to make sure that the treatment is there when they’re ready to seek it.

For years now, our mental health system has struggled to serve people who depend on it.  That’s why, under the Affordable Care Act, we’re expanding mental health and substance abuse benefits for more than 60 million Americans.  (Applause.)  New health insurance plans are required to cover things like depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for children.  And beginning next year, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny anybody coverage because of a pre-existing mental health condition.  (Applause.)

We’re also investing in science and basic research to make it easier to diagnose and treat disease early.  And earlier this year, I announced an ambitious initiative to develop tools for mapping the human brain, which could help scientists and researchers unlock the answers to conditions that affect mental health.

We’re also doing more to support our troops and our veterans who are suffering from things like traumatic brain disorder — or traumatic brain injury or PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Today, we lose 22 veterans a day to suicide — 22.  We’ve got to do a better job than that of preventing these all too often silent tragedies.  That’s why we’ve poured an enormous amount of resources into high-quality care and better treatment for our troops.

And today, under Ric Shinseki’s leadership, the VA is going even further.  They’re partnering with 24 communities in nine states to help reduce wait times for veterans seeking mental health care.  And they’re — they’ve met their goal of hiring 1,600 new mental health providers, which means this summer they’re going to hold more than 150 summits like this one in communities all across the country so that every one of our servicemembers and veterans understand — just like you take care of yourself and each other on the battlefield, you’ve got to do the same thing off the battlefield.  That’s part of being strong.

For many people who suffer from a mental illness, recovery can be challenging.  But what helps more than anything, what gives so many of our friends and loved ones strength, is the knowledge that you are not alone.  You’re not alone.  You’re surrounded by people who care about you and who will support you on the journey to get well.  We’re here for you.

And that’s what this conference is about.  That’s why these issues are so important.  So if there’s anybody out there who’s listening, if you’re struggling, seek help.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re welcome.  (Applause.)  If you know somebody who is struggling, help them reach out.  Remember the family members who shoulder their own burdens and need our support as well.  And more than anything, let people who are suffering in silence know that recovery is possible.  They’re not alone.  There’s hope.  There’s possibility.  And that’s what all of you represent with the extraordinary advocacy and work that you’ve already done.

So thank you all for being here.  Let’s do everything we can to help our fellow Americans heal and thrive.  And now I’d like to turn it over to Secretary Sebelius who will be leading our opening panel.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

10:15 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency May 21, 2013: President Barack Obama Responds to the Tornadoes & Severe Weather in Oklahoma



President Obama Responds to the Tornadoes in Oklahoma

Source: WH, 5-21-13

Ed. Note: You can help people affected by the recent tornadoes through American Red Cross Disaster Relief. If you are in the affected areas, you can also register as “Safe and Well” to let your friends and family know you are okay. Check back here for more information — we’ll continue updating this post as the response effort develops.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the ongoing response to the devastating tornadoes and severe weatherPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on the ongoing response to the devastating tornadoes and severe weather that impacted Oklahoma, in the State Dining Room of the White House, May 21, 2013. Vice President Joe Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino accompany the President. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

As response and recovery efforts continue on the ground in Oklahoma, the Department of Homeland Security announced this afternoon that Secretary Janet Napolitano will travel to the area tomorrow to meet with state and local officials and ensure first responders are receiving the assistance they need to help those affected by the tornadoes.

This morning, President Obama delivered a statement on the devastating tornadoes and severe weather that impacted Oklahoma. He described the response efforts underway, and assured the people of Moore and all the affected areas that they “would have all the resources that they need at their disposal.

“Americans from every corner of this country will be right there with them, opening our homes, our hearts to those in need,” President Obama said. “Because we’re a nation that stands with our fellow citizens as long as it takes. We’ve seen that spirit in Joplin, in Tuscaloosa; we saw that spirit in Boston and Breezy Point. And that’s what the people of Oklahoma are going to need from us right now.”…READ MORE

Watch the full statement below or read the remarks here.

Remarks by the President on the Tornadoes and Severe Weather in Oklahoma

Source: WH, 5-21-13

State Dining Room

10:08 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  As we all know by now, a series of storms swept across the Plains yesterday, and one of the most destructive tornadoes in history sliced through the towns of Newcastle and Moore, Oklahoma.  In an instant, neighborhoods were destroyed.  Dozens of people lost their lives. Many more were injured.  And among the victims were young children, trying to take shelter in the safest place they knew — their school.

So our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today.

Our gratitude is with the teachers who gave their all to shield their children; with the neighbors, first responders, and emergency personnel who raced to help as soon as the tornado passed; and with all of those who, as darkness fell, searched for survivors through the night.

As a nation, our full focus right now is on the urgent work of rescue, and the hard work of recovery and rebuilding that lies ahead.

Yesterday, I spoke with Governor Fallin to make it clear to Oklahomans that they would have all the resources that they need at their disposal.  Last night, I issued a disaster declaration to expedite those resources, to support the Governor’s team in the immediate response, and to offer direct assistance to folks who have suffered loss.  I also just spoke with Mayor Lewis of Moore, Oklahoma, to ensure that he’s getting everything that he needs.

I’ve met with Secretary Napolitano this morning and my Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, Lisa Monaco, to underscore that point that Oklahoma needs to get everything that it needs right away.  The FEMA Administrator, Craig Fugate, is on his way to Oklahoma as we speak.  FEMA staff was first deployed to Oklahoma’s Emergency Operations Center on Sunday, as the state already was facing down the first wave of deadly tornadoes.  Yesterday, FEMA activated Urban Search and Rescue Teams from Texas, Nebraska, and Tennessee to assist in the ongoing search and rescue efforts, and a mobile response unit to boost communications and logistical support.

So the people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them as long as it takes.  For there are homes and schools to rebuild, businesses and hospitals to reopen, there are parents to console, first responders to comfort, and, of course, frightened children who will need our continued love and attention.

There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms, and bedrooms, and classrooms, and, in time, we’re going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community.

We don’t yet know the full extent of the damage from this week’s storm.  We don’t know both the human and economic losses that may have occurred.  We know that severe rumbling of weather, bad weather, through much of the country still continues, and we’re also preparing for a hurricane season that begins next week.

But if there is hope to hold on to, not just in Oklahoma but around the country, it’s the knowledge that the good people there and in Oklahoma are better prepared for this type of storm than most.  And what they can be certain of is that Americans from every corner of this country will be right there with them, opening our homes, our hearts to those in need.  Because we’re a nation that stands with our fellow citizens as long as it takes. We’ve seen that spirit in Joplin, in Tuscaloosa; we saw that spirit in Boston and Breezy Point.  And that’s what the people of Oklahoma are going to need from us right now.

For those of you who want to help, you can go online right now to the American Red Cross, which is already on the ground in Moore.  Already we’ve seen the University of Oklahoma announce that it will provide housing for displaced families.  We’ve seen local churches and companies open their doors and their wallets. And last night, the people of Joplin dispatched a team to help the people of Moore.

So for all those who’ve been affected, we recognize that you face a long road ahead.  In some cases, there will be enormous grief that has to be absorbed, but you will not travel that path alone.  Your country will travel it with you, fueled by our faith in the Almighty and our faith in one another.

So our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today.  And we will back up those prayers with deeds for as long as it takes.

Thank you very much.

10:13 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines April 30, 2013: President Barack Obama in Second 100th Day Press Conference Defends FBI Over Boston, Won’t Commit to Action Against Syria





Obama Defends FBI Over Boston, Won’t Commit to Action Against Syria

Source: ABC News Radio, 4-30-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

In his first press conference since the Boston Marathon bombing, President Obama defended the FBI and said Americans will continue to go on about their lives.

During the wide-ranging question and answer session with reporters, he also said more investigation is required to determine if it was the Syrian government that used chemical weapons on its people….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency April 25, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Memorial Service for Those Who Died and Were Injured in the West Texas Plant Explosion at the University of Baylor, Waco, Texas



Remarks by the President at Memorial Service — Waco, TX

Source: WH, 4-25-13 

University of Baylor
Waco, Texas

3:54 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:   Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Please.  Thank you, Senator Cornyn, Governor Perry, President Starr, gathered dignitaries, the community of Baylor and Waco — most of all, the family and the friends and neighbors of West, Texas.

I cannot match the power of the voices you just heard on that video.  And no words adequately describe the courage that was displayed on that deadly night.  What I can do is offer the love and support and prayers of the nation.

The Book of Psalms tells us, “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us.  We went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.  “We went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.”

For this state, for our country, these have been trying and difficult days.  We gather here in Texas to mourn the brave men who went through fire and all those who have been taken from us.  We remain mindful of our fellow Americans in flooded states to the north who endure the high waters.  We pray for those in Boston who have been tested, and the wounded whose greatest tests still lie ahead.

But know this:  While the eyes of the world may have been fixed on places far away, our hearts have also been here in your time of tribulation.  And even amidst such sorrow and so much pain, we recognize God’s abundance.  We give thanks for the courage and the compassion and the incredible grace of the people of West.

We’re grateful for Mayor Muska and Mayor Duncan, and all those who have shown such leadership during this tragedy.  And to the families and neighbors grappling with unbearable loss, we are here to say, you are not alone.  You are not forgotten.  We may not all live here in Texas, but we’re neighbors, too.  (Applause.)  We’re Americans, too, and we stand with you, and we do not forget.  And we’ll be there even after the cameras leave and after the attention turns elsewhere.  Your country will remain ever ready to help you recover and rebuild and reclaim your community.  (Applause.)

Until last week, I think it’s fair to say that few outside this state had ever heard of West.  And I suspect that’s the way most people in West like it.  (Laughter and applause.)  Now, it is true that weary travelers, and now the wider world, know they can rely on the Czech Stop for a brief respite in the middle of a long stretch of highway.  I want to say, by the way, all the former Presidents in Dallas send their thoughts and prayers, and George W. and Laura Bush spoke longingly about the kolaches — (laughter) — and the even better company, as they’ve driven through West.  And what they understand, and what all of you understand, is what makes West special is not the attention coming from far-flung places.  What makes West special, what puts it on the map is what makes it familiar:  The people who live there.  The neighbors you can count on.  Places that haven’t changed.  Things that are solid and true and lasting.

Most of the people in West know everybody in West.  Many of you are probably descended from those first settlers — hardy immigrants who crossed an ocean and kept on going.  So for you, there’s no such thing as a stranger.  When someone is in need, you reach out to them and you support them, and you do what it takes to help them carry on.

That’s what happened last Wednesday, when a fire alarm sounded across a quiet Texas evening.  As we’ve heard, the call went out to volunteers — not professionals — people who just love to serve.  People who want to help their neighbors.  A call went out to farmers and car salesmen; and welders and funeral home directors; the city secretary and the mayor.  It went out to folks who are tough enough and selfless enough to put in a full day’s work and then be ready for more.

And together, you answered the call.  You dropped your schoolwork, left your families, jumped in fire trucks, and rushed to the flames.  And when you got to the scene, you forgot fear and you fought that blaze as hard as you could, knowing the danger, buying time so others could escape.  And then, about 20 minutes after the first alarm, the earth shook, and the sky went dark — and West changed forever.

Today our prayers are with the families of all who we’ve lost — the proud sons and daughters of West whose memories will live on in our hearts.  Parents who loved their kids, and leaders who served their communities.  They were young and old, from different backgrounds and different walks of life.  A few were just going about their business.  An awful lot ran towards the scene of disaster trying to help.  One was described as the kind of guy whose phone was always ringing with folks in need of help — help he always provided.  That’s just who these folks were.

Our thoughts are with those who face a long road — the wounded, the heartbroken, the families who lost their homes and possessions in an instant.  They’re going to need their friends in West, but they’re also going to need their friends in Texas, and their friends all across this country.  They’ll still need you to answer that call.  They will need those things that are lasting and true.  For, as Scripture teaches us, “a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

To the people of West, just as we’ve seen the love you share in better times, as friends and brothers and sisters, these hard days have shown your ability to stand tall in times of unimaginable adversity.

You saw it in leaders like Mayor Muska, who lost close friends.  And you saw it in the hospital staff who spent the night treating people that they knew — toiling through their tears as they did what had to be done.

We saw it in the folks who helped evacuate an entire nursing home, including one man who drove an elderly resident to safety and then came back to do it again, twice.

We saw it in the people so generous that when the Red Cross set up a shelter for folks who couldn’t go back to their homes, not that many people showed up, because most had already been offered a place to stay with their friends and family and neighbors

Complete strangers drove from hundreds of miles to donate supplies.  Firefighters from surrounding communities manned the stations so surviving volunteers could recover from their wounds.  Right here at Baylor, students stood in line for hours to give blood.  And a nearby school district opened its doors to the students who can’t go back to their classrooms, putting welcome signs on lockers and in the hallways.

So that’s the thing about this tragedy.  This small town’s family is bigger now.  It extends beyond the boundaries of West.  And in the days ahead, this love and support will be more important than ever, because there will be moments of doubt and pain and the temptation to wonder how this community will ever fully recover.  And the families who have lost such remarkable men of the sort that we saw in that video, there are going to be times where they simply don’t understand how this could have happened.

But today I see in the people of West, in your eyes, that what makes West special isn’t going to go away.  And instead of changing who you are, this tragedy has simply revealed who you’ve always been.

It’s the courage of Deborah Sulak, who works as a cashier just around the corner from the fire station.  She said, “It’s going to be tough for the families.  But we’re going to rebound because we’re fighters.”  And that courage will bring West back.  (Applause.)

It’s the love of Carla Ruiz, who used to live in West but now lives in Austin.  And last week, she drove all the way back.  “I had to be here,” she said.  “You have to be here for family.”  That love will keep West going.

It’s the faith of someone like Pastor John Crowder that will sustain the good people of West for as long as it takes.  His church was damaged in the explosion.  So on Sunday, the congregation assembled outside.  “What happened Wednesday was awful,” he told them.  “But God is bigger than all of this.”  (Applause.)  God is bigger than all of this and he is here with you in West.  He is bigger than all of this and he is here with you.

Going forward, it’s not just your town that needs your courage and your love and your faith.  America does, too.  We need towns where if you don’t know what your kids are up to, then chances are your neighbors do too, and they’ll tell on those kids in a second.  (Laughter.)  America needs towns that holds fundraisers to help folks pay the medical bills and then take the time to drop off a home-cooked meal, because they know a family is under stress.  America needs communities where there’s always somebody to call if your car gets stuck or your house gets flooded.  We need people who so love their neighbors as themselves that they’re willing to lay down their lives for them.

America needs towns like West.  (Applause.)  That’s what makes this country great, is towns like West.  “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us.  We went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.”

You have been tested, West.  You have been tried.  You have gone through fire.  But you are and always will be surrounded by an abundance of love.  You saw it in the voices on those videos.  You see it in the firefighters and first responders who are here.  (Applause.)  All across America, people are praying for you and thinking of you.  And when they see the faces of those families, they understand that these are not strangers — these are neighbors.  And that’s why we know that we will get through this.

God bless West.  (Applause.)  May God grant His peace on those that we’ve lost, His comfort to their families.  May He continue to bless this great state of Texas, and may He continue to bless these United States of America.

END                4:11 P.M. CDT

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