Politics August 7, 2016: Obama celebrates 55th birthday at star-studded bash




Obama celebrates 55th birthday at star-studded bash

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama commenced his annual vacation in Martha’s Vineyard after partying the evening before on Aug. 5, 2016, at his 55th birthday bash. The star-studded party held at the White House included a bevy of celebrities and politicians deemed Obama’s closest friends.

On Friday evening, Obama celebrated his milestone and last birthday as president at a party paid for by the Obamas at the White House. Although the official guest list has not been made public, the news media has been able to piece together some of the attendees from social media post from party guests.

Among the celebrities in attendance were “Alfre Woodard, movie executive Harvey Weinstein and former basketball star Grant Hill,” “Ellen DeGeneres, Sarah Jessica Parker and husband actor Matthew Broderick, “Star Wars” producer George Lucas” and basketball star Magic Johnson and wife Cookie. Usher and Stevie Wonder provided the evening’s entertainment. It is believed that singer and rappers Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Kendrick Lamar also attended.

The party also included political friends “Interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee Donna Brazile, former Obama senior advisor David Axelrod and Reverend Al Sharpton. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was Obama’s former chief of staff and National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Some news media personalities attended including, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts and ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts and husband Al Roker.

A White House official said, “The guest list includes a large number of family members and friends to mark the occasion. The private event will be paid for with the family’s personal funds.” While a party attendee described it as “A real birthday bash with lots of old friends, cabinet officials, members of Congress, celebrities.” The party lasted past midnight.

Obama turned 55 on Thursday, Aug. 4. The president celebrated Thursday evening with his wife and children at a smaller intimidate dinner at the White House. The last time the Obamas celebrated with a big bash was Michelle’s 50th birthday party in January 2014. Michelle also gave a birthday shout out to her husband on Instagram writing, “55 years young and that smile still gets me every single day. Happy birthday, Barack. I love you. -mo”

Full Text Political Transcripts April 30, 2016: President Obama’s 2016 White House correspondents’ dinner speech



The complete transcript of President Obama’s 2016 White House correspondents’ dinner speech

Source: Washington Post, 4-30-16

[“Cups” playing as Obama walks up. Audience can hear “You’re going to miss me when I’m gone…”]

You can’t say it, but you know it is true.

Good evening everybody. It is an honor to be here at my last, and perhaps the last White House correspondents’ dinner. You all look great. The end of the Republic has never looked better.

I do apologize. I know I was a little late tonight. I was running on CPT, which stands for jokes that white people should not make. That’s a tip for you, Jeff.

Anyway, here we are, my eighth and final appearance at this unique event. And I am excited. If this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans. That’s right. That’s right.

My brilliant and beautiful wife Michelle is here tonight. She looks so happy to be here. It’s called practice. It’s like learning to do three-minute planks. She makes it look easy now. But…

[For Obama’s final correspondents’ dinner, the obvious targets: Trump, Cruz and himself]

Next year at this time, someone else will be standing here in this very spot and it’s anyone guess who she will be. But standing here I can’t help but be reflective and a little sentimental.

Eight years ago I said it was time to change the tone of our politics. In hindsight, I clearly should have been more specific. Eight years ago, I was a young man full of idealism and vigor. And look at me now, I am gray, grizzled and just counting down the days to my death panel.

Hillary once questioned whether I would be up ready for a 3 a.m .phone call. Now, I’m awake anyway because I have to go to the bathroom. I’m up.

In fact somebody recently said to me, ‘Mr. President, you are so yesterday. Justin Trudeau has completely replaced you. He is so handsome and he’s so charming. He’s the future.’ And I said ‘Justin, just give it a rest.’ I resented that.

Meanwhile, Michelle has not aged a day. The only way you can date her in photos is by looking at me. Take a look. [Show photos over the years] Here we are in 2008. Here we are a few years later. And this one is from two weeks ago. [skelton photo from Canada dinner] So time passes.

In just six short months, I will be officially a lame duck, which means Congress now will flat out reject my authority, and Republican leaders won’t take my phone calls. And this is going to take some getting use to. It’s really gonna… It’s a curve ball. I don’t know what to do with it. Of course, in fact, for four months now congressional Republicans have been saying there are things I cannot do in my final year. Unfortunately, this dinner was not one of them.

But on everything else, it’s another story. And you know who you are, Republicans. In fact, I think we’ve got Republican senators Tim Scott and Cory Gardner. They are in the house, which reminds me … security bar the doors. Judge Merrick Garland come on out. We are going to do this right here. Right now.

It’s like the red wedding.

But it’s not just Congress. Even some foreign leaders, they’ve been looking ahead, anticipating my departure. Last week, Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bathrobe. That was a slap in the face. A clear breach of protocol.

Although, while in England I did have lunch with her Majesty the Queen, took in a performance of Shakespeare, hit the links with David Cameron. Just in case anyone was debating whether I am black enough, I think that settles the debate.

I won’t lie, look, this is a tough transition. It’s hard. Key staff are now starting to leave the White House. Even reporters have left me. Savannah Guthrie, she has left the White House press corps to host the “Today” show. Norah O’Donnell left the briefing room to host ‘CBS This Morning.’ Jake Tapper left journalism to join CNN.

But the prospect of leaving the White House is a mixed bag. You might have heard that someone jumped the White House fence last week, but I have to give the Secret Service credit. They found Michelle and brought her back. She’s safe back at home now. It’s only nine more months, baby. Settle down.

And yet somehow, despite all this, despite the churn, in my final year my approval ratings keep going up. The last time I was this high I was trying to decide on my major.

And here’s the thing, I haven’t really done anything differently. So it’s odd. Even my age can’t explain the rising poll numbers. What has changed nobody can figure it out. [Image of Cruz and Trump]. Puzzling.

Anyway. In this last year, I do have more appreciation for those who have been with me on this amazing ride. Like one of our finest public servants, Joe Biden. God bless him. I love that guy. I love Joe Biden. I really do. And I want to thank him for his friendship, for his counsel, for always giving it to me straight, for not shooting anybody in the face. Thank you, Joe.

Also, I would be remiss. Let’s give it up for our host, Larry Wilmore. Also known as one of the two black guys who’s not Jon Stewart. You’re the South African guy, right? I love Larry. And his parents are here, who are from Evanston, which is great town. I also would like to acknowledge some of the award winning reporters that we have with us here tonight. Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber. Thank you all for everything you have done. I’m just joking. As you know, “Spotlight” is a film, a movie about investigative journalists with the resources and the autonomy to chase down the truth and hold the powerful accountable. Best fantasy film since “Star Wars.”

Look. That was maybe a cheap shot. I understand the news business is tough these days. It keeps changing all the time. Every year at this dinner somebody makes a joke about Buzzfeed, for example, changing the media landscape. And every year The Washington Post laughs a little bit less hard. Kind of a silence there. Especially at the Washington Post table.

GOP chairman Reince Priebus is here as well. Glad to see that you feel you have earned a night off. Congratulations on all your success, the republican party, the nomination process. It’s all going great. Keep it up.

Kendall Jenner is also here. And we had a chance to meet her backstage. She seems like a very nice, young woman. I’m not exactly sure what she does, but I’m told that my twitter mentions are about to go through the roof.

Helen Mirren is here tonight. I don’t even have a joke here, I just think Helen Mirren is awesome. She’s awesome.

Sitting at the same table I see Mike Bloomberg. Mike, a combative, controversial New York billionaire is leading the GOP primary and it is not you. That has to sting a little bit. Although it’s not an entirely fair comparison between you and the Donald. After all Mike was a big city mayor. He knows policy in depth. And he’s actually worth the amount of money that he says he is.

What an election season. For example, we’ve got the bright new face of the Democratic party here tonight, Mr. Bernie Sanders. Bernie, you look like a million bucks. Or, to put in terms you’ll understand, you look like 37,000 donations of $27 each.

A lot of folks have been surprised by the Bernie phenomenon, especially his appeal to young people. But not me. I get it. Just recently a young person came up to me and said she was sick of politicians standing in the way of her dreams. As if we were actually going to let Malia go to Burning Man this year. Was not going to happen. Bernie might have let her go. Not us.

I am hurt though, Bernie, that you have been distancing yourself little from me. I mean that’s just not something that you do to your comrade.

Bernie’s slogan has helped his campaign catch fire among young people. ‘Feel the Bern.’ ‘Feel the Bern.’ That’s a good slogan. Hillary’s slogan has not had the same effect. Let’s see this. [image of a boulder on a hill with the slogan “Trudge up the Hill”]

Look, I’ve said how much I admire Hillary’s toughness, her smarts, her policy chops, her experience. You’ve got admit it though, Hillary trying appeal to young voters is a little bit like your relative who just signed up for Facebook. ‘Dear America, did you get my poke? Is it appearing on your wall? I’m not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hillary.’ It’s not entirely persuasive.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, things are a little more, how shall we say this, a little more loose. Just look at the confusion over the invitations to tonight’s dinner. Guests were asked to check whether they wanted steak or fish. But instead, a whole bunch of you wrote in Paul Ryan. That’s not an option people. Steak or fish. You may not like steak or fish, but that’s your choice.

Meanwhile, some candidates aren’t polling high enough to qualify for their own joke tonight. [image of Kasich eating]. The rules were well established ahead of time.

And then there’s Ted Cruz. Ted had a tough week. He went to Indiana. Hoosier country. Stood on a basketball court and called the hoop a basketball ring. What else is in his lexicon. Baseball sticks. Football hats. But sure, I’m the foreign one.

Well let me conclude tonight on a more serious note. I want thank the Washington press corps. I want to thank Carol for all that you do. The free press is central to our democracy and, nah, I’m just kidding! You know I’m going to talk about Trump. Come on. We weren’t just going to stop there. Come on.

Although I am a little hurt that he’s not here tonight. We had so much fun that last time, And it is surprising. You’ve got a room full of reporters, celebrities, cameras. And he says no. Is this dinner too tacky for the Donald? What could he possibly be doing instead? Is he at home eating a Trump steak, tweeting out insults to Angela Merkel? What’s he doin’?

The republican establishment is incredulous that he is their most likely nominee. Incredulous. Shocking. They say Donald lacks the foreign policy experience to be president. But in fairness, he has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world: Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan.

And there is one area where Donald’s experience could be invaluable and that’s closing Guantanamo because Trump knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground. Alright, that is probably enough. I mean I’ve got more material. No, no, no.

I don’t want to spend too much time on The Donald. Following your lead, I want to show some restraint. Because I think we can all agree that from the start he’s gotten the appropriate amount of coverage befitting the seriousness of his candidacy. Ha. I hope you all are proud of yourselves. The guy wanted to give his hotel business a boost and now we are praying that Cleveland makes it through July. Mmm mmm mmn. Hmmm.

As for me and Michelle, we’ve decided to stay in D.C. for a couple more years. Thank you. This way our youngest daughter can finish up high school. Michelle can stay closer to her plot of carrots. She’s already making plans to see them every day. Take a look [image of Michelle].

But our decision has actually presented a bit of a dilemma because traditionally presidents don’t stick around after they’re done. And it’s something that I’ve been brooding about a little bit. Take a look…

There you go. I am still waiting for all of you to respond to my invitation to connect to LinkedIn. But I know you have jobs to do which is what really brings us here tonight.

I know that there are times that we’ve had differences and that’s inherent in our institutional roles. That is true of every president and his press corps. But we’ve always shared the same goal to root our public discourse in the truth. To open the doors of this democracy. To do whatever we can to make our country and our world more free and more just.

And I’ve always appreciated the role that you have all played as equal partners in reaching these goals. Our free press is why we once again recognize the real journalists who uncover the horrifying scandal and brought some measure of justice for thousands of victims around the world. They are here with us tonight: Sacha Pfeiffer, Mike Rezendes, Walter Robinson, Matt Caroll and Ben Bradlee Jr. Please give them a big round of applause.

A free press is why, once again, we honor Jason Rezaian, as Carol noted. Last time this year we spoke of Jason’s courage as he endured the isolation of an Iranian prison. This year we see that courage in the flesh, and it’s a living testament to the very idea of a free press and a reminder of the rising level of danger and political intimidation and the physical threats faced by reporters overseas.

And I can make this commitment that as long as I hold this office my administration will continue to fight for the release of American journalists held against their will. And we will not stop until they see the same freedom as Jason had.


At home and abroad journalists like all of you engage in the dogged pursuit of informing citizens and holding leaders accountable, and making our government of the people possible. And it’s an enormous responsibility. And I realize it’s an enormous challenge at a time when the economics of the business sometimes incentivizes speed over depth, and when controversy and conflict are what most immediately attract readers and viewers. The good news is there are so many of you that are pushing against those trends and as a citizen of this great democracy, I am grateful for that.

For this is also a time around the world when some of the fundamental ideals of liberal democracies are under attack and when notions of objectively and of a free press and of facts and of evidence are trying to be undermined or in some cases ignored entirely. And in such a climate it’s not enough just to give people a megaphone. And that’s why your power and your responsibility to dig and to question and to counter distortions and untruths is more important than even ever.

Taking a stand on behalf of what is true does not require you shedding your objectivity. In fact, it is the essence of good journalism. It affirms the idea that the only way we can build consensus, the only way that we can move forward as a country, the only way we can help the world mend itself is by agreeing on a baseline of facts when it comes to the challenges that confront us all. So this night is a testament to all of you who have devoted your lives to that idea, who push to shine a light on the truth every single day. So, I want to close my final White House correspondents’ dinner by just saying thank you. I’m very proud of what you’ve done. It has been an honor and a privilege to work side by side with you to strengthen our democracy. With that I just have two more words to say: Obama out. [Drops mic].

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



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

Source: WH, 3-28-16


South Lawn

10:41 A.M. EST

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

MRS. OBAMA:  Yay!  Thank you, honey.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

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


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


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

THE PRESIDENT:  And our military families.

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

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

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

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

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

THE PRESIDENT:  Happy Easter, everybody!

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

10:45 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts March 10, 2016: President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Toasts at the State Dinner



Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada at State Dinner

Source: WH, 3-10-16


East Room

8:32 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good evening, everybody.  Bonsoir.  On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House as we host Prime Minister Trudeau, Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau and the Canadian delegation for the first official visit and state dinner with Canada in nearly 20 years.  We intend to have fun tonight.  But not too much.  (Laughter.)  If things get out of hand, remember that the Prime Minister used to work as a bouncer.  (Laughter.)  Truly.  (Laughter.)

So tonight, history comes full circle.  Forty-four years ago, President Nixon made a visit to Ottawa.  And he was hosted by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.  (Applause.)  At a private dinner, there was a toast. “Tonight, we’ll dispense with the formalities,” President Nixon said, “I’d like to propose a toast to the future Prime Minister of Canada — Justin Pierre Trudeau.”  (Laughter.)  He was four months at the time.  (Laughter.)

All these years later, the prediction has come to pass.  Mr. Prime Minister, after today, I think it’s fair to say that, here in America, you may well be the most popular Canadian named Justin.  (Laughter and applause.)

I said this morning that Americans and Canadians are family. And tonight, I want to recognize two people who mean so much to me and Michelle and our family.  First of all, my wonderful brother-in-law, originally from Burlington, Ontario — Konrad Ng.  (Applause.)  This is actually an interesting story, though, that I was not aware of — Konrad indicated to me when we saw each other this afternoon that part of the reason his family was able to immigrate to Canada was because of policies adopted by Justin’s father.  And so had that not happened, he might not have met my sister, in which case, my lovely nieces might not have been born.  (Laughter.)  So this is yet one more debt that we owe the people of Canada (Laughter.)  In addition, a true friend and a member of my team who has been with me every step of the way — he is from Toronto and Victoria, and also a frequent golf partner, Marvin Nicholson.  (Applause.) So as you can see, they’ve infiltrated all of our ranks.  (Laughter.)

Before I ever became President, when we celebrated my sister and Konrad’s marriage, Michelle and I took our daughters to Canada.  And we went to Burlington and — this is always tough — Mississauga.  (Laughter.)  And then we went to Toronto and Niagara Falls.  (Laughter.)  Mississauga.  I can do that.  (Laughter.)  And everywhere we went, the Canadian people made us feel right at home.

And tonight, we want our Canadians friends to feel at home.  So this is not a dinner, it’s supper.  (Laughter.)  We thought of serving up some poutine.  (Laughter.)  I was going to bring a two-four.  (Laughter.)  And then we’d finish off the night with a double-double.  (Laughter.)  But I had to draw the line at getting milk out of a bag — (laughter) — this, we Americans do not understand.  (Laughter.)  We do, however, have a little Canadian whiskey.  That, we do understand.  (Laughter.)

This visit has been a celebration of the values that we share.  We, as a peoples, are committed to the principles of equality and opportunity — the idea that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can make it if you try, no matter what the circumstances of your birth, in both of our countries.

And we see this in our current presidential campaign.  After all, where else could a boy born in Calgary grow up to run for President of the United States?  (Laughter and applause.)  Where else would we see a community like Cape Breton, Nova Scotia welcoming Americans if the election does not go their way?  (Laughter.)  And to the great credit of their people, Canadians from British Columbia to New Brunswick have, so far, rejected the idea of building a wall to keep out your southern neighbors.  (Laughter.) We appreciate that.  (Laughter.)  We can be unruly, I know.

On a serious note, this visit reminds us of what we love about Canada.  It’s the solidarity shown by so many Canadians after 9/11 when they welcomed stranded American travelers into their homes.  It’s the courage of your servicemembers, standing with us in Afghanistan and now in Iraq.  It’s the compassion of the Canadian people welcoming refugees — and the Prime Minister himself, who told those refugees, “You’re safe at home now.”

Justin, we also see Canada’s spirit in your mother’s brave advocacy for mental health care — and I want to give a special welcome to Margaret Trudeau tonight.  (Applause.)  And we see Canada’s spirit in Sophie — a champion of women and girls, because our daughters deserve the same opportunities that anybody’s sons do.

And this spirit reminds us of why we’re all here — why we serve.  Justin, Sophie, your children are still young.  They are adorable and they still let you hug them.  (Laughter.)  When we first spoke on the phone after your election, we talked not only as President and Prime Minister, but also as fathers.  When I was first elected to this office, Malia was 10 and Sasha was just seven.  And they grow up too fast.  This fall, Malia heads off to college.  And I’m starting to choke up.  (Laughter.)  So I’m going to wind this — it was in my remarks — (laughter) — and I didn’t — I can’t do it.  It’s hard.  (Laughter.)

But there is a point to this, though, and that is that we’re not here for power.  We’re not here for fame or fortune.  We’re here for our kids.  We’re here for everybody’s kids — to give our sons and our daughters a better world.  To pass to them a world that’s a little safer, and a little more equal, and a little more just, a little more prosperous so that a young person growing up in Chicago or Montreal or on the other side of the world has every opportunity to make of their life what they will, no matter who they are or what they look like, or how they pray or who they love.

Justin, I believe there are no better words to guide us in this work than those you once used to describe what your father taught you and your siblings — to believe in yourself. To stand up for ourselves.  To know ourselves, and to accept responsibility for ourselves.  To show a genuine and deep respect for each other and for every human being.

And so I would like to propose a toast — to the great alliance between the United States and Canada; to our friends, Justin and Sophie; to the friendship between Americans and Canadians and the spirit that binds us together — a genuine and deep and abiding respect for each and every human being.  Cheers.

(A toast is offered.)

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  Dear friends, Mr. President, Barack, Michelle, all of you gathered here, it is an extraordinary honor for me to be here with you tonight.  Thank you so much for the warm welcome you’ve extended to Canada and to the Canadian delegation, and to Sophie and me, personally.

It’s incredibly touching to be able to be here not just as a couple, Sophie and I, but to have been able to bring our families down as well.  Sophie’s mom and dad, Estelle and Jean — get a load of Estelle, I’m looking forward to the future with Sophie.  (Laughter.)  And, of course, my own mother, Margaret, whose last State Dinner here was in 1977.  So it’s wonderful to have you here.

It’s also touching to meet Malia and Sasha, who are here at their first State Dinner.  And quite frankly, the memories for me of being a kid and not being old enough to attend these kinds of events with my father almost makes me wish I had gone through my teenage years as a child of a world leader — but not quite.  (Laughter.)  I admire you very much, both of you, for your extraordinary strength and your grace, through what is a remarkable childhood and young adulthood that will give you extraordinary strength and wisdom beyond your years for the rest of your life.  The one thing that you have received from your extraordinary parents is the tools to be able to handle the challenges and the opportunities in front of you.  So thank you very much for joining us tonight.  (Applause.)

In thinking about what I wanted to say this evening, I came across a quote from President Truman, who shared these words with the Canadian Parliament nearly 70 years ago.  He said that Canada’s relationship with the United States did not develop spontaneously.  It did not come about merely through the happy circumstance of geography, but was “compounded of one part proximity, and nine parts good will and commonsense.”

It is that enduring good will and commonsense that I believe defines our relationship to this day.  It’s what makes our constructive partnership possible.  It’s what allows us to respectfully disagree and remain friends and allies on the few occasions we do.  For example I would argue that it’s better to be the leader of a country that consistently wins Olympic gold medals in hockey.  (Laughter and applause.)  President Obama would likely disagree.  And yet, you still invited us over for dinner.  (Laughter.)  Because that’s what friends do.  (Laughter.)

Because, now that I think of it, we’re actually closer than friends.  We’re more like siblings, really.  We have shared parentage, but we took different paths in our later years.  We became the stay-at-home type — (laughter) — and you grew to be a little more rebellious.  (Laughter.)  I think the reason that good will and commonsense comes so easily is because we are Canadians and Americans alike, guided by the same core values.  Values like cooperation and respect.  Cooperation because it keeps us safe and prosperous.  And respect because it’s the surest path to both safeguarding the world we share and honoring the diverse people with whom we share it.

When it comes to security, for example, we agree that our countries are stronger and the world is safer when we work together.  For more than half a century, we’ve joined forces to protect our continent.  And we’ve been the closest of allies overseas for even longer, fighting together on the beaches of France, standing shoulder to shoulder with our European partners in NATO, and now confronting violent extremism in the Middle East.

In every instance, we realize that our concerns were better addressed together than alone, and together, we have realized the longest, most peaceful, and most mutually beneficial relationship of any two countries since the birth of the nation state.  It’s a relationship that doesn’t just serve its own interests — it serves the entire world.  Canadians and Americans also value economic interdependence, because we know that it brings greater prosperity for all of us.

Over $2.4 billion worth of goods and services cross the border every day — evidence of one of the largest and most mutually beneficial trading relationships in the world.  And one of our most popular exports to the United States, and I need you to stop teasing him, has been another Justin.  (Laughter.)  Now, no, no, that kid has had a great year.  (Laughter.)  And of course, leave it to a Canadian to reach international fame with a song called “Sorry.”  (Laughter and applause.)

Together, Canada and the U.S. negotiated trade agreements that have expanded opportunities for our businesses, created millions of good, well-paying jobs for our workers, and made products more affordable for more Canadian and American families.  We must never take that partnership for granted, and I can promise you that my government never will.

But nor should we forget that our responsibilities extend beyond our ruling borders and across generations, which means getting rid of that outdated notion that a health environment and a strong economy stand in opposition to one another.  And it means that when we come to issues like climate change, we need to acknowledge that we are all in this together.  Our children and grandchildren will judge us not by the words we said, but by the actions we took — or failed to take.

If we truly wish to leave them a better world than the one we inherited from our own parents — and I know, Mr. President, that you and the First Lady want this as strongly as Sophie and I do — we cannot deny the science.  We cannot pretend that climate change is still up for debate.  (Speaks French.)

Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership — your global leadership on the pressing issue of the environment and climate change.  (Applause.)

And finally, we believe — Canadians and Americans — in the fundamental truth that diversity can be a source of strength.  That we are thriving and prosperous countries not in spite of our differences but because of them.  Canadians know this.  It’s why communities across the country welcomed more than 25,000 Syrian refugees over the past four months.  (Applause.)  And not as visitors or temporary citizens, but as Canadians.  But of course, Americans understand this, too.  It’s why each generation has welcomed newcomers seeking liberty and the promise of a better life.  It’s what has made America great over the past decades.

We know that if we seek to be even greater, we must do greater things — be more compassionate, be more accepting, be more open to those who dress differently or eat different foods, or speak different languages.  Our identities as Canadians and Americans are enriched by these differences, not threatened by them.

On our own, we make progress.  But together, our two countries make history.  Duty-bound, loyal, and forever linked, whatever the future holds, we will face it together.  Neighbors, partners, allies, and friends.  This is our experience and our example to the world.

Barack, thank you for all that you have done these past seven years to preserve this most important relationship.  May the special connection between our two countries continue to flourish in the years to come, and may my grey hair come in at a much slower rate than yours has.  (Laughter.)

And with that, on behalf of 36 million Americans, I propose a toast to the President, to the First Lady, and to the people of the United States of America.  Cheers.

(A toast is offered.)

8:54 P.M. EST

Political Headlines March 10, 2016: White House State Dinner in Honor of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau




Guest list for state dinner in honour of Justin Trudeau

 Source: Toronto Star, 3-10-16
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ms. Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau

Ms. Naomi Aberly, Philanthropist

  • Mr. Larry Lebowitz

Mr. David Abney, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, United Parcel Service

  • Ms. Sherry Abney

The Honorable Adewale Adeyemo, Deputy Assistant to the President & Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics, National Security Council, The White House

  • Ms. Heather Wong

Mr. Michael Alter, President, The Alter Group

  • Ms. Ellen Alter

Mr. Robert Anderson, Author

  • Mr. Eric Harland

The Honorable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science & Economic Development of Canada

Ms. Sara Bareilles, Singer

  • Ms. Jennifer Bareilles

Mr. Bruce Bastian, Co-Founder, WordPerfect Corporation

  • Mr. Clinton Ford

Mr. Gary Bettman, Commissioner, National Hockey League

  • Mr. William Daly III

The Honorable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development & La Francophonie of Canada

The Honorable Tony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State

  • The Honorable Evan Ryan

Ms. Angela Bogdan, Chief of Protocol of Canada

Mr. Jeremy Broadhurst, Deputy to the Chief of Staff & Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of Canada

Mr. Stephen Bronfman, Canadian Business Representative & Philanthropist

Ms. Ursula Burns, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Xerox Corporation

  • Mr. Lloyd Bean

Mr. Gerald Butts, Principal Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

The Honorable Kristie Canegallo, Assistant to the President & Deputy Chief of Staff for Implementation, The White House

  • Ms. Simi Shah

The Honorable Ashton Carter, Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense

  • Ms. Cynthia DeFelice

The Honorable Susan Collins, U.S. Senator (Maine)

  • Mr. Peter Vigue

Ms. Audie Cornish-Emery, National Public Radio

  • Mr. Theodore Emery

The Honorable Susan Davis, U.S. Representative (California)

  • Dr. Steven J. Davis

The Honorable Mark Dayton, Governor of Minnesota

The Honorable Anita Decker Breckenridge, Assistant to the President & Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, The White House

  • Mr. Russell Breckenridge

The Honorable Brian Deese, Assistant to the President & Senior Advisor, The White House

  • Ms. Kara Deese

The Honorable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada

Ms. Karen Dixon, Attorney & Executive Committee Member, Lambda Legal

  • Dr. Nan Schaffer

Ms. Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

  • Mr. Andrew Light

Mr. Adam Entous, The Wall Street Journal

  • Ms. Sandra Medina

Mr. Mark Feierstein, Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, National Security Council, The White House

  • Ms. Tiffany Stone

Mr. Michael J. Fox, Actor

  • Ms. Tracy Pollan

The Honorable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of International Trade of Canada

The Honorable Michael Froman, Ambassador, United States Trade Representative

  • Ms. Nancy Goodman

Ms. Anna Gainey, President of the Liberal Party of Canada & Philanthropist

Mr. Mark Gallogly, Co-founder & Managing Principal, Centerbridge Partners

  • Ms. Elizabeth Strickler

The Honorable Suzy George, Deputy Assistant to the President & Executive Secretary & Chief of Staff of the National Security Council, The White House

  • Ms. Devon George-Eghdami

The Honorable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness of Canada

Mr. Jean Grégoire, Father of Mrs. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau

  • Mrs. Estelle Blais, Mother of Mrs. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau

The Honorable Avril Haines, Assistant to the President & Deputy National Security Advisor, National Security Council, The White House

  • Mr. David Davighi

Mr. John Hannaford, Foreign & Defense Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister & Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet Privy Council Office of Canada

The Honorable Orrin G. Hatch, President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate (Utah)

  • Ms. Wendy Hatch

Ms. Marillyn Hewson, Chairman, President, & Chief Executive Officer, Lockheed Martin

  • Mr. James Hewson

The Honorable Bruce Heyman, U.S. Ambassador to Canada

  • Ms. Vicki Heyman

Mr. Grant Hill, Former Basketball Player, Member of The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition

  • Ms. Tamia Hill

Dr. Irwin Jacobs, Co-founder, Qualcomm & Chair of the Board of Trustees, Salk Institute

  • Ms. Joan Jacobs

The Honorable Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, U .S. Department of State

  • Mr. Jonathan Jacobson

The Honorable Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor & Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs & Public Engagement, The White House

  • Mr. Anthony Balkissoon

The Honorable Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

  • Ms. Susan DiMarco

The Honorable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Wayne Jordan, Executive, Founder & Principal, Jordan Real Estate Investments

  • Ms. Quinn Delaney

Mr. Jonathan Kaplan, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, The Melt

  • Ms. Marci Glazer

The Honorable Derek Kilmer, U.S. Representative (Washington)

  • Ms. Jennifer Kilmer

The Honorable Angus King, U.S. Senator (Maine)

  • Ms. Kathryn Rand

Mr. Robert Klein II, President, Klein Financial Corporation & Chairman Emeritus, California Institute of Regenerative Medicine

  • Mr. Robert Klein III

The Honorable Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator (Minnesota)

  • Mr. John Bessler

The Honorable Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senator (Vermont)

  • Ms. Marcelle Leahy

Ms. Twila Legare, Letter Writer

  • Mr. Marc Legare

The Honorable Jacob Lew, Secretary of the Treasury, U.S. Department of the Treasury

Mr. Charles Lewis, Chairman, Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation

  • Ms. Penny Sebring

Mr. Andrew Liveris, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, The Dow Chemical Company

  • Ms. Paula Liveris

Mr. Alexander Macgillivray, Deputy Chief Technology Officer, The White House

  • Ms. Shona Crabtree

His Excellency David MacNaughton, Ambassador of Canada to the United States of America

  • Mrs. Leslie Noble

The Honorable Denis McDonough, Assistant to the President & Chief of Staff, The White House

  • Ms. Karin McDonough

The Honorable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment & Climate Change of Canada

Mr. Lorne Michaels, Executive Producer, Saturday Night Live

  • Ms. Alice Michaels

The Honorable Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security & Counterterrorism, National Security Council, The White House

  • Mr. Mark Monaco

The Honorable Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy

  • Ms. Katya Frois-Moniz

Mr. Dennis Muilenburg, Chairman, President, & Chief Executive Officer, The Boeing Company

  • Mr. Gregory Smith

The Honorable Shailagh Murray, Assistant to the President & Senior Advisor, The White House

  • Mr. Neil King

Mr. Mike Myers, Actor

  • Ms. Kelly Myers

The Honorable Marvin Nicholson, Special Assistant to the President, Trip Director & Personal Aide to the President, The White House

  • Ms. Helen Pajcic

Dr. Konrad Ng, Executive Director, Shangri La, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art

  • Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng

Ms. Sandra Oh, Actress

  • Mr. Lev Rukhin

Mr. John Owens, Chairman of the Board, MediGuide International

  • Ms. Missy Owens

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives (California)

  • Mr. Paul Pelosi

The Honorable Amy Pope, Deputy Assistant to the President & Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, National Security Council, The White House

  • Mr. Neil Allison

The Honorable Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations,

  • Mr. Cass Sunstein

The Honorable Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce, U.S. Department of Commerce

  • Mr. John Poorman

Mr. Thomas Pritzker, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, The Pritzker Organization

  • Ms. Margot Pritzker

Ms. Kate Purchase, Director of Communications, Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

Ms. Roberta Rampton, Reuters

  • Mr. Peter Rampton

Mr. Ryan Reynolds, Actor

  • Ms. Blake Lively

The Honorable Ben Rhodes, Assistant to the President & Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications & Speechwriting, National Security Council, The White House

  • Ms. Ann Norris

The Honorable Steven Ricchetti, Assistant to the President & Chief of Staff to the Vice President, The White House

  • Ms. Amy Ricchetti

The Honorable Susan Rice, National Security Advisor, National Security Council, The White House

  • Mr. Ian Cameron

Dr. Martine Rothblatt, Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer, United Therapeutics Corporation

  • Mrs. Bina Rothblatt

The Honorable Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defense of Canada

The Honorable Peter Selfridge, Chief of Protocol, U.S. Department of State

  • Ms. Parita Shah Selfridge

The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen, U.S. Senator (New Hampshire)

  • Mr. William Shaheen

Ms. Beth Shaw, Personal Finance Commentator & Member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans

  • Mr. Adam Shaw

Mr. Adam Silver, Commissioner, National Basketball Association

  • Ms. Maggie Grise

Mr. Ian Simmons, Co-Founder & Principal, Blue Haven Initiative

  • Ms. Liesel Simmons

The Honorable Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change, U.S. Department of State

  • Ms. Jennifer Klein

Mrs. Michéle Taylor, Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council

  • Dr. Kenneth Taylor

The Honorable Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President & Chief of Staff to the First Lady, The White House

Ms. Katie Telford, Chief of Staff, Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

The Honorable Jon Tester, U.S. Senator (Montana)

  • Ms. Sharla Tester

The Honorable Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans & the Canadian Coast Guard of Canada

Mrs. Margaret Trudeau, Mother of Prime Minister Trudeau

Mr. Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council & Secretary to the Cabinet Privy Council Office of Canada

The Honorable Melissa Winter, Deputy Assistant to the President & Senior Advisor to the First Lady, The White House

Mr. David Zaslav, President & Chief Executive Officer, Discovery Communications

  • Ms. Pam Zaslav

Full Text Political Transcripts March 10, 2016: President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Remarks at Joint Press Conference



Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada in Joint Press Conference

Source: WH, 3-10-16



Rose Garden

11:11 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you, everybody.  Please have a seat. Well, once again, I want to welcome Prime Minister Trudeau to the White House.  We just completed a very productive meeting.  Although I regret to inform you that we still have not reached agreement on hockey.  But it is not interfering with the rest of our bilateral relationship.  (Laughter.)

As I said earlier, this visit reflects something we Americans don’t always say enough, and that is how much we value our great alliance and partnership with our friends up north.  We’re woven together so deeply — as societies, as economies — that it’s sometimes easy to forget how truly remarkable our relationship is.  A shared border — more than 5,000 miles — that is the longest between any two nations in the world.  Every day, we do some $2 billion in trade and investment — and that’s the largest bilateral economic relationship in the world.  Every day, more than 400,000 Americans and Canadians cross the border  — workers, businesspeople, students, tourists, neighbors.  And, of course, every time we have a presidential election, our friends to the north have to brace for an exodus of Americans who swear they’ll move to Canada if the guy from the other party wins.  (Laughter.)  But, typically, it turns out fine.  (Laughter.)

This is now my second meeting with Justin.  I’m grateful that I have him as a partner.  We’ve got a common outlook on what our nations can achieve together.  He campaigned on a message of hope and of change.  His positive and optimistic vision is inspiring young people.  At home, he’s governing with a commitment to inclusivity and equality.  On the world stage, his country is leading on climate change and he cares deeply about development.  So, from my perspective, what’s not to like?

Of course, no two nations agree on everything.  Our countries are no different.  But in terms of our interests, our values, how we approach the world, few countries match up the way the United States and Canada do.  And given our work together today, I can say — and I believe the Prime Minister would agree — that when it comes to the central challenges that we face, our two nations are more closely aligned than ever.

We want to make it easier to trade and invest with one another.  America is already the top destination for Canadian exports, and Canada is the top market for U.S. exports, which support about 1.7 million good-paying American jobs.  When so many of our products, like autos, are built on both sides of the border in an integrated supply chain, this co-production makes us more competitive in the global economy as a whole.  And we want to keep it that way.

So we’ve instructed our teams to stay focused on making it even easier for goods and people to move back and forth across the borders — including reducing bottlenecks and streamlining regulations.  We discussed how to move forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and today we also reaffirmed our determination to move ahead with an agreement to pre-clear travelers through immigration and customs, making it even easier for Canadians and Americans to travel and visit and do business together.

As NATO allies, we’re united against the threat of terrorism.  Canada is an extraordinarily valued member of the global coalition fighting ISIL — tripling its personnel to help train and advise forces in Iraq, stepping up its intelligence efforts in the region, and providing critical humanitarian support.  We’re working closely together to prevent the flow of foreign fighters, and today, we agreed to share more information — including with respect to our no-fly lists and full implementation of our entry/exit system — even as we uphold the privacy and civil liberties of our respective citizens.

In Syria, the cessation of hostilities has led to a measurable drop in violence in the civil war, and the United States and Canada continue to be leaders in getting humanitarian aid to Syrians who are in desperate need.  Meanwhile, our two countries continue to safely welcome refugees from that conflict. And I want to commend Justin and the Canadian people once again for their compassionate leadership on this front.

I’m especially pleased to say the United States and Canada are fully united in combating climate change.  As the first U.S. President to visit the Arctic, I saw how both of our nations are threatened by rising seas, melting permafrost, disappearing glaciers and sea ice.  And so we are focusing on making sure the Paris agreement is fully implemented, and we’re working to double our investments in clean energy research and development.

Today, we’re also announcing some new steps.  Canada is joining us in our aggressive goal to bring down methane emissions in the oil and gas sectors in both of our countries, and together we’re going to move swiftly to establish comprehensive standards to meet that goal.  We’re also going to work together to phase down HFCs and to limit carbon emissions from international aviation.  We’re announcing a new climate and science partnership to protect the Arctic and its people.  And later this year, I’ll welcome our partners, including Canada, to our White House Science Ministerial on the Arctic to deepen our cooperation in this vital region.

We’re also grateful for Canada’s partnership as we renew America’s leadership across the hemisphere.  Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you for Canada’s continuing support for our new chapter of engagement with the Cuban people, which I will continue with my upcoming visit to Cuba next week.  We’re going to work to help Colombia achieve peace and remove the deadly legacy of landmines there.  And our scientists and public health professionals will work with partners across the hemisphere to prevent the spread of the Zika virus and work together actively for diagnostic and vaccines that can make a real difference.

And finally, our shared values — our commitment to human development and the dignity of all people — continue to guide our work as global partners.  Through the Global Health Security Agenda, we’re stepping up our efforts to prevent outbreaks of diseases from becoming epidemics.  We are urgently working to help Ethiopia deal with the worst drought in half a century.  Today, our spouses, Michelle and Sophie, are reaffirming our commitment to the health and education of young women and girls around the world.  And Canada will be joining our Power Africa initiative to bring electricity — including renewable energy — to homes and businesses across the continent and help lift people out of poverty.  And those are our values at work.

So, again, Justin, I want to thank you for your partnership. I believe we’ve laid a foundation for even greater cooperation for our countries for years to come.  And I’d like to think that it is only the beginning.  I look forward to welcoming you back for the Nuclear Security Summit in a few weeks.  I’m pleased that we were able to announce that the next North American Leaders Summit that will be in Canada this summer.  The Prime Minister has invited me to address the Canadian parliament, and that’s a great honor.  I look forward to the opportunity to speak directly to the Canadian people about the extraordinary future that we can build together.

Prime Minister Trudeau.

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  Thank you, Mr. President.

Good morning, everyone.  It’s an honor to be here.  As I’ve reflected on the storied relationship between our two great countries, I constantly return to President Kennedy’s wise words on our friendship that, “what unites us is far greater than what divides us.”  And as President Obama mentioned earlier, if geography made us neighbors, then shared values made us kindred spirits, and it is our choices, individually and collectively, that make us friends.

That friendship, matched by much hard work, has allowed us to do great things throughout our history — from the beaches of Normandy to the free trade agreement, and now, today, on climate change.  The President and I share a common goal:  We want a clean-growth economy that continues to provide good jobs and great opportunities for all of our citizens.  And I’m confident that, by working together, we’ll get there sooner than we think.

Let’s take the Paris agreement, for example.  That agreement is both a symbolic declaration of global cooperation on climate change, as well as a practical guide for growing our economies in a responsible and sustainable way.  Canada and the U.S. have committed to signing the agreement as soon as possible.  We know that our international partners expect and, indeed, need leadership from us on this issue.

The President and I have announced today that we’ll take ambitious action to reduce methane emissions nearly by half from the oil and gas sector, reduce use and emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, and implement aligned greenhouse gas emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles, amongst other plans to fight climate change.

(As interpreted from French.)  We also announced a new partnership aiming to develop a sustainable economy in the Arctic.  This partnership foresees new standards based on scientific data, from fishing in the high seas of the Arctic, as well as set new standards to ensure maritime transport with less emissions.  The partnership will also promote sustainable development in the region, in addition to putting the bar higher in terms of preserving the biodiversity in the Arctic.

We have also decided to make our borders both more open and more safe by agreeing of pre-clearing at the Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto and the Jean Lesage Airport in Quebec, as well as the railroad stations in Montreal and Vancouver.  Moreover, we’re creating a U.S.-Canada working group in the next 60 days on the recourses to assess how we will resolve errors of identity on the no-fly list.

(Speaks English.)  The President and I acknowledge the fundamental and wholly unique economic relationship between Canada and the United States.  We have, historically, been each other’s largest trading partners.  Each and every day, over $2.4 billion worth of goods and services cross the border.  Today, we reaffirmed our commitment to streamlining trade between our countries.

Overall, the President and I agree on many things, including, of paramount importance, the direction we want to take our countries in to ensure a clean and prosperous future.  We’ve made tremendous progress on many issues.  Unfortunately, I will leave town with my beloved Expos still here in Washington.  You can’t have everything.  (Laughter.)

I’d like to conclude by extending my deepest thanks to Barack for his leadership on the climate change file to date.  I want to assure the American people that they have a real partner in Canada.  Canada and the U.S. will stand side by side to confront the pressing needs that face not only our two countries, but the entire planet.

I’m very much looking forward to the remainder of my time here in Washington.  So thank you again for your leadership and your friendship.  I know that our two countries can achieve great things by working together as allies and as friends, as we have done so many times before.

Merci beaucoup, Barack.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  All right, we’re going to take a few questions.  We’ll start with Julie Davis.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I want to ask you about the Supreme Court.  You’ve already said you’re looking for a highly qualified nominee with impeccable credentials.  Can you give us a sense of what other factors you’re considering in making your final choice?  How much of this comes down to a gut feeling for you?  And does it affect your decision to know that your nominee is very likely to hang out in the public eye without hearings or a vote for a long time, or maybe ever?  And, frankly, shouldn’t that be driving your decision if you’re asking someone to put themselves forward for this position as this point?

For Prime Minister Trudeau, I wanted to ask you — we know you’ve been following our presidential campaign here in the U.S. As the President alluded to, you’ve even made a joke about welcoming Americans who might be frightened of a Donald Trump presidency to your country.  What do you think the stakes are for you and for the relationship between Canada and the United States if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz were to win the presidency and to succeed President Obama?  You obviously see eye-to-eye with him on a lot of issues.  What do you think — how would it affect the relationship if one of them were to succeed President Obama?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Even though it wasn’t directed to me, let me just — (laughter) — I do want to point out I am absolutely certain that, in 2012, when there was the possibility that I might be reelected there were folks who were threatening to go to Canada, as well.  And one of the great things about a relationship like Canada’s and the United States’ is it transcends party and it’s bipartisan in terms of the interest that we share.

With respect to the Supreme Court, I’ve told you, Julie, what I’m looking for.  I want somebody who is an outstanding jurist, who has impeccable legal credentials, who, by historical standards, would not even be questioned as qualified for the Court.

Obviously, it’s somebody who I want to make sure follows the Constitution; cares about things like stare decisis and precedent; understands the necessary humility of a judge at any level in looking at statute, looking at what the elected branches are doing; is not viewing themselves as making law or, in some ways, standing above elected representatives, but also recognizes the critical role that that branch plays in protecting minorities to ensuring that the political system doesn’t skew in ways that systematically leave people out, that are mindful of the traditions that are embedded in our cherished documents like the Bill of Rights.

So in terms of who I select, I’m going to do my job.  And then my expectation is going to be that the Senate do its job as outlined in the Constitution.  I’ve said this before — I find it ironic that people who are constantly citing the Constitution would suddenly read into the Constitution requirements, norms, procedures that are nowhere to be found there.  That’s precisely the kinds of interpretive approach that they have vehemently rejected and that they accused liberals of engaging in all the time.  Well, you can’t abandon your principles — if, in fact, these are your principles — simply for the sake of political expedience.

So we’ll see how they operate once a nomination has been made.  I’m confident that whoever I select, among fair-minded people will be viewed as an eminently qualified person.  And it will then be up to Senate Republicans to decide whether they want to follow the Constitution and abide by the rules of fair play that ultimately undergird our democracy and that ensure that the Supreme Court does not just become one more extension of our polarized politics.

If and when that happens, our system is not going to work.  It’s not that the Supreme Court or any of our courts can be hermetically sealed from the rest of our society.  These are human beings.  They read the newspapers; they’ve got opinions; they’ve got values.  But our goal is to have them be objective and be able to execute their duties in a way that gives everybody — both the winning party and the losing party in any given case — a sense that they were treated fairly.  That depends on a process of selecting and confirming judges that is perceived as fair.  And my hope is, is that cooler heads will prevail and people will reflect on what’s at stake here once a nomination is made.

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  One of the things that is abundantly clear whenever a President and Prime Minister sit down to engage on important issues of relevance to our peoples is that the relationship, the friendship between our two countries goes far beyond any two individuals or any ideologies.

I have tremendous confidence in the American people, and look forward to working with whomever they choose to send to this White House later this year.


Q    Good morning.  This meeting is happening at a unique point in the Canada-U.S. relationship.  President Obama, you have very little time left here.  Prime Minister Trudeau, you have several years to think about and work on Canada’s most important relationship.  So I’d like to ask you a longer-term question, maybe to lay down some markers about big ideas, big things that you think the two countries could achieve in the coming years, beyond the next few months, and whether those things might include something like a common market that would allow goods and services and workers to flow more freely across our border.

And on a more personal note, you’ve had a chance to observe each other’s election campaigns and now you’ve had a chance to work together a little bit.  I’d like to ask you for your impressions — to ask about your impression of President Obama and his potential legacy, and about Prime Minister Trudeau’s potential.  And if you could answer that in French, bonus points to either of you — (laughter) — but we’d be especially keen to hear Prime Minister Trudeau do so.  Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  Thank you, Alex.  First of all, we very much did engage on big issues throughout our conversations and throughout our hard work this morning, and over the months leading up to this meeting today — issues that are of import not just to all of our citizens but to the entire world.

Whether it’s how we ensure that there is no contradiction between a strong economy and a protected environment; understand how we need to work together as individual countries but, indeed, as a planet to address the challenges of climate change; how we continue to seek to ensure security for our citizens here at home, but also create stability and opportunity and health security for people around the world facing pandemics and violence and issues — these are big issues that Canada and the U.S. have always been engaged on in various ways over the past decades and centuries, and, indeed, will continue to.

One of the things that we highlight is the fact that we have different scales, different perspectives on similar issues and on shared values is actually a benefit in that we can complement each other in our engagement with the world and our approach to important issues.

So I look forward to many, many, many more years — it will certainly outlive the both of us — of a tremendous and responsible and effective friendship and collaboration between our two countries.

(As interpreted from French.)  The topic of our discussions this morning has been what is at stake — climate change, security in the world, our commitments towards the most vulnerable populations.  Canada and the United States are the lucky countries in many ways — they will always have a lot to do in order to be together in the world.  And this is what we are going to keep on doing in the years and the decades to come, and we hope in the centuries to come.

About President Obama, I’ve learned a lot from him.  He is somebody who is a deep thinker.  He is somebody with a big heart but also a big brain.  And for me to be able to count on him as a friend who has lived through many of the things that I’m about to encounter on a political stage, on the international stage, it’s a great comfort to me.  And it is always great to have people that you can trust, people that you can count on personally, especially when you are facing very big challenges such as what we are doing right now in the United States and Canada.

(Speaks English.)  — always pleased to hear from President Obama how he has engaged with difficult issues of the past, because he is a man of both tremendous heart and tremendous intellect.  And being able to draw on his experience and his wisdom as I face the very real challenges that our countries and, indeed, our world will be facing in the coming years is something I appreciate deeply about my friend, Barack.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, Alex, was it?


PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Let me just note, first of all, that the tenor of your question seems to imply that I’m old and creaky.  (Laughter.)

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  Not the tenor of my answer, I hope. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  No, you managed it well.  (Laughter.)  But don’t think I didn’t catch that.  It is true — I think I’ve said before that in my congratulatory call, I indicated to him that if, in fact, you plan to keep your dark hair, then you have to start dyeing it early.  (Laughter.)  You hit a certain point and it’s too late — you’ll be caught.

But look, I think Justin and his delegation — because one of the things we learn very rapidly in these jobs is, is that this is a team effort and not a solo act — they’re bringing the right values, enormous energy, enormous passion and commitment to their work, and perhaps most importantly, it’s clear that they are keenly interested in engaging Canadian citizens in the process of solving problems.

And I think that’s how democracies are supposed to work.  And their instincts are sound.  And that’s reflected in the positive response to the work that they’ve done so far, and I think that will carry them very far.  And Justin’s talent and concern for the Canadian people and his appreciation of the vital role that Canada can play in the larger world is self-apparent.  He is, I think, going to do a great job.  And we’re looking forward to partnering with him and we’re glad to have him and his team as a partner.

And with respect to big ideas, look, to some degree, you don’t fix what’s not broken.  And the relationship is extraordinary and doesn’t, I don’t think, need some set of revolutionary concepts.  What it does require is not taking the relationship for granted.  It does require steady effort.  And perhaps most importantly, it requires, because we have so much in common, that we recognize on the big, looming issues on the horizon, it is vital for us to work together because the more aligned we are, the more we can shape the international agenda to meet these challenges.

Climate change is such an example.  This is going to be a big problem for everybody.  There are countries that are going to be hit worse by it; in some ways, Canada and the United States, as wealthier countries, can probably adapt and manage better.  On the other hand, we’re also those responsible for a lot of the carbon pollution that is causing climate change.  If we don’t agree, if we’re not aggressive, if we’re not far-sighted, if we don’t pool our resources around the research and development and clean energy agenda that’s required to solve this problem, then other countries won’t step up and it won’t get solved.  That’s a big idea.  That’s a really important effort.

With respect to the economy, one of the things that Canada and the United States share is a commitment to a free market.  I believe, and I know Justin does as well, that a market-based economy not only has proven to be the greatest engine for prosperity the world has ever known, but also underwrites our individual freedoms in many ways.  And we value our business sector, and we value entrepreneurship.  But what we’re seeing across the developed world — and this will have manifestations in the developing world — is the need for more inclusion in growth, making sure that it’s broad-based, making sure that people are not left behind in a globalized economy.  And that’s a big idea for the United States and Canada to work together on, along with our other partners.

If we don’t get this right, if we do not make sure that the average Canadian or the average American has confidence that the fruits of their labor, the opportunities for their children are going to continue to expand over time, if they see societies in which a very few are doing better and better and the middle class and working people are falling further and further behind, that destabilizes the economy; it makes it less efficient; it makes it less rapid in its growth.  But it also starts destabilizing our politics and our democracies.

And so, working together to find effective ways — not to close off borders, not to pretend that somehow we can shut off trade, not to forget that we are, ourselves, nations of immigrants and that diversity is our strength — but rather to say, yes, the world is big and we are going to help shape it, and we’re going to value our openness and our diversity, and the fact that we are leaders in a global supply chain but we’re going to do so in ways that make sure everybody benefits — that’s important work that we’re going to have to do together.  And I know Justin shares that commitment just as I do.

Margaret Brennan.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Some of your critics have pointed to the incredibly polarized political climate under your administration as contributing to the rise of someone as provocative as Donald Trump.  Do you feel responsibility for that, or even some of the protectionist rhetoric from some Democratic candidates?  Do you have a timeline for when you might make a presidential endorsement?  And to follow on my colleague’s question here, do you feel political heat is constraining your pool of viable Supreme Court nominees?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  It’s a three-fer.  I think it’s important for me to nominate a Supreme Court nominee quickly because I think it’s important for the Supreme Court to have its full complement of justices.  I don’t feel constrained in terms of the pool to draw from or that I’m having to take shortcuts in terms of the selection and vetting process.

With respect to your first question, I’ve actually heard this argument a number of times.  I have been blamed by Republicans for a lot of things, but being blamed for their primaries and who they’re selecting for their party is novel.  (Laughter.)

Look, I’ve said — I said it at the State of the Union that one of my regrets is the degree to which polarization and the nasty tone of our politics has accelerated rather than waned over the course of the last seven and a half years.  And I do all kinds of soul-searching in terms of are there things I can do better to make sure that we’re unifying the country.  But I also have to say, Margaret, that, objectively, it’s fair to say that the Republican political elites and many of the information outlets — social media, news outlets, talk radio, television stations — have been feeding the Republican base for the last seven years a notion that everything I do is to be opposed; that cooperation or compromise somehow is a betrayal; that maximalist, absolutist positions on issues are politically advantageous; that there is a “them” out there and an “us,” and “them” are the folks who are causing whatever problems you’re experiencing.

And the tone of that politics — which I certainly have not contributed to — I don’t think that I was the one to prompt questions about my birth certificate, for example.  I don’t remember saying, hey, why don’t you ask me about that.  (Laughter.)  Or why don’t you question whether I’m American, or whether I’m loyal, or whether I have America’s best interests at heart — those aren’t things that were prompted by any actions of mine.

And so what you’re seeing within the Republican Party is, to some degree, all those efforts over a course of time creating an environment where somebody like a Donald Trump can thrive.  He’s just doing more of what has been done for the last seven and a half years.

And, in fact, in terms of his positions on a whole range of issues, they’re not very different from any of the other candidates.  It’s not as if there’s a massive difference between Mr. Trump’s position on immigration and Mr. Cruz’s position on immigration.  Mr. Trump might just be more provocative in terms of how he says it, but the actual positions aren’t that different.  For that matter, they’re not that different from Mr. Rubio’s positions on immigration — despite the fact that both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio, their own families are the products of immigration and the openness of our society.

So I am more than happy to own the responsibility as President, as the only office holder who was elected by all the American people, to continue to make efforts to bridge divides and help us find common ground.  As I’ve said before, I think that common ground exists all across the country.  You see it every day in how people work together and live together and play together and raise their kids together.  But what I’m not going to do is to validate some notion that the Republican crack-up that’s been taking place is a consequence of actions that I’ve taken.

And what’s interesting — I’ll just say one last thing about this — there are thoughtful conservatives who are troubled by this, who are troubled by the direction of their party.  I think it is very important for them to reflect on what it is about the politics they’ve engaged in that allows the circus we’ve been seeing to transpire, and to do some introspection.

Because, ultimately, I want an effective Republican Party.  I think this country has to have responsible parties that can govern, and that are prepared to lead and govern whether they’re in the minority or in the majority, whether they occupy the White House or they do not.  And I’ve often said I want a serious, effective Republican Party — in part to challenge some of the blind spots and dogmas in the Democratic Party.  I think that’s useful.

You mentioned trade, for example.  I believe that there have been bad trade deals on occasion in the past that oftentimes they have served the interests of global corporations but not necessarily served the interests of workers.  But I’m absolutely persuaded that we cannot put up walls around a global economy, and that to sell a bill of goods to the American people and workers that if you just shut down trade somehow your problems will go away prevents us from actually solving some of these big problems about inequality and the decline of our manufacturing base and so on.

And that’s an area where some traditional conservatives and economists have had some important insights.  But they can’t be presented effectively if it’s combined with no interest in helping workers, and busting up unions, and providing tax breaks to the wealthy rather than providing help to folks who are working hard and trying to pay the bills.  And it certainly is not going to be heard if it’s coupled with vehement, anti-immigrant sentiment that betrays our values.


Q    And an endorsement, sir?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I think that the Democratic voters are doing just fine working this out.  I think it’s useful that we’ve had a vigorous debate among two good people who care deeply about our country and who have fought hard on behalf of working people in this country for a long time.  I think it’s been a good conversation.  And my most important role will be to make sure that after primaries is done I’m bringing everybody together so that we focus on winning the general election.

Q    Mr. President, I’ll be asking the Prime Minister my question in French, but I will repeat for you in English afterwards.

(As interpreted.)  Mr. Trudeau, you have not talked about softwood lumber, and it’s a major problem for the bilateral relations.  Have you thought about solutions to avoid — the conflict reopens in October.  And you signed several agreements  — trade, environment — but what can you do so that the implementations survive the November election and that all of this has to be restarted a year from now?

(Asks in English.) — softwood lumber, which is looming over the bilateral relation?  And has any avenue been explored into avoiding a new conflict in October?  And to what extent is the fear of losing seats for the Democrats due to this issue kind of hampering progress on this?  And that being said, you and Prime Minister Trudeau have signed a number of agreements on a number of issues.  What can be done for this progress not to be lost with the arrival of a new administration and have everything have to be started all over again?

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  (As interpreted.)  For months and months, we have been preparing the meeting.  And this morning, we worked very hard and we made a lot of progress, and we have showed what is at stake.  A lot is at stake.  And we hope that this is going to be solved shortly to help enormously not only Canadian workers and Canadian economy, but also the economy of both our countries.

And among these discussions, of course, we raised the question of softwood lumber.  We keep on working on that.  And I’m totally confident that we are on the right track towards a solution in the next weeks and months to come.

Now, in terms of the decisions that we have taken and the work we have done today, I’m extremely confident that what we have managed to achieve, the agreements that we have taken and the solutions that we have found for the problems that we face together, I’m confident that all this is going to become a reality.  Because at every stage, not only are we talking about what is good for one side or the other side, but we’re talking about what is good for both countries.  Our economies are so interwoven, our populations are so interconnected, that we are going to have agreement, for instance, that will facilitate crossing of borders while increasing security of our citizens.  This is good for both sides.  And it is where we worked so hard together.  There was a lot of progress and a lot of success today.

(Speaks in English.)  — on many different issues over the course of an extremely productive meeting this morning — issues that have been worked on intensely by our respective friends, colleagues and delegations over the past weeks and months.  And certainly softwood lumber came up.  And I’m confident that we are on a track towards resolving this irritant in the coming weeks and months.

But in general, the issues that we made tremendous progress on I’m extremely confident will move forward in a rapid and appropriate fashion because we found such broad agreement on issues that aren’t just good for one of our two countries, but indeed both of our countries.  Canadians and Americans, for their jobs, for our kids and their futures, for workers, businesses, as we tackle challenges on the economy, challenges on the environment, and understand that working together in constructive, productive ways is exactly what this relationship and, indeed, this friendship is all about.

So I’m feeling extremely good about the hard work that was done this morning, and indeed, about the work remaining to do over the coming weeks and months on the issues we brought forward today.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  This issue of softwood lumber will get resolved in some fashion.  Our teams are already making progress on it.  It’s been a longstanding bilateral irritant, but hardly defines the nature of the U.S.-Canadian relationship.  And we have some very smart people, and they’ll find a way to resolve it — undoubtedly, to the dissatisfaction of all parties concerned, because that’s the nature of these kinds of things, right?  Each side will want 100 percent, and we’ll find a way for each side to get 60 percent or so of what they need, and people will complain and grumble, but it will be fine.  (Laughter.)

And in terms of continuity — one thing I will say — this is an area where I’ll play the elder statesman, as Alex described me.  (Laughter.)  And as somebody who came in after an administration that, politically, obviously saw things very differently than I did, what you discover is that for all the differences you may have in your political parties, when you’re actually in charge, then you have to be practical, and you do what is needed to be done and what’s in front of you.  And one of the things that is important for the United States, or for Canada, or for any leading power in the world, is to live up to its commitments and to provide continuing momentum on efforts, even if they didn’t start under your administration.

So there were a whole host of initiatives that began under the Bush administration — some that I was very enthusiastic about, like PEPFAR, that has saved millions of lives and prevented HIV/AIDS, or provided vital drugs to those already infected with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world — something that President Bush deserves enormous credit for.  We continued that.

But there are also some areas where, when I was outside the government, I questioned how they were approaching it.  I might have tweaked it.  To the extent that it involved foreign policy, I might say to my foreign policy partners, look, we have a problem of doing it this way, but here is a suggestion for how we can do the same thing, or meet your interests in a slightly different way.

But you’re always concerned about making sure that the credibility of the United States is sustained, or the credibility of Canada is sustained — which is why when there’s turnover in governments, the work that’s been done continues.  And particularly when you have a close friendship and relationship with a partner like Canada, it’s not as if the work we’re doing on the Arctic or on entry and exit visas vanishes when the next President comes in.  Of course, I intend to make sure that the next President who comes in agrees with me on everything.  (Laughter.) But just in case that doesn’t happen, the U.S.-Canadian relationship will be fine.

All right?  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

12:03 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts March 10, 2016: President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Remarks at Arrival Ceremony



Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada at Arrival Ceremony

Source: WH, 3-10-16

South Grounds

9:22 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good morning, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning!

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Bonjour.  On behalf of the American people, on behalf of Michelle and myself, it is my honor to welcome to the United States Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — (applause) — Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau, their beautiful children, and the quite good-looking Canadian delegation.  (Applause.)

It’s long been said that you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your neighbors.  (Laughter.)  Well, by virtue of geography, the United States and Canada are blessed to be neighbors.  And by choice, we are steadfast allies and the closest of friends.  (Applause.)  The truth is, though, we don’t express this enough, in part because of our national characters. Our Canadian friends can be more reserved, more easygoing.  We Americans can be a little louder, more boisterous.  And as a result, we haven’t always conveyed how much we treasure our alliance and our ties with our Canadian friends.   And that’s why, today, we are very proud to welcome the first official visit by a Canadian Prime Minister in nearly 20 years.  (Applause.)  It’s about time, eh?  (Laughter.)

And what a beautiful day it is.  Which is a little unfair.  As President, my very first foreign trip was to Canada — to Ottawa in February.  (Laughter.)  In the snow.  Still, our friends from the Great White North gave me a very warm welcome.  Mr. Prime Minister, we hope to reciprocate some of that warmth today, with your first official visit south of the border.

We’re joined today by proud Canadian-Americans.  (Applause.) We are family.  And this is also a special day for the many Canadians who live and work here in America and who enrich our lives every day.  We don’t always realize it, but so often, that neighbor, that coworker, that member of the White House staff, some of our favorite artists and performers — they’re Canadian! (Laughter.)  They sneak up on you.  (Laughter.)

Even as we remember what makes us unique, Americans and Canadians, we see ourselves in each other.  We’re guided by the same values, including our conviction that the blessings we cherish as free people are not gifts to be taken for granted but are precious freedoms that have to be defended anew by every generation.  Americans and Canadians — our brave men and women in uniform — have paid the price together across a century of sacrifice, from the poppy fields of Flanders to the rugged mountains of Afghanistan.  As NATO allies, we stand united against terrorism and for the rights of nations like Ukraine to determine their own destiny.  As leaders at the United Nations, we stand up for peace and security and the human rights of all people.

Our shared values also guide us at home.  I’m proud to be the first American President to stand with a Canadian Prime Minister and be able to say that — in both our nations — health care is not a privilege for a few but is now a right for all.  (Applause.)  And as two vast and vibrant societies, we reaffirm that our diversity is our strength — whether your family was among the first native peoples to live on these lands or refugees we welcomed just yesterday.  Whether you pray in a church or a synagogue, or a temple, or a mosque.  Where, no matter what province or state you live in, you have the freedom to marry the person that you love.  (Applause.)

Now, I don’t want to gloss over the very real differences between Americans and Canadians.  There are some things we will probably never agree on:  Whose beer is better.  (Laughter.)  Who’s better at hockey.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Royals!  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We are.  We are.  (Laughter.)

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  Don’t get me started.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Where’s the Stanley Cup right now?

AUDIENCE:  Ooooh —

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I’m sorry.  Is it in my hometown with the Chicago Blackhawks?  (Applause.)  In case you were wondering.  In case you Canadians were wondering, where is it?  (Laughter.)

And this visit is special for another reason.  Nearly 40 years ago, on another March morning, another American President welcomed another Canadian Prime Minister here to the White House. That day, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said that the United States is “Canada’s best friend and ally.”  And one of the reasons, he said, is that we have “a common outlook on the world.”  Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau carries on this work.

Mr. Prime Minister, your election and the first few months in office have brought a new energy and dynamism not only to Canada but to the relationship between our nations.  We have a common outlook on the world.  And I have to say, I have never seen so many Americans so excited about the visit of a Canadian Prime Minister.  (Applause.)

So with this visit, I believe that the United States and Canada can do even more together — even more to promote the trade and economic partnerships that provide good jobs and opportunities for our people.  Even more to ensure the security that so many Americans and Canadians count on so that they can live in safety and freedom.  Even more to protect our countries and our communities — especially in the Arctic — from climate change, just as we acted together at Paris to reach the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change.  (Applause.)  And guided by our values, we can do even more together to advance human development around the world — from saving a child from a preventable disease to giving a student in Africa electricity to study by — because, as Americans and Canadians, we believe in the inherent dignity of every human being.  (Applause.)

As always, our work as nations remains rooted in the friendship between our peoples.  And we see that every day in communities along our shared border.  Up in Hyder, Alaska, folks head across the border to celebrate Canada Day, and folks in Stewart, British Columbia come over for the Fourth of July.  At the baseball diamond in Coutts, Alberta, if you hit a home run, there’s a good chance the ball will land in Sweetgrass, Montana. (Laughter.)  And up where Derby Line, Vermont meets Stanstead, Quebec, Americans and Canadians come together at the local library where the border line literally runs right across the floor.  A resident of one of these border towns once said, we’re two different countries, but we’re like one big town and “people are always there for you.”

So, Prime Minister Trudeau — Justin, Sophie — to all our Canadian friends — we are two different countries, but days like this remind us that we’re like one big town.  And we reaffirm that Americans and Canadians will always be there for each other. Welcome to the United States.  Bienvenue, mes amis.  (Applause.)

PRIME MINSTER TRUDEAU:  Mr. President, First Lady, distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen — thank you for this extraordinary welcome.  Thank you so much for inviting Sophie and me and, through us, all of Canada to join with you on this spectacular morning.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)    Sophie and I, along with our entire delegation, are honored and touched by your magnificent hospitality, and by the reinforcement of just how powerful you are, Mr. President, to organize such a perfect day for us.  (Laughter.)

(Speaks in French, then continues in English.)

You may recall that our government was elected on a plan to strengthen the middle class.  We have an ambitious innovation agenda as we realize that revitalizing our economy will require investing in new ideas and new technologies.  Our plan will foster emerging industries, create good jobs, and increase our global competitiveness.  That was the Canadian plan, and of course, it very much resembles the challenges and the solutions that you’ve been putting forward here south of the border — a plan to invest in our country and invest in our people.  And it’s wonderful to see that our American friends and partners share and are working on the exact same objectives.

See, as our leading trading partner and closest ally, the relationship between our two countries has always been vital.  As an exporting nation, Canada is always eager to work closely to reduce trade barriers between our countries.  And speaking of exports, we know with certainty that there’s a high demand for Canadian goods down here.  A few that come to mind that President Obama just rightly recognized as being extraordinary contributors to the American success story is Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks.  (Applause.)

We’ve faced many challenges over the course of our shared history.  And while we have agreed on many things and disagreed on a few others, we remain united in a common purpose — allies, partners, and friends as we tackle the world’s great challenges. Whether we’re charting a course for environmental protection, making key investments to grow our middle class, or defending the rights of oppressed peoples abroad, Canada and the United States will always collaborate in partnership and good faith.  The history may be complex, but the bottom line is clear.  There is no relationship in the entire world like the Canada-U.S. relationship.  (Applause.)

Our great countries have been friends a long time.  We grew up together.  And like all great enduring friendships, at our best, we bring out the best in one another.  And through it all, our enormous shared accomplishments speak for themselves — prosperous, free, diverse societies that have shaped history together.

We could not be prouder of that past.  And on behalf of 36 million Canadians, I thank you all for your warm welcome.  Now let’s get to work on shaping our shared future.

Merci beaucoup.  (Applause.)

9:37 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts February 28, 2016: Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks at the Academy Awards



Remarks by the Vice President at the Academy Awards

Source: WH, 2-28-16

Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center
Los Angeles, California

8:11 P.M. PST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Hey, Matt, how are you?  (Laughter.)  (Applause.)  No, no, no, no, thank you.  I’m the least qualified man here tonight.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Good evening.  Good evening, and thank you very much.  Despite significant progress over the last few years, too many women and men — on and off college campuses — are still victims of sexual abuse.  And tonight I’m asking you to join millions of Americans, including me, President Obama, the thousands of students I’ve met on college campuses, and the artists here tonight to take the pledge — a pledge that says:  I will intervene in situations when consent has not or cannot be given.

Let’s change the culture.  (Applause.)  We must and we can change the culture so that no abused woman or man, like the survivors you will see tonight, ever feel they have to ask themselves, what did I do?  They did nothing wrong.  (Applause.)

So, folks, I really mean this.  I’m sincere.  Take the pledge.  Go look at, visit ItsOnUs.org.

Now, performing her Oscar-nominated song, “Til It happens to you,” written with Diane Warren, for the film “The Hunting Ground,” welcome my friend and a courageous lady herself, Lady Gaga.  (Applause.)

8:13 P.M. PST

Full Text Political Transcripts February 18, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Black History Month Reception



Remarks by the President at Black History Month Reception

Source: WH, 2-18-16

East Room

4:51 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Well, it is so good to see all of you.  Welcome to the White House.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  And we know it is Black History Month when you hear somebody say “Hey, Michelle!”  (Laughter.)  “Girl!  You look so good!”  (Laughter.)


MRS. OBAMA:  He’s all right.

You look good, too, baby.

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  I want to thank everybody who’s here this evening, this afternoon.  I want to give a special thanks to the members of Congress and the Congressional Black Caucus who are here tonight.  Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)

For the past seven years — now, come on, y’all.  (Laughter.)  I’m only going to be a second.

MRS. OBAMA:  It’s exciting.

THE PRESIDENT:  Except for that little guy.  He’s hungry.  (Laughter.)

For the past seven years, and in some cases before that, the people in this room have been incredible supporters of me and Michelle.  And we could not be more grateful for everything you’ve done for us, everything you’ve done for the country.  And so I just want to start off by saying thank you.  (Applause.)  Yes!  Yes!

Now, we gather to celebrate Black History Month, and from our earliest days, black history has been American history.  (Applause.)  We’re the slaves who quarried the stone to build this White House; the soldiers who fought for our nation’s independence, who fought to hold this union together, who fought for freedom of others around the world.  We’re the scientists and inventors who helped unleash American innovation.  We stand on the shoulders not only of the giants in this room, but also countless, nameless heroes who marched for equality and justice for all of us.

Down through the decades, African American culture has profoundly shaped American culture — in music and art, literature and sports.  I want to give a special acknowledgment to my lovely wife — (applause) — because just last week she hosted a performance of African American women and girls in dance.  And we had luminaries like Debbie Allen and Judith Jamison — (applause) — working with the next generation of outstanding young black dancers.  I understand it was a pretty special event.  It was, apparently, an incredible event.  I was not invited.  (Laughter.)  My dance moves did not make the cut.  (Laughter.)

So we are so proud to honor this rich heritage.  But Black History Month shouldn’t be treated as though it is somehow separate from our collective American history — (applause) — or somehow just boiled down to a compilation of greatest hits from the March on Washington, or from some of our sports heroes.   There are well-meaning attempts to do that all around us, from classrooms to corporate ad campaigns.  But we know that this should be more than just a commemoration of particular events.

It’s about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America.  It’s about taking an unvarnished look at the past so we can create a better future.  It’s a reminder of where we as a country have been so that we know where we need to go.

That’s why earlier today, we hosted an intergenerational roundtable of civil rights leaders to talk about today’s efforts to reform our criminal justice system.  So we had icons of the Civil Rights Movement that helped get me here — folks like Reverend C.T. Vivian and John Lewis — (applause.)  But they were with up-and-coming change-makers like Stephen Green of the NAACP Youth and College Division, or Brittany Packnett of Campaign Zero —


THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah!  Who is a member of our 21st Century Police Task Force.  And to hear the incredible contributions these young people were making, and to see how their courage and tenacity was connected to those who had lived through Bloody Sunday — it made you optimistic about a future.  It was powerful to see the fathers and the mothers of the Movement in this constant interaction, understanding that each successive generation has to take the baton and move us forward.

And what’s so inspiring about these young people and their generation is that they don’t see black history as a relic; it’s not something to study in a book.  They don’t see themselves as distant from that history — they are participants, making history.  It’s alive, something that we have the power and the responsibility to shape and to wield.

The Civil Rights Movement grew out of church basements and word of mouth, and drew strength from freedom songs and the power of young people’s examples.  And thanks to technology and social media, today’s leaders are building a new, inclusive movement that’s mobilizing people of all backgrounds to stand up for change — from equal opportunity in education to a smarter criminal justice system, one that’s effective in keeping us safe but also makes sure that everybody is treated fairly under the law.

So I want to give a special shout-out to young people here today — (applause) — and tell them we want them to continue doing what they’re doing.

And that’s the thing about our democracy.  It takes all of us.  It’s important that we have responsive elected officials.   Supreme Court appointments are important.  (Applause.)  But ultimately, everything comes down to the constant perseverance, the courage, the tenacity, the vision of citizens like you, making sure not only you exercise your right to vote, but that in between elections you are part of a constant movement in your local communities, or at the national level, or at an international level, to bring about the kind of change from which all of us in this room have benefitted because of the labors of somebody who came before us.

America is a nation that is a constant work in progress.  That’s why we are exceptional.  We don’t stop.  There’s a gap — there always will be — between who we are and the “perfect union,” that ideal that we see.  But what makes us exceptional,  what makes us Americans is that we fight wars and pass laws, and we march, and we organize unions, and we stage protests, and that gap gets smaller over time.  And it’s that effort to form a “more perfect union” that marks us as a people.

As long as we keep at it, as long as we don’t get discouraged, as long as we are out there fighting the good fight not just on one day, or one month, but every single day, and every single month, I have no doubt that we’re going to live up to the promise of our founding ideals — and that all these young children who are standing in front, no matter who they are or where they come from, they’re going to have the opportunity to achieve their dreams.

Thanks, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

5:01 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 6, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors Reception Transcript



Remarks by the President to the 2015 Kennedy Center Honorees

Source: WH, 12-6-15 

East Room

5:15 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, have a seat, have a seat.  Have a seat and welcome to the White House.  This is a good-looking group.  (Laughter.)  President Kennedy once said, “There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts.”

I believe he was right.  Our achievements as a country and as a culture go hand-in-hand.  The oldest of the 2015 Kennedy Center Honorees was born over 90 years ago — you won’t be able to tell.  (Laughter.)  But when we look back on the last century, for all the challenges we faced, what we see is a time of extraordinary progress.  We won one World War, and then another.  We endured one depression, and prevented another.  And through it all, we created new medicines and technologies that changed the world for the better.  We welcomed new generations of striving immigrants that made our country stronger.  We worked together, and marched together, to open up new doors of opportunity for women, African Americans, Latinos, LGBT Americans, Americans with disabilities -– achievements that made all of us more free.

Tonight, we honor five artists who helped tell the story of the first American century through music, theater, and film -– and by doing so, helped to shape it, helped to inspire it, helped to fortify our best instincts about ourselves.

(Baby makes noises.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  (Laughter.)  It includes your grandpa.  (Laughter.)

About 80 years ago, the ship carrying a young girl named Rosa Dolores Alverio — (applause) — from Puerto Rico — (applause) — came into New York City, steamed by the Statue of Liberty.  “Oh my goodness,” she thought, “a lady runs this country!”  (Laughter and applause.)  She wasn’t yet known by the stage name of Rita Moreno, but even then, she knew she wanted to be a star.  At age nine, she debuted as a dancer.  At 13, she set foot in a Broadway theatre for the first time in her life -– as a member of the cast.  At 30, she became the first Latina to win an Academy Award for her unforgettable performance as “Anita” in “West Side Story.”

(Baby makes noises.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, it was good, wasn’t it?  (Laughter.)

After more than seven decades on stage and screen, Rita’s one of just a handful of artists to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony.  She’s got an “EGOT.”  (Applause.)  But being a pioneer is never easy.  For years, she was pigeonholed as what she called, “the house ethnic.”  She says she played all her parts with the same accent, because nobody “seemed to care.”  And when she pushed back against Hollywood typecasting, the roles dried up.  But Rita refused to sell herself short.  This is a woman who won the Tony for best supporting actress, then concluded her acceptance speech by reminding everyone, “I am a leading lady — I am not a supporting actress.”  (Laughter and applause.)

And she was right.  She was the leading lady of that show.  And she is still a leading lady of her era, a trailblazer with the courage to break through barriers and forge new paths.  Eight decades after Rita Moreno first laid eyes on the Statue of Liberty, she continues to personify its promise:  that here, in America, no matter what you look like or where you come from or what your last name is, you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

As a teenager in Tokyo, an aspiring classical pianist named Seiji Ozawa defied his mother’s orders and joined a rugby match.  Now, I have to say, looking at you Seiji, I’m not sure that was a good idea.  (Laughter.)  I mean, I don’t know much about rugby.  (Laughter.)  He broke two fingers, and that put an end to his piano-playing career –- but fortunately for the rest of us, it opened up the door to a career as a conductor.

Here, Michelle and my mother-in-law would like me to point out that defying one’s mother does not usually work out well.  (Laughter.)

But there are exceptions, and for Seiji, it did.  In 1960, when he was 25 years old, he landed at Logan Airport with only a few words of English and a sign that read, “Lennox, Mass.” But his work as a conductor spoke volumes.  Just a few weeks later, the New York Times pronounced him “a name to remember.”  He went on to become Leonard Bernstein’s assistant conductor at the New York Philharmonic, and then led the Toronto and San Francisco Symphonies, all by the time he was 35.  It makes you feel kind of underachieving.  (Laughter.)  His conducting was somehow sensitive and intense, drawing the “lyric essence” of every note.  And with his mop haircut, and his turtlenecks, and his love beads, he almost looked like a Beatle.  (Laughter.)

And in 1973, Seiji found his musical home with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which he led for 29 years.  When he wasn’t cheering on his beloved Red Sox and Patriots, he was transfixing audiences with passionate, precise performances conducted entirely from memory, using his whole body -– elbows, fingers, knees, hair -– (laughter) — as a baton.  Seiji has dedicated his life to bridging East and West with classical music.  In his words, “Music is easier to understand than language — it can be understood right away.  Just like the sunset, which is beautiful wherever you watch it.”  (Applause.)

As a child in Harlem, Cicely Tyson sold shopping bags on the street corner to make — to help her family make ends meet.  After high school, she found work as a secretary — until one day she stood up and announced to everyone in the room, “[I am] sure that God did not put me on the face of this Earth to bang on a typewriter for the rest of my life!”  (Laughter and applause.)

Cicely was already displaying what you could call a flair for the dramatic.  (Laughter.)  And like all great actors, she never just plays a character -– she becomes one.  “I’m looking inside myself,” she once explained.  “Inside of me is where this character is coming from.”

It certainly took character to get where she is today.  As a black woman, Cicely wasn’t offered many roles with the pay and stature her tremendous talent should have commanded.  But that only steeled her resolve.  She once said, “When I became aware of the kind of ignorance that existed, I made a very conscious decision that I could not afford the luxury of just being an actress — I had some very important things to say, and I would say them through my work.”

Cicely has been saying important things for nearly 60 years, from “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” to “Sounder,” to “The Trip to the Bountiful.”  And even now, eight shows a week, she walks onto a Broadway stage to beat James Earl Jones in hand after hand of rummy in “The Gin Game.”  (Laughter and applause.)  At 90 years old, she’s still delivering remarkable, heartfelt performances night after night after night -– just like God intended, and she sure does look good doing it every night.  (Applause.)  Cicely Tyson.  (Applause.)

At age 15, a young woman named Carol Klein formed a doo-wop group with her friends called “The Co-Sines” — Co-Sines — that’s a little math.  (Laughter.)  They did great with the hard-to-reach trigonometry demographic.  (Laughter and applause.)  Around the same time, Carol talked to a DJ, and asked him the best way to get in touch with record companies.  He told her a secret –- look them up in a phone book.  (Laughter.)  So Carol made some calls, landed a contract, and took on the stage name of Carole King.

It turned out to be a perfect choice -– because today, in the world of American music, Carole is royalty.  By the time she was 30, she’d teamed up with Gerry Goffin to write hits like “Up on the Roof” for The Drifters.  “One Fine Day” for The Chiffons.  “The Loco-Motion” for Little Eva.  And of course, “You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman)” – I think I just became the first President ever to say that.  (Laughter and applause.)  It sounded better when Aretha said it.  (Laughter and applause.)

And then finally, in the 1970s, Carole found the perfect voice for her songs, which was her own.  At one point, her solo album “Tapestry” — which, by the way, was one of the first albums I ever bought — was the highest-selling album of any genre in history.  It stayed on the charts for six years, full of songs you could not get out of your head -– songs about home, and friendship, and vulnerability; songs about just being human.  And that’s what makes Carole so special.  Whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall — (laughter) — whether she’s fighting with passion for our environment or campaigning for the causes that she believes in; Carole is always that honest, unvarnished voice –- the friend who tells you again and again that you are beautiful — as beautiful as you feel.  (Applause.)

George Lucas recently shared one of his regrets. He told a reporter, “I never got the experience that everyone else got to have.  I never got to see ‘Star Wars.’”  (Laughter.)

Well, George, let me tell you -– you missed out.  It was really good. (Laughter.)  That movie was awesome.  (Laughter.)

As one wise Jedi Master might put it, “Changed nearly everything, George Lucas has.”  (Laughter.)  George was at the vanguard of the New Hollywood, blending genres and combining timeless themes with cutting-edge technology.  Without him, movies would not look as good or sound as good as they do today.  Spaceships might still fly around the screen with little strings attached to them.  (Laughter.)  The effects were only part, though, of what makes George special.  He created a mythology so compelling that in a 2001 census, the fourth-largest religion in the United Kingdom was “Jedi.”  (Laughter and applause.)

Think about how many children have been raised, at least in part, by George Lucas.  (Laughter.)  Think about how many young people searching for their place in the universe have thought to themselves, “If a kid from Tatooine moisture farm can go from bulls-eyeing womp rats in his T-16 to saving the galaxy, then maybe I can be something special too?”  (Laughter.)  How many engineers got their start arguing about the structural flaws in the Death Star?  How many philosophers got their start arguing about whether Han shot first?  (Laughter.)  How many bookish teenagers have taken solace in the fact that the most charismatic guy on the planet is an archeologist named Indiana Jones?  (Laughter.)

George, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but they might even make a brand new “Star Wars” movie soon.  (Laughter.)  It’s very low-key, it’s not getting a lot of promotion.  (Laughter.)  But it’s also pretty remarkable that nearly 40 years after the first star destroyer crawled across the screen, we are still obsessed with George’s vision of a galaxy far, far away.  And we’ll be raising our children on his stories for a long, long time to come.  (Applause.)

Rita Moreno.  Seiji Ozawa.  Cicely Tyson.  Carole King.  George Lucas.  Each of these artists was born with something special to offer their country and the world.  Each of them found a way to enrich our lives with their lives’ work.  For all the joy and the pleasure, all the insight and the understanding that they have brought to us over the years, we want to thank them -– and we sure are proud to celebrate them as our 2015 Kennedy Center Honorees.  Please give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

5:32 P.M. EST

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



Remarks by the President at Lighting of National Christmas Tree

Source: WH, 12-3-15


6:06 P.M. EST

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

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

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

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

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

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

6:11 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 2, 2015: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at Annual White House Holiday Decoration Press Preview



Remarks by The First Lady at Annual Holiday Press Preview

Source: WH, 12-2-15

East Room

1:16 P.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Hi, everyone.  What’s going on?  You guys doing okay?  Hi to you guys, the grownups here, too.  (Laughter.)  Well, welcome to the White House.  (Applause.)  It’s the holiday time!

Let me start by thanking Cilicia for that wonderful introduction, as well as all the volunteers who have traveled from across the country — and we’ve got people who have come from around the world — to help us decorate the White House for the holidays.

I also want to say a special thank-you all of the servicemembers, our veterans, our wounded warriors who are here today, as well as our amazing military spouses and our fabulous military kids.  Do we have any military kids in the house?  (Applause.)  It is an important part of our White House holiday tradition to kick off the season by celebrating with our extraordinary military families.  And we do this because of everything that you all do every day to make our country great.

This time of year it’s easy to get caught up in all the holiday whirlwind –- making the lists, and the errands, and the travel plans — that we sometimes forget what the holiday season is all about.  But sharing this special time with our military families reminds us that this season is about so much more.  It’s about giving more than we receive, right, guys?  (Laughter.)  It’s about serving others.  It’s about toys, too.  (Laughter.)  But it’s about finding ways to lift up our communities every day in every season.

And that’s what all of you all do for this country — whether you’re serving in uniform with multiple deployments under your belts, or serving without a uniform as a military spouse holding down a household while continuing your education or your career, or as a military kid adjusting to maybe your 7th or 8th new school.  You all represent the very best of us.  And then in the midst of all that you already have going on in your lives, you still find time to be leaders in your communities — volunteering with your congregations, or organizing the local food drive, or running the PTA meeting at night, coaching Little League on the weekends.

So many of you here today truly embody that commitment to service.  Just take Cilicia, for example, who, as you heard, is a proud military spouse living in Alexandria, Virginia.  Her husband is a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, and like most military spouses, Cilicia has endured frequent moves.  In fact, she told us that their three-year-old son has already lived in three different states.

So it’s no wonder why Cilicia hardly has time to decorate her own house for the holidays, yet she still found time to be here with us to help decorate the White House.  And, as she put it — and these are her words — she said, “Diving right in to the holiday activities where we’re stationed helps make each new place feel like home.”

Or take Andrea Marks from Spotsylvania, Virginia.  Andrea, where are you?  Back there — hey, girl!  (Laughter.)  Andrea is a retired 30-year Army combat veteran.  And during her — yes.  (Applause.)  During her impressive career, she did five overseas tours.  She served as a Drill Sergeant, and was part of a command team that led a brigade in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

And today, Andrea continues to serve.  She spends time with wounded warriors through Fort — through the USO with Fort Belvoir.  She volunteers with the Special Olympics.  And you see with her holiday hat on, she was also here helping to decorate the White House.  (Laughter.)  Looking quite festive.

And that kind of commitment to giving back, that’s what the holidays are really all about.  And that’s why — (baby cries) — and, yes, it’s about milk in a bottle, too.  (Laughter.)  But that’s one of the reasons why Jill Biden and I started our Joining Forces initiative that Cilicia talked about.  Because we want to make sure that we’re serving all of you — all our men and women in uniform, our veterans and our military families -– as well as you serve us.  And as we ring in another holiday season, we’re going to make sure that the over 68,000 visitors who will pass through these rooms over the coming weeks know about and honor your service and sacrifice.

This year’s holiday theme is “A Timeless Tradition.”  And as usual, we’ll be continuing our proud White House tradition of honoring military families with special decorations.  The very first thing visitors will see in the East Landing is a tree that pays tribute to our armed forces.  This tree is adorned with Gold Star ornaments that honor some of America’s greatest heroes — the men and women who gave their lives for our country.  Next to that tree is an iPad station that allows guests to tweet and email holiday wishes to our servicemembers.

And then there’s our amazing White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room that I just saw — pretty amazing — which is also dedicated to our military families.  This year’s tree stands over 18 feet tall.  I know, it’s big, it’s big.  (Laughter.)  And it’s covered from trunk to tip with messages from military families to their servicemembers stationed around the country and around the world.  And after the holidays, we’re going to be sending each family member their message as a special keepsake.

And as — much like these military decorations, the rest of our decorations celebrate proud American traditions and our singular American spirit.  In the East Colonnade, you’re going to see hundreds of messages from students from local schools sharing their dreams for the future, and you can read about their hopes and aspirations on these beautifully handcrafted snowflakes hanging from the ceilings.

And then in the White House Library, we’re honoring great American authors and thinkers with a holiday forest of novels and manuscripts trimmed with pages of text and inspirational quotes.  And then, kids — we’re going to see this soon — you don’t want to miss the State Dining Room, which features dozens of vintage nutcrackers — little-bitty Army nutcracker men right over there — and there’s a six-foot-tall Teddy Bear.  I haven’t seen that yet.  I can’t wait to see that.  (Laughter.)  And, of course, in the State Room, there’s the official White House gingerbread house which weighs 500 pounds.  It’s a big house.  It’s the White House.  (Laughter.)

We also have more than 70,000 ornaments here in this house, 62 trees — a lot of trees — as well as 56 snowmen and snowwomen in the garden representing every state and territory in the country.  And then we’ve got a dog display — (baby cries) — she is like, get me out of here, mom.  (Laughter.)  Take her to see the gingerbread house.  She can have whatever she wants there.  (Laughter.)

But, you guys, have you seen the dog display with Bo and Sunny?


MRS. OBAMA:  I haven’t seen that yet, either.  Well, Bo and his sister — there’s a tree with treats — with doggy treats and tennis ball ornaments.  And I think I’ve heard Bo and Sunny are pretty excited about that one, so we’ll have to — I’ll have to ask them what they think about it.

So it’s a great kickoff.  It’s a beautiful home.  Everything looks wonderful.  The volunteers have done a phenomenal job.  And, kids, you guys will be the first to see it.  So you have to let me know what you think, whether it passes muster, okay?

So I want to once again thank all the terrific volunteers for creating this winter wonderland of American traditions.  I also want to thank the brilliant designers who are the genius behind these magical displays — Bryan Rafanelli — I see you there, Bryan — and his team.  We also have designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon.  My dear friend Duro helped decorate some of the rooms this year.  And Carolina Herrera and her team also played a huge role this year.

So it’s time to have a little fun, but before we do that, I just want to say once again — I want to honor all of our military families here today and around the world.  Thank you, thank you for your outstanding service.  Thank you for your sacrifice.  Thank you to all the families for your sacrifice, for being so brave and good and kind.  It’s why you guys get to be here first.  And we wish you guys the happiest holiday.  And we wish everyone here in the country a happy holiday season.  Hopefully you guys get to come down and visit the White House.

But for now, we’ve got some business to take care of.  You guys want to follow me?  You guys ready?  We’re going to make some special surprises for your parents.  It may involve something you can eat.  We’re going to go see the big tree.  And maybe Bo and Sunny will come by for a visit, but we have to see.  They may be busy, but we’re going to see.  (Laughter.)

All right.  So anybody who is afraid of dogs, you tell me, okay?  But they’re pretty nice.  They’re bigger than they look on TV.  (Laughter.)  So you guys ready to go?  All right, we will take care of your children.  You guys sit here, relax.  Don’t break anything.  (Laughter.)

And happy holidays, everyone.  Thanks so much.  (Applause.)

1:27 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency September 20, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Congressional Black Caucus 45th Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner Transcript



Remarks by the President at the Congressional Black Caucus 45th Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner

Source: WH, 9-20-15

Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C.

9:40 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, CBC!  (Applause.)  I guess I get the fancier lectern here.  Everybody please have a seat.  Have a seat.  I know it’s late.  You’re ready for the after parties.  I should have ditched the speech and brought my playlist.  (Laughter.)  Everybody looks beautiful, handsome, wonderful.  Thank you, Don, for that introduction.  Thank you to the CBC Foundation.  And thank you to the members of the CBC.  (Applause.)

On the challenges of our times, from giving workers a raise to getting families health coverage; on the threats of our time, from climate change to nuclear proliferation — members of the CBC have been leaders moving America forward.  With your help, our businesses have created over 13 million new jobs.  (Applause.)  With your help, we’ve covered more than 16 million Americans with health insurance — many for the first time.  (Applause.)  Three years ago, Republicans said they’d get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent by 2017.  It’s down to 5.1 right now.  (Applause.)  You didn’t hear much about that at the debate on Monday — on Wednesday night.

The point is, though, none of this progress would have been possible without the CBC taking tough votes when it mattered most.  Whatever I’ve accomplished, the CBC has been there.  (Applause.)  I was proud to be a CBC member when I was in the Senate, and I’m proud to be your partner today.  But we’re not here just to celebrate — we’re here to keep going.  Because with the unemployment rate for African Americans still more than double than whites, with millions of families still working hard and still waiting to feel the recovery in their own lives, we know that the promise of this nation — where every single American, regardless of the circumstances in which they were born, regardless of what they look like, where they come from, has the chance to succeed — that promise is not yet fulfilled.

The good thing about America — the great project of America is that perfecting our union is never finished.  We’ve always got more work to do.  And tonight’s honorees remind us of that.  They remind us of the courage and sacrifices, the work that they’ve done — and not just at the national level, but in local communities all across the country.  We couldn’t be prouder of them.  The heroes of the Civil Rights Movement whom we lost last month remind us of the work that remains to be done.  American heroes like Louis Stokes, and Julian Bond, and Amelia Boynton Robinson.  (Applause.)

Ms. Robinson — as some of you know, earlier this year, my family and I joined many in Selma for the 50th anniversary of that march.  And as we crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I held Ms. Amelia’s hand.  And I thought about her and all the extraordinary women like her who were really the life force of the movement.  (Applause.)  Women were the foot soldiers.  Women strategized boycotts.  Women organized marches.  Even if they weren’t allowed to run the civil rights organizations on paper, behind the scenes they were the thinkers and the doers making things happen each and every day — (applause) — doing the work that nobody else wanted to do.  They couldn’t prophesize from the pulpits, but they led the charge from the pews.  They were no strangers to violence.  They were on the front lines.  So often they were subject to abuse, dehumanized, but kept on going, holding families together.  Mothers were beaten and gassed on Bloody Sunday.  Four little girls were murdered in a Birmingham church.  Women made the movement happen.

Of course, black women have been a part of every great movement in American history — (applause) — even if they weren’t always given a voice.  They helped plan the March on Washington, but were almost entirely absent from the program.  And when pressed, male organizers added a tribute highlighting six women — none of them who were asked to make a speech.  Daisy Bates introduced her fellow honorees in just 142 words, written by a man.  Of course, Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson sang.  But in a three-hour program, the men gave women just 142 words.  That may sound familiar to some of the women in the room here tonight.  The organizers even insisted on two separate parades — male leaders marching along the main route on Pennsylvania Avenue, and leaders like Dorothy Height and Rosa Parks relegated to Independence Avenue.  America’s most important march against segregation had its own version of separation.

Black women were central in the fight for women’s rights, from suffrage to the feminist movement — (applause) — and yet despite their leadership, too often they were also marginalized.  But they didn’t give up, they didn’t let up.  They were too fierce for that.  Black women have always understood the words of Pauli Murray — that “Hope is a song in a weary throat.”

It’s thanks to black women that we’ve come a long way since the days when a girl like Ruby Bridges couldn’t go to school.  When a woman like Amelia couldn’t cast her vote.  When we didn’t have a Congressional Black Caucus — and its 20 women members.  (Applause.)

So I’m focusing on women tonight because I want them to know how much we appreciate them, how much we admire them, how much we love them.  (Applause.)  And I want to talk about what more we have to do to provide full opportunity and equality for our black women and girls in America today.  (Applause.)

Because all of us are beneficiaries of a long line of strong black women who helped carry this country forward.  Their work to expand civil rights opened the doors of opportunity, not just for African Americans but for all women, for all of us — black and white, Latino and Asian, LGBT and straight, for our First Americans and our newest Americans.  And their contributions in every field — as scientists and entrepreneurs, educators, explorers — all made us stronger.  Of course, they’re also a majority of my household.  (Laughter and applause.)  So I care deeply about how they’re doing.

The good news is, despite structural barriers of race and gender, women and girls of color have made real progress in recent years.  The number of black women-owned businesses has skyrocketed.  (Applause.)  Black women have ascended the ranks of every industry.  Teen pregnancy rates among girls of color are down, while high school and four-year college graduation rates are up.  (Applause.)  That’s good news.

But there’s no denying that black women and girls still face real and persistent challenges.  The unemployment rate is over 8 percent for black women.  And they’re overrepresented in low-paying jobs; underrepresented in management.  They often lack access to economic necessities like paid leave and quality, affordable child care.  They often don’t get the same quality health care that they need, and have higher rates of certain chronic diseases — although that’s starting to change with Obamacare.  (Applause.)  It’s working, by the way, people.  Just in case — (laughter) — just in case you needed to know.

And then there are some of the challenges that are harder to see and harder to talk about — although Michelle, our outstanding, beautiful First Lady talks about these struggles.  (Applause.)  Michelle will tell stories about when she was younger, people telling her she shouldn’t aspire to go to the very best universities.  And she found herself thinking sometimes, “Well, maybe they’re right.”  Even after she earned two degrees from some of the best universities in America, she still faced the doubts that were rooted in deep social prejudice and stereotypes, worrying whether she was being too assertive, or too angry, or too tall.  (Applause.)  I like tall women.  (Laughter and applause.)

And those stereotypes and social pressures, they still affect our girls.  So we all have to be louder than the voices that are telling our girls they’re not good enough — (applause) — that they’ve got to look a certain way, or they’ve got to act a certain way, or set their goals at a certain level.  We’ve got to affirm their sense of self-worth, and make them feel visible and beautiful, and understood and loved.  (Applause.)  And I say this as a father who strives to do this at home, but I also say this as a citizen.  This is not just about my family or yours; it’s about who we are as a people, who we want to be, and how we can make sure that America is fulfilling its promise — because everybody is getting a chance, and everybody is told they’re important, and everybody is given opportunity.  And we got to do more than just say we care, or say we put a woman on ten-dollar bill, although that’s a good idea.  We’ve got to make sure they’re getting some ten-dollar bills; that they’re getting paid properly.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to let our actions do the talking.

It is an affront to the very idea of America when certain segments of our population don’t have access to the same opportunities as everybody else.  It makes a mockery of our economy when black women make 30 fewer cents for every dollar a white man earns.  (Applause.)  That adds up to thousands of dollars in missed income that determines whether a family can pay for a home, or pay for college for their kids, or save for retirement, or give their kids a better life.  And that’s not just a woman’s issue, that’s everybody’s issue.  I want Michelle getting paid at some point.  (Laughter and applause.)  We’ve got an outstanding former Secretary of State here who is also former First Lady, and I know she can relate to Michelle when she says, how come you get paid and I don’t?  (Laughter and applause.)  How did that work?  (Laughter.)

When women of color aren’t given the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential, we all lose out on their talents; we’re not as good a country as we can be.  We might miss out on the next Mae Jemison or Ursula Burns or Serena Williams or Michelle Obama.  (Applause.)  We want everybody to be on the field.  We can’t afford to leave some folks off the field.

So we’re going to have to close those economic gaps so that hardworking women of all races, and black women in particular can support families, and strengthen communities, and contribute to our country’s success.  So that’s why my administration is investing in job training and apprenticeships, to help everybody, but particularly help more women earn better-paying jobs, and particularly in non-traditional careers.  It’s why we’re investing in getting more girls, and particularly girls of color interested in STEM fields — math and science and engineering — (applause) — and help more of them stay on track in school.

It’s why we’re going to continue to fight to eliminate the pay gap.  (Applause.)  Equal pay for equal work.  It’s an all-American idea.  It’s very simple.  And that’s why we’re going to keep working to raise the minimum wage — because women disproportionately are the ones who are not getting paid what they’re worth.  That’s why we’re fighting to expand tax credits that help working parents make ends meet, closing tax loopholes for folks who don’t need tax loopholes to pay for.  It’s why we’re expanding paid leave to employees of federal contractors.  And that’s why Congress needs to expand paid leave for more hardworking Americans.  It’s good for our economy.  It’s the right thing to do.  No family should have to choose between taking care of a sick child or losing their job.  (Applause.)

And just as an aside, what’s not the right thing to do, what makes no sense at all, is Congress threatening to shut down the entire federal government if they can’t shut down women’s access to Planned Parenthood.  (Applause.)  That’s not a good idea.  Congress should be working on investing things that grow our economy and expand opportunity, and not get distracted and inflict the kind of self-inflicted wounds that we’ve seen before on our economy.  So that’s some of the things we need to do to help improve the economic standing of all women; to help all families feel more secure in a changing economy.

And before I go tonight, I also want to say something about a topic that’s been on my mind for a while, another profound barrier to opportunity in too many communities — and that is our criminal justice system.  (Applause.)

I spoke about this at length earlier this year at the NAACP, and I explained the long history of inequity in our criminal justice system.  We all know the statistics.  And this summer, because I wanted to highlight that there were human beings behind these statistics, I visited a prison in Oklahoma — the first President to ever visit a federal prison.  (Applause.)  And I sat down with the inmates, and I listened to their stories.  And one of the things that struck me was the crushing burden their incarceration has placed not just on their prospects for the future, but also for their families, the women in their lives, children being raised without a father in the home; the crushing regret these men felt over the children that they left behind.

Mass incarceration rips apart families.  It hollows out neighborhoods.  It perpetuates poverty.  We understand that in many of our communities, they’re under-policed.  The problem is not that we don’t want active, effective police work.  We want, and admire, and appreciate law enforcement.  We want them in our communities.  Crime hurts the African American community more than anybody.  But we want to make sure that it’s done well and it’s done right, and it’s done fairly and it’s done smart.  (Applause.)  And that’s why, in the coming months, I’m going to be working with many in Congress and many in the CBC to try to make progress on reform legislation that addresses unjust sentencing laws, and encourages diversion and prevention programs, catches our young people early and tries to put them on a better path, and then helps ex-offenders, after they’ve done their time, get on the right track.  It’s the right thing to do for America.  (Applause.)

And although in these discussions a lot of my focus has been on African American men and the work we’re doing with My Brother’s Keeper, we can’t forget the impact that the system has on women, as well.  The incarceration rate for black women is twice as high as the rate for white women.  Many women in prison, you come to discover, have been victims of homelessness and domestic violence, and in some cases human trafficking.  They’ve got high rates of mental illness and substance abuse.  And many have been sexually assaulted, both before they got to prison and then after they go to prison.  And we don’t often talk about how society treats black women and girls before they end up in prison.  They’re suspended at higher rates than white boys and all other girls.  And while boys face the school-to-prison pipeline, a lot of girls are facing a more sinister sexual abuse-to-prison pipeline.  (Applause.)  Victims of early sexual abuse are more likely to fail in school, which can lead to sexual exploitation, which can lead to prison.  So we’re focusing on boys, but we’re also investing in ways to change the odds for at-risk girls — to make sure that they are loved and valued, to give them a chance.

And that’s why we have to make a collective effort to address violence and abuse against women in all of our communities.  In every community, on every campus, we’ve got to be very clear:  Women who have been victims of rape or domestic abuse, who need help, should know that they can count on society and on law enforcement to treat them with love and care and sensitivity, and not skepticism.  (Applause.)

I want to repeat — because somehow this never shows up on Fox News.  (Laughter.)  I want to repeat — because I’ve said it a lot, unwaveringly, all the time:  Our law enforcement officers do outstanding work in an incredibly difficult and dangerous job.  They put their lives on the line for our safety.  (Applause.)  We appreciate them and we love them.  That’s why my Task Force on 21st Century Policing made a set of recommendations that I want to see implemented to improve their safety, as well as to make sure that our criminal justice system is being applied fairly.  Officers show uncommon bravery in our communities every single day.  They deserve our respect.  That includes women in law enforcement.  We need more of you, by the way.  We’ve got an outstanding chief law enforcement officer in our Attorney General, Loretta Lynch.  (Applause.)  We want all our young ladies to see what a great role model she is.

So I just want to repeat, because somehow this never gets on the TV:  There is no contradiction between us caring about our law enforcement officers and also making sure that our laws are applied fairly.  Do not make this as an either/or proposition.  This is a both/and proposition.  (Applause.)  We want to protect our police officers.  We’ll do a better job doing it if our communities can feel confident that they are being treated fairly.  I hope I’m making that clear.  (Applause.)  I hope I’m making that clear.

We need to make sure the laws are applied evenly.  This is not a new problem.  It’s just that in recent months, in recent years, suddenly folks have videos and body cameras, and social media, and so it’s opened our eyes to these incidents.  And many of these incidents are subject to ongoing investigation, so I can’t comment on every specific one.  But we can’t avoid these tough conversations altogether.  That’s not going to help our police officers, the vast majority who do the right thing every day, by just pretending that these things aren’t happening.  That’s not going to help build trust between them and the communities in which they serve.

So these are hard issues, but I’m confident we’re going to move forward together for a system that is fairer and more just.  We’ve got good people on both sides of the aisle that are working with law enforcement and local communities to find a better way forward.  And as always, change will not happen overnight.  It won’t be easy.  But if our history has taught us anything, it’s taught us that when we come together, when we’re working with a sense of purpose, when we are listening to one another, when we assume the best in each other rather than the worst, then change happens.

Like every parent, I can’t help to see the world increasingly through my daughters’ eyes.  And on that day, when we were celebrating that incredible march in Selma, I had Ms. Amelia’s hand in one of my hands, but Michelle had Sasha’s hand, and my mother-in-law had Malia’s hand — and it was a chain across generations.  And I thought about all those women who came before us, who risked everything for life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, so often without notice, so often without fanfare.  Their names never made the history books.  All those women who cleaned somebody else’s house, or looked after somebody else’s children, did somebody else’s laundry, and then got home and did it again, and then went to church and cooked — and then they were marching.  (Applause.)

And because of them, Michelle could cross that bridge.  And because of them, they brought them along, and Malia and Sasha can cross that bridge.  And that tells me that if we follow their example, we’re going to cross more bridges in the future.  If we keep moving forward, hand in hand, God willing, my daughters’ children will be able to cross that bridge in an America that’s more free, and more just, and more prosperous than the one that we inherited.  Your children will, too.

Thank you CBC.  God bless you.  God bless this country we love.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

10:06 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 10, 2015: First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the Kids’ State Dinner Transcript



Remarks by the First Lady and the President at the Kids’ State Dinner

Source: WH, 7-10-15

State Dining Room

11:56 A.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  I see tears.  (Laughter.)  I do.  Wow, Abby, amazing.  We’re so proud of you.  Man, good stuff!  Very good stuff.

You guys, welcome to the White House.  Let’s say that again — welcome to the White House!  (Applause.)

This is the whole house’s favorite event — the Kids’ State Dinner.  Look at this place.  Do you know how many people put time and effort into making this as amazing as it can be for you?  So let’s give everyone who helped put this event together a wonderful round of applause.  (Applause.)

And I want to again thank Abby for her amazing introduction, but more importantly, for listening to what I said about paying it forward.  I thank you.  (Laughter.)  I need you to talk to my children.  (Laughter.)  Listen to me.  (Laughter.)  Abby, great job.  So proud of you, babe, really.

I also want to thank PBS and WGBH Boston for their tremendous generosity in sponsoring our Kids’ State Dinner and our Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.  So I want to give them another round of applause.  (Applause.)

And, of course, to Tanya.  Tanya, this is just a great partnership.  You are amazing.  There you are.  The work you do is amazing.  And it’s always so much fun seeing you here at this event.  Thank you for everything that you do year after year.

I also want to acknowledge all the folks from the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture.  They make a fabulous set of partners on so much of the work that we do.  And I know we have representatives from those departments here, so I want to thank you all for the great work that you do.  Well done.

And how about we give a shout-out to the parents and siblings and grandparents who — yes — (laughter) — who got you all here today.  Let’s give them a round of applause.  (Applause.)   We want to say officially thank you, families, for encouraging these young people — even when they made a mess in the kitchen.  But I’m sure they cleaned up, too.  Right?  (Laughter.)  Thank you all.  Thank you for raising and being part of raising such wonderful young men and women.  And it’s wonderful to have you all here.  They couldn’t do it without you and without that support.  So we are celebrating you all as well.

And finally, most of all, congratulations to all of this year’s 55 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge winners!  (Applause.)  That’s you!  And you, and you!  Yes!  Just so that our press understands — welcome press — (laughter) — all our young press people.  This is the only time we let kids in the press pool.  You guys do your jobs.  Do your jobs over there.  Don’t let the grown-ups push you out of the way.  (Laughter.)

Nearly 1,000 kids entered this contest — 1,000!  Right?  This was a real competition.  But after countless hours of prepping and taste-testing your recipes, our panel of distinguished judges — some of whom are here today, including Deb — she ate every bite — (laughter) — decided that your meals were the healthiest, tastiest, and most fun dishes to cook and to eat!

So you had many hurdles to overcome.  It had to be healthy, tasty, and good to eat, and you did it!  Yes!  (Applause.)  Fabulous!  And you look so good!  (Laughter.)  You all are so handsome and gorgeous.  So you can cook and your smart and you look great, and you’re here at the White House.  It’s just wonderful.

You blew the judges away with your talent and creativity.  You included fruits and veggies from every color of the rainbow in your recipes.  You used all kinds of ingredients — flax seed — do any of the adults even know what flax seed is?  (Laughter.)  Cumin, and we have yellow miso paste that was included in one of the recipes — pretty sophisticated.

And you came up with some of the catchiest recipe names imaginable — one of my favorites, Mango-Cango Chicken.  Who is our Mango — where is our Mango-Cango young man?  There you are. Mango-Cango.  (Applause.)  We had Fizzle Sizzle Stir Fry.  Who created Fizzle Sizzle Stir Fry?  Where is our — there you go!  And then, Sam’s Southern Savoring Salmon Supreme — or S to the 5th power.  (Laughter.)  Sam, was that you?  (Applause.)  And so many more.  You guys have the menus.  We’re tasting just a few of them.  One is the Mic-Kale Obama Slaw — what is that?  I love that one.

And your reasons for creating these dishes were as varied as the ingredients, as Tanya said.  Some of you play sports and you realize that you need good nutrition to be able to compete.  As Hannah Betts — where’s Hannah?  Hannah, where are you?  Hannah!  This is what Hannah Betts, our winner from Connecticut, said — this is her quote — she said, “I do gymnastics and swimming, so I need food that is going to fill me up and give me lots of energy.”  Outstanding.

For some of you, cooking is a way to bond with your families and relive happy memories from when you were little.  And that’s why Felix Gonzalez — Felix, where are you?  There you go, there you go.  You told me this story in the photo line.  He’s from Puerto Rico.  He created his “Wrap it Up” chicken wrap — and this is his quote — he said, “I decided to make this dish as a wrap because I was thinking about the fun times when my dad wrapped me up as a burrito –(laughter)– with a blanket when I was a small child.”  Yeah, cool, dude.  Cool.  (Laughter.)

Some of you became interested in cooking because you were worried about your friends’ unhealthy eating habits.  Something that I try to work with my friends on all the time.  Now, Izzy Washburn from Kentucky actually did — this is Izzy — raise your hand.  Izzy right there.  She did a science experiment comparing school lunches to the lunches her friends brought from home, and the school lunches turned out to be healthier, according to your experiment.

And that wasn’t always the case.  We all know that we’ve seen some tremendous improvements in our school lunches over these years.  And it actually took a whole lot of work by people in your school cafeterias to actually accomplish this goal.

Back in 2010, based on some advice that we got from doctors and nutritionists and scientists in this country, we realized that we needed to improve the quality of school meals by adding fruits and veggies and whole grains.  And it required a lot — a little energy to make that happen, a little pushing back.  But right now, today, 95 percent of schools in this country are now meeting those new standards.  And that’s a wonderful achievement.  (Applause.)

So now tens of millions of kids are now getting better nutrition every single day.  Just like Abby pointed out, there are many kids who go to school and they don’t have breakfast, and breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  So you imagine, now the schools all over this country are providing that kind of nutrition so kids who might not get that nutrition at home are getting it at school.  This is an important step forward.  And I know you guys all agree because you understand the importance of healthy eating.

So I know that Izzy certainly believes so.  This is her quote — she said, “It’s important to teach my friends what good choices look like and how what fuel they choose for their bodies affects how they perform throughout their day.”  Very wise for such a little-bitty person.  (Laughter.)

And that’s why we created Let’s Move and started hosting these Kids’ State Dinners — because, as Abby said in her remarks, we want you guys to be ambassadors and to talk about healthy eating in your schools and in your communities.

So that’s really one of the things — one of the things you will do to pay for this opportunity is that you’re going to pay it forward, and hopefully when you go back, you’ll not only share this experience with your friends and family, but you’ll also talk about why we’re doing this.  Because a lot of kids don’t understand that food is fuel in a very fundamental way.  And sometimes they don’t listen to grown-ups, and they don’t listen to the First Lady.  But many of them will listen to you because you’re living proof of that reality.

So I want you to kind of think about how you can move this issue forward in your communities.  What more can you do when you get back home to continue this conversation and to engage more young people in the work that you all do.  That’s the only thing that I ask of you — and just to keep being the amazing, wonderful human beings that you are.

We developed this really cool — we worked with a PR firm to develop this really cool campaign for fruits and vegetables called FNV.  And it’s being piloted in certain parts of the country.  The idea behind the campaign is very simple:  If unhealthy foods can have all kinds of advertisements and celebrity endorsements, then why can’t we do that for fruits and vegetables?  Right?

So we’ve got Jessica Alba involved, and Colin Kaepernick, and Nick Jonas, and Steph Curry.  I just saw a full-page ad in a paper with Steph in a suit and a basketball, talking about the importance of veggies.  And so many other athletes and celebrities have signed up to show their support for fruits and vegetables.

And now we need you guys to sign up.  You can get involved in this campaign.  It involves T-shirts and fans and sweat bands, and there are things that you can do to be engaged — lot of fun.  All you have to do is go to FNV.com to check it out and figure out how you can join the FNV Team.  And you guys will be among the first ambassadors through FNV.  So, soon as you get out of here — don’t pull out any phones right now.  (Laughter.)  Go to FNV and check it out.  And then tell us what you think — because we want your feedback.

So really, there’s so many ways that you guys can be leaders in your communities and help us build a healthier country for generations to come.

And with your award-winning recipes, you’re already well on your way.  And I’m so proud of everything you all are doing.  The President is so proud of everything you all are doing.  And I just want you all to keep going, have fun.

And now we get to eat.  (Laughter.)  We get to try some of the — yes, we get to eat.  (Laughter.)  So bon appétit, everyone.  (Laughter.)  Let’s get going!  Let’s eat!  (Applause.)

Oh, wait!  Wait!  (The President enters.)  We have one more thing — (applause.)  I’m sorry.  I know you’re hungry, but I’d like to introduce to you guys the President of the United States.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Good to see you!  Hello, everybody!  How are you?  (Applause.)  So, everybody can have a seat.  Have a seat.

I’m sorry to crash your little party here.  (Laughter.)  But I just wanted to say hi to everybody.  And I wanted to let you know that, first of all, I’m very proud of everything that my outstanding wife has done — (applause) — when it comes to healthy eating and Let’s Move.  And we’re celebrating the fifth anniversary of Let’s Move.  So, you guys move?


THE PRESIDENT:  You guys are movers?  Okay.  You guys look pretty healthy, I got to admit.  This is a good-looking group.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  A good-looking group.

THE PRESIDENT:  And so I also just wanted to let you know that although I can’t stay and eat right now, that I’ve looked over the menu and the food looks outstanding.  I particularly am impressed with the Barackamole.  (Laughter.)  So I’m expecting people to save me a little sampling of the Barackamole.

I also noticed that there are a lot of good vegetables on the menu, including my favorite vegetable — broccoli.  (Laughter.)  Did somebody raise their hand?

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, I told these two that was your favorite vegetable.

THE PRESIDENT:  You didn’t believe me?  (Laughter.)  It’s true, I love broccoli.  I eat it all the time.  Anybody else love broccoli?


THE PRESIDENT:  That’s what I’m talking about.  (Laughter.)

So I know that all your parents are so proud of you for having come up with these outstanding recipes.  And the reason it’s so important for you guys to be here and to be doing what you’re doing is because the truth is, is that parents, it turns out, don’t always have the most influence — (laughter) — in terms of encouraging young people to eat healthy.

What really helps is when their friends at school are all, like, oh, you’re having chips?  I’m sorry, I’m having the Barackamole.  (Laughter.)  And then, because you’re a cool kid, suddenly the other kids are all, like, well, if that cool kid is eating broccoli, maybe I should try that broccoli out.  So you guys are setting a great example for all your friends in school and in the neighborhoods, and we’re really proud of you for that.

All right?  So I’m proud of you.  And I hope you guys have a wonderful dinner.  And I’m going to come around and shake hands with people, but I can’t take selfies with everybody because I’ve actually got just a few other things to do.  (Laughter.)  So that would end up taking too long.  All right?  But you can take pictures while I’m shaking hands.  I just can’t, like, pose and — (laughter) — all that stuff.

Oops — that’s okay, I get nervous, too.  (Laughter.)  Whenever I’m at state dinners I’m always spilling stuff.  (Laughter.)  Usually on my tie.

Thank you, everybody.   (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Let’s eat!

THE PRESIDENT:  Let’s eat!  (Applause.)

12:12 P.M.

Full Text Obama Presidency July 4, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech at White House 4th of July Celebration Transcript



Remarks by the President at 4th of July Celebration

Source: WH, 7-4-15

South Lawn

8:56 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Everybody having a good time?  (Applause.)  Give it up for Bruno Mars!  (Applause.)  And the band!  (Applause.)

Michelle and I just want to say to everybody here, we love you.  (Applause.)  On this day, we thank everyone who does so much each and every day to defend our country, to defend our freedom.  (Applause.)  We are grateful to our armed services.  (Applause.)  We are grateful to our military families.  (Applause.)  We are grateful to our veterans.  (Applause.)

Without you, we could not enjoy the incredible blessings that we do in this greatest country on Earth.  (Applause.)  And we are so appreciative to all of you.  We hope you are having a good time.  The weather is cooperating.  (Applause.)  And Michelle and I, Malia, Sasha — we could not be more privileged to have gotten to know so many of you, and to know all the sacrifices that you make on our behalf each and every day.

So we just want to wish you the happiest 4th of July and remind ourselves that freedom is not free — it’s paid by all the folks who are here today and all the folks who are around the world.  We want to thank those who aren’t with their families on this holiday season because they’re posted overseas.  (Applause.)  We want to especially remember them.  (Applause.)

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

8:58 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 6, 2015: President Barack Obama Delivers a Eulogy in Honor of Beau Biden — Transcript



Remarks by the President in Eulogy in Honor of Beau Biden

Source: WH, 6-6-15

Remarks by the President in Eulogy in Honor of Beau Biden

St. Anthony of Padua Church Wilmington, Delaware

12:08 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  “A man,” wrote an Irish poet, “is original when he speaks the truth that has always been known to all good men.”  Beau Biden was an original.  He was a good man.  A man of character.  A man who loved deeply, and was loved in return.
Your Eminences, your Excellencies, General Odierno, distinguished guests; to Hallie, Natalie and Hunter; to Hunter, Kathleen, Ashley, Howard; the rest of Beau’s beautiful family, friends, colleagues; to Jill and to Joe — we are here to grieve with you, but more importantly, we are here because we love you.
Without love, life can be cold and it can be cruel.  Sometimes cruelty is deliberate –- the action of bullies or bigots, or the inaction of those indifferent to another’s pain.  But often, cruelty is simply born of life, a matter of fate or God’s will, beyond our mortal powers to comprehend.  To suffer such faceless, seemingly random cruelty can harden the softest hearts, or shrink the sturdiest.  It can make one mean, or bitter, or full of self-pity.  Or, to paraphrase an old proverb, it can make you beg for a lighter burden.
But if you’re strong enough, it can also make you ask God for broader shoulders; shoulders broad enough to bear not only your own burdens, but the burdens of others; shoulders broad enough to shield those who need shelter the most.
To know Beau Biden is to know which choice he made in his life.  To know Joe and the rest of the Biden family is to understand why Beau lived the life he did.  For Beau, a cruel twist of fate came early –- the car accident that took his mom and his sister, and confined Beau and Hunter, then still toddlers, to hospital beds at Christmastime.
But Beau was a Biden.  And he learned early the Biden family rule:  If you have to ask for help, it’s too late.  It meant you were never alone; you don’t even have to ask, because someone is always there for you when you need them.
And so, after the accident, Aunt Valerie rushed in to care for the boys, and remained to help raise them.  Joe continued public service, but shunned the parlor games of Washington, choosing instead the daily commute home, maintained for decades, that would let him meet his most cherished duty -– to see his kids off to school, to kiss them at night, to let them know that the world was stable and that there was firm ground under their feet.
As Joe himself confessed to me, he did not just do this because the kids needed him.  He did it because he needed those kids.  And somehow, Beau sensed that -– how understandably and deeply hurt his family and his father was.  And so, rather than use his childhood trauma as justification for a life of self-pity or self-centeredness, that very young boy made a very grown-up decision:  He would live a life of meaning.  He would live a life for others.  He would ask God for broader shoulders.
Beau would guide and look out for his younger brother.  He would embrace his new mom –- apparently, the two boys sheepishly asking their father when they could all marry Jill -– and throughout his life, no one would make Jill laugh harder.  He would look after their baby sister, Ashley.  He would forever be the one to do the right thing, careful not to give his family or his friends cause for concern.
It’s no secret that a lot of what made Beau the way he was was just how much he loved and admired his dad.  He studied law, like his dad, even choosing the same law school.  He chased public service, like his dad, believing it to be a noble and important pursuit.  From his dad, he learned how to get back up when life knocked him down.  He learned that he was no higher than anybody else, and no lower than anybody else –- something Joe got from his mom, by the way.  And he learned how to make everybody else feel like we matter, because his dad taught him that everybody matters.
He even looked and sounded like Joe, although I think Joe would be first to acknowledge that Beau was an upgrade — Joe 2.0.  (Laughter.)  But as much as Beau reminded folks of Joe, he was very much his own man.  He was an original.
Here was a scion of an incredible family who brushed away the possibility of privilege for the harder, better reward of earning his own way.  Here was a soldier who dodged glory, and exuded true humility.  A prosecutor who defended the defenseless.  The rare politician who collected more fans than foes, and the rarer public figure who prioritized his private life above all else.
Beau didn’t cut corners.  He turned down an appointment to be Delaware’s attorney general so he could win it fair and square.  When the field was clear for him to run for the Senate, he chose to finish his job as A.G. instead.  He didn’t do these things to gain favor with a cynical public –- it’s just who he was.  In his twenties, he and a friend were stopped for speeding outside Scranton.  And the officer recognized the name on the license, and because he was a fan of Joe’s work with law enforcement he wanted to let Beau off with a warning.  But Beau made him write that ticket.  Beau didn’t trade on his name.
After 9/11, he joined the National Guard.  He felt it was his obligation -– part of what those broader shoulders are for.  He did his duty to his country and deployed to Iraq, and General Odierno eloquently spoke to Major Biden’s service.  What I can tell you is when he was loading up to ship out at Dover, there was a lot of press that wanted to interview him.  Beau refused.  He was just another soldier.
I saw him when I visited Iraq; he conducted himself the same way.  His deployment was hard on Hallie and the kids, like it was for so many families over the last 14 years.  It was hard on Joe, hard on Jill.  That’s partly why Jill threw herself into her work with military families with so much intensity.  That’s how you know when Joe thunders “may God protect our troops” in every speech he does, he means it so deeply.
Like his father, Beau did not have a mean bone in his body.  The cruelty he’d endured in his life didn’t make him hard, it made him compassionate, empathetic.  But it did make him abhor bullies.
Beau’s grandfather, Joe’s father, believed that the most egregious sin was to abuse your power to inflict pain on another.  So Beau squared his broad shoulders to protect people from that kind of abuse.  He fought for homeowners who were cheated, seniors who were scammed.  He even went after bullying itself.  He set up a Child Protector — Predator Task Force, convicted more than 200 of those who targeted vulnerable children.  And in all this, he did it in a way that was alive to the suffering of others, bringing in experts to help spare both the children and their parents further trauma.
That’s who Beau was.  Someone who cared.  Someone who charmed you, and disarmed you, and put you at ease.  When he’d have to attend a fancy fundraiser with people who took themselves way too seriously, he’d walk over to you and whisper something wildly inappropriate in your ear.  (Laughter.)  The son of a senator, a Major in the Army, the most popular elected official in Delaware –- I’m sorry, Joe –- (laughter) — but he was not above dancing in nothing but a sombrero and shorts at Thanksgiving if it would shake loose a laugh from the people he loved.  And through it all, he was the consummate public servant, a notebook in his back pocket at all times so he could write down the problems of everyone he met and go back to the office to get them fixed.
Because he was a Biden, the titles that come with family -– husband, father, son, brother, uncle -– those were the ones Beau valued above any other.  This was a man who, at the Democratic National Convention, didn’t spend all his time in backrooms with donors or glad-handing.  Instead, he rode the escalators in the arena with his son, up and down, up and down, again and again, knowing, just like Joe had learned, what ultimately mattered in life.
You know, anyone can make a name for themselves in this reality TV age, especially in today’s politics.  If you’re loud enough or controversial enough, you can get some attention.  But to make that name mean something, to have it associated with dignity and integrity –- that is rare.  There’s no shortcut to get it.  It’s not something you can buy.  But if you do right by your children, maybe you can pass it on.  And what greater inheritance is there?  What greater inheritance than to be part of a family that passes on the values of what it means to be a great parent; that passes on the values of what it means to be a true citizen; that passes on the values of what it means to give back, fully and freely, without expecting anything in return?
That’s what our country was built on –- men like Beau.  That’s who built it –- families like this.  We don’t have kings or queens or lords.  We don’t have to be born into money to have an impact.  We don’t have to step on one another to be successful.  We have this remarkable privilege of being able to earn what we get out of life, with the knowledge that we are no higher than anybody else, or lower than anybody else.  We know this not just because it is in our founding documents, but because families like the Bidens have made it so, because people like Beau have made it so.
He did in 46 years what most of us couldn’t do in 146.  He left nothing in the tank.  He was a man who led a life where the means were as important as the ends.  And the example he set made you want to be a better dad, or a better son, or a better brother or sister, better at your job, the better soldier.  He made you want to be a better person.  Isn’t that finally the measure of a man -– the way he lives, how he treats others, no matter what life may throw at him?
We do not know how long we’ve got here.  We don’t know when fate will intervene.  We cannot discern God’s plan.  What we do know is that with every minute that we’ve got, we can live our lives in a way that takes nothing for granted.  We can love deeply.  We can help people who need help.  We can teach our children what matters, and pass on empathy and compassion and selflessness.  We can teach them to have broad shoulders.
To the Biden family, this sprawling, intimate clan –- I know that Beau’s passing has left a gaping void in the world.  Hallie, I can only imagine the burdens that you’ve been carrying on your shoulders these past couple of years.  And it’s because you gave him everything that he could give everything to us.  And just as you were there for him, we’ll be there for you.
To Natalie and Hunter –- there aren’t words big enough to describe how much your dad loved you, how much he loved your mom.  But I will tell you what, Michelle and I and Sasha and Malia, we’ve become part of the Biden clan.  We’re honorary members now.  And the Biden family rule applies.  We’re always here for you, we always will be — my word as a Biden.  (Laughter.)
To Joe and Jill –- just like everybody else here, Michelle and I thank God you are in our lives.  Taking this ride with you is one of the great pleasures of our lives.  Joe, you are my brother.  And I’m grateful every day that you’ve got such a big heart, and a big soul, and those broad shoulders.  I couldn’t admire you more.
I got to know Joe’s mom, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, before she passed away.  She was on stage with us when we were first elected.  And I know she told Joe once that out of everything bad that happens to you, something good will come if you look hard enough.  And I suppose she was channeling that same Irish poet with whom I began today, Patrick Kavanagh, when he wrote, “And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.”
As hard as it is right now, through all the heartache and through all the tears, it is our obligation to Beau to think not about what was and what might have been, but instead to think about what is, because of him.  Think about the day that dawns for children who are safer because of Beau, whose lives are fuller, because of him.  Think about the day that dawns for parents who rest easier, and families who are freer, because of him.  Some folks may never know that their lives are better because of Beau Biden.  But that’s okay.  Certainly for Beau, acclaim was never the point of public service.
But the lines of well-wishers who’ve been here all week — they know.  The White House mailroom that’s been overflowing with letters from people — those folks know.  The soldiers who served with Beau, who joined the National Guard because of him.  The workers at Verdi’s who still have their home because of him, and who thanked him for helping them bus tables one busy night.  The students in Newark who remember the time he talked with them for hours, inexhaustible, even after giving a speech, even after taking his National Guard fitness test.  The Rehoboth woman who’s saved a kind voicemail from him for five years, and wrote to say “I loved the way he loved his family.”  And the stranger who wrote from halfway across this great country just to say, “The only thing we can hope for is that our children make us proud by making a difference in the world.  Beau has done that and then some.  The world noticed.”
Jill, Joe, Hallie, Hunter and Natalie — the world noticed.  They noticed.  They felt it, his presence.  And Beau lives on in the lives of others.  And isn’t that the whole point of our time here?  To make this country we love fairer and more just, not just for Natalie and Hunter, or Naomi, or Finnegan, or Maisy, or Malia, or Sasha, but for every child?  Isn’t that what this amazing journey we’ve been on is all about -– to make life better for the next generation?
Beau figured that out so early in life.  What an inheritance Beau left us.  What an example he set.
“Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.  “But, above all, we have learned that whether a man accepts from Fortune her spade, and will look downward and dig, or from Aspiration her axe and cord, and will scale the ice, the one and only success which it is his to command is to bring to his work a mighty heart.”
Beau Biden brought to his work a mighty heart.  He brought to his family a mighty heart.  What a good man.  What an original.
May God bless his memory, and the lives of all he touched.
                        END                12:32 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency March 14, 2015: President Barack Obama’s remarks from the Gridiron Club Dinner — Transcript



President Barack Obama’s remarks from the Gridiron Club Dinner

Source: WaPo, 3-14-15

10:05 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you. Please have a seat. Thank you so much. What a beautiful evening. Everybody looks wonderful. It’s like Downton Abbey, except less funny. (Laughter.) This is my third appearance at this dinner as President. And I predict you will laugh harder than ever. I’m not saying I’m any funnier. I’m saying weed is now legal in D.C. (Laughter and applause.) I know that’s how you guys are getting through this dinner. That’s why you ate the food. (Laughter.)

This is also my first gridiron with a new press secretary, Josh Earnest, who’s doing a great job. (Applause.) The other day, Josh came into the Oval and he said, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that people are finally rallying around their charismatic African-American president. The bad news — it’s Clarence Page.” (Laughter.)

Clarence and I go way back.

MR. PAGE: Way back.

THE PRESIDENT: Way back. Before he took office, he felt comfortable asking me for tips on a being a successful black president. (Laughter.) And I told him, you want to keep your birth certificate handy. (Laughter and applause.)

Now, let’s face it, being President does age you. I mean, look at me. (Laughter.) I was hoping Fred Thompson would be the Republican speaker so I could buy a reverse mortgage. (Laughter and applause.) You start getting crankier as you get older. Next week, I’m signing an executive order to get off my lawn. (Laughter.) And getting older changes you. For example, coffee really disagrees with me these days — which is why John Boehner just invited coffee to address the joint House. (Laughter.)

It is amazing, though, how time flies. Just a few years ago, I could never imagine ever being in my fifties. And when it comes to my approval ratings, I still can’t. (Laughter.) I mean, think about how things have changed since 2008. Back then, I was the young, tech-savvy candidate of the future. Now I’m yesterday’s news and Hillary has got a server in her house. (Laughter.) I didn’t even know you could have one of those in your house. (Laughter and applause.) I am so far behind. Did you know that? I would have gotten one.

On the bright side, by the time I’m done with this job, I will finally have enough life experience for a memoir. (Laughter.)

My Vice President isn’t here tonight. He told me, “If I want to hear people talking for five hours straight, I’ll just stay home alone.” (Laughter.) And, by the way, this is just a quick aside — Joe rubs my shoulders too. (Laughter.) I just wanted everybody to know. He does. It’s not bad, it feels pretty good. I don’t let him give me a pedicure, but — (laughter.)

Of course, I want to acknowledge my fellow speakers tonight. Give it up for Terry McAuliffe — (applause) — the Governor of Virginia and the mayor of “This Town.” Terry loves fundraising. He’s the first person who’s actually been upset to learn you can’t ask people for tons of money once you become the Governor of Virginia. Well, except maybe the previous Governor of Virginia. (Laughter.)

I also want to congratulate Scott Walker. He did a great job tonight. Give it up for him. (Applause.) Governor Perry, don’t you think he did a great job tonight? I noticed you weren’t clapping that much.

This lame duck stuff is fun. (Laughter.)

Despite a great performance tonight, Scott has had a few recent stumbles. The other week he said he didn’t know whether or not I was a Christian. And I was taken aback, but fortunately my faith teaches us forgiveness. So, Governor Walker, as-salamu alaykum. (Laughter and applause.)

Scott also recently punted on a question of evolution, which I do think is a problem. I absolutely believe in the theory of evolution — when it comes to gay marriage.

And, finally, Governor Walker got some heat for staying silent when Rudy Giuliani said I don’t love America — which I also think is a problem. Think about it, Scott — if I did not love America, I wouldn’t have moved here from Kenya. (Laughter and applause.) Still trying to deal with the overstaying the visa thing. But hopefully the court is okay with the immigration initiatives.

Governors Walker and Perry are not the only possible 2016-ers here tonight. We also have Dr. Ben Carson. He wants to make it clear that being here was a choice. The fact is, Doctor, embracing homosexuality is not something you do because you go to prison. It’s something you do because your Vice President can’t keep a secret on “Meet the Press.” (Laughter.)

But for all the gaffes, all the slip-ups, I think 2016 will come down to the issues. For example, equal pay. Did you know that the average male presidential candidate earns $150,000 less per speech than a woman doing the same job? (Laughter.) It’s terrible. We got to fix that.

And we can’t just focus on 2016, people. We just had an election. This new Congress is just getting started, which is why I want to acknowledge the leader of the House Republicans — as soon as I figure out who that is. (Laughter.)

The fact is, I really genuinely like John Boehner. But from your press reports, I gather he may be in real trouble. Over the past several weeks, many of you have been writing about a possible conservative coup — or as Bill O’Reilly calls it, “reporting from the war zone.” He’s been sniffing around. The good news is, Bill has an eyewitness who can back up some of his claims. The bad news, of course, is that it’s Brian Williams.

And as much as I like to make fun of my friends in the GOP and the media, it’s not like this is an easy time to be a Democrat. They’re turning last year’s midterms into a movie; it’s called “50 Shades of Red.”

But, as was noted, we are determined to bounce back. The Democratic Party recently analyzed the midterm elections, and concluded we have to spend more time focused on older white voters — which is why I’m here. (Laughter and applause.)

Staying focused, moving forward — it’s not always easy in this climate. I mean, you guys are always picking us apart. Recently, I made some comments about the Crusades, and people started blowing it all out of proportion, scrutinizing every single word. What is this, the Spanish Inquisition? (Laughter.)

And then I got flak for appearing on a video for BuzzFeed, trying to reach younger voters. What nonsense. You know, you don’t diminish your office by taking a selfie. You do it by sending a poorly written letter to Iran. (Laughter and applause.) Really, that wasn’t a joke.

Now, as with everyone else, I want to end the night by saying something a little more serious. We are producing and consuming news in ways that we couldn’t have imagined a few years ago, let alone a few decades ago. But I believe that having access to more information than ever hasn’t diminished people’s hunger for understanding that news, and processing it. And they want to see an even deeper sense of what’s going on in their world because of so much change.

And as much as politicians and the press go at it sometimes, I think that without the outstanding work that so many of you do every single day, then our need for understanding will not be met and our democracy will be poor.

When there’s a crisis playing out around the world, or a milestone in our history like the one that we commemorated at Selma last week, we count on you to provide context, to see past the superficial, and in some cases, to risk everything in pursuit of the true story, and to hold us — those of us in power — to account.

So while the world of media may be changing, I am confident that our democracy will always be able to rely on the tradition represented by the reporters in this room: your persistence, your dedication, and your lifelong commitment to helping all of us better understand this world. That’s how our democracy works. And we are very grateful for the job that you do.

So thank you, God bless you. And God bless one of the many countries that I love. (Laughter and applause.) Thank you.


Political Musings February 7, 2015: Obama historically right about Christianity ISIS comparison at National Prayer Breakfast




Obama historically right about Christianity ISIS comparison at Prayer Breakfast

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama caused quite the controversy at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015 when he discussed extremism in religion and then proceeded to make comparisons between the Christian Crusades, Inquisition and ISIS, the Islamic State of…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 5, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech at National Prayer Breakfast



Remarks by the President at National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH,  2-5-15

Washington Hilton
Washington, D.C.

9:13 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Well, good morning.  Giving all praise and honor to God.  It is wonderful to be back with you here.  I want to thank our co-chairs, Bob and Roger.  These two don’t always agree in the Senate, but in coming together and uniting us all in prayer, they embody the spirit of our gathering today.

I also want to thank everybody who helped organize this breakfast.  It’s wonderful to see so many friends and faith leaders and dignitaries.  And Michelle and I are truly honored to be joining you here today.

I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama — who is a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion, who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings.  (Applause.)  I’ve been pleased to welcome him to the White House on many occasions, and we’re grateful that he’s able to join us here today.  (Applause.)

There aren’t that many occasions that bring His Holiness under the same roof as NASCAR.  (Laughter.)  This may be the first.  (Laughter.)  But God works in mysterious ways.  (Laughter.)   And so I want to thank Darrell for that wonderful presentation.  Darrell knows that when you’re going 200 miles an hour, a little prayer cannot hurt.  (Laughter.)  I suspect that more than once, Darrell has had the same thought as many of us have in our own lives — Jesus, take the wheel.  (Laughter.) Although I hope that you kept your hands on the wheel when you were thinking that.  (Laughter.)

He and I obviously share something in having married up.  And we are so grateful to Stevie for the incredible work that they’ve done together to build a ministry where the fastest drivers can slow down a little bit, and spend some time in prayer and reflection and thanks.  And we certainly want to wish Darrell a happy birthday.  (Applause.)  Happy birthday.

I will note, though, Darrell, when you were reading that list of things folks were saying about you, I was thinking, well, you’re a piker.  I mean, that — (laughter.)  I mean, if you really want a list, come talk to me.  (Laughter.)  Because that ain’t nothing.  (Laughter.)  That’s the best they can do in NASCAR?  (Laughter.)

Slowing down and pausing for fellowship and prayer — that’s what this breakfast is about.  I think it’s fair to say Washington moves a lot slower than NASCAR.  Certainly my agenda does sometimes.  (Laughter.)  But still, it’s easier to get caught up in the rush of our lives, and in the political back-and-forth that can take over this city.  We get sidetracked with distractions, large and small.  We can’t go 10 minutes without checking our smartphones — and for my staff, that’s every 10 seconds.  And so for 63 years, this prayer tradition has brought us together, giving us the opportunity to come together in humility before the Almighty and to be reminded of what it is that we share as children of God.

And certainly for me, this is always a chance to reflect on my own faith journey.  Many times as President, I’ve been reminded of a line of prayer that Eleanor Roosevelt was fond of. She said, “Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength.”  Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength.  I’ve wondered at times if maybe God was answering that prayer a little too literally.  But no matter the challenge, He has been there for all of us.  He’s certainly strengthened me “with the power through his Spirit,” as I’ve sought His guidance not just in my own life but in the life of our nation.

Now, over the last few months, we’ve seen a number of challenges — certainly over the last six years.  But part of what I want to touch on today is the degree to which we’ve seen professions of faith used both as an instrument of great good, but also twisted and misused in the name of evil.

As we speak, around the world, we see faith inspiring people to lift up one another — to feed the hungry and care for the poor, and comfort the afflicted and make peace where there is strife.  We heard the good work that Sister has done in Philadelphia, and the incredible work that Dr. Brantly and his colleagues have done.  We see faith driving us to do right.

But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon.  From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it.  We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism  — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.

We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.

So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.  Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.

So this is not unique to one group or one religion.  There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.  In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try.  And in this mission, I believe there are a few principles that can guide us, particularly those of us who profess to believe.

And, first, we should start with some basic humility.  I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt — not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.

Our job is not to ask that God respond to our notion of truth — our job is to be true to Him, His word, and His commandments.  And we should assume humbly that we’re confused and don’t always know what we’re doing and we’re staggering and stumbling towards Him, and have some humility in that process.  And that means we have to speak up against those who would misuse His name to justify oppression, or violence, or hatred with that fierce certainty.  No God condones terror.  No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives, or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number.

And so, as people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends.  And here at home and around the world, we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom — freedom of religion — the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.

There’s wisdom in our founders writing in those documents that help found this nation the notion of freedom of religion, because they understood the need for humility.  They also understood the need to uphold freedom of speech, that there was a connection between freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  For to infringe on one right under the pretext of protecting another is a betrayal of both.

But part of humility is also recognizing in modern, complicated, diverse societies, the functioning of these rights, the concern for the protection of these rights calls for each of us to exercise civility and restraint and judgment.  And if, in fact, we defend the legal right of a person to insult another’s religion, we’re equally obligated to use our free speech to condemn such insults — (applause) — and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with religious communities, particularly religious minorities who are the targets of such attacks.  Just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t question those who would insult others in the name of free speech.  Because we know that our nations are stronger when people of all faiths feel that they are welcome, that they, too, are full and equal members of our countries.

So humility I think is needed.  And the second thing we need is to uphold the distinction between our faith and our governments.  Between church and between state.  The United States is one of the most religious countries in the world — far more religious than most Western developed countries.  And one of the reasons is that our founders wisely embraced the separation of church and state.  Our government does not sponsor a religion, nor does it pressure anyone to practice a particular faith, or any faith at all.  And the result is a culture where people of all backgrounds and beliefs can freely and proudly worship, without fear, or coercion — so that when you listen to Darrell talk about his faith journey you know it’s real.  You know he’s not saying it because it helps him advance, or because somebody told him to.  It’s from the heart.

That’s not the case in theocracies that restrict people’s choice of faith.  It’s not the case in authoritarian governments that elevate an individual leader or a political party above the people, or in some cases, above the concept of God Himself.  So the freedom of religion is a value we will continue to protect here at home and stand up for around the world, and is one that we guard vigilantly here in the United States.

Last year, we joined together to pray for the release of Christian missionary Kenneth Bae, held in North Korea for two years.  And today, we give thanks that Kenneth is finally back where he belongs — home, with his family.  (Applause.)

Last year, we prayed together for Pastor Saeed Abedini, detained in Iran since 2012.  And I was recently in Boise, Idaho, and had the opportunity to meet with Pastor Abedini’s beautiful wife and wonderful children and to convey to them that our country has not forgotten brother Saeed and that we’re doing everything we can to bring him home.  (Applause.)  And then, I received an extraordinary letter from Pastor Abedini.  And in it, he describes his captivity, and expressed his gratitude for my visit with his family, and thanked us all for standing in solidarity with him during his captivity.

And Pastor Abedini wrote, “Nothing is more valuable to the Body of Christ than to see how the Lord is in control, and moves ahead of countries and leadership through united prayer.”  And he closed his letter by describing himself as “prisoner for Christ, who is proud to be part of this great nation of the United States of America that cares for religious freedom around the world.”  (Applause.)

We’re going to keep up this work — for Pastor Abedini and all those around the world who are unjustly held or persecuted because of their faith.   And we’re grateful to our new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Rabbi David Saperstein — who has hit the ground running, and is heading to Iraq in a few days to help religious communities there address some of those challenges.  Where’s David?  I know he’s here somewhere.  Thank you, David, for the great work you’re doing.  (Applause.)

Humility; a suspicion of government getting between us and our faiths, or trying to dictate our faiths, or elevate one faith over another.  And, finally, let’s remember that if there is one law that we can all be most certain of that seems to bind people of all faiths, and people who are still finding their way towards faith but have a sense of ethics and morality in them — that one law, that Golden Rule that we should treat one another as we wish to be treated.  The Torah says “Love thy neighbor as yourself.”  In Islam, there is a Hadith that states: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”  The Holy Bible tells us to “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  Put on love.

Whatever our beliefs, whatever our traditions, we must seek to be instruments of peace, and bringing light where there is darkness, and sowing love where there is hatred.  And this is the loving message of His Holiness, Pope Francis.  And like so many people around the world, I’ve been touched by his call to relieve suffering, and to show justice and mercy and compassion to the most vulnerable; to walk with The Lord and ask “Who am I to judge?”  He challenges us to press on in what he calls our “march of living hope.”  And like millions of Americans, I am very much looking forward to welcoming Pope Francis to the United States later this year.  (Applause.)

His Holiness expresses that basic law:  Treat thy neighbor as yourself.  The Dalai Lama — anybody who’s had an opportunity to be with him senses that same spirit.  Kent Brantly expresses that same spirit.  Kent was with Samaritan’s Purse, treating Ebola patients in Liberia, when he contracted the virus himself. And with world-class medical care and a deep reliance on faith — with God’s help, Kent survived.  (Applause.)

And then by donating his plasma, he helped others survive as well.  And he continues to advocate for a global response in West Africa, reminding us that “our efforts needs to be on loving the people there.”  And I could not have been prouder to welcome Kent and his wonderful wife Amber to the Oval Office.  We are blessed to have him here today — because he reminds us of what it means to really “love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Not just words, but deeds.

Each of us has a role in fulfilling our common, greater purpose — not merely to seek high position, but to plumb greater depths so that we may find the strength to love more fully.  And this is perhaps our greatest challenge — to see our own reflection in each other; to be our brother’s keepers and sister’s keepers, and to keep faith with one another.  As children of God, let’s make that our work, together.

As children of God, let’s work to end injustice — injustice of poverty and hunger.  No one should ever suffer from such want amidst such plenty.  As children of God, let’s work to eliminate the scourge of homelessness, because, as Sister Mary says, “None of us are home until all of us are home.”  None of us are home until all of us are home.

As children of God, let’s stand up for the dignity and value of every woman, and man, and child, because we are all equal in His eyes, and work to send the scourge and the sin of modern-day slavery and human trafficking, and “set the oppressed free.”  (Applause.)

If we are properly humble, if we drop to our knees on occasion, we will acknowledge that we never fully know God’s purpose.  We can never fully fathom His amazing grace.  “We see through a glass, darkly” — grappling with the expanse of His awesome love.  But even with our limits, we can heed that which is required:  To do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

I pray that we will.  And as we journey together on this “march of living hope,” I pray that, in His name, we will run and not be weary, and walk and not be faint, and we’ll heed those words and “put on love.”

May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may He bless this precious country that we love.

Thank you all very much.  (Applause.)

9:37 A.M. EST

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



Remarks By The President At Evening Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-17-14 

State Floor

8:03 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!


THE PRESIDENT:  Happy Hanukkah!

AUDIENCE:  Happy Hanukkah!

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

MRS. OBAMA:  It’s good.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s very impressive.

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

MRS. OBAMA:  He said that earlier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8:11 P.M. EST


Remarks by the President at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-17-14 

East Room

4:27 P.M. EST

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Happy Hanukkah, Mr. President!

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

AUDIENCE:  Happy Hannukah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(The blessings are given.)

END                  4:38 P.M. EST




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



Remarks by the President at “Christmas in Washington”

Source: WH, 12-15-14

National Building Museum

7:32 P.M. EST

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 7:36 P.M. EST

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




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

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

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



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

Source: WH, 12-10-14

Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling

1:42 P.M. EST

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

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

THE PRESIDENT:  Ho, ho, ho.

MRS. OBAMA:  How is everybody doing?

THE PRESIDENT:  She’s doing good.

MRS. OBAMA: Happy holidays, merry Christmas.

THE PRESIDENT:  Merry Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE PRESIDENT:  Yay!  (Applause.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MRS. OBAMA:  What video game?

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

MRS. OBAMA:  I wasn’t listening.

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

1:50 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 17, 2014: at Kennedy Center Honors Reception — Transcript




Remarks by the President at Kennedy Center Honors Reception

Source: WH, 12-7-14

East Room

5:09 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Good evening.

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House.  Michelle and I love this event.  Everybody looks so nice.  (Laughter.)  This is one of our favorites.  And as Lily used to say — that’s the truth.  (Laughter.)   Now, as a President, I cannot stick out my tongue.  That might cause an international incident.

But I want to start the evening by thanking David Rubenstein and the Kennedy Center Trustees, and the Kennedy Center’s new president, Deborah Rutter.  Where’s Deborah?  (Applause.)  Yay!  I want to thank George and Michael Stevens, who produce this event every year.  (Applause.)  Lately, they’ve won an Emmy for it just about every year, as well.  So we are very proud to have them here.  In fact, Michelle and I call this the “Stevens season.”  (Laughter.)

President Kennedy once wrote, “The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of a nation, is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose — and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.”

I think Tom Hanks will agree that President Kennedy was probably envisioning “Joe Versus the Volcano” when he wrote that.  (Laughter.)  Although, I have to say, “Big” was on last night.  (Applause.)  And that — so things balance out.  (Laughter.)  But it’s clear that the group on stage with me tonight understands what President Kennedy understood: that our art is a reflection of us not just as people, but as a nation.  It binds us together.  Songs and dance and film express our triumphs and our faults, our strengths, our tenderness in ways that sometimes words simply cannot do.  And so we honor those who have dedicated their lives to this endeavor.  Those who have tapped into something previously unspoken, or unsung, or unexpressed.  Those who have shown us not simply who they are, but who we all are.  Those who are able to tap into those things we have in common, and not just those things that push us apart.

Now, I’m going to start with somebody who I know all of you think about whenever I sing, and that’s Reverend Al Green.  (Laughter.)  I’ve been keeping his traditions alive.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Do it again.  Do it again.

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I’m not going to do it again.  I’m not going to do it.  (Laughter.)  No.  No.  That was like a one-time thing.  My voice didn’t crack.  It was a fluke.  I can sing a little, but I cannot sing like Al Green.  Nobody can sing like Al Green.  (Applause.)  Nobody can sing like Al Green.  That soul, that light falsetto.  His music can bring people together.  In fact, he says he can hardly go anywhere without a fan coming up to him, pulling out a picture of one of their kids, and telling him which of his songs helped that child enter the world.  (Laughter.)  I embarrassed the Reverend.  Look, at him, he’s all like — (laughter).

Al was born in Forrest City, Arkansas, one of 10 kids packed into a two-bedroom house.  In his early 20s, he signed with Hi Records and helped bring Memphis soul into the spotlight with songs like “Tired of Being Alone.”


THE PRESIDENT:  Mm-hmm.  “Let’s Stay Together,” “Take Me to the River.”

AUDIENCE:  Mmm.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  They’re thinking about all those songs and how it brought people together.  (Laughter.)  In the 1970s, he became a pastor at his church in Memphis, and later he started churning out a string of gospel hits that earned him eight Grammys.  And as the years passed, he’s woven together his gospel and soul careers, recently collaborating with the Roots, John Legend, and his Memphis neighbor, Justin Timberlake.  And of course, he’s still singing from the pulpit on Sunday.  As he says, “The greatest thing that ever happened to me…the little boy from Arkansas, was that amidst all the doubts…I found peace.”  For the peace he found and the soul he has shared with all of us, tonight we honor the Reverend, Al Green.  (Applause.)

On the night of Patricia McBride’s farewell performance at the New York City Ballet, the crowd showered her with 13,000 roses.  Thankfully, they cut the thorns off first.  (Laughter.)  And that is fitting, because when you hear about Patricia, you hear about somebody who is all rose and no thorn; legendary for her good cheer, her sweetness, her unabashed joyfulness.  And that personality translated to the stage, where her humor and grace was matched only by her power and stamina, and incredible athleticism.  She’s one of the most versatile dancers we’ve ever seen.

Patricia became the principal dancer at the New York City Ballet when she was just 18 years old, the youngest to ever hold that role, and she kept at it for 28 years — longer than anybody else in history.  By the time she was finished, some of our greatest choreographers had written dozens of pieces just for her — which is not bad for a shy young girl who grew up in the shadow of World War II, putting glue on the toes of her dance shoes to make them last longer.

She’s the daughter of a single mom who worked as a bank secretary in a day when most mothers didn’t work outside the home, who pinched pennies from that job and paid the 75 cents for each dance lesson.  Today, Patricia hasn’t forgotten where she came from.  She and her husband Jean-Pierre are in charge of the critically acclaimed Charlotte Ballet, which offers a program that gives dance scholarships to young people in need.  So for sharing her spirit and her smile in so many ways, tonight we honor Patricia McBride.  (Applause.)

In “Nine To Five,” Lily Tomlin plays an undervalued employee whose chauvinist boss steals her ideas and screams at her to get coffee.  Finally, she and two coworkers get so fed up, they kidnap him.  They get to work changing the office.  Working moms get treated better.  Productivity rises.  The top brass are thrilled.  It’s basically a live-action version of the working family policies I’ve been promoting for years.  (Laughter and applause.)  We’ve sent DVDs to all members of Congress to try to get them on the program.  (Laughter.)

That role has Lily written all over it.  It’s edgy, a little dark, but fundamentally optimistic.  She’s created countless characters — from Ernestine, the telephone operator; to “Lucille the rubber freak;” to Edith Ann, the five-and-a-half-year-old philosopher — all of them kind of oddballs, like Lily — (laughter) — all portrayed with incredible warmth and affection, like Lily.  She pushed boundaries, as well.  On her 1973 variety show, “Lily,” she and Richard Pryor performed a skit called “Juke and Opal,” about two black folks hanging out in a diner.  (Laughter.)  One reviewer called it “the most profound meditation on race and class that I have ever seen on a major network” — which says something both about Lily and the major networks.  (Laughter.)  That was ad-libbed, by the way.  (Laughter.)  In her one-woman show, “The Search of Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” written by her brilliant partner, Jane Wagner — (applause) — yay, Jane — Lily played a dozen characters, transforming instantly into men and women, young, old, crazy and sane.

And this versatility has led to a flood of awards — Emmys, Tonys, a Grammy, Oscar nomination.  She’s just inches away from an EGOT.  And now she’s a Kennedy Center honoree.  When asked what she hoped her tribute tonight would look like, she said, “What I’d like to see is a big stream of gay drag artists come out as Ernestine.”  (Laughter and applause.)  I haven’t talked to George Stevens.  I don’t know whether this has been arranged.  (Laughter.)  Although, I’d like to see it, too.  I think — (laughter.)  But I can promise that your contributions to American stage and screen will live on.  For her genius, her compassion, for just being funny, we honor tonight Lily Tomlin.  (Applause.)

About 40 years ago, a young singer-songwriter named Gordon Sumner was known to wear a yellow and black striped sweater. Ever since, he’s been known by one name: Sting.  Now, not everybody can pull off a name like Sting, but this guy can.  His wife, Trudie, calls him Sting.  Apparently his kids call him Sting.  (Laughter.)  “POTUS” is a pretty good nickname — (laughter) — but let’s face it, it’s not as cool as “Sting.”  (Laughter.)  I kind of wish I was called “Sting.”  I’m stuck with “POTUS.”  (Laughter.)

But everybody knows that Sting is more than just a name.  He is an all-around creative force.  There’s his singular voice on classics from The Police — “Roxanne,” “Every Breath You Take,” “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.”   There’s his incredible solo career — the songwriting that shape-shifts between rock and jazz and reggae, and rhythms drawn from all around the world.  He’s acted in films.  He’s topped the classical charts.  He just opened a musical on Broadway.  The guy once turned down a chance to be a Bond villain.  Who does that?  (Laughter.)  Sting apparently.  I mean, look at him — he’s too cool, right?

Because just being a celebrity was never Sting’s goal.  This is a man who comes from humble roots.  He’s the son of a milkman and a hairdresser.  When he was a child, he was so tall that his classmates called him “Lurch.”  They regret that now.  (Laughter.)  That’s payback right there.  He’s here.  You, whoever you are — you’re out there.  (Laughter and applause.)  Before he had any success as a singer, he had worked as a teacher, a construction worker, and in a tax office.  And if a few things had gone differently, we could be living in a world with a really hip, cool tax clerk named Lurch.  (Laughter.)  Instead, we’ve got Sting — artist, truth-teller, a champion of human rights, a champion of our environment.  And for all those reasons, and the fact that his music is spectacular and beautiful — for all those reasons, tonight we honor Sting.  (Applause.)

One of four kids in his family in Concord, California, Tom Hanks once said his idea of a good time growing up was to take a bus to Sacramento.  (Laughter.)  In the years since, Tom has flown a rocket to outer space, he’s fallen in love with a mermaid, he’s faced down Somali pirates, mooned the President of the United States.  (Laughter.)  I’m glad he got that last one out of his system before this evening.  (Laughter.)

Tom’s career began just like so many Hollywood legends — dressing in drag for a show called “Bosom Buddies” — (laughter) — kung-fu fighting The Fonz on “Happy Days.”  But he first won our hearts in comedy, with big hits like “Big” and “Splash.”  I did watch “Big” last night.  That’s a great movie.  I love that movie.  Got kind of choked up at the end.  And as the years passed, he told us “there’s no crying in baseball,” “life is like a box of chocolates.”  He told “Houston, we have a problem.”  And as a cartoon cowboy, he showed us we can always keep our faith in a little boy.

But Tom isn’t known simply for his characters — he’s known for his character.  For his tremendous support of our veterans, he’s in the Army Ranger Hall of Fame.  For his support of the space program, he has an asteroid named after him.  Through Tom, we’ve seen our World War II heroes not simply in sepia-tones somewhere in the distance, but as they truly were: gritty, emotional, flawed, human.  Through Tom, we saw the courageous faces behind an AIDS epidemic often overshadowed by stigma and bigotry.  Through Tom, again and again, we’ve seen our passion and our resolve, and our love for each other.  As his friend Steven Spielberg once said, “If Norman Rockwell were alive today, he would paint a portrait of Tom.”

And people have said that Tom is Hollywood’s everyman; that he’s this generation’s Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper.  But he’s just Tom Hanks.  And that’s enough.  That’s more than enough.  And for that, we honor him tonight — Mr. Tom Hanks.  (Applause.)

So, Reverend Al Green; Patricia McBride; Lily Tomlin;  Sting; Tom Hanks — charm, soul, spirit spunk — they’ve helped us better understand ourselves and each other.  And, as President Kennedy expressed, they’ve helped us center our purpose as a nation, and together reflect the quality of our society.  For that, we cannot thank them enough.  We are so glad to be able to celebrate these extraordinary people.  Thank you for everything that you’ve given to us over the years and for what you’re going to give us in the future.

Congratulations.  God bless you all.  Please join me in saluting one last time our extraordinary Kennedy Center Honorees for this evening.  (Applause.)


5:28 P.M. EST

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



Remarks by the President at National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

Source: WH, 12-4-14 


6:12 P.M. EST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6:17 P.M. EST

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