OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 1, 2015
Source: WH, 7-3-15
Taylor Stratton Elementary School
1:36 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Everybody, have a seat. Have a seat. Well, it’s good to be back in Nashville. (Applause.) I like Nashville. I don’t know if you noticed, I come back here quite a bit. (Laughter.)
First of all, can everybody please give Kelly a big round of applause? (Applause.) In addition to being wonderful and somewhat feisty spirit, as I have learned, she also has the distinction of possibly being the first person ever to be picked up at her house by a presidential motorcade. (Laughter.) Which I thought was pretty cool. Well, it turned out it was so close to the school, so we said, well, we might as well just swing by and get her. (Laughter.)
I want to thank the school for hosting us here today, because I know it’s a lot of work when we come into town. Very much appreciate everybody who was involved in that. You have a great Mayor, Karl Dean, who’s here, so please give Karl a big round of applause. (Applause.) There he is with his beautiful family right there. Family, stand up. Family, come on. There’s his family — yay! (Applause.) You can’t imagine what a family has to put up with when you’re in public service. So we really appreciate all of them.
Kelly already mentioned him, but he is somebody who is what you want out of a member of Congress. He works hard. He calls it like he sees them. He’s willing to do courageous stuff even when it’s not popular. He is a gentleman, one of my favorite people — Jim Cooper. (Applause.)
Also here is somebody who knows health care well, was a health care professional, a doctor and executive, and knows a little bit about politics because he used to be the former Majority Leader. When I first came in, in fact, he and I had a chance to work together on a number of things, and he’s been a terrific advocate on behalf of health care for a lot of people — Mr. Bill Frist. (Applause.)
So, with that, I think I’m going to take off my jacket, get a little more relaxed here. Part of the reason we came to Tennessee — in addition to me just liking Nashville and liking the state, generally, is that Tennessee has a history of innovation when it comes to health care, doing some very creative stuff — health care professionals, doctors, nurses, hospitals and executives working alongside nonprofits and the public sector to make sure that people are getting the very best health care they can, and also being able to control costs in a sensible way.
And thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the efforts of people like Jim who took some very tough votes, we now have about 166,000 Tennesseans who have health care who didn’t have it before. Folks like Kelly. (Applause.)
In addition to the people who are able to buy health insurance through the exchanges, through the marketplaces that were set up through the Affordable Care Act, I think it’s important to remember that everybody who has health insurance benefitted and continues to benefit from this law — even though a lot of folks don’t know it.
So if you have health insurance through the job, you’re able to keep your child on health insurance up until they’re 26 years old because of this law. (Applause.) And that’s provided millions of young people across the country with health insurance who may not have had it before. And that’s especially important as young people are transitioning, getting their first job — they may not always get a job that has full benefits, and this way they’re able to make sure that they stay healthy.
In addition, if you’re a senior citizen, or somebody who’s disabled, it turns out that you are getting discounts on your prescription drugs that you may not have noticed but are saving you potentially hundreds or even thousands of dollars. And there are millions of people across the country who are benefitting. That is because of this law.
If you don’t fall under those categories and you’re just somebody who’s got health insurance on the job, you now are protected, so that if you, let’s say, lost that job, or decided to move to a job or just start your own business, you can’t be prohibited from getting health insurance because of a preexisting condition. That’s a protection that everybody is benefitting from as a consequence of this law. (Applause.)
If you’re a woman, you can’t be charged just for being a woman as a consequence of this law. (Applause.) Last I checked, that’s about over half of the population, so that’s a pretty large constituency. You’re able to get free preventive care, including mammograms, as a consequence of this law, on your insurance.
So there are a whole host of things that fall under the Affordable Care Act that are benefitting 100 million, 150 million people. They just may not be aware of it. But what it’s done is it’s made health care stronger, more secure, and more reliable in America. You don’t always notice that until you need it — the way Kelly needed it. And that peace of mind, that understanding that if you get sick you’re not going to lose your job — or you’re not going to lose your house, you’re not going to lose all your savings, that you’re going to be able to get quality care — that is extraordinarily important.
I’ve said before, the scariest day of my life was when Sasha was three months old — my daughter — and she got meningitis. And the only reason we knew was because we had a great primary care physician and we were able to rush to an emergency room and the doctors and nurses did extraordinary work. And I was feeling helpless in that situation, but I thought, what would happen if I was in the same situation and I didn’t have health care, and I didn’t have a primary care physician to call in the middle of the night because we noticed she wasn’t crying the same way she usually cried? Because of the law we passed, there are parents who just aren’t going to have to face that. And that’s priceless.
Now, the good news is that, contrary to some of the expectations, not only has the law worked better than we expected, not only are 16 million people now getting health insurance that didn’t have it before, not only do we now have the lowest uninsured rate since we started tracking people and how much health insurance they had, but it’s actually ended up costing less than people expected. And health care costs have been held — the inflation on health care costs have actually proved to be the lowest — since the Affordable Care Act passed — in the last 50 years. So we’re actually seeing less health care inflation.
And part of the reason is because the law also encouraged health care providers and doctors, nurses, hospitals to start thinking more creatively about how can we get a better bang for our health care dollar. How can we make sure that rather than spending a lot of money on unnecessary tests or readmissions, we’re encouraging really high-quality care that’s good for the patient but also good for health care spending.
And this is another area where Tennessee actually has been really innovative. In fact, it won a $65 million grant for state innovation, where you’ve got hospitals and doctors and nurses and not-for-profits and other groups working together to figure out how can we, for example, identify potential diabetes patients early, make sure that they’re getting healthy quicker, preventing some of the worst elements of it. And even though it might involve a little extra spending on the front end, it turns out it saves hundreds of thousands of dollars on the back end; improves quality of life, improves quality of care, cuts costs, which is good for our economy, good for patients, and good for America.
So I’m feeling pretty good about how health care is going. (Applause.) And the thing I’ve never lost sight of, though, is that this is about people. This is not about politics, it’s not about Washington. It’s about families and loved ones, and the struggle and the fear that comes about when you have a serious illness and knowing that you’ve got not just your own family, but also a community that has your back.
And you heard Kelly talk about her story. Sitting right next to Kelly is a wonderful woman named Natoma Canfield, who came down with me today. She’s from Ohio, and she wrote a letter to me, pretty similar to Kelly’s, back in — five years ago, so back in 2010, when we were still in the middle of this fight to try to get health care that’s affordable for everybody. And Natoma had been diagnosed with cancer, had beat it back, then was buying health insurance on the individual market and it turned out that the costs were just skyrocketing so high that she just couldn’t afford it anymore.
And she wrote to me a passionate letter about why we needed to get this done. And I would always refer back to her letter whenever things got a little bleak and Congress wasn’t behaving as sensibly as Jim Cooper behaves. (Laughter.) And when we finally signed that bill, I had Natoma’s letter framed with the pen that I signed the bill with — one of the pen’s that I signed the bill with — just to remind me that this wasn’t about politics, this was about people.
And so I’m so glad Natoma is here, but I’m also glad that all of you are here. And part of what I’m hoping is that with the Supreme Court case now behind us, what we can do is — (applause) — I’m hoping that what we can do is now focus on how we can make it even better. Because it’s not as if we’ve solved all the problems in our health care system. America still spends more on health care than any other advanced nation and our outcomes aren’t particularly better.
And so we know there’s still a lot of waste in the system. We know that the quality of care isn’t always where it needs to be. And so my hope is, is that on a bipartisan basis, in places like Tennessee, but all across the country, we can now focus on what have we learned. What’s working? What’s not working? Are there further improvements we can make to improve quality? Are there more ways we can encourage people to get preventive care so that they don’t get sick in the first place, so that we have a actual health care system instead of a disease care system? Are there ways that we can do better to provide the support we need for outstanding primary care physicians and nurses, who oftentimes are coming out of school loaded up with debt and aren’t always getting the support that they need and aren’t always able to practice the way they want to practice?
There are huge areas of improvement and, frankly, there’s still a lot of people who aren’t insured. Part of the design of the Affordable Care Act was that some people were going to buy health care on the marketplace; in some cases, we were going to allow states to expand their coverage through individualized programs in their states. I think because of politics, not all states have taken advantage of the options that are out there. Our hope is, is that more of them do.
We still have to sign a bunch of people up. We’ve covered now about a third of the people who weren’t covered before this law passed, but that means there’s still two-thirds out there who still need some help and they’re still going to the emergency room at the last minute when something goes wrong.
And so we want to educate people. We want to listen to folks. We want to hear good ideas from all sources. We want to think about this in a practical, American way instead of a partisan, political way. And if we do that, then I think there’s still great strides to be made.
So I want to thank all of you for being here. And with that, I’m just going to open it up for a bunch of questions. And you can ask me about anything, but probably you should ask me a couple of questions about health care. (Laughter.) I’m also willing to talk about the women’s soccer team and how we’re going to beat whoever it is we’re playing up in Canada. (Applause.) I can talk about the NBA free agency. (Laughter.) I can talk about the Predators and hockey. (Applause.) And I can talk about other things other than sports. (Laughter.)
But the way we’re going to do this is we’re just going to — this is very casual. I’m just going to call on folks. The only rules I’m going to lay down are when you raise your hand, if you can wait — are there microphones in the audience? So wait for a microphone so we can all hear you. And I’d like you to introduce yourself. And I’m going to try to make sure that we go boy, girl, boy, girl, so that it’s even. (Laughter.) Okay? All right.
We’re going to start with this young lady right here in front. You’ve got a microphone right here. So remember to introduce yourself. Go ahead and hand her the mic. Sometimes we tell our folks to hang onto the mic because people keep it for too long. (Laughter.) But this looks like a pretty well-behaved group, so go ahead and hand them the mic.
Q I am a Tennessee volunteer enrolling people in the Affordable Care Act.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q Thank you. (Applause.) We live in a city with a lot of health care companies and a lot of great medical facilities who can take advantage of some of the things you mentioned. What do you think ordinary people — people who are volunteers, or ordinary citizens can do to help make our health care system and our health insurance system better?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I want to thank you for volunteering, because so much of our challenge these first couple of years as we’ve gotten this started was just getting people information, because there was so much misinformation out there.
So, for example, a lot of people don’t know that through the exchange, through the Affordable Care Act exchange plan, there is enormous choice of plans. And Tennessee actually has benefitted from some of the widest range of choices of just about any state. I think there are 70 options to choose from for people throughout the state. And about 80 percent of people who are purchasing health insurance through these exchanges because they’re getting federal subsidies, they’re spending less than 100 bucks a month for good, quality care. And that’s true nationwide.
So part of our goal here is just to give people good information. And in fairness to folks, look, before I started tackling this whole health care thing, when I got a job I didn’t really pay attention to health care benefits. You go to the job, and somebody from HR hands you a form and says, here, fill this out, and they tell you, well, you need to choose from two or three plans, and you kind of ask them, all right, well, what do you think? (Laughter.) They tell you, well, that one is pretty good, and you sign up for it. Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about health insurance until we get sick, unfortunately.
So getting people information, I think that’s something that is really helpful when it comes from neighbors, friends, coworkers, your church — because you have more trust. Sometimes people don’t always trust what they see on television, especially on something that became sort of a political football.
I think the other thing is for citizens to share their stories of how it’s helped them not only with their friends, neighbors, coworkers, but also with their state legislators and with their governor, and writing letters and letting them know that this is helping people, it makes a difference — so that they then recognize that this is an important need and it’s worthy of support.
And then you’ve also got to take care of yourself. But you look really good, so you’re obviously — (laughter) — getting exercise and eating right, and getting regular checkups and all that good stuff. Because that’s helpful, as well. That’s part of how we keep costs down, is making sure people are well-informed about what it takes to live a healthy life.
Great question, though.
All right, it’s a gentleman’s turn. This guy right down here. You’ve got a good-looking beard. All right, hold on a second. Let’s get the mic — like I said, you can just pass it down to him.
Q It is an honor and a privilege to be here, Mr. President. I live in Pikeville, Tennessee. It’s about 50 miles north of Chattanooga. And I’m here representing the 280,000 people that is uninsurable in the state of Tennessee with the Insure Tennessee Act. And what we need is — we got no insurance. We can’t get no insurance. We don’t make enough to pay for insurance, but still yet we make too much to get a subsidy insurance. And I would like to know if you are aware of this, or is there anything that — movements or acts that you can make on the part of our problem here?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I appreciate your comments. There is something that can be done, but it’s going to be at the state level. And I think that it’s important for state legislators to get together and find a uniquely Tennessee solution to the problem.
But understand, the way the law was set up was that states would have the option of expanding existing programs like Medicaid, and then you’d also have people who were buying health insurance on the marketplace and getting subsidies. And the point you’re making is that if the state hasn’t taken action on one part of the program, then even with the good work that’s being done for people who are getting subsidies and purchasing insurance, you’re still leaving a bunch of folks out. And here in Tennessee, that’s probably a couple hundred thousand people who could benefit if we really focused on how to fix it.
Now, as I said before, Tennessee has a history of bipartisan, smart, state-specific efforts to expand health insurance. And I don’t expect that what’s good for Tennessee is automatically going to be the same as what’s good for California or what’s good for my home state of Illinois. But given the strong history of innovation in health care in Tennessee and given the high quality of doctors and hospitals and nurses and networks that are here, you all should be able to find a solution. And the federal government is there to help and to work with those states that are ready to get going.
I will tell you the states that have taken full advantage of all the federal options available, they have an even lower uninsured rate, and a healthier population, and more people signing up for the options that are available than those states that have not taken full advantage of those options. And that’s just a fact. And it is unfortunate that getting this done got so political. Washington is kind of a crazy place. But that doesn’t mean every place has got to be crazy. (Laughter and applause.) So I’d like to see some good sense spring forth from the great state of Tennessee, see if we can get this thing done. (Applause.)
All right. Yes, right there. Go ahead.
Q Thank you so much for being here today and sharing with us. I’m from St. Thomas Health and one of the administrators. So the work that’s already been done, the exchange, we know we have work to do with expansion. What would you envision are the next steps that we need to take in health care in general for our country?
THE PRESIDENT: The areas where I think we can still make the biggest difference, in addition to making sure everybody is signed up for the options that they have, is to really think more about the delivery system of health care. And this can get real complicated because we got a complicated health care system. But I can boil it down maybe into layman’s terms.
Right now we spend too much money on the wrong things and not enough money on the right things. So health care generally is very expensive in this country. But if you look at how that money is spent, we don’t give enough incentives to health care providers to really focus just on the patient and the quality of care. First of all, there’s way too much bureaucracy. There’s way too much paperwork. That wears out the patient. It wears out the doctor. It wears out the nurses. They don’t like it.
The second problem is that because of the way that we’ve designed the payment system in health care, historically what happened was that, let’s say, a hospital or a doctor had a patient come in, says, I’ve got diabetes or I have I think maybe diabetes. The hospital or the doctor would get paid to amputate the leg of a patient, but they wouldn’t get reimbursed if they just hired somebody to monitor whether that individual was taking their medicines on a regular basis and monitoring their eating habits, right? So what ends up happening is, is that you don’t end up helping the patient who might have kept their leg if they were keeping up a regular regiment of looking after themselves.
The doctors don’t feel good about that. The nurses don’t feel good about it. But they just don’t have time because of the economics of the health care system. So one of the things that we’re trying to do across the board — and Tennessee is actually doing some good innovation on this — is let’s reimburse people for the outcomes and the quality of care that people are getting.
So instead of — when that patient comes in, instead of worrying about just, okay, I’m going to bill for this test and I’m going to bill for this surgery, let’s tell them, if that person ends up having a good outcome, then you’re going to get reimbursed. And the better the outcome, maybe the bigger the reimbursement.
And now it may turn out that it’s a good deal for the doctor to spend an extra half an hour with the patient very carefully going over the medicine they should be getting. Or the hospital may say, you know what, we’re going to sign you up for a health club and make sure that you’re getting some regular exercise, or we’re going to reimburse you for a smoking-cessation program — and suddenly all that produces a better result.
But we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got a payment system that follows that logic of patient-centered care. And as I said before, we’re already seeing that happening. Part of the reason that we’ve actually seen health care costs slow — the inflation of health care slow is because folks are starting to get reimbursed in different ways, and health care groups are starting to organize themselves to focus on the quality of care as opposed to the amount of care.
If we can do that, see, what that does is it — first of all, it frees up resources. It’s not good for anybody when health care costs go up because not only does the federal government have to pay more, the state of Tennessee has to pay more. That means there’s less money left over for doctors, nurses, for health education. It means higher premiums for the patients. But it also means that if we’re saying — if we just cut 2 percent or 3 percent on the cost of health care, that’s hundreds of billions of dollars that we can now spend on something else. We can spend that on education. We can spend that on job training programs. We can spend that on fixing some potholes. And it can improve everybody’s quality of life.
So that I think is the area that we’re going to be spending a lot of focus and a lot time, in addition to making sure that people are able to sign up for the care that they need. Because I want to emphasize, there are still too many people out there who haven’t signed up or can’t sign up for the health care that’s available to them. And if we can clear away some of the politics, that will help, as well.
Good. Gentleman, right here.
Q Good afternoon, Mr. President. My name is Eric Brown from Nashville, Tennessee. I work for the Children’s Defense Fund and a small, local congregation here. My question is more for veterans when it comes to health care. I have a family member who’s a veteran. She would like to have a female doctor. She’s been rejected about two or three times. So I just wanted to hear more of your thoughts on that — how to help her to get the health care that she needs, but also have the safety that she needs for it as well.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Well, as most of you know, the VA system is an entirely separate health care system from the private sector health care systems that most of us use.
Here’s the basic principle: If somebody is wearing our — the uniform of the armed services of this country and sacrificing and putting themselves in harm’s way to protect us, we’ve got to give them good health care when they come home. (Applause.) We’ve got to make sure that they get the very best.
Now, the good news is that the overwhelming majority of veterans are very satisfied with the health care they receive once they get into the system. The bad news is that because a lot of the processing and systems in the VA system are outdated, sometimes it’s taking a long time for folks to get into the system, to get an appointment, to make sure that they’ve got a doctor that they’re comfortable with. There are areas where there are still shortages — for example, in mental health, with a lot of folks coming back with PTSD — there haven’t been, historically, enough mental health services provided for our veterans.
So my Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald, who is a former — who’s a veteran himself, but also a former CEO of Procter & Gamble, so knows about big companies and big operations — he’s really been doing a good job in revamping how the VA system is organized generally. It’s going to take some time. It’s still not where it needs to be.
With respect to your — was it your sister, in particular?
THE PRESIDENT: Your mother-in-law, in particular — we’ll get your name and your mother-in-law’s name, and we’ll find out what exactly the issue is. But generally speaking, we’ve actually made an investment in women’s health care in the VA system, reflecting the fact that we now have extraordinary women who are serving in the armed services, and the health care needs of women are not always going to be the same as the health care needs of men. And so we’ve actually been trying to boost the kinds of specialties and training that are needed to provide health care to women — our women veterans, and we’ve been expanding that.
And that’s something I’m very proud of. We’ve made a significant inroad in that area. Tell her thanks for her service.
All right, it’s a young lady’s turn. Go ahead. I’ll go here, and — don’t worry, I think I’ll be able to catch everybody. Go ahead. But she does have an Obama pin on, so I thought I’d — (laughter) — I figured I had to give her a little props for that.
Q Thank you. And thank you, Mr. President, for coming to Tennessee. And my name is Brenda Gilmore. I’m a member of the Tennessee General Assembly in the House. And there are a number of members that are here, so I just wanted you to know that we support you. We believe that health care is the right thing for everybody, and especially for Tennesseans.
And I wanted to ask you, with your background also being a state senator —
THE PRESIDENT: State legislator.
Q — do you have some strategies that you could share with us — (laughter) — that we could encourage our Governor to stay on the journey and to continue to find solutions to present Insure Tennessee, and to bring some of our colleagues over on the other side so that we can take the politics out of it and help them to understand how important this is to the quality of life for Tennesseans? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t presume to know as much as you do about Tennessee politics, so I will leave the expert advice to folks like Jim Cooper maybe.
But here’s the one thing I do know, is that elected officials respond to public opinion. I think one of the challenges that we’ve had throughout this fight has been that there’s been a lot of misinformation out there. And so if you stopped the average Tennessean on the street and you asked them, do you support making sure that insurance companies can’t bar you from getting health insurance because of a preexisting condition, eight out of 10 of them would say, absolutely, I support that. Overwhelming majority of Republicans would support it just as much as Democrats did.
Now, if you asked them, did you know the Affordable Care Act is what is guaranteeing you don’t get blocked from getting health insurance with a preexisting condition, you’d get an argument with at least half those folks — “no, that’s not what it’s doing.” So part of it is just providing people good information. That’s really important. And if ordinary folks feel it’s important, then usually elected officials start responding.
I think the other thing to emphasize, which I know you’re already doing, is recognizing that not every state is the same, and that the truth is, is that there are a lot of different ways that states are approaching this problem. And if everybody will just acknowledge that people should get health insurance, that they should be able to get affordable care when they need it — if that much is acknowledged, that base principle, then you can say to them, okay, here’s our ideas for how to do it, what are your ideas? And people can come up with good ideas of their own.
I will say this. People tend to forget that the Affordable Care Act model, with health care exchanges and buying on the — in the marketplace, and getting subsidies from the federal government — that was originally a model that was embraced by Republicans before I embraced it. It’s the model that Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. It’s the model that conservative organizations like Heritage Foundation thought were a good idea.
So my hope is that maybe now we can return to a constructive conversation about — if folks have better ideas, you should accept them. My general rule is I have no pride of authorship here. I just want to make sure Kelly has got health insurance and I want to make sure that Thelma has got health insurance, and I want to make sure this gentleman gets health insurance. And if there’s a better way of doing it, let me know.
But it turns out that it’s hard. (Laughter.) So it’s got to be an idea that actually works. It can’t be an idea that sounds good, but then doesn’t work. That’s the only danger. So if somebody tells you that, well, we’re going to prohibit insurance companies from barring you from getting health insurance if you’ve got a preexisting condition — which is popular — but we’re going to allow people not to get health insurance if they don’t feel like it, then the truth is that doesn’t work. And the reason it doesn’t work is, if you think about it, if you knew that the insurance company couldn’t prevent you from getting health insurance once you were sick, you wouldn’t pay all those premiums until you got sick. And then you’d go to your health insurance company and say, there’s a law you got to sell me health insurance — and you’d save a whole lot of money, but, of course, the whole insurance system would collapse. It wouldn’t work.
So there are just some basic things that — basic realities about the health care system that have to be taken into account. But I think you should be open to other ideas. Like I said, look, I didn’t mind stealing ideas from Mitt Romney. (Laughter.) But the bottom line is: What works? What works? And if Republican legislators have better ideas, they should present them. But they have to be realistic. They have to be meaningful. (Applause.)
Okay. The gentleman right here in the glasses. Right here. Yes.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I work with Family and Children Service. I am versed in the health care system and I help people enroll in the marketplace. And I want to thank you so much on behalf of the many people I’ve been helping, especially the most vulnerable immigrant people, to get affordable health insurance. We really thank you very much.
Also, I just want to ask you if you have any plans to expand the Affordable Care Act for sick migrant people, especially the people who don’t have enough documents in this country but they still live and work here for a long time. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we were very clear that the Affordable Care Act did not apply to people who are not here legally. And that’s the law. So that’s another example of — there’s a lot of misinformation about this. The law says that if you are undocumented, if you’re not here legally, you can’t benefit from subsidies and the program that we’ve set up.
The real answer to your question is why don’t we have immigration reform so that people who’ve been here a long time who are otherwise law-abiding citizens, who oftentimes have children who are U.S. citizens, who are contributing to the society and are willing to pay their dues, pay taxes, get a background check — why don’t we give them a pathway so they can be legal. (Applause.) If we do that — if we reform the immigration system, which is all broken, then this problem that you just mentioned takes care of itself.
I mean, look, we should not be encouraging illegal immigration. What we should be doing is setting up a smart, legal immigration system that doesn’t separate families, but does focus on making sure that people who are dangerous, people who are gang-bangers or criminals — that we’re deporting them as quickly as possible, that we’re focusing our resources there; that we’re focusing on a strong border. We’ve made improvements on all those fronts, but we could be doing even more if we had immigration reform.
And we almost got that done. We had a bipartisan bill come through the Senate that was very smart and was well-crafted. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was a good compromise among a lot of different ideas. The House of Representatives declined to call it to a vote, even though I think we had a majority of members of the House of Representatives who would be willing to vote for it.
I’ve taken some administrative actions to try to improve the system. For example, us not deporting some young person who grew up here and been here since they were three or four or five years old, brought here by their parents, hasn’t done anything wrong, are going to school with our kids, or friends with our kids, and suddenly — in some cases, they didn’t even know that they weren’t citizens — and then they’re 18 years old and suddenly they can’t get a college scholarship because it turns out they don’t have the legal documents.
And I said, administratively, that’s not who we are to just send those kids back. In some cases, they’ve never been to the country that their parents are from, don’t speak the language. What do you mean we’re going to send them back? Some of them serving in our military.
So we’ve done a lot administratively. Ultimately, though, to really find a full solution to the problem we’re going to have to get congressional action. And I suspect this will be a topic of conversation during the upcoming presidential campaign.
I should note by the way that Michelle is very happy that I cannot run. (Laughter.) That is good for the health care of our family. (Laughter.)
Yes, go ahead.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Marian Hurst from Mount Juliet, Tennessee. And thanks to the ACA, I was able to retire and still get health insurance. My question is, what are your thoughts on how to now manage the premiums? I don’t know if you’re aware that BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has announced a significant increase after the one that they gave from 2014 to 2015.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep in mind that the Affordable Care Act was designed so that there’s competition. And folks in Tennessee benefitted over these last two years not only of a lot of healthy competition — more insurers came in offering plans than just about any other place — it was really impressive — but Tennessee’s premiums were also substantially lower than a lot of other states, and have been over the last couple of years. The insurance companies now have come in requesting higher premiums.
The good news for people of Tennessee is this has to be reviewed and approved by the insurance commission. And if — last year is a good example. Last year there were a number of states where the insurance companies came in requesting significant spikes in premiums. And there were a lot stories in the newspaper, just like there are this year, about, oh, premiums are skyrocketing and this is going to be terrible and all that. When all the dust settled and the commissioners who were empowered to review these rates forced insurance companies to justify what they were seeking, what you discovered was, is that the rates actually didn’t go up as much as people thought.
So I think the key for Tennessee is just making sure that the insurance commissioner does their job in not just passively reviewing the rates, but really asking, okay, what is it that you are looking for here? Why would you need very high premiums? And my expectation is, is that they’ll come in significantly lower than what’s being requested.
But I think that this emphasizes the need for us to not let our foot off the gas when it comes to the delivery system reforms that I talked about earlier. Because part of what’s happening in terms of health care costs is that as technology changes, and there are more cures for more diseases, people utilize them more. And if we aren’t smart about how we spend our health care dollars, if we want everything right away even if it’s not shown to be particularly effective, then that shoots up health care costs and ultimately premiums are going to keep on going up.
So we’ve got to think more carefully about this. The best example of this, by the way, is prescription drugs. The biggest spike in health care costs is around prescription drugs. Now, some of this is just because drugs have gotten better and people are able to now deal with cholesterol or deal with other chronic problems through a drug regimen. And that’s a good thing. We should be happy about that. But when you’ve got a situation where the brand-name drug costs 100 bucks a pill and the generic drug costs 10 bucks a pill, and the generic has been shown to be just as effective as the brand name, it’s good for all of us as consumers to make sure that we’re generally using the generic drug when we can.
And a lot of times — sometimes we’re very insistent because we’ve seen some fancy ad on TV — people are running around looking happy. (Laughter.) Until they read that thing about: “This may cause serious side effects.” (Laughter.) Diarrhea, migraines. (Laughter.) I always laugh at those ads. (Laughter.)
But a lot of times, because of the advertising, you’ll have somebody come into their doctor and say, well, I want X because I saw a TV ad, and if the doctor says, well, actually Y works just as well and is a lot cheaper — a lot of times, people’s attitude is no, no, no, I want X. And if the system is set up where you’re getting X, then that means your premiums are going to go up. If you want your premiums to stay low, then you have got to base your decisions on your doctor — you want your doctors and your nurses basing decisions on science and what’s proven as opposed to what’s being advertised.
And that’s just one example of how we’ve got to make sure that we continue to save money in the system. Because if costs keep on going up and everybody wants everything and is not smart about how we’re spending out health care dollars, then, yes, premiums are going to end up going up too high. But stay on your insurance commissioner, pay attention to what they’re doing.
Okay. I got time for one more — but I’m going to take two. (Laughter.) Yes, sir, this gentlemen right here.
Q I’m Walter Davis, and I’m a director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, which does both enrollment and advocating for Governor Haslam’s Insure Tennessee. It’s wonderful to hear the success stories here. But here in the South, we need help from the government and from supportive institutions to talk about the people being left behind. And I want to make sure you meet Davy Crockett before you leave today.
THE PRESIDENT: Is this Davy right here?
Q Right there.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
Q Over there with the Tennessee Justice Center. There are important stories about the people who are left out because of decisions by legislators. And we love the legislators that are with us, both parties, but the other legislators need to meet people in the gap.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Well, you know what, I think this is like a handoff to Davy here. (Laughter.) So we’ll get you the mic here, Davy. Hold on one second. Is your name really Davy Crockett?
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a cool name. (Laughter.) But you don’t have that beaver cap. (Laughter.)
Q I’ve got one at the house.
THE PRESIDENT: You do? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. All right.
Q My name is James Davy Crockett. And I live in Bulls Gap, Tennessee. And I want to know — I’ve been turned down four times for Social Security. Is there anything that you can do to maybe push it through or something? (Laughter.) I mean, I have been turned down and I’d like to be able to get some help.
THE PRESIDENT: All right. Well, here, I’ll tell you what. Here’s the thing, Davy, I don’t run the Social Security Administration. It’s the law. But here’s one thing that does happen. If I ask a question, I tend to get an answer pretty quick. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to get your information, Davy, and I’ll make sure the Social Security Administrator takes a look at it and expedites it. All right? (Applause.)
Q Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, thank you.
Davy Crockett! (Applause.) You all remember that TV show? Actually, a lot of people are too young here. (Starts to sing) Davy, Davy Crockett. (Laughter.) I loved that.
Right here. This young lady is going to get the last question, because she wrote me a letter, and when people tell their stories that reminds me of why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Q Thank you Mr. President. My name is Margaret Mackatee (ph) and I’m a retired teacher and school administrator for 38 years in the great state of Ohio. And I moved to Tennessee to be with my son and my grandchildren. And my grandson, Patrick, said to say hi to you.
THE PRESIDENT: Tell Patrick I said hey. (Laughter.)
Q Yes, sir. The letter I wrote was after watching you make a speech to college students. And at the time, it was after the fact of the death of my son. And being off of health care immediately after he graduated from Wright State University, and through the process of his illness and his death, how it affected me economically, and paying COBRA and shots.
And in the context of being a school administrator, as hard as that might have been to me, it was worse for my kids at school, going through much the same thing or worse, with no support system like I had, especially as we went through the economic downturn in the country. And being a high school principal and watching my kids be homeless and transient and mobile, and much harder to grab ahold of. And they would be into crime or stealing or whatever for survival on the streets. And they would show up at school, or they’d get off the bus and come down and say, “Doctor Mackatee (ph), I need to go to the clinic because I’m sick.”
And so our little school clinics became their health care. And sometimes even their parents would come and say, hey, can your nurse check us out. And at one time, we had one nurse for seven schools.
And so, in terms of people that are lost in the shuffle — especially at the secondary level — transient, homeless children — we had a huge population of homeless children and they kept my head on straight through the grief I felt in our family because they’re so compelling. They don’t let — teenagers don’t let you sit around and whine. They pull you forward into life.
And my concern for the school systems in this country is for the massive health care issues that walk in the doors of school systems who don’t have nursing care, who don’t have clinics that are staffed, who don’t have the resources. And many of the teachers in America take care of the kids out of their pocket. School cooks feed children — slip them a little bit. I know for a fact that many of my kids only ate with confidence at school. That’s one of the reasons I love Mrs. Obama and her notion of — (applause) — of decent school lunch.
I can remember walking into a school system and the lunch they served was a little piece of cheese, a little short pasty breadstick and a tiny little tomato sauce cup. And that was lunch until Mrs. Obama brought focus to what was being served to our children.
So the kids in the country who are homeless and deprived and transient — as soon as a kid gets 15 or 16, it’s hard to — they come and they show up once in a while, or they go off and they bounce from home to home, or buddy to buddy, or situation to situation. They’re the ones that I’m worried about falling through the cracks.
And I’m worried about our school system and the focus that we spend more time and effort trying to get what we used to call in Ohio “butts in seats to take tests,” instead of seeing to their health care needs and their mental health care needs and support needs, so that we can wholly educate a child in the United States of America. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a great comment. Well, first of all, Margaret, we’re so grateful for you sharing your personal story, because it reminds us of the goodness and generosity of the American people, when somebody like Margaret is going through her own pain but she’s thinking about people other than herself and her family. That kind of spirit is to be found all across the country. It’s not unique to one party. It’s not unique to one region. There are good people like Margaret everywhere.
A couple of points I’d just pick up on that you’ve mentioned. Number one — when we talk about the health care system, we have to just remind ourselves of the economic impact of the health care system on families. It’s not just feeling bad. Obviously, when you’re sick, your most important concern is getting well. But what is also true is, is that when you get sick and you don’t have health insurance, then that is draining your resources for other things.
Bankruptcy because of medical expenses is a huge portion of the bankruptcies in America. When families lose their house, or a parent has to stop working because of an untreated illness, or they miss too many days at work because they can never go to a doctor and then lose their job or lose incomes from those days they don’t work — that can send a household into a spiral. And then, once a household starts breaking down because they lose a home, or they lose a car, or they lose a job, now, suddenly, you start having people in shelters, and people on the streets. And that then affects kids and then their capacity to learn. And you then create cycles of problems that are much harder for people to pull out of.
So part of the reason that it’s important for us to get this health care issue right is so that people have at least a stable base from which to then focus on all the other issues that they’ve got to focus on in their lives. And if we can, as I said before, continue to do a better job of providing high-quality care to everybody, but in a more efficient way, then that will free up resources so that, for example, we can address the underfunding of schools, and we can make sure that we are having additional resources inside the schools for things like mental health.
The number of under-diagnosed young people who end up getting in trouble or dropping out of school just because they didn’t get the same health care services that better-off families get, it’s substantial. And once they’ve dropped out, you lose them. And then they end up in the criminal justice system. And we then end up paying for their incarceration instead of them paying taxes because they’re able to get a good job and support a family. And those cycles can build.
One of the most challenging things as President for me is to try to get folks to recognize that investments in people oftentimes save us money over the long term, even if it looks like it costs money in the short term. And we make this mistake over and over again.
You mentioned school lunches, for example. We know that children’s grades and test scores tend to go down at the end of the month, on average, in low-income communities. All right, well, why is that? It’s because food stamps start running out at the end of the month and kids are hungry and they’re not focused.
Now, it may look smart for us to restrict those benefits, except if even half of those kids end up doing better in school, and didn’t drop out, and were able to get a job, the society would be much wealthier. If we are focused on mental health services, then we could cut down on the crime rate. If we invest in early childhood education, we know there are improved outcomes that save the society money as a whole.
And let’s face it, part of what prevents us from making those investments in the short term is, is that we’ve gone through some tough times. The middle class feels strapped. People’s incomes and wages haven’t gone up — even after the recovery where we dug ourselves out of the crisis. We still have growing inequality where a huge amount of the increase in income is still going to folks at the very top. And so if you’re a middle-class person, and you’re already struggling and things are tight, then sometimes you feel like, well, why am I going to pay more taxes to help folks at the bottom? Right? That’s, I think, the mentality that a lot of folks have. And it’s understandable.
But part of what I’ve been trying to argue — and I know Jim tries to do it, as well — is to recognize that we don’t have to choose between middle-class families working hard and trying to get ahead and low-income families who are working hard and trying to get ahead — if those of us who’ve been extremely blessed are just a little more open-hearted about how we can help everybody. (Applause.)
And I would like us to just reflect the generosity of spirit that Margaret expresses, because if we all had that generosity of spirit, if we all look at every child as a member of our family, if we think of everybody as part of a single community, then we can solve a lot of these problems. And it won’t end up costing us more money, we won’t necessarily have to pay more taxes, we’ll just be spending it in different ways.
In some ways, health care is a good metaphor for a lot of the problems we have. We spend things on stuff we don’t need and we neglect the things we do, and we don’t end up healthier as a result.
Well, that’s not just true for the health care system; that’s true for our economy. We waste a lot of money on stuff we don’t need. And we under-invest in those things that will make sure that we have a healthy society. And politics oftentimes gets in the way. And part of what I’ve tried to encourage my own Democratic Party to do is to recognize that not all the money that we spend at the federal level is smart, and some of it — some programs don’t work and we should end those when they don’t work, and be honest about what’s working and what’s not.
But part of what I’ve also tried to do is to say to the Republican Party: Open your hearts and think about the people here in Tennessee who are working hard, are struggling, and just need a little bit of help. And if we give them that help, it’s going to pay off over the long term. This will be a stronger state. Employment will be higher. Folks will be paying taxes. Everybody is going to prosper.
We’re all in this together. That’s what I believe. When America is together and we have a certain generosity of spirit, even if we’re hard-headed about making sure stuff works right and we’re not wasting money, but we’re doing what is needed to give everybody a shot in life, that’s when America grows. That’s when we prosper.
I know that’s what you believe, too, Margaret. You showed it in your own life. We appreciate you very much.
Thank you. God bless you. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)
2:44 P.M. CDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 1, 2015
Source: WH, 7-1-15
11:08 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Please have a seat.
More than 54 years ago, at the height of the Cold War, the United States closed its embassy in Havana. Today, I can announce that the United States has agreed to formally re-establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba, and re-open embassies in our respective countries. This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people, and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas.
When the United States shuttered our embassy in 1961, I don’t think anyone expected that it would be more than half a century before it re-opened. After all, our nations are separated by only 90 miles, and there are deep bonds of family and friendship between our people. But there have been very real, profound differences between our governments, and sometimes we allow ourselves to be trapped by a certain way of doing things.
For the United States, that meant clinging to a policy that was not working. Instead of supporting democracy and opportunity for the Cuban people, our efforts to isolate Cuba despite good intentions increasingly had the opposite effect -– cementing the status quo and isolating the United States from our neighbors in this hemisphere. The progress that we mark today is yet another demonstration that we don’t have to be imprisoned by the past. When something isn’t working, we can -– and will –- change.
Last December, I announced that the United States and Cuba had decided to take steps to normalize our relationship. As part of that effort, President Raul Castro and I directed our teams to negotiate the re-establishment of embassies. Since then, our State Department has worked hard with their Cuban counterparts to achieve that goal. And later this summer, Secretary Kerry will travel to Havana formally to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more.
This is not merely symbolic. With this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people. We’ll have more personnel at our embassy. And our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the island. That will include the Cuban government, civil society, and ordinary Cubans who are reaching for a better life.
On issues of common interest –- like counterterrorism, disaster response, and development -– we will find new ways to cooperate with Cuba. And I’ve been clear that we will also continue to have some very serious differences. That will include America’s enduring support for universal values, like freedom of speech and assembly, and the ability to access information. And we will not hesitate to speak out when we see actions that contradict those values.
However, I strongly believe that the best way for America to support our values is through engagement. That’s why we’ve already taken steps to allow for greater travel, people-to-people and commercial ties between the United States and Cuba. And we will continue to do so going forward.
Since December, we’ve already seen enormous enthusiasm for this new approach. Leaders across the Americas have expressed support for our change in policy; you heard that expressed by President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil yesterday. Public opinion surveys in both our countries show broad support for this engagement. One Cuban said, “I have prepared for this all my life.” Another said that that, “this is like a shot of oxygen.” One Cuban teacher put it simply: “We are neighbors. Now we can be friends.”
Here in the United States, we’ve seen that same enthusiasm. There are Americans who want to travel to Cuba and American businesses who want to invest in Cuba. American colleges and universities that want to partner with Cuba. Above all, Americans who want to get to know their neighbors to the south. And through that engagement, we can also help the Cuban people improve their own lives. One Cuban American looked forward to “reuniting families and opening lines of communications.” Another put it bluntly: “You can’t hold the future of Cuba hostage to what happened in the past.”
And that’s what this is about: a choice between the future and the past.
Americans and Cubans alike are ready to move forward. I believe it’s time for Congress to do the same. I’ve called on Congress to take steps to lift the embargo that prevents Americans from travelling or doing business in Cuba. We’ve already seen members from both parties begin that work. After all, why should Washington stand in the way of our own people?
Yes, there are those who want to turn back the clock and double down on a policy of isolation. But it’s long past time for us to realize that this approach doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked for 50 years. It shuts America out of Cuba’s future, and it only makes life worse for the Cuban people.
So I’d ask Congress to listen to the Cuban people. Listen to the American people. Listen to the words of a proud Cuban American, Carlos Gutierrez, who recently came out against the policy of the past, saying, “I wonder if the Cubans who have to stand in line for the most basic necessities for hours in the hot Havana sun feel that this approach is helpful to them.”
Of course, nobody expects Cuba to be transformed overnight. But I believe that American engagement — through our embassy, our businesses, and most of all, through our people — is the best way to advance our interests and support for democracy and human rights. Time and again, America has demonstrated that part of our leadership in the world is our capacity to change. It’s what inspires the world to reach for something better.
A year ago, it might have seemed impossible that the United States would once again be raising our flag, the stars and stripes, over an embassy in Havana. This is what change looks like.
In January of 1961, the year I was born, when President Eisenhower announced the termination of our relations with Cuba, he said: It is my hope and my conviction that it is “in the not-too-distant future it will be possible for the historic friendship between us once again to find its reflection in normal relations of every sort.” Well, it took a while, but I believe that time has come. And a better future lies ahead.
Thank you very much. And I want to thank some of my team who worked diligently to make this happen. They’re here. They don’t always get acknowledged. We’re really proud of them. Good work.
11:15 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 1, 2015
Girl Scouts join hands and sing “Taps” at the White House Campout, as part of the “Let’s Move! Outside” initiative, on the South Lawn of the White House, June 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
Source: WH, 6-30-15
4:36 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Great job, Aniyah! (Applause.) Hey, guys. You ready for this?
MRS. OBAMA: We are so excited to have you here. I’m not going to talk long because I really just wanted to formally welcome you to the White House. There it is. It’s right there. It is right there. And you’re going to be sleeping out here. Can you imagine that? This is the first time we’ve ever done a campout on the South Lawn of the White House. You are making history. This is something you can tell your kids and your grandkids. Do you understand the impact — (laughter) — the importance of this moment, today?
It’s exciting. Well, you know who’s more excited than you all? Me. (Laughter.) And everyone here at the White House. I have to tell you, to make this happen it took a lot of work. We have security. The Secret Service had to be involved. The Social Office, the Department of the Interior. We couldn’t do this without them. We’re so excited and so proud of Secretary Jewell, who couldn’t be here because she’s doing stuff for the President. But she wanted to say hi. And she put a lot of energy into making this day and night happen for you guys.
So I want to make sure you thank all the people around you while you’re here, all the staff people. Because people are going to be sleeping out here with you, making sure that you’re safe and that everything goes well. Okay? So make sure you thank folks. But everybody is excited to have you here.
We’re doing this because I am the honorary [National President] of the Girl Scouts. I’m very proud to be the honorary co-chair. And I am also very — a big proponent of getting outside and staying active. You guys have heard of Let’s Move. That’s my program about keeping kids active and healthy. And one of the components of the program is something called Let’s Move Outside. And this is something that we’re doing to encourage kids to get outside and get moving in their National Parks, because this is the 100th anniversary of our National Parks. And we have so many beautiful parks all over this country that are free to families and kids, and they can hike and they can camp and they can discover the great outdoors. We want people to find their parks all around.
And one of the reasons why we wanted you all here — did you know that the White House is a National Park? You knew that? You did your research? Well, what better way to highlight Let’s Move Outside than to have the Girl Scouts camping out right here in a National Park at the White House. Good idea, huh?
Well, I’m very proud of you all because you all get outside a lot. You’re good campers. And I’m happy that Kathy and the Girl Scouts — you’ve developed these new outdoor badges that you can earn, I understand. All these things — hiking, and all these exciting outdoor things. So you guys are going to teach me how to do some of these things, will you please? I don’t know if I can officially earn a badge, but I want to try. All right?
So I want to get going. But you guys have got to be helpful. I don’t know anything. I don’t know how to tie a knot. I don’t know how to pitch a tent. I can sing a little bit. I’m definitely not climbing that wall. (Laughter.) That’s up to you all, okay?
So will you help me get moving and learn how to do some new stuff? All right, let’s get going! (Applause.)
4:40 P.M. EDT
Source: WH, 6-30-15
8:35 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Why are you guys still up here? (Laughter.) How’s it going? So what’s been going on? What have you guys been up to?
THE PRESIDENT: You’re singing camp songs?
MRS. OBAMA: Is that all you’ve been doing is singing — and why are you all dusty? (Laughter.) What game were you all playing? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: So you’ve been singing. What were you doing before you were singing? You guys had dinner.
THE PRESIDENT: You did some rock climbing?
THE PRESIDENT: Where did you go rock climbing? (Laughter.) There are no rocks over there. What are you talking about? (Laughter.) So you guys been having fun?
THE PRESIDENT: So most of you guys are going into 5th grade or 6th grade?
THE PRESIDENT: Going into 5th. And so you guys are from a bunch of different troops, or —
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, from all over the country?
THE PRESIDENT: So you guys are making new friends.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s terrific.
MRS. OBAMA: Look at their cool little chairs.
THE PRESIDENT: They’re very nice chairs.
GIRL: They roll back. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Can I just say back when I went camping my tents weren’t as nice. (Laughter.) And I didn’t have cool chairs like this. (Laughter.)
GIRL: Where did they come from?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know. They just showed up. (Laughter.) I don’t know what you guys are doing here. (Laughter.)
GIRL: Camping on your lawn. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: You’re camping on my lawn. I don’t know how that happened.
MRS. OBAMA: They’re making history.
THE PRESIDENT: I think the reason you guys are here is because we’re celebrating the Great Outdoors and the National Park Service is trying to make sure that young people get outside — so you guys aren’t watching TV all the time, or playing video games all the time, but you’re getting outside, getting some fresh air and spending time with your friends and having adventures. And there are national parks all across the country, and it turns out that the White House is a national park. (Applause.) I didn’t know that.
MRS. OBAMA: They knew.
THE PRESIDENT: You guys knew. Okay. So you guys are helping to celebrate and kick off this whole Great Outdoors adventure that everybody is going to be having this summer, right?
THE PRESIDENT: All right. So I don’t really know any campfire songs. Are you guys going to teach me one?
(The President and the First Lady sing along to campfire songs.)
THE PRESIDENT: Did you see the First Lady rocking out a little bit? (Laughter.) She had the moves.
All right, well, you know what, you guys are having so much fun. Unfortunately, I’ve got to go to work.
GIRLS: Noooo —
THE PRESIDENT: I am not allowed to have fun. (Laughter.)
GIRL: Can we have a hug?
THE PRESIDENT: We can have a group hug. (All the girls at once come running up for a group hug.) Those are some good hugs! I didn’t know that Girl Scouts gave such good hugs. (Laughter.) Who are those Girl Scouts over there? (pointing to the troop leaders.) They look at least like they’re juniors. (Laughter.)
I’m so glad you guys are having fun. But I want to make sure — you guys better clean up this mess. (Laughter.) When I wake up in the morning — I’m teasing. You guys aren’t going to be making a racket, are you?
THE PRESIDENT: All right. It was good to see you guys. All right, have fun.
8:47 P.M. RDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 30, 2015
Source: WH, 6-30-15
“Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages…We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned.”
– President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 20, 2015
Middle class economics means that a hard day’s work should lead to a fair day’s pay. For much of the past century, a cornerstone of that promise has been the 40-hour workweek. But for decades, industry lobbyists have bottled up efforts to keep these rules up to date, leaving millions of Americans working long hours, and taking them away from their families without the overtime pay that they have earned. Business owners who treat their employees fairly are being undercut by competitors who don’t.
Today, President Obama announced that the Department of Labor will propose extending overtime pay to nearly 5 million workers. The proposal would guarantee overtime pay to most salaried workers earning less than an estimated $50,440 next year. The number of workers in each state who would be affected by this proposal can be found here.
The salary threshold guarantees overtime for most salaried workers who fall below it, but it is eroded by inflation every year. It has only been updated once since the 1970s, when the Bush Administration published a weak rule with the strong support of industry. Today, the salary threshold remains at $23,660 ($455 per week), which is below the poverty threshold for a family of four, and only 8 percent of full-time salaried workers fall below it.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 30, 2015
Source: WH, 6-26-15
College of Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina
2:49 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Giving all praise and honor to God. (Applause.)
The Bible calls us to hope. To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.
“They were still living by faith when they died,” Scripture tells us. “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth.”
We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.
To Jennifer, his beloved wife; to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters; to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.
I cannot claim to have the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well. But I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger. (Laughter.) Back when I didn’t have visible grey hair. (Laughter.) The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor — all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.
Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived; that even from a young age, folks knew he was special. Anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful — a family of preachers who spread God’s word, a family of protesters who sowed change to expand voting rights and desegregate the South. Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching.
He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth, nor youth’s insecurities; instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years, in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith, and purity.
As a senator, he represented a sprawling swath of the Lowcountry, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America. A place still wracked by poverty and inadequate schools; a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment. A place that needed somebody like Clem. (Applause.)
His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded, the votes he cast were sometimes lonely. But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There he would fortify his faith, and imagine what might be.
Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean, nor small. He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone, but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes. No wonder one of his senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us — the best of the 46 of us.”
Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of the AME church. (Applause.) As our brothers and sisters in the AME church know, we don’t make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation, but…the life and community in which our congregation resides.” (Applause.)
He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words; that the “sweet hour of prayer” actually lasts the whole week long — (applause) — that to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation; that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.
What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized — after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man. (Applause.)
You don’t have to be of high station to be a good man. Preacher by 13. Pastor by 18. Public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41 — slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.
Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel L. Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson. Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people. (Applause.) People so full of life and so full of kindness. People who ran the race, who persevered. People of great faith.
To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African-American life — (applause) — a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.
Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety; praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah — (applause) — rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad; bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice; places of scholarship and network; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart — (applause) — and taught that they matter. (Applause.) That’s what happens in church.
That’s what the black church means. Our beating heart. The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate. When there’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel — (applause) — a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes. (Applause.)
When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps. A sacred place, this church. Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion — (applause) — of human rights and human dignity in this country; a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all. That’s what the church meant. (Applause.)
We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history. But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress. (Applause.) An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination; violence and suspicion. An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.
Oh, but God works in mysterious ways. (Applause.) God has different ideas. (Applause.)
He didn’t know he was being used by God. (Applause.) Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group — the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle. The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court — in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that. (Applause.)
The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston, under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley — (applause) — how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond — not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.
Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace. (Applause.)
This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. (Applause.) The grace of the families who lost loved ones. The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons. The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals — the one we all know: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. (Applause.) I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see. (Applause.)
According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God — (applause) — as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.
As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. (Applause.) He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. (Applause.) We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other — but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.
For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. (Applause.) It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge — including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise — (applause) — as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. (Applause.) For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.
Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — (applause) — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. (Applause.) It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)
But I don’t think God wants us to stop there. (Applause.) For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career. (Applause.)
Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. (Applause.) Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system — (applause) — and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure. (Applause.)
Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal. (Applause.) So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote. (Applause.) By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American — by doing that, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)
For too long —
AUDIENCE: For too long!
THE PRESIDENT: For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation. (Applause.) Sporadically, our eyes are open: When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day; the countless more whose lives are forever changed — the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.
The vast majority of Americans — the majority of gun owners — want to do something about this. We see that now. (Applause.) And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country — by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)
We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it. (Applause.) But God gives it to us anyway. (Applause.) And we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it.
None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race. We talk a lot about race. There’s no shortcut. And we don’t need more talk. (Applause.) None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy. It will not. People of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies, as our democracy requires — this is a big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates. Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete.
But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. (Applause.) Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual — that’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society. (Applause.) To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change — that’s how we lose our way again.
It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.
Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history — we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.” (Applause.) What is true in the South is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. (Applause.) That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past — how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind — but, more importantly, an open heart.
That’s what I’ve felt this week — an open heart. That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think — what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”
That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. (Applause.) If we can tap that grace, everything can change. (Applause.)
Amazing grace. Amazing grace.
(Begins to sing) — Amazing grace — (applause) — how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see. (Applause.)
Clementa Pinckney found that grace.
Cynthia Hurd found that grace.
Susie Jackson found that grace.
Ethel Lance found that grace.
DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.
Tywanza Sanders found that grace.
Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.
Myra Thompson found that grace.
Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America. (Applause.)
3:28 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 26, 2015
Source: WH, 6-26-15
11:14 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal. The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times — a never-ending quest to ensure those words ring true for every single American.
Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.
This morning, the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law. That all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love.
This decision will end the patchwork system we currently have. It will end the uncertainty hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples face from not knowing whether their marriage, legitimate in the eyes of one state, will remain if they decide to move [to] or even visit another. This ruling will strengthen all of our communities by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land.
In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. It is gratifying to see that principle enshrined into law by this decision.
This ruling is a victory for Jim Obergefell and the other plaintiffs in the case. It’s a victory for gay and lesbian couples who have fought so long for their basic civil rights. It’s a victory for their children, whose families will now be recognized as equal to any other. It’s a victory for the allies and friends and supporters who spent years, even decades, working and praying for change to come.
And this ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free.
My administration has been guided by that idea. It’s why we stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and why we were pleased when the Court finally struck down a central provision of that discriminatory law. It’s why we ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” From extending full marital benefits to federal employees and their spouses, to expanding hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones, we’ve made real progress in advancing equality for LGBT Americans in ways that were unimaginable not too long ago.
I know change for many of our LGBT brothers and sisters must have seemed so slow for so long. But compared to so many other issues, America’s shift has been so quick. I know that Americans of goodwill continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact; recognize different viewpoints; revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.
But today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully, real change is possible. Shifts in hearts and minds is possible. And those who have come so far on their journey to equality have a responsibility to reach back and help others join them. Because for all our differences, we are one people, stronger together than we could ever be alone. That’s always been our story.
We are big and vast and diverse; a nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, different experiences and stories, but bound by our shared ideal that no matter who you are or what you look like, how you started off, or how and who you love, America is a place where you can write your own destiny.
We are a people who believe that every single child is entitled to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
There’s so much more work to be done to extend the full promise of America to every American. But today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect.
That’s the consequence of a decision from the Supreme Court, but, more importantly, it is a consequence of the countless small acts of courage of millions of people across decades who stood up, who came out, who talked to parents — parents who loved their children no matter what. Folks who were willing to endure bullying and taunts, and stayed strong, and came to believe in themselves and who they were, and slowly made an entire country realize that love is love.
What an extraordinary achievement. What a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. What a reminder of what Bobby Kennedy once said about how small actions can be like pebbles being thrown into a still lake, and ripples of hope cascade outwards and change the world.
Those countless, often anonymous heroes — they deserve our thanks. They should be very proud. America should be very proud.
Thank you. (Applause.)
11:22 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 26, 2015
Source: WH, 6-25-15
Two years ago, President Obama announced the ConnectED Initiative, setting an ambitious goal to provide 99 percent of American students with access to next-generation broadband in their classrooms and libraries by 2018. Since that time, the public and private sectors have committed more than $10 billion of total funding and in-kind commitments as part of this five-year effort to transform American education. To leverage this technology, thousands of school and community leaders have pledged to help realize the President’s vision to move America’s schools into the digital age.
ConnectED is on track to achieve its goal of connecting students to tools they need for 21st century learning — and on its two year anniversary, we are announcing additional progress….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 25, 2015
Source: WH, 6-25-15
11:34 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Have a seat. Five years ago, after nearly a century of talk, decades of trying, a year of bipartisan debate — we finally declared that in America, health care is not a privilege for a few, but a right for all.
Over those five years, as we’ve worked to implement the Affordable Care Act, there have been successes and setbacks. The setbacks I remember clearly. (Laughter.) But as the dust has settled, there can be no doubt that this law is working. It has changed, and in some cases saved, American lives. It set this country on a smarter, stronger course.
And today, after more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or weaken this law; after a presidential election based in part on preserving or repealing this law; after multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court — the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.
This morning, the Court upheld a critical part of this law -– the part that’s made it easier for Americans to afford health insurance regardless of where you live. If the partisan challenge to this law had succeeded, millions of Americans would have had thousands of dollars’ worth of tax credits taken from them. For many, insurance would have become unaffordable again. Many would have become uninsured again. Ultimately, everyone’s premiums could have gone up. America would have gone backwards. And that’s not what we do. That’s not what America does. We move forward.
So today is a victory for hardworking Americans all across this country whose lives will continue to become more secure in a changing economy because of this law.
If you’re a parent, you can keep your kids on your plan until they turn 26 — something that has covered millions of young people so far. That’s because of this law.
If you’re a senior, or an American with a disability, this law gives you discounts on your prescriptions — something that has saved 9 million Americans an average of $1,600 so far.
If you’re a woman, you can’t be charged more than anybody else — even if you’ve had cancer, or your husband had heart disease, or just because you’re a woman. Your insurer has to offer free preventive services like mammograms. They can’t place annual or lifetime caps on your care because of this law.
Because of this law, and because of today’s decision, millions of Americans who I hear from every single day will continue to receive the tax credits that have given about eight in ten people who buy insurance on the new marketplaces the choice of a health care plan that costs less than $100 a month.
And when it comes to preexisting conditions — someday, our grandkids will ask us if there was really a time when America discriminated against people who get sick. Because that is something this law has ended for good. That affects everybody with health insurance — not just folks who got insurance through the Affordable Care Act. All of America has protections it didn’t have before.
As the law’s provisions have gradually taken effect, more than 16 million uninsured Americans have gained coverage so far. Nearly one in three Americans who was uninsured a few years ago is insured today. The uninsured rate in America is the lowest since we began to keep records. And that is something we can all be proud of.
Meanwhile, the law has helped hold the price of health care to its slowest growth in 50 years. If your family gets insurance through your job — so you’re not using the Affordable Care Act — you’re still paying about $1,800 less per year on average than you would be if we hadn’t done anything. By one leading measure, what business owners pay out in wages and salaries is now finally growing faster than what they spend on health insurance. That hasn’t happened in 17 years — and that’s good for workers and it’s good for the economy.
The point is, this is not an abstract thing anymore. This is not a set of political talking points. This is reality. We can see how it is working. This law is working exactly as it’s supposed to. In many ways, this law is working better than we expected it to. For all the misinformation campaigns, all the doomsday predictions, all the talk of death panels and job destruction, for all the repeal attempts — this law is now helping tens of millions of Americans.
And they’ve told me that it has changed their lives for the better. I’ve had moms come up and say, my son was able to see a doctor and get diagnosed, and catch a tumor early, and he’s alive today because of this law. This law is working. And it’s going to keep doing just that.
Five years in, this is no longer about a law. This is not about the Affordable Care Act as legislation, or Obamacare as a political football. This is health care in America.
And unlike Social Security or Medicare, a lot of Americans still don’t know what Obamacare is beyond all the political noise in Washington. Across the country, there remain people who are directly benefitting from the law but don’t even know it. And that’s okay. There’s no card that says “Obamacare” when you enroll. But that’s by design, for this has never been a government takeover of health care, despite cries to the contrary. This reform remains what it’s always been: a set of fairer rules and tougher protections that have made health care in America more affordable, more attainable, and more about you — the consumer, the American people. It’s working.
And with this case behind us, let’s be clear — we’ve still got work to do to make health care in America even better. We’ll keep working to provide consumers with all the tools you need to make informed choices about your care. We’ll keep working to increase the use of preventive care that avoids bigger problems down the road. We’ll keep working to boost the steadily improving quality of care in hospitals, and bring down costs even lower, make the system work even better. Already we’ve seen reductions, for example, in the number of readmissions at hospitals. That saves our society money, it saves families money, makes people healthier.
We’re making progress. We’re going to keep working to get more people covered. I’m going to work as hard as I can to convince more governors and state legislatures to take advantage of the law, put politics aside, and expand Medicaid and cover their citizens. We’ve still got states out there that, for political reasons, are not covering millions of people that they could be covering, despite the fact that the federal government is picking up the tab.
So we’ve got more work to do. But what we’re not going to do is unravel what has now been woven into the fabric of America. And my greatest hope is that rather than keep refighting battles that have been settled again and again and again, I can work with Republicans and Democrats to move forward. Let’s join together, make health care in America even better.
Three generations ago, we chose to end an era when seniors were left to languish in poverty. We passed Social Security, and slowly it was woven into the fabric of America and made a difference in the lives of millions of people. Two generations ago, we chose to end an age when Americans in their golden years didn’t have the guarantee of health care. Medicare was passed, and it helped millions of people.
This generation of Americans chose to finish the job — to turn the page on a past when our citizens could be denied coverage just for being sick. To close the books on a history where tens of millions of Americans had no hope of finding decent, affordable health care; had to hang their chances on fate. We chose to write a new chapter, where in a new economy, Americans are free to change their jobs or start a business, chase a new idea, raise a family, free from fear, secure in the knowledge that portable, affordable health care is there for us and always will be. And that if we get sick, we’re not going to lose our home. That if we get sick, that we’re going to be able to still look after our families.
That’s when America soars -– when we look out for one another. When we take care of each other. When we root for one another’s success. When we strive to do better and to be better than the generation that came before us, and try to build something better for generations to come. That’s why we do what we do. That’s the whole point of public service.
So this was a good day for America. Let’s get back to work. (Applause.)
11:45 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 25, 2015
Source: WH, 6-24-15
Over the past decade, we have witnessed a significant shift in hostage-takings by terrorist organizations and criminal groups that has challenged the ability of the U.S. Government to secure the safe recovery of U.S. nationals taken captive. The wanton and brutal murder of several Americans held hostage over the past year lays bare the magnitude of this challenge. Other less publicized cases of Americans held hostage overseas, including several who remain in captivity, are no less tragic and have presented the U.S. Government with a similar set of difficult choices. The Government’s response to hostage-takings must therefore evolve to account for this new reality. Moreover, the Government’s handling of these hostage cases – and in particular its interaction and communication with families whose loved ones have been taken hostage – must improve. To that end, in December 2014 President Obama directed a comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward overseas hostage-takings.
Based on the recommendations resulting from this review, the President approved Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 29, U.S. Nationals Taken Hostage Abroad and Personnel Recovery Efforts and issued an Executive Order on the recovery of U.S. hostages taken abroad, which directs key organizational changes to ensure that the U.S. Government is doing all that it can to safely recover Americans taken hostage overseas and is being responsive to the needs of their families. The key findings and recommendations set forth by the review can be found in the Report on U.S. Hostage Policy at the following link. PPD-29 and the Executive Order can be found on WhiteHouse.gov….READ MORE
Source: WH, 6-24-15
SUBJECT: U.S. Nationals Taken Hostage Abroad and Personnel Recovery Efforts
The 21st century has witnessed a significant shift in hostagetakings by terrorist organizations and criminal groups abroad. Hostage-takers frequently operate in unstable environments that challenge the ability of the United States Government and its partners and allies to operate effectively. Increasingly, hostage-takers target private citizens — including journalists and aid workers — as well as Government officials. They also utilize sophisticated networks and tactics to derive financial, propaganda, and recruitment benefits from hostage-taking operations. The United States Government’s response to hostage-takings must evolve with this ever-changing landscape.
This Presidential Policy Directive (PPD), including its classified annex, supersedes and revokes NSPD-12, United States Citizens Taken Hostage Abroad, dated February 18, 2002, along with Annex 1 and Appendix A to NSPD-12, dated December 4, 2008. The policy directs a renewed, more agile United States Government response to hostage-takings of U.S. nationals and other specified individuals abroad. It establishes processes to enable consistent implementation of the policies set forth in this directive, to ensure close interagency coordination in order to employ all appropriate means to recover U.S. hostages held abroad, and to significantly enhance engagement with hostages’ families. It also reaffirms the United States Government’s personnel recovery policy, which seeks to prevent, prepare for, and respond to hostage-takings and other circumstances in which U.S. nationals are isolated from friendly support. This policy will thereby further important national security and foreign policy interests by strengthening the protections for U.S. nationals outside the United States….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 24, 2015
Source: WH, 6-18-15
I welcome His Holiness Pope Francis’s encyclical, and deeply admire the Pope’s decision to make the case – clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position – for action on global climate change.
As Pope Francis so eloquently stated this morning, we have a profound responsibility to protect our children, and our children’s children, from the damaging impacts of climate change. I believe the United States must be a leader in this effort, which is why I am committed to taking bold actions at home and abroad to cut carbon pollution, to increase clean energy and energy efficiency, to build resilience in vulnerable communities, and to encourage responsible stewardship of our natural resources. We must also protect the world’s poor, who have done the least to contribute to this looming crisis and stand to lose the most if we fail to avert it.
I look forward to discussing these issues with Pope Francis when he visits the White House in September. And as we prepare for global climate negotiations in Paris this December, it is my hope that all world leaders–and all God’s children–will reflect on Pope Francis’s call to come together to care for our common home.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 18, 2015
Source: WH, 6-18-15
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:20 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. This morning, I spoke with, and Vice President Biden spoke with, Mayor Joe Riley and other leaders of Charleston to express our deep sorrow over the senseless murders that took place last night.
Michelle and I know several members of Emanuel AME Church. We knew their pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who, along with eight others, gathered in prayer and fellowship and was murdered last night. And to say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel.
Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.
Mother Emanuel is, in fact, more than a church. This is a place of worship that was founded by African Americans seeking liberty. This is a church that was burned to the ground because its worshipers worked to end slavery. When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret. When there was a nonviolent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church’s steps. This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America.
The FBI is now on the scene with local police, and more of the Bureau’s best are on the way to join them. The Attorney General has announced plans for the FBI to open a hate crime investigation. We understand that the suspect is in custody. And I’ll let the best of law enforcement do its work to make sure that justice is served.
Until the investigation is complete, I’m necessarily constrained in terms of talking about the details of the case. But I don’t need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise. I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. Now is the time for mourning and for healing.
But let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.
The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked. And we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.
The good news is I am confident that the outpouring of unity and strength and fellowship and love across Charleston today, from all races, from all faiths, from all places of worship indicates the degree to which those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome. That, certainly, was Dr. King’s hope just over 50 years ago, after four little girls were killed in a bombing in a black church in Birmingham, Alabama.
He said they lived meaningful lives, and they died nobly. “They say to each of us,” Dr. King said, “black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely with [about] who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream.
“And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.”
Reverend Pinckney and his congregation understood that spirit. Their Christian faith compelled them to reach out not just to members of their congregation, or to members of their own communities, but to all in need. They opened their doors to strangers who might enter a church in search of healing or redemption.
Mother Emanuel church and its congregation have risen before –- from flames, from an earthquake, from other dark times -– to give hope to generations of Charlestonians. And with our prayers and our love, and the buoyancy of hope, it will rise again now as a place of peace.
12:28 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 18, 2015
Source: Time, 6-16-15
The reality television host said he is running for President. Here are his remarks from a speech given Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York City.
Wow. Whoa. That is some group of people. Thousands.
So nice, thank you very much. That’s really nice. Thank you. It’s great to be at Trump Tower. It’s great to be in a wonderful city, New York. And it’s an honor to have everybody here. This is beyond anybody’s expectations. There’s been no crowd like this.
And, I can tell, some of the candidates, they went in. They didn’t know the air-conditioner didn’t work. They sweated like dogs.
They didn’t know the room was too big, because they didn’t have anybody there. How are they going to beat ISIS? I don’t think it’s gonna happen.
Our country is in serious trouble. We don’t have victories anymore. We used to have victories, but we don’t have them. When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say, China in a trade deal? They kill us. I beat China all the time. All the time.
When did we beat Japan at anything? They send their cars over by the millions, and what do we do? When was the last time you saw a Chevrolet in Tokyo? It doesn’t exist, folks. They beat us all the time.
When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity. And now they are beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us economically.
The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.
Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people.
It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably— probably— from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.
Islamic terrorism is eating up large portions of the Middle East. They’ve become rich. I’m in competition with them.
They just built a hotel in Syria. Can you believe this? They built a hotel. When I have to build a hotel, I pay interest. They don’t have to pay interest, because they took the oil that, when we left Iraq, I said we should’ve taken.
So now ISIS has the oil, and what they don’t have, Iran has. And in 19— and I will tell you this, and I said it very strongly, years ago, I said— and I love the military, and I want to have the strongest military that we’ve ever had, and we need it more now than ever. But I said, “Don’t hit Iraq,” because you’re going to totally destabilize the Middle East. Iran is going to take over the Middle East, Iran and somebody else will get the oil, and it turned out that Iran is now taking over Iraq. Think of it. Iran is taking over Iraq, and they’re taking it over big league.
We spent $2 trillion in Iraq, $2 trillion. We lost thousands of lives, thousands in Iraq. We have wounded soldiers, who I love, I love — they’re great — all over the place, thousands and thousands of wounded soldiers.
And we have nothing. We can’t even go there. We have nothing. And every time we give Iraq equipment, the first time a bullet goes off in the air, they leave it.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 16, 2015
Source: Time, 6-15-15
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced his presidential campaign Monday at Miami Dade College. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you all very much. I always feel welcome at Miami-Dade College. This is a place that welcomes everyone with their hearts set on the future – a place where hope leads to achievement, and striving leads to success. For all of us, it is just the place to be in the campaign that begins today.
We are 17 months from the time for choosing. The stakes for America’s future are about as great as they come. Our prosperity and our security are in the balance. So is opportunity, in this nation where every life matters and everyone has the right to rise.
Already, the choice is taking shape. The party now in the White House is planning a no-suspense primary, for a no-change election. To hold onto power. To slog on with the same agenda under another name: That’s our opponents’ call to action this time around. That’s all they’ve got left.
And you and I know that America deserves better.
They have offered a progressive agenda that includes everything but progress. They are responsible for the slowest economic recovery ever, the biggest debt increases ever, a massive tax increase on the middle class, the relentless buildup of the regulatory state, and the swift, mindless drawdown of a military that was generations in the making.
I, for one, am not eager to see what another four years would look like under that kind of leadership.
The presidency should not be passed on from one liberal to the next.
So, here’s what it comes down to. Our country is on a very bad course. And the question is: What are we going to do about it?
The question for me is: What am I going to do about it?
And I have decided.
I am a candidate for president of the United States.
We will take command of our future once again in this country.
We will lift our sights again, make opportunity common again, get events in the world moving our way again.
We will take Washington – the static capital of this dynamic country – out of the business of causing problems.
We will get back on the side of free enterprise and free people.
I know we can fix this. Because I’ve done it.
Here, in this great and diverse state that looks so much like America.
So many challenges could be overcome if we just get this economy growing at full strength. There is not a reason in the world why we cannot grow at a rate of four percent a year.
And that will be my goal as president – four percent growth, and the 19 million new jobs that come with it
Economic growth that makes a difference for hard-working men and women – who don’t need reminding that the economy is more than the stock market.
Growth that lifts up the middle class – all the families who haven’t gotten a raise in 15 years. Growth that makes a difference for everyone.
It can be done.
We made Florida number one in job creation and number one in small business creation. 1.3 million new jobs, 4.4 percent growth, higher family income, eight balanced budgets, and tax cuts eight years in a row that saved our people and businesses 19 billion dollars.
All this plus a bond upgrade to Triple-A compared to the sorry downgrade of America’s credit in these years. That was the commitment, and that is the record that turned this state around.
I also used my veto power to protect our taxpayers from needless spending.
And if I am elected president, I’ll show Congress how that’s done.
Leaders have to think big, and we’ve got a tax code filled with small-time thinking and self-interested politics. What swarms of lobbyists have done, we can undo with a vastly simpler system – clearing out special favors for the few reducing rates for all.
What the IRS, EPA, and entire bureaucracy have done with overregulation, we can undo by act of Congress and order of the president.
Federal regulation has gone far past the consent of the governed.
It is time to start making rules for the rule-makers.
When we get serious about limited government, we can pursue the great and worthy goals that America has gone too long without.
We can build our future on solvency instead of borrowed money.
We can honor our commitments on the strength of fiscal integrity.
With North American resources and American ingenuity, we can finally achieve energy security for this nation – and with presidential leadership, we can make it happen within five years.
If we do all of this, if we do it relentlessly, and if we do it right, we will make the United States of America an economic superpower like no other.
We will also challenge the culture that has made lobbying the premier growth industry in the nation’s capital.
The rest of the country struggles under big government, while comfortable, complacent interest groups in Washington have been thriving on it.
A self-serving attitude can take hold in any capital, just as it once did in Tallahassee.
I was a governor who refused to accept that as the normal or right way of conducting the people’s business.
I will not accept it as the standard in Washington.
We don’t need another president who merely holds the top spot among the pampered elites of Washington.
We need a president willing to challenge and disrupt the whole culture in our nation’s capital.
I will be that president because I was a reforming governor, not just another member of the club.
There’s no passing off responsibility when you’re a governor, no blending into the legislative crowd or filing an amendment and calling that success.
As our whole nation has learned since 2008, executive experience is another term for preparation, and there is no substitute for that.
We are not going to clean up the mess in Washington by electing the people who either helped create it or have proven incapable of fixing it.
In government, if we get a few big things right, we can make life better for millions of people, especially for kids in public schools. Think of what we all watched not long ago in Baltimore where so many young adults are walking around with no vision of a life beyond the life they know.
It’s a tragedy played out over and over and over again.
After we reformed education in Florida, low-income student achievement improved here more than in any other state.
We stopped processing kids along as if we didn’t care – because we do care, and you don’t show that by counting out anyone’s child. You give them all a chance.
Here’s what I believe.
When a school is just another dead end, every parent should have the right to send their child to a better school – public, private, or charter.
Every school should have high standards, and the federal government should have nothing to do with setting them.
Nationwide, if I am president, we will take the power of choice away from the unions and bureaucrats and give it back to parents.
We made sure of something else in Florida – that children with developmental challenges got schooling and caring attention, just like every other girl and boy. We didn’t leave them last in line. We put them first in line because they are not a problem. They are a priority.
That is always our first and best instinct in this nation filled with charitable hearts. Yet these have been rough years for religious charities and their right of conscience. And the leading Democratic candidate recently hinted of more trouble to come.
Secretary Clinton insists that when the progressive agenda encounters religious beliefs to the contrary those beliefs, quote, “have to be changed.” That’s what she said, and I guess we should at least thank her for the warning.
The most galling example is the shabby treatment of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Christian charity that dared to voice objections of conscience to Obamacare. The next president needs to make it clear that great charities like the Little Sisters of the Poor need no federal instruction in doing the right thing.
It comes down to a choice between the Little Sisters and Big Brother, and I’m going with the Sisters.
It’s still a mystery to me why, in these violent times, the president a few months ago thought it relevant at a prayer breakfast to bring up the Crusades.
Americans don’t need lectures on the Middle Ages when we are dealing abroad with modern horrors committed by fanatics.
From the beginning, our president and his foreign-policy team have been so eager to be the history makers that they have failed to be the peacemakers.
With their phone-it-in foreign policy, the Obama-Clinton-Kerry team is leaving a legacy of crises uncontained, violence unopposed, enemies unnamed, friends undefended, and alliances unraveling.
This supposedly risk-averse administration is also running us straight in the direction of the greatest risk of all – military inferiority.
It will go on automatically until a president steps in to rebuild our armed forces and take care of our troops and our veterans.
They have my word – I will do it.
We keep dependable friends in this world by being dependable ourselves.
I will rebuild our vital friendships. That starts by standing with the brave, democratic State of Israel.
American-led alliances need rebuilding too, and better judgment is called for in relations far and near.
Ninety miles to our south, there is talk of a state visit by our outgoing president.
But we don’t need a glorified tourist to go to Havana in support of a failed Cuba.
We need an American president to go to Havana in solidarity with a free Cuban people, and I am ready to be that president.
Great things like that can really happen. And in this country of ours, the most improbable things can happen. Take that from a guy who met his first president on the day he was born, and his second on the day he was brought home from the hospital.
The person who handled both introductions is here today. She’s watching what I say – and frankly, with all these reporters around, I’m watching what she says. Please say hello to my wonderful Mom, Barbara Bush.
Long before the world knew my parents’ names, I knew I was blessed to be their son.
And they didn’t mind at all that I found my own path. It led from Texas to Miami by way of Mexico.
In 1971, 8 years before then-candidate Ronald Reagan said that we should stop thinking of our neighbors as foreigners, I was ahead of my time in cross-border outreach.
Across a plaza, I saw a girl.
She spoke only a little English. My Spanish was okay but not that great.
With some intensive study, we got that barrier out of the way in a hurry.
In the short version, it has been a gracious walk through the years with the former Columba Garnica de Gallo.
Whatever else I might or might not have going for me, I’ve got the quiet joy of a man who can say that the most wonderful friend he has in the world is his own wife.
And together, we had the not-so-quiet joy of raising three children who have brought us nothing but happiness and pride: George, Noelle, and Jeb.
The boys have also brought us more Bushes – their wives, Mandi and Sandra, and our grandchildren Georgia, Prescott, Vivian, and Jack.
Campaigns aren’t easy, and they’re not supposed to be.
And I know that there are good people running for president.
Quite a few, in fact.
And not a one of us deserves the job by right of resume, party, seniority, family, or family narrative. It’s nobody’s turn. It’s everybody’s test, and it’s wide open – exactly as a contest for president should be.
The outcome is entirely up to you – the voters. It is entirely up to me to earn the nomination of my party and then to take our case all across this great and diverse nation.
As a candidate, I intend to let everyone hear my message, including the many who can express their love of country in a different language:
Ayúdenos en tener una campaña que les da la bienvenida. Trabajen con nosotros por los valores que compartimos y para un gran futuro que es nuestro para construir para nosotros y nuestros hijos.
Júntense a nuestra causa de oportunidad para todos, a la causa de todos que aman la libertad y a la causa noble de los Estados Unidos de América.
In any language, my message will be an optimistic one because I am certain that we can make the decades just ahead the greatest time ever to be alive in this world.
That chance, that hope requires the best that is in us, and I will give it my all.
I will campaign as I would serve, going everywhere, speaking to everyone, keeping my word, facing the issues without flinching, and staying true to what I believe.
I will take nothing and no one for granted. I will run with heart.
I will run to win.
It begins here and now.
And I’m asking for your vote.
Thank you. God Bless You.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 15, 2015
Source: Time, 6-13-15
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially launched her presidential campaign with a rally on New York City’s Roosevelt Island.
Here is a transcript of the full remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Thank you! Oh, thank you all! Thank you so very, very much.
It is wonderful to be here with all of you.
To be in New York with my family, with so many friends, including many New Yorkers who gave me the honor of serving them in the Senate for eight years.
To be right across the water from the headquarters of the United Nations, where I represented our country many times.
To be here in this beautiful park dedicated to Franklin Roosevelt’s enduring vision of America, the nation we want to be.
And in a place… with absolutely no ceilings.
You know, President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms are a testament to our nation’s unmatched aspirations and a reminder of our unfinished work at home and abroad. His legacy lifted up a nation and inspired presidents who followed. One is the man I served as Secretary of State, Barack Obama, and another is my husband, Bill Clinton.
Two Democrats guided by the — Oh, that will make him so happy. They were and are two Democrats guided by the fundamental American belief that real and lasting prosperity must be built by all and shared by all.
President Roosevelt called on every American to do his or her part, and every American answered. He said there’s no mystery about what it takes to build a strong and prosperous America: “Equality of opportunity… Jobs for those who can work… Security for those who need it… The ending of special privilege for the few… The preservation of civil liberties for all… a wider and constantly rising standard of living.”
That still sounds good to me.
It’s America’s basic bargain. If you do your part you ought to be able to get ahead. And when everybody does their part, America gets ahead too.
That bargain inspired generations of families, including my own.
It’s what kept my grandfather going to work in the same Scranton lace mill every day for 50 years.
It’s what led my father to believe that if he scrimped and saved, his small business printing drapery fabric in Chicago could provide us with a middle-class life. And it did.
When President Clinton honored the bargain, we had the longest peacetime expansion in history, a balanced budget, and the first time in decades we all grew together, with the bottom 20 percent of workers increasing their incomes by the same percentage as the top 5 percent.
When President Obama honored the bargain, we pulled back from the brink of Depression, saved the auto industry, provided health care to 16 million working people, and replaced the jobs we lost faster than after a financial crash.
But, it’s not 1941, or 1993, or even 2009. We face new challenges in our economy and our democracy.
We’re still working our way back from a crisis that happened because time-tested values were replaced by false promises.
Instead of an economy built by every American, for every American, we were told that if we let those at the top pay lower taxes and bend the rules, their success would trickle down to everyone else.
Well, instead of a balanced budget with surpluses that could have eventually paid off our national debt, the Republicans twice cut taxes for the wealthiest, borrowed money from other countries to pay for two wars, and family incomes dropped. You know where we ended up.
Except it wasn’t the end.
As we have since our founding, Americans made a new beginning.
You worked extra shifts, took second jobs, postponed home repairs… you figured out how to make it work. And now people are beginning to think about their future again – going to college, starting a business, buying a house, finally being able to put away something for retirement.
So we’re standing again. But, we all know we’re not yet running the way America should.
You see corporations making record profits, with CEOs making record pay, but your paychecks have barely budged.
While many of you are working multiple jobs to make ends meet, you see the top 25 hedge fund managers making more than all of America’s kindergarten teachers combined. And, often paying a lower tax rate.
So, you have to wonder: “When does my hard work pay off? When does my family get ahead?”
I say now.
Prosperity can’t be just for CEOs and hedge fund managers.
Democracy can’t be just for billionaires and corporations.
Prosperity and democracy are part of your basic bargain too.
You brought our country back.
Now it’s time — your time to secure the gains and move ahead.
And, you know what?
America can’t succeed unless you succeed.
That is why I am running for President of the United States.
Here, on Roosevelt Island, I believe we have a continuing rendezvous with destiny. Each American and the country we cherish.
I’m running to make our economy work for you and for every American.
For the successful and the struggling.
For the innovators and inventors.
For those breaking barriers in technology and discovering cures for diseases.
For the factory workers and food servers who stand on their feet all day.
For the nurses who work the night shift.
For the truckers who drive for hours and the farmers who feed us.
For the veterans who served our country.
For the small business owners who took a risk.
For everyone who’s ever been knocked down, but refused to be knocked out.
I’m not running for some Americans, but for all Americans.
Our country’s challenges didn’t begin with the Great Recession and they won’t end with the recovery.
For decades, Americans have been buffeted by powerful currents.
Advances in technology and the rise of global trade have created whole new areas of economic activity and opened new markets for our exports, but they have also displaced jobs and undercut wages for millions of Americans.
The financial industry and many multi-national corporations have created huge wealth for a few by focusing too much on short-term profit and too little on long-term value… too much on complex trading schemes and stock buybacks, too little on investments in new businesses, jobs, and fair compensation.
Our political system is so paralyzed by gridlock and dysfunction that most Americans have lost confidence that anything can actually get done. And they’ve lost trust in the ability of both government and Big Business to change course.
Now, we can blame historic forces beyond our control for some of this, but the choices we’ve made as a nation, leaders and citizens alike, have also played a big role.
Our next President must work with Congress and every other willing partner across our entire country. And I will do just that — to turn the tide so these currents start working for us more than against us.
At our best, that’s what Americans do. We’re problem solvers, not deniers. We don’t hide from change, we harness it.
But we can’t do that if we go back to the top-down economic policies that failed us before.
Americans have come too far to see our progress ripped away.
Now, there may be some new voices in the presidential Republican choir, but they’re all singing the same old song…
A song called “Yesterday.”
You know the one — all our troubles look as though they’re here to stay… and we need a place to hide away… They believe in yesterday.
And you’re lucky I didn’t try singing that, too, I’ll tell you!
These Republicans trip over themselves promising lower taxes for the wealthy and fewer rules for the biggest corporations without regard for how that will make income inequality even worse.
We’ve heard this tune before. And we know how it turns out.
Ask many of these candidates about climate change, one of the defining threats of our time, and they’ll say: “I’m not a scientist.” Well, then, why don’t they start listening to those who are?
They pledge to wipe out tough rules on Wall Street, rather than rein in the banks that are still too risky, courting future failures. In a case that can only be considered mass amnesia.
They want to take away health insurance from more than 16 million Americans without offering any credible alternative.
They shame and blame women, rather than respect our right to make our own reproductive health decisions.
They want to put immigrants, who work hard and pay taxes, at risk of deportation.
And they turn their backs on gay people who love each other.
Fundamentally, they reject what it takes to build an inclusive economy. It takes an inclusive society. What I once called “a village” that has a place for everyone.
Now, my values and a lifetime of experiences have given me a different vision for America.
I believe that success isn’t measured by how much the wealthiest Americans have, but by how many children climb out of poverty…
How many start-ups and small businesses open and thrive…
How many young people go to college without drowning in debt…
How many people find a good job…
How many families get ahead and stay ahead.
I didn’t learn this from politics. I learned it from my own family.
My mother taught me that everybody needs a chance and a champion. She knew what it was like not to have either one.
Her own parents abandoned her, and by 14 she was out on her own, working as a housemaid. Years later, when I was old enough to understand, I asked what kept her going.
You know what her answer was? Something very simple: Kindness from someone who believed she mattered.
The 1st grade teacher who saw she had nothing to eat at lunch and, without embarrassing her, brought extra food to share.
The woman whose house she cleaned letting her go to high school so long as her work got done. That was a bargain she leapt to accept.
And, because some people believed in her, she believed in me.
That’s why I believe with all my heart in America and in the potential of every American.
To meet every challenge.
To be resilient… no matter what the world throws at you.
To solve the toughest problems.
I believe we can do all these things because I’ve seen it happen.
As a young girl, I signed up at my Methodist Church to babysit the children of Mexican farmworkers, while their parents worked in the fields on the weekends. And later, as a law student, I advocated for Congress to require better working and living conditions for farm workers whose children deserved better opportunities.
My first job out of law school was for the Children’s Defense Fund. I walked door-to-door to find out how many children with disabilities couldn’t go to school, and to help build the case for a law guaranteeing them access to education.
As a leader of the Legal Services Corporation, I defended the right of poor people to have a lawyer. And saw lives changed because an abusive marriage ended or an illegal eviction stopped.
In Arkansas, I supervised law students who represented clients in courts and prisons, organized scholarships for single parents going to college, led efforts for better schools and health care, and personally knew the people whose lives were improved.
As Senator, I had the honor of representing brave firefighters, police officers, EMTs, construction workers, and volunteers who ran toward danger on 9/11 and stayed there, becoming sick themselves.
It took years of effort, but Congress finally approved the health care they needed.
There are so many faces and stories that I carry with me of people who gave their best and then needed help themselves.
Just weeks ago, I met another person like that, a single mom juggling a job and classes at community college, while raising three kids.
She doesn’t expect anything to come easy. But she did ask me: What more can be done so it isn’t quite so hard for families like hers?
I want to be her champion and your champion.
If you’ll give me the chance, I’ll wage and win Four Fights for you.
The first is to make the economy work for everyday Americans, not just those at the top.
To make the middle class mean something again, with rising incomes and broader horizons. And to give the poor a chance to work their way into it.
The middle class needs more growth and more fairness. Growth and fairness go together. For lasting prosperity, you can’t have one without the other.
Is this possible in today’s world?
I believe it is or I wouldn’t be standing here.
Do I think it will be easy? Of course not.
But, here’s the good news: There are allies for change everywhere who know we can’t stand by while inequality increases, wages stagnate, and the promise of America dims. We should welcome the support of all Americans who want to go forward together with us.
There are public officials who know Americans need a better deal.
Business leaders who want higher pay for employees, equal pay for women and no discrimination against the LGBT community either.
There are leaders of finance who want less short-term trading and more long-term investing.
There are union leaders who are investing their own pension funds in putting people to work to build tomorrow’s economy. We need everyone to come to the table and work with us.
In the coming weeks, I’ll propose specific policies to:
Reward businesses who invest in long term value rather than the quick buck – because that leads to higher growth for the economy, higher wages for workers, and yes, bigger profits, everybody will have a better time.
I will rewrite the tax code so it rewards hard work and investments here at home, not quick trades or stashing profits overseas.
I will give new incentives to companies that give their employees a fair share of the profits their hard work earns.
We will unleash a new generation of entrepreneurs and small business owners by providing tax relief, cutting red tape, and making it easier to get a small business loan.
We will restore America to the cutting edge of innovation, science, and research by increasing both public and private investments.
And we will make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.
Developing renewable power – wind, solar, advanced biofuels…
Building cleaner power plants, smarter electric grids, greener buildings…
Using additional fees and royalties from fossil fuel extraction to protect the environment…
And ease the transition for distressed communities to a more diverse and sustainable economic future from coal country to Indian country, from small towns in the Mississippi Delta to the Rio Grande Valley to our inner cities, we have to help our fellow Americans.
Now, this will create millions of jobs and countless new businesses, and enable America to lead the global fight against climate change.
We will also connect workers to their jobs and businesses. Customers will have a better chance to actually get where they need and get what they desire with roads, railways, bridges, airports, ports, and broadband brought up to global standards for the 21st century.
We will establish an infrastructure bank and sell bonds to pay for some of these improvements.
Now, building an economy for tomorrow also requires investing in our most important asset, our people, beginning with our youngest.
That’s why I will propose that we make preschool and quality childcare available to every child in America.
And I want you to remember this, because to me, this is absolutely the most-compelling argument why we should do this. Research tells us how much early learning in the first five years of life can impact lifelong success. In fact, 80 percent of the brain is developed by age three.
One thing I’ve learned is that talent is universal – you can find it anywhere – but opportunity is not. Too many of our kids never have the chance to learn and thrive as they should and as we need them to.
Our country won’t be competitive or fair if we don’t help more families give their kids the best possible start in life.
So let’s staff our primary and secondary schools with teachers who are second to none in the world, and receive the respect they deserve for sparking the love of learning in every child.
Let’s make college affordable and available to all …and lift the crushing burden of student debt.
Let’s provide lifelong learning for workers to gain or improve skills the economy requires, setting up many more Americans for success.
Now, the second fight is to strengthen America’s families, because when our families are strong, America is strong.
And today’s families face new and unique pressures. Parents need more support and flexibility to do their job at work and at home.
I believe you should have the right to earn paid sick days.
I believe you should receive your work schedule with enough notice to arrange childcare or take college courses to get ahead.
I believe you should look forward to retirement with confidence, not anxiety.
That you should have the peace of mind that your health care will be there when you need it, without breaking the bank.
I believe we should offer paid family leave so no one has to choose between keeping a paycheck and caring for a new baby or a sick relative.
And it is way past time to end the outrage of so many women still earning less than men on the job — and women of color often making even less.
This isn’t a women’s issue. It’s a family issue. Just like raising the minimum wage is a family issue. Expanding childcare is a family issue. Declining marriage rates is a family issue. The unequal rates of incarceration is a family issue. Helping more people with an addiction or a mental health problem get help is a family issue.
In America, every family should feel like they belong.
So we should offer hard-working, law-abiding immigrant families a path to citizenship. Not second-class status.
And, we should ban discrimination against LGBT Americans and their families so they can live, learn, marry, and work just like everybody else.
You know, America’s diversity, our openness, our devotion to human rights and freedom is what’s drawn so many to our shores. What’s inspired people all over the world. I know. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
And these are also qualities that prepare us well for the demands of a world that is more interconnected than ever before.
So we have a third fight: to harness all of America’s power, smarts, and values to maintain our leadership for peace, security, and prosperity.
No other country on Earth is better positioned to thrive in the 21st century. No other country is better equipped to meet traditional threats from countries like Russia, North Korea, and Iran – and to deal with the rise of new powers like China.
No other country is better prepared to meet emerging threats from cyber attacks, transnational terror networks like ISIS, and diseases that spread across oceans and continents.
As your President, I’ll do whatever it takes to keep Americans safe.
And if you look over my left shoulder you can see the new World Trade Center soaring skyward.
As a Senator from New York, I dedicated myself to getting our city and state the help we needed to recover. And as a member of the Armed Services Committee, I worked to maintain the best-trained, best-equipped, strongest military, ready for today’s threats and tomorrow’s.
And when our brave men and women come home from war or finish their service, I’ll see to it that they get not just the thanks of a grateful nation, but the care and benefits they’ve earned.
I’ve stood up to adversaries like Putin and reinforced allies like Israel. I was in the Situation Room on the day we got bin Laden.
But, I know — I know we have to be smart as well as strong.
Meeting today’s global challenges requires every element of America’s power, including skillful diplomacy, economic influence, and building partnerships to improve lives around the world with people, not just their governments.
There are a lot of trouble spots in the world, but there’s a lot of good news out there too.
I believe the future holds far more opportunities than threats if we exercise creative and confident leadership that enables us to shape global events rather than be shaped by them.
And we all know that in order to be strong in the world, though, we first have to be strong at home. That’s why we have to win the fourth fight – reforming our government and revitalizing our democracy so that it works for everyday Americans.
We have to stop the endless flow of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections, corrupting our political process, and drowning out the voices of our people.
We need Justices on the Supreme Court who will protect every citizen’s right to vote, rather than every corporation’s right to buy elections.
If necessary, I will support a constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.
I want to make it easier for every citizen to vote. That’s why I’ve proposed universal, automatic registration and expanded early voting.
I’ll fight back against Republican efforts to disempower and disenfranchise young people, poor people, people with disabilities, and people of color.
What part of democracy are they afraid of?
No matter how easy we make it to vote, we still have to give Americans something worth voting for.
Government is never going to have all the answers – but it has to be smarter, simpler, more efficient, and a better partner.
That means access to advanced technology so government agencies can more effectively serve their customers, the American people.
We need expertise and innovation from the private sector to help cut waste and streamline services.
There’s so much that works in America. For every problem we face, someone somewhere in America is solving it. Silicon Valley cracked the code on sharing and scaling a while ago. Many states are pioneering new ways to deliver services. I want to help Washington catch up.
To do that, we need a political system that produces results by solving problems that hold us back, not one overwhelmed by extreme partisanship and inflexibility.
Now, I’ll always seek common ground with friend and opponent alike. But I’ll also stand my ground when I must.
That’s something I did as Senator and Secretary of State — whether it was working with Republicans to expand health care for children and for our National Guard, or improve our foster care and adoption system, or pass a treaty to reduce the number of Russian nuclear warheads that could threaten our cities — and it’s something I will always do as your President.
We Americans may differ, bicker, stumble, and fall; but we are at our best when we pick each other up, when we have each other’s back.
Like any family, our American family is strongest when we cherish what we have in common, and fight back against those who would drive us apart.
People all over the world have asked me: “How could you and President Obama work together after you fought so hard against each other in that long campaign?”
Now, that is an understandable question considering that in many places, if you lose an election you could get imprisoned or exiled – even killed – not hired as Secretary of State.
But President Obama asked me to serve, and I accepted because we both love our country. That’s how we do it in America.
With that same spirit, together, we can win these four fights.
We can build an economy where hard work is rewarded.
We can strengthen our families.
We can defend our country and increase our opportunities all over the world.
And we can renew the promise of our democracy.
If we all do our part. In our families, in our businesses, unions, houses of worship, schools, and, yes, in the voting booth.
I want you to join me in this effort. Help me build this campaign and make it your own.
Talk to your friends, your family, your neighbors.
Text “JOIN” J-O-I-N to 4-7-2-4-6.
Go to hillaryclinton.com and sign up to make calls and knock on doors.
It’s no secret that we’re going up against some pretty powerful forces that will do and spend whatever it takes to advance a very different vision for America. But I’ve spent my life fighting for children, families, and our country. And I’m not stopping now.
You know, I know how hard this job is. I’ve seen it up close and personal.
All our Presidents come into office looking so vigorous. And then we watch their hair grow grayer and grayer.
Well, I may not be the youngest candidate in this race. But I will be the youngest woman President in the history of the United States!
And the first grandmother as well.
And one additional advantage: You’re won’t see my hair turn white in the White House. I’ve been coloring it for years!
So I’m looking forward to a great debate among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. I’m not running to be a President only for those Americans who already agree with me. I want to be a President for all Americans.
And along the way, I’ll just let you in on this little secret. I won’t get everything right. Lord knows I’ve made my share of mistakes. Well, there’s no shortage of people pointing them out!
And I certainly haven’t won every battle I’ve fought. But leadership means perseverance and hard choices. You have to push through the setbacks and disappointments and keep at it.
I think you know by now that I’ve been called many things by many people — “quitter” is not one of them.
Like so much else in my life, I got this from my mother.
When I was a girl, she never let me back down from any bully or barrier. In her later years, Mom lived with us, and she was still teaching me the same lessons. I’d come home from a hard day at the Senate or the State Department, sit down with her at the small table in our breakfast nook, and just let everything pour out. And she would remind me why we keep fighting, even when the odds are long and the opposition is fierce.
I can still hear her saying: “Life’s not about what happens to you, it’s about what you do with what happens to you – so get back out there.”
She lived to be 92 years old, and I often think about all the battles she witnessed over the course of the last century — all the progress that was won because Americans refused to give up or back down.
She was born on June 4, 1919 — before women in America had the right to vote. But on that very day, after years of struggle, Congress passed the Constitutional Amendment that would change that forever.
The story of America is a story of hard-fought, hard-won progress. And it continues today. New chapters are being written by men and women who believe that all of us – not just some, but all – should have the chance to live up to our God-given potential.
Not only because we’re a tolerant country, or a generous country, or a compassionate country, but because we’re a better, stronger, more prosperous country when we harness the talent, hard work, and ingenuity of every single American.
I wish my mother could have been with us longer. I wish she could have seen Chelsea become a mother herself. I wish she could have met Charlotte.
I wish she could have seen the America we’re going to build together.
An America, where if you do your part, you reap the rewards.
Where we don’t leave anyone out, or anyone behind.
An America where a father can tell his daughter: yes, you can be anything you want to be. Even President of the United States.
Thank you all. God bless you. And may God bless America.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 13, 2015
Source: WH, 6-9-15
Chicago State University Convocation Hall
7:44 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Wow! (Applause.) Yes!
STUDENT: We love you so much, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, I love you guys! (Applause.) Look, I am beyond excited to be here with the winners of our first-ever FAFSA Video Challenge, the King College Prep Class of 2015! (Applause.)
So let me just explain, because you all know some of the best schools in the country submitted videos for this challenge. But when I saw your Scandal video, let me tell you, I was blown away. I was just blown away with — amazing. I was blown away by your creativity, but I was even more blown away by how hard you all worked to achieve your outstanding FAFSA completion rate here at KCP. In fact, as you saw, I was so impressed that I decided to send your video to the cast of the real Scandal. And they were so impressed that Shonda* Rhimes and Kerry Washington and the whole staff, they wanted to be a part of this graduation. And I want to thank Libby, because she was the only one who knew. She kept the secret. So let’s give the cast of Scandal another round of applause. Wasn’t that wonderful? (Applause.) That’s how special you all are. That is just how special you all are.
And I want to thank Libby for that wonderful introduction. I want to thank Jostens for their generosity. And, of course, I want to honor the Pendleton family for their courage and their grace and their love. I love these folks. (Applause.) Hadiya’s memory is truly a blessing and an inspiration to me and to my husband and to people across this country and around the world. And we are so grateful for her family’s presence here tonight. Love you all. Love you so much. (Applause.)
I also want to acknowledge President Watson, Provost Henderson, Jesse Ruiz, as well as the fabulous singers — way to go, guys! (Applause.) And our musicians, the best band in the land. (Applause.) And all of the amazing student speakers — you guys did such a phenomenal job. You’re amazing. (Applause.)
And of course, I want to give a big shoutout to Principal Narain for his outstanding leadership. Yes. (Applause.) He made sure my speech was up here, so I thank him for that. (Laughter.) But also, to the phenomenal teachers, the administrators, the school counselors, the staff who pushed you, who inspired you, who hunted you down in the hallway to fill out your FAFSA forms — well done. (Laughter and applause.)
And, graduates, I think we’ve got to give another show of love to the parents, the guardians, the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, the siblings — (applause) — everyone else who has been there for you throughout your lives — the folks who shook you out of bed in the morning, and didn’t let you go to sleep until your homework was done; the folks who believed in you; the folks who sacrificed for you and loved you even when you drove them crazy. Today is their day too. Let’s give them a round of applause. (Applause.) Yes! That’s it, blow kisses. That’s right, mom. Take your bow.
And of course, most of all, to the class of 2015 — you all, congratulations. You did it! You did it! You are here! You are here! (Applause.) And you all look so good, so glamorous, so handsome. But just think about how hard you worked to make it to this day — stayed up late studying, working on those college essays, preparing for those ACTs. I understand that you threw yourselves into your activities as well — the Jaguars won the Division 3A basketball regional championship. (Applause.) Pretty nice. The best band in the land performed with Jennifer Hudson — really? Jennifer Hudson? J-Hud? — and at the NFL Draft. (Applause.) I hear you all lit up the stage with Shrek the Musical — (applause) — Spring Concert I heard was pretty nice. But you all truly honored Dr. King’s legacy with your commitment to service-learning.
So, graduates, tonight, I am feeling so proud of you. I am feeling so excited for you. I am feeling so inspired by you. But there is one thing that I’m not feeling right now, and that is surprised. I am not at all surprised by how accomplished you all are. (Applause.) I’m not at all surprised by the dedication your teachers have shown, or by the sacrifices your families have made to carry you to this day. I’m not surprised because I know this community.
I was born and raised here on the South Side, in South Shore, and I am who I am today because of this community. (Applause.) I know the struggles many of you face — how you walk the long way home to avoid the gangs. How you fight to concentrate on your homework when there’s too much noise at home. How you keep it together when your families are having hard times making ends meet.
But more importantly, I also know the strengths of this community. I know the families on the South Side. And while they may come in all different shapes and sizes, most families here are tight, bound together by the kind of love that gets stronger when it’s tested.
I know that folks on the South Side work hard — the kind of hard where you forget about yourself and you just worry about your kids, doing everything it takes — juggling two and three jobs, taking long bus rides to the night shift, scraping pennies together to sign those kids up for every activity you can afford — Park District program, the Praise Dance Ministries — whatever it takes to keep them safe and on the right track. And I know that in this community, folks have a deep faith, a powerful faith, and folks are there for each other when times get hard, because we understand that “there but for the grace of God go I.” (Applause.)
And over the past six years as First Lady, I’ve visited communities just like this one all across this country — communities that face plenty of challenges and crises, but where folks have that same strong work ethic, those same good values, those same big dreams for their kids.
But unfortunately, all those positive things hardly ever make the evening news. Instead, the places where we’ve grown up only make headlines when something tragic happens — when someone gets shot, when the dropout rate climbs, when some new drug is ruining people’s lives.
So too often, we hear a skewed story about our communities — a narrative that says that a stable, hardworking family in a neighborhood like Woodlawn or Chatham or Bronzeville is somehow remarkable; that a young person who graduates from high school and goes to college is a beat-the-odds kind of hero.
Look, I can’t tell you how many times people have met my mother and asked her, “Well, how on Earth did you ever raise kids like Michelle and Craig in a place like South Shore?” And my mom looks at these folks like they’re crazy, and she says, “Michelle and Craig are nothing special. There are millions of Craigs and Michelles out there. And I did the same thing that all those other parents did.” She says, “I loved them. I believed in them. And I didn’t take any nonsense from them.” (Applause.)
And I’m here tonight because I want people across this country to know that story — the real story of the South Side. The story of that quiet majority of good folks — families like mine and young people like all of you who face real challenges but make good choices every single day. (Applause.) I’m here tonight because I want you all to know, graduates, that with your roots in this community and your education from this school, you have everything — you hear me, everything — you need to succeed. (Applause.)
And I’m here tonight because I want to share with you just two fundamental lessons that I’ve learned in my own life, lessons grounded in the courage, love and faith that define this community and that I continue to live by to this day.
Now, the first lesson is very simple, and that is, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. And I cannot stress that enough. During your four years here at King College Prep, you all were surrounded by folks who were determined to help you, as Jade said — teachers who stayed after class to explain an assignment, counselors who pushed you to apply to college, coaches who saw something special in you that no one had seen before.
And as you head to college or the military, or whatever else comes next, you will face plenty of obstacles. There will be times when you find yourself struggling. And at first, you might not know where to turn to for help. Or maybe you might be too embarrassed to ask. And trust me, I know how that feels.
See, when I started my freshman year at Princeton, I felt totally overwhelmed and out of place. I had never spent any meaningful time on a college campus. I had never been away from home for an extended period of time. I had no idea how to choose my classes, to — how to take notes in a large lecture. And then I looked around at my classmates, and they all seemed so happy and comfortable and confident. They never seemed to question whether they belonged at a school like Princeton.
So at first, I didn’t tell a soul how anxious and lonely and insecure I was feeling. But as I got to know my classmates, I realized something important. I realized that they were all struggling with something, but instead of hiding their struggles and trying to deal with them all alone, they reached out. They asked for help. If they didn’t understand something in class, they would raise their hand and ask a question, then they’d go to professor’s office hours and ask even more questions. And they were never embarrassed about it, not one bit. Because they knew that that’s how you succeed in life.
See, growing up, they had the expectation that they would succeed, and that they would have the resources they needed to achieve their goals. So whether it was taking an SAT-prep class, getting a math tutor, seeking advice from a teacher or counselor — they took advantage of every opportunity they had.
So I decided to follow their lead. I found an advisor who helped me choose my classes. I went to the multicultural student center and met older students who became my mentor. And soon enough, I felt like I had this college thing all figured out. And, graduates, wherever you are headed, I guarantee you that there will be all kinds of folks who are eager to help you, but they are not going to come knocking on your door to find you. You have to take responsibility to find them. (Applause.)
So if you are struggling with an assignment, go to a tutoring session. If you’re having trouble with a paper, get yourself to the writing center. And if someone isn’t helpful, if they are impatient or unfriendly, then just find somebody else. You may have to go to a second, or third, or a fourth person but if you keep asking. (Applause.) And if you understand that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of strength, then I guarantee you that you will get what you need to succeed.
And that brings me to the other big lesson that I want to share with you today. It’s a lesson about how to get through those struggles, and that is, instead of letting your hardships and failures discourage or exhaust you, let them inspire you. Let them make you even hungrier to succeed.
Now, I know that many of you have already dealt with some serious losses in your lives. Maybe someone in your family lost a job or struggled with drugs or alcohol or an illness. Maybe you’ve lost someone you love, someone you desperately wish could be here with you tonight. And I know that many of you are thinking about Hadiya right now and feeling the hole that she’s left in your hearts.
So, yes, maybe you’ve been tested a lot more and a lot earlier in life than many other young people. Maybe you have more scars than they do. Maybe you have days when you feel more tired than someone your age should ever really feel. But, graduates, tonight, I want you to understand that every scar that you have is a reminder not just that you got hurt, but that you survived. (Applause.) And as painful as they are, those holes we all have in our hearts are what truly connect us to each other. They are the spaces we can make for other people’s sorrow and pain, as well as their joy and their love so that eventually, instead of feeling empty, our hearts feel even bigger and fuller.
So it’s okay to feel the sadness and the grief that comes with those losses. But instead of letting those feelings defeat you, let them motivate you. Let them serve as fuel for your journey. See, that’s what folks in this community have always done. Just look at our history.
Take the story of Lorraine Hansberry, who grew up right here on the South Side. Lorraine was determined to be a playwright, but she struggled to raise the money to produce her first play. But Lorraine stayed hungry. And eventually, that play — “A Raisin in the Sun” — became the first play by an African American woman to make it to Broadway. (Applause.)
And how about Richard Wright, who spent his young adult years on the South Side. Richard’s father was a sharecropper who abandoned his family. And while Richard loved to read, the local library wouldn’t let him check out books because he was black. So Richard went ahead and wrote books of his own — books like “Native Son,” and “Black Boy,” that made him one of the greatest writers in American history. (Applause.)
And finally, tonight, I’m thinking about my own parents — yes, Marian and Frazier Robinson. See, neither of them went to college. They never had much money. But they were determined to see me and my brother get the best education possible. So my mom served on the PTA, and she volunteered at school so she could keep an eye on us.
As for my Dad, he worked as a pump operator at the city water plant. And even after he was diagnosed with MS in his thirties, and it became harder for him to walk and get dressed, he still managed to pull himself out of bed every morning, no matter how sick he felt. Every day, without fail, I watched my father struggle on crutches to slowly make his way across our apartment, out the door to work, without complaint or self-pity or regret. (Applause.)
Now, my Dad didn’t live to see me in the White House. He passed away from complications from his illness when I was in my twenties. And, graduates, let me tell you, he is the hole in my heart. His loss is my scar. But let me tell you something, his memory drives me forward every single day of my life. (Applause.) Every day, I work to make him proud. Every day, I stay hungry, not just for myself, but for him and for my mom and for all the kids I grew up with who never had the opportunities that my family provided for me.
And, graduates, today, I want to urge you all to do the same thing. There are so many folks in your school and in your families who believe in you, who have sacrificed for you, who have poured all of their love and hope and ambition into you. And you need to stay hungry for them. (Applause.)
There are so many young people who can only dream of the opportunities you’ve had at King College Prep — young people in troubled parts of the world who never set foot in a classroom. Young people in this community who don’t have anyone to support them. Young people like Hadiya, who were taken from us too soon and can never become who they were meant to be. You need to stay hungry for them.
And, graduates, look, I know you can do this. See, because if Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright could stay hungry through their hardships and humiliations; if Dr. Martin Luther King, the namesake of your school, could sacrifice his life for our country, then I know you can show up for a tutoring session. I know you can go to some office hours. (Applause.)
If Hadiya’s friends and family could survive the heartbreak and pain; if they could found organizations to honor her unfulfilled dreams; if they could inspire folks across this country to wear orange in to protest gun violence — then I know you all can live your life with the same determination and joy that Hadiya lived her life. I know you all can dig deep and keep on fighting to fulfill your own dreams.
Because, graduates, in the end, you all are the ones responsible for changing the narrative about our communities. (Applause.) Wherever you go next, wherever you go, you all encounter people who doubt your very existence — folks who believe that hardworking families with strong values don’t exist on the South Side of Chicago, or in Detroit, or in El Paso, or in Indian Country, or in Appalachia. They don’t believe you are real.
And with every word you speak, with every choice you make, with the way you carry yourself each day, you are rewriting the story of our communities. And that’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House. (Applause.) Because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us, or it can change those myths. (Applause.)
So, graduates, today, I want you all to join our team as we fight to get out the truth about our communities — about our inner cities and our farm towns, our barrios, our reservations. You need to help us tell our story — the story of Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright, the story of my family and your families, the story of our sacrifice, our hunger, our hard work.
Graduates, starting today, it is your job to make sure that no one ever again is surprised by who we are and where we come from. (Applause.) And you know how I know you can do this? Because you all — graduates of the King College Prep High School. You all are from so many proud communities — North Kenwood, Chatham, South Shore, Woodlawn, Hyde Park -– I could go on and on. You embody all of the courage and love, all of the hunger and hope that have always defined these communities –- our communities.
And I am so proud of you all. And I stay inspired because of you. And I cannot wait to see everything you all continue achieve in the years ahead.
So thank you. God bless you. I love you all. Congratulations. (Applause.)
END 8:08 P.M. CDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 9, 2015
Source: WH, 6-9-15
Washington Marriott Wardman Park
11:58 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. (Applause.) Everybody, please have a seat. Thank you so much.
Well, I don’t know whether this is appropriate, but I just told Sister Carol I love her. (Laughter.) On a big stage. It is true, though — I do. She is just wonderful. Her dedication to doing God’s work here on Earth, her commitment to serving “the least of these,” here steadiness, her strength, her steadfast voice have been an inspiration to me. We would not have gotten the Affordable Care Act done had it not been for her. I want to thank the entire Catholic Health Association for the incredible work you do. (Applause.)
And it’s true, I just love nuns, generally. (Laughter.) I’m just saying. (Laughter.)
It is an honor to join you on your 100th anniversary of bringing hope and healing to so many. I want to acknowledge Dignity Health and its CEO, Lloyd Dean — (applause) — honored by the Catholic Health Association last night for his outstanding support of our efforts to improve health care in America. He has been a great friend.
I want to thank Ascension Health, a great provider of care — that also recently raised its minimum wage. (Applause.) I want to thank Secretary Burwell and the members of Congress who are here today, because they have been obviously doing extraordinary work. (Applause.)
My first job in Chicago when I moved after college to work as a community organizer — my first job was funded by the Campaign for Human Development, an anti-poverty initiative of the Catholic Church. And my first office was at Holy Rosary Church on the South Side of Chicago, across from Palmer Park. (Applause.) You’re clapping there — she knows Holy Rosary. (Laughter.) And the task was to work with parishes and neighbors and faith and community leaders to bring low-income people together, to stitch neighborhoods together, clergy and laypeople. And the work was hard, and there were times where it was dispiriting. We had plenty of setbacks. There were times where I felt like quitting, where I wondered if the path I’d chosen was too hard.
But despite these challenges, I saw how kindness and compassion and faith can change the arc of people’s lives. And I saw the power of faith — a shared belief that every human being, made in the image of God, deserves to live in dignity; that all children, no matter who they are or where they come from or how much money they were born into, ought to have the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential; that we are all called, in the words of His Holiness Pope Francis, “to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness, and respect for every human being.”
And at the time, when I had just moved to Chicago, the Cardinal there was Cardinal Bernardin, an extraordinary man. And he understood that part of that commitment, part of that commitment to the dignity of every human being also meant that we had to care about the health of every human being. And he articulated that, and the Church articulated that, as we moved at the state level in the Illinois legislature, once I was elected there later on in life, to advance the proposition that health care is not a privilege, it is a right.
And that belief is at the heart of the Catholic Health Association’s mission. For decades, your member hospitals have been on the front lines, often serving the marginalized, the vulnerable and the sick and the uninsured. And that belief is at the heart of why we came together more than five years ago to reform our health care system — to guarantee that every American has access to quality, affordable care.
So I’m here today to say thank you for your tireless efforts to make health reform a reality. Without your commitment to compassionate care, without your moral force, we would not have succeeded. (Applause.) We would not have succeeded had it not been for you and the foundation you had laid. (Applause.)
And pursuing health care reform wasn’t about making good on a campaign promise for me. It was, remember, in the wake of an economic crisis with a very human toll and it was integral to restoring the basic promise of America — the notion that in this country, if you work hard and you take responsibility, you can get ahead. You can make it if you try. Everything we’ve done these past six years and a half years to rebuild our economy on a new foundation — from rescuing and retooling our industries, to reforming our schools, to rethinking the way we produce and use energy, to reducing our deficits — all of that has been in pursuit of that one goal, creating opportunity for all people. And health reform was a critical part of that effort.
For decades, a major barrier to economic opportunity was our broken health care system. It exposed working families to the insecurities of a changing economy. It saddled our businesses with skyrocketing costs that made it hard to hire or pay a good wage. It threatened our entire nation’s long-term prosperity, was the primary driver of our deficits.
And for hospitals like yours, the fact that so many people didn’t have basic care meant you were scrambling and scratching every single day to try to figure out how do we keep our doors open.
Leaders from Teddy Roosevelt to Teddy Kennedy wanted to reform it. For as long as there were Americans who couldn’t afford decent health care, as long as there were people who had to choose between paying for medicine or paying the rent, as long as there were parents who had to figure out whether they could sell or borrow to pay for a child’s treatment just a few months more, and beg for God’s mercy to make it work in time — as long as those things were happening, America was not living up to our highest ideals.
And that’s why providers and faith leaders like you called for expanding access to affordable care. Every day, you saw the very personal suffering of those who go without it. And it seemed like an insurmountable challenge. Every time there was enough political will to alleviate that suffering and to reform the health care system — whether it was under Democratic Presidents or Republican Presidents — you had special interests arraying and keeping the status quo in place. And each year that passed without reform the stakes kept getting higher.
By the time I took office, thousands of Americans were losing their health insurance every single day. Many people died each year because they didn’t have health insurance. Many families who thought they had coverage were driven into bankruptcy by out-of-pocket costs. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens had no coverage at all in this, the wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth. And despite being the only advanced economy in the world without universal health care, our health care costs grew to be the most expensive in the world with no slowing in sight. And that trend strained the budgets of families and businesses and our government.
And so we determined that we could not keep kicking that can down the road any longer. We could not leave that problem for another generation to solve, or another generation after that.
And remember, this was not easy. (Laughter.) There were those who thought health care reform was too messy, and too complicated, and too politically risky. I had pollsters showing me stuff, and 85 percent of folks at any given time had health care and so they weren’t necessarily incentivized to support it. And you could scare the heck out of them about even if they weren’t entirely satisfied with the existing system that somehow it would be terrible to change it. All kinds of warning signs about how tough this was — bad politics.
But for every politician and pundit who said we should wait, why rush, barely a day went by where I didn’t hear from hardworking Americans who didn’t have a moment left to lose. These were men and women from all backgrounds, all walks of life, all races, all faiths, in big cities, small towns, red states, blue states. Middle-class families with coverage that turned out not to be there for them when they needed it. Moms and dads desperately seeking care for a child with a chronic illness only to be told “no” again and again — or fearful as their child got older, what was there future going to be because they weren’t going to be able to get insurance once they left the house. Small business owners forced to choose between insuring their employees and keeping the “open” sign hanging in the window.
And every one of these stories tugged at me in a personal way — because I spoke about seeing my mom worry about how she was going to deal with her finances when she got very sick. And I was reminded of the fear that Michelle and I felt when Sasha was a few months old and we had to race to the hospital, in the emergency room learning that she had meningitis — that we caught only because we had a wonderful pediatrician and regular care. Never felt so scared or helpless in my life.
We were fortunate enough to have good health insurance. And I remember looking around in that emergency room and thinking what about the parents who aren’t that lucky? What about the parents who get hit with a bill of $20,000 or $30,000, and they’ve got no idea how to pay for it? What about those parents with kids who have a chronic illness like asthma and have to keep going back to the emergency room because they don’t have a regular doctor, and the bills never stop coming? Who’s going to stand up for them?
Behind every single story was a simple question: What kind of country do we want to be? Are we a country that’s defined by values that say access to health care is a commodity awarded to only the highest bidders, or by the values that say health care is a fundamental right? Do we believe that where you start should determine how far you go, or do we believe that in the greatest nation on Earth, everybody deserves the opportunity to make it — to make of their lives what they will?
The rugged individualism that defines America has always been bound by a shared set of values, an enduring sense that we’re in this together, that America is not a place where we simply turn away from the sick, or turn our backs on the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. It is a place sustained by the idea: I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper — that we have an obligation to put ourselves in our neighbor’s shoes and see each other’s common humanity.
And so, after a century of talk, after decades of trying, after a year of sustained debate, we finally made health care reform a reality here in America. (Applause.)
And despite the constant doom-and-gloom predictions, the unending Chicken Little warnings that somehow making health insurance fairer and easier to buy would lead to the end of freedom, the end of the American way of life — lo and behold, it did not happen. None of this came to pass. In fact, in a lot of ways, the Affordable Care Act worked out better than some of us anticipated.
Nearly one in three uninsured Americans have already been covered — more than 16 million people -– driving our uninsured rate to its lowest level ever. (Applause.) Ever. On top of that, tens of millions more enjoy new protections with the coverage that they’ve already got. That 85 percent who had health insurance, they may not know that they’ve got a better deal now than they did, but they do. Americans can no longer be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions — from you having had cancer to you having had a baby. Women can’t be charged more just for being a woman. (Applause.) And they get free preventive services like mammograms. And there are no more annual or lifetime caps on the care patients receive.
Medicare has been strengthened and protected. We’ve added 13 years to its actuarial life. The financial difference for business owners trying to invest and grow, and the families trying to save and spend — that’s real, too. Health care prices have risen at the lowest rate in 50 years. Employer premiums are rising at a rate tied for the lowest on record. The average family premium is $1,800 lower today than it would have been had trends over the decade before the ACA passed continued.
In the years to come, countless Americans who can now buy plans that are portable and affordable on a competitive marketplace will be free to chase their own ideas, unleash new enterprises across the country, knowing they’ll be able to buy health insurance.
And here’s the thing — that security won’t just be there for us. It will be there for our kids as they go through life. When they graduate from college, they’re looking for that first job, they can stay on our plans until they’re 26. When they start a family, pregnancy will no longer count against them as a preexisting condition. When they change jobs or lose a job, or strike out on their own to start a business, they’ll still be able to get good coverage. They’ll have that peace of mind all the way until they retire into a Medicare that now has cheaper prescription drugs and wellness visits to make sure that they stay healthy.
And while we were told again and again that Obamacare would be a job-killer — amazingly enough, some critics still peddle this notion — it turns out in reality, America has experienced 63 straight months of private sector job growth — a streak that started the month we passed the Affordable Care Act. (Applause.) The longest streak of private sector job growth on record — that adds up to 12.6 million new jobs. (Applause.)
So the critics stubbornly ignore reality. In reality, there is a self-employed single mom of three who couldn’t afford health insurance until health reform passed and she qualified for Medicaid in her state. And she was finally able to get a mammogram, which detected early-stage breast cancer and may have saved her life. That’s the reality, not the mythology.
In reality, there are parents in Texas whose autistic son couldn’t speak. Even with health insurance, they struggled to pay for his treatment. But health reform meant they could buy an affordable secondary plan that covered therapy for their son — and today, that little boy can tell his parents that he loves them. That’s the reality. (Applause.)
In reality, there’s a self-employed barber from Tennessee — who happens to be a Republican — who couldn’t afford health insurance until our new marketplace opened up. And once he bought a plan, he finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. In the old days, without coverage, he wouldn’t have even known that he was sick. And today, he’s now cancer-free.
So five years in, what we are talking about it is no longer just a law. It’s no longer just a theory. This isn’t even just about the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. This isn’t about myths or rumors that folks try to sustain. There is a reality that people on the ground day to day are experiencing. Their lives are better.
This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another. This is health care in America — which is why, once you get outside of Washington and leave behind the Beltway chatter and the politics, Americans support this new reality. When you talk to people who actually are enrolled in a new marketplace plan, the vast majority of them like their coverage. The vast majority are satisfied with their choice of doctors and hospitals and satisfied with their monthly premiums. They like their reality.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have more work to do. Sister Carol and I were talking backstage — we know we got more work to do. Like any serious attempt at change, there were disruptions in the rollout, there are policies we can put in place to make health care work even better. Secretary Burwell is talking about all the things we have to do together around delivery system reform. We have to protect the coverage that people have now and sign even more people up. We need more governors and state legislatures to expand Medicaid, which was a central part of the architecture of the overall plan. We have to continue to improve the quality of care. And we know we can still bring down costs.
And none of this is going to be easy. Nobody suggests that somehow our health care system is perfect as a consequence of the law being passed, but it is serving so many more people so much better. And we’re not going to go backwards. There’s something, I have to say, just deeply cynical about the ceaseless, endless partisan attempts to roll back progress. I mean, I understood folks being skeptical or worried before the law passed and there wasn’t a reality there to examine. But once you see millions of people of having health care, once you see that all the bad things that were predicted didn’t happen, you’d think that it would be time to move one.
Let’s figure out how to make it better. It seems so cynical to want to take coverage away from millions of people; to take care away from people who need it the most; to punish millions with higher costs of care and unravel what’s now been woven into the fabric of America.
And that kind of cynicism flies in the face of our history. Our history is one of each generation striving to do better and to be better than the last. Just as we’ll never go back to a time when seniors were left to languish in poverty or not have any health insurance in their golden years. There was a generation that didn’t have that guarantee of health care. We’re not going to go back to a time when our citizens can be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition. When tens of millions of people couldn’t afford decent, affordable care — that wasn’t a better America. That’s not freedom. The freedom to languish in illness, or to be bankrupt because somebody in your family gets stick — that’s not who we are. That’s not what we’re about.
Debra Lea Oren of Pennsylvania knows that. Debra suffers from osteoarthritis that was so severe that it put her in a wheelchair. And for years she couldn’t stand or walk at all, and was in constant pain — through no fault of her own, just the twists and turns of life. And without health insurance to get treatment, it seemed as though she might never again live a life that was full. Today, Debra is enrolled in affordable health coverage, was able to have surgery to replace her knees. She’s back on her feet. She walks her dogs, shops at the grocery store, gets to her doctor’s appointments. She’s cooking, she’s exercising, regaining her health.
Debra couldn’t be here today, but she recently wrote to me and she said: “I walk with my husband Michael and hold hands. It’s like a whole new world for me.” Just walking and holding hands — something that one of our fellow Americans for years could not do.
Every day, miracles happen in your hospitals. But remaking Debra’s world didn’t require a miracle. It just required that Debra have access to something that she and every other American has a right to expect, which is health care coverage.
And while there are outcomes that we can calculate and enumerate — the number of newly insured families, the number of lives saved — those numbers all add up to success in this reform effort. But there are also outcomes that are harder to calculate — in the tally of pain and tragedy and bankruptcies that have been averted, but also in the security of a parent who can afford to take her kid to the doctor; or the dignity of a grandfather who can get the preventive care that he needs; or the freedom of an entrepreneur who can start a new venture — or the joy of a wife who thought she’d never again take her husband’s hand and go for a walk.
In the end, that’s why you do what you do. Isn’t that what this is all about? Is there any greater measure of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness than those simple pleasures that are afforded because you have good health and you have some security?
More than five years ago, I said that while I was not the first President to take up this cause, I was determined to be the last. And now it’s up to all of us — the citizens in this room and across the country- — to continue to help make the right to health care a reality for all Americans. And if we keep faith with one another and keep working for each other to create opportunity for everybody who strives for it, then, in the words of Senator Ted Kennedy, “the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.”
It couldn’t have happened without you. (Applause.)
Thank you. God bless you all. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
12:25 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 9, 2015
Source: WH, 6-8-15
Elmau Briefing Center
4:08 P.M. CEST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon. Let me begin by once again thanking Chancellor Merkel and the people of Bavaria and Germany for their extraordinary hospitality here at the G7. My stay here has been extraordinary. I wish I could stay longer. And one of the pleasures of being President is scouting out places that you want to come back to, where you don’t have to spend all your time in a conference room. The setting is breathtaking. Our German friends have been absolutely wonderful, and the success of this summit is a tribute to their outstanding work.
The G7 represents some of the largest economies in the world. But in our G7 partners, the United States also embraces some of our strongest allies and closest friends in the world. So, even as we work to promote the growth that creates jobs and opportunity, we’re also here to stand up for the fundamental principles that we share as democracies: for freedom; for peace; for the right of nations and peoples to decide their own destiny; for universal human rights and the dignity of every human being. And I’m pleased that here in Krün, we showed that on the most pressing global challenges, America and our allies stand united.
We agree that the best way to sustain the global economic recovery is by focusing on jobs and growth. That’s what I’m focused on in the United States. On Friday, we learned that our economy created another 280,000 jobs in May — the strongest month of the year so far — and more than 3 million new jobs over the past year, nearly the fastest pace in over a decade. We’ve now seen five straight years of private sector job growth — 12.6 million new jobs created — the longest streak on record. The unemployment rate is near its lowest level in seven years. Wages for American workers continue to rise. And since I took office, the United States has cut our deficit by two-thirds. So, in the global economy, America is a major source of strength.
At the same time, we recognize that the global economy, while growing, is still not performing at its full potential, And we agreed on a number of necessary steps. Here in Europe, we support efforts to find a path that enables Greece to carry out key reforms and return to growth within a strong, stable and growing Eurozone. I updated my partners on our effort with Congress to pass trade promotion authority so we can move ahead with TPP in the Asia Pacific region, and T-TIP here in Europe –agreements with high standards to protect workers, public safety and the environment.
We continue to make progress toward a strong global climate agreement this year in Paris. All the G7 countries have now put forward our post-2020 targets for reducing carbon emissions, and we’ll continue to urge other significant emitters to do so as well. We’ll continue to meet our climate finance commitments to help developing countries transition to low-carbon growth.
As we’ve done in the U.S., the G7 agreed on the need to integrate climate risks into development assistance and investment programs across the board, and to increase access to risk insurance to help developing countries respond to and recover from climate-related disasters. And building on the Power Africa initiative I launched two years ago, the G7 will work to mobilize more financing for clean-energy projects in Africa.
With respect to security, the G7 remains strongly united in support for Ukraine. We’ll continue to provide economic support and technical assistance that Ukraine needs as it moves ahead on critical reforms to transform its economy and strengthen its democracy. As we’ve seen again in recent days, Russian forces continue to operate in eastern Ukraine, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is now the second year in a row that the G7 has met without Russia -— another example of Russia’s isolation -— and every member of the G7 continues to maintain sanctions on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.
Now, it’s important to recognize the Russian economy has been seriously weakened. The ruble and foreign investment are down; Inflation is up. The Russian central bank has lost more than $150 billion in reserves. Russian banks and firms are virtually locked out of the international markets. Russian energy companies are struggling to import the services and technologies they need for complex energy projects. Russian defense firms have been cut off from key technologies. Russia is in deep recession. So Russia’s actions in Ukraine are hurting Russia and hurting the Russian people.
Here at the G7, we agreed that even as we will continue to seek a diplomatic solution, sanctions against Russia will remain in place so long as Russia continues to violate its obligations under the Minsk agreements. Our European partners reaffirmed that they will maintain sanctions on Russia until the Minsk agreements are fully implemented, which means extending the EU’s existing sectoral sanctions beyond July. And the G7 is making it clear that, if necessary, we stand ready to impose additional, significant sanctions against Russia.
Beyond Europe, we discussed the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, and we remain united heading into the final stages of the talks. Iran has a historic opportunity to resolve the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program, and we agreed that Iran needs to seize that opportunity.
Our discussions with Prime Minister Abadi of Iraq, President Caid Essebsi of Tunisia and President Buhari of Nigeria were a chance to address the threats of ISIL and Boko Haram. The G7 countries, therefore, agreed to work -— together and with our partners -— to further coordinate our counterterrorism efforts.
As many of the world’s leading partners in global development — joined by leaders of Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and the African Union — we discussed how to maximize the impact of our development partnerships. We agreed to continue our landmark initiative to promote food security and nutrition — part of our effort to lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030. We’ll continue to work with our partners in West Africa to get Ebola cases down to zero. And as part of our Global Health Security Agenda, I’m pleased that the G7 made a major commitment to help 60 countries over the next five years achieve specific targets to better prevent, detect and respond to future outbreaks before they become epidemics.
And finally, I want to commend Chancellor Merkel for ensuring that this summit included a focus on expanding educational and economic opportunities for women and girls. The G7 committed to expanding career training for women in our own countries, and to increase technical and vocational training in developing countries, which will help all of our nations prosper.
So, again, I want to thank Angela and the people of Germany for their extraordinary hospitality. I leave here confident that when it comes to the key challenges of our time, America and our closest allies stand shoulder to shoulder.
So with that, I will take some questions. And I will start off with Jeff Mason of Reuters.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. After your meetings here, you mentioned Greece in your opening statement. Do you believe that the Europeans are being too tough on Greece in these talks? And what else needs to be done on both sides to ensure there’s a deal and to ensure that there isn’t the undue harm to financial markets that you’ve warned about?
And on a separate and somewhat related topic, the French told reporters today that you said to G7 leaders that you’re concerned that the dollar is too strong. What did you say exactly? And are you concerned that the dollar is too strong?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: First of all, don’t believe unnamed quotes. I did not say that. And I make a practice of not commenting on the daily fluctuations of the dollar or any other currency.
With respect to Greece, I think that not only our G7 partners but the IMF and other institutions that were represented here feel a sense of urgency in finding a path to resolve the situation there. And what it’s going to require is Greece being serious about making some important reforms not only to satisfy creditors, but, more importantly, to create a platform whereby the Greek economy can start growing again and prosper. And so the Greeks are going to have to follow through and make some tough political choices that will be good for the long term.
I also think it’s going to be important for the international community and the international financial agencies to recognize the extraordinary challenges that Greeks face. And if both sides are showing a sufficient flexibility, then I think we can get this problem resolved. But it will require some tough decisions for all involved, and we will continue to consult with all the parties involved to try to encourage that kind of outcome.
Q Are you confident it will happen before the deadline?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think that everybody wants to make it happen and they’re working hard to get it done.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. How frustrated are you that after you personally raised your concerns about cybersecurity with the Chinese President that a massive attack on U.S. personnel files seems to have originated from China? Was the Chinese government involved? And separately, as a sports fan, can you give us your reaction to the FIFA bribery scandal? Thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: With respect to FIFA, I cannot comment on a pending case by our Attorney General. I will say that in conversations I’ve had here in Europe, people think it is very important for FIFA to be able to operate with integrity and transparency and accountability.
And so as the investigation and charges proceed, I think we have to keep in mind that although football — soccer — depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on, is a game, it’s also a massive business. It is a source of incredible national pride, and people want to make sure that it operates with integrity.
The United States, by the way, since we keep on getting better and better at each World Cup, we want to make sure that a sport that’s gaining popularity is conducted in an upright manner.
I don’t want to discuss — because we haven’t publicly unveiled who we think may have engaged in these cyber-attacks — but I can tell you that we have known for a long time that there are significant vulnerabilities and that these vulnerabilities are going to accelerate as time goes by, both in systems within government and within the private sector. This is why it’s so important that Congress moves forward on passing cyber legislation — cybersecurity legislation that we’ve been pushing for; why, over the last several years, I’ve been standing up new mechanisms inside of government for us to investigate what happens and to start finding more effective solutions.
Part of the problem is, is that we’ve got very old systems. And we discovered this new breach in OPM precisely because we’ve initiated this process of inventorying and upgrading these old systems to address existing vulnerabilities. And what we are doing is going agency by agency, and figuring out what can we fix with better practices and better computer hygiene by personnel, and where do we need new systems and new infrastructure in order to protect information not just of government employees or government activities, but also, most importantly, where there’s an interface between government and the American people.
And this is going to be a big project and we’re going to have to keep on doing it, because both state and non-state actors are sending everything they’ve got at trying to breach these systems. In some cases, it’s non-state actors who are engaging in criminal activity and potential theft. In the case of state actors, they’re probing for intelligence or, in some cases, trying to bring down systems in pursuit of their various foreign policy objectives. In either case, we’re going to have to be much more aggressive, much more attentive than we have been.
And this problem is not going to go away. It is going to accelerate. And that means that we have to be as nimble, as aggressive, and as well-resourced as those who are trying to break into these systems.
Q Thanks, Mr. President. I wanted to ask about two things that were on the agenda at the G7 this weekend. The first was the Islamic State. You said yesterday, ahead of your meeting with Prime Minister Cameron, that you’d assess what was working and what wasn’t. So I’m wondering, bluntly, what is not working in the fight against the Islamic State. And in today’s bilateral with Prime Minister Abadi, you pledged to step up assistance to Iraq. I’m wondering if that includes additional U.S. military personnel.
Separately, on trade, Chancellor Merkel said today that she was pleased you would get fast track authority. I’m wondering if that means that you gave her or other leaders here assurance that it would go through the House. And if it doesn’t, what does it say about your ability to achieve meaningful agreements with Congress for the remainder of your time in office?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, on the latter question, I’m not going to hypothesize about not getting it done. I intend to get it done. And, hopefully, we’re going to get a vote soon because I think it’s the right thing to do.
With respect to ISIL, we have made significant progress in pushing back ISIL from areas in which they had occupied or disrupted local populations, but we’ve also seen areas like in Ramadi where they’re displaced in one place and then they come back in, in another. And they’re nimble, and they’re aggressive, and they’re opportunistic.
So one of the areas where we’re going to have to improve is the speed at which we’re training Iraqi forces. Where we’ve trained Iraqi forces directly and equipped them, and we have a train-and-assist posture, they operate effectively. Where we haven’t, morale, lack of equipment, et cetera, may undermine the effectiveness of Iraqi security forces. So we want to get more Iraqi security forces trained, fresh, well-equipped and focused. And President Abadi wants the same thing.
So we’re reviewing a range of plans for how we might do that, essentially accelerating the number of Iraqi forces that are properly trained and equipped and have a focused strategy and good leadership. And when a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people. We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis, as well, about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place. And so the details of that are not yet worked out.
Q Is it fair to say that additional military personnel — U.S. military personnel are of what’s under consideration?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think what is fair to say is that all the countries in the international coalition are prepared to do more to train Iraqi security forces if they feel like that additional work is being taken advantage of. And one of the things that we’re still seeing is — in Iraq — places where we’ve got more training capacity than we have recruits. So part of my discussion with Prime Minister Abadi was how do we make sure that we get more recruits in. A big part of the answer there is our outreach to Sunni tribes.
We’ve seen Sunni tribes who are not only willing and prepared to fight ISIL, but have been successful at rebuffing ISIL. But it has not been happening as fast as it needs to. And so one of the efforts that I’m hoping to see out of Prime Minister Abadi, and the Iraqi legislature when they’re in session, is to move forward on a National Guard law that would help to devolve some of the security efforts in places like Anbar to local folks, and to get those Sunni tribes involved more rapidly.
This is part of what helped defeat AQI — the precursor of ISIL — during the Iraq War in 2006. Without that kind of local participation, even if you have a short-term success, it’s very hard to hold those areas.
The other area where we’ve got to make a lot more progress is on stemming the flow of foreign fighters. Now, you’ll recall that I hosted a U.N. General Security Council meeting specifically on this issue, and we’ve made some progress, but not enough. We are still seeing thousands of foreign fighters flowing into, first, Syria, and then, oftentimes, ultimately into Iraq.
And not all of that is preventable, but a lot of it is preventable — if we’ve got better cooperation, better coordination, better intelligence, if we are monitoring what’s happening at the Turkish-Syria border more effectively. This is an area where we’ve been seeking deeper cooperation with Turkish authorities who recognize it’s a problem but haven’t fully ramped up the capacity they need. And this is something that I think we got to spend a lot of time on.
If we can cut off some of that foreign fighter flow then we’re able to isolate and wear out ISIL forces that are already there. Because we’re taking a lot of them off the battlefield, but if they’re being replenished, then it doesn’t solve the problem over the long term.
The final point that I emphasized to Prime Minister Abadi is the political agenda of inclusion remains as important as the military fight that’s out there. If Sunnis, Kurds, and Shia all feel as if they’re concerns are being addressed, and that operating within a legitimate political structure can meet their need for security, prosperity, non-discrimination, then we’re going to have much easier time.
And the good news is Prime Minister Abadi is very much committed to that principle. But, obviously, he’s inheriting a legacy of a lot of mistrust between various groups in Iraq — he’s having to take a lot of political risks. In some cases, there are efforts to undermine those efforts by other political factions within Iraq. And so we’ve got to continue to monitor that and support those who are on the right side of the issue there.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You mentioned that the U.S. and its European allies have reached a consensus on extending the sanctions against Russia. Is there a consensus, though, about what specifically the next step should be if Russia continues to violate the Minsk agreement? And also, can you deter Russian aggression in other parts of Eastern Europe without a permanent U.S. troop presence?
And separately, I wanted to ask you about the possibility that the court battle over your actions on immigration could extend late into your term. Do you think that there’s anything more that you can do for the people who would have benefitted from that program and now are in limbo? And how do you view the possibility of your term ending without accomplishing your goals on immigration?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: On Ukraine and Russia and Minsk, there is strong consensus that we need to keep pushing Russia to abide by the terms of the Minsk agreement; we need to continue to support and encourage Ukraine to meet its obligations under Minsk — that until that’s completed, sanctions remain in place.
There was discussion about additional steps that we might need to take if Russia, working through separatists, doubled down on aggression inside of Ukraine. Those discussions are taking place at a technical level, not yet at a political level — because I think the first goal here going into a European Council meeting that’s coming up is just rolling over the existing sanctions. But I think at a technical level, we want to be prepared.
Our hope is, is that we don’t have to take additional steps because the Minsk agreement is met. And I want to give enormous credit to Chancellor Merkel, along with President Hollande, who have shown extraordinary stick-to-itiveness and patience in trying to get that done.
Ultimately, this is going to be an issue for Mr. Putin. He’s got to make a decision: Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to re-create the glories of the Soviet empire? Or does he recognize that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?
And as I mentioned earlier, the costs that the Russian people are bearing are severe. That’s being felt. It may not always be understood why they’re suffering, because of state media inside of Russia and propaganda coming out of state media in Russia and to Russian speakers. But the truth of the matter is, is that the Russian people would greatly benefit. And, ironically, one of the rationales that Mr. Putin provided for his incursions into Ukraine was to protect Russian speakers there. Well, Russian speakers inside of Ukraine are precisely the ones who are bearing the brunt of the fighting. Their economy has collapsed. Their lives are disordered. Many of them are displaced. Their homes may have been destroyed. They’re suffering. And the best way for them to stop suffering is if the Minsk agreement is fully implemented.
Oh, immigration. With respect to immigration, obviously, I’m frustrated by a district court ruling that now is winding its way through the appeals process. We are being as aggressive as we can legally to, first and foremost, appeal that ruling, and then to implement those elements of immigration executive actions that were not challenged in court.
But, obviously, the centerpiece, one of the key provisions for me was being able to get folks who are undocumented to go through a background check — criminal background check — pay back taxes, and then have a legal status. And that requires an entire administrative apparatus and us getting them to apply and come clean.
I made a decision, which I think is the right one, that we should not accept applications until the legal status of this is clarified. I am absolutely convinced this is well within my legal authority, Department of Homeland Security’s legal authority. If you look at the precedent, if you look at the traditional discretion that the executive branch possesses when it comes to applying immigration laws, I am convinced that what we’re doing is lawful, and our lawyers are convinced that what we’re doing is lawful.
But the United States is a government of laws and separations of power, and even if it’s an individual district court judge who’s making this determination, we’ve got to go through the process to challenge it. And until we get clarity there, I don’t want to bring people in, have them apply and jump through a lot of hoops only to have it deferred and delayed further.
Of course, there’s one really great way to solve this problem, and that would be Congress going ahead and acting, which would obviate the need for executive actions. The majority of the American people I think still want to see that happen. I suspect it will be a major topic of the next presidential campaign.
And so we will continue to push as hard as we can on all fronts to fix a broken immigration system. Administratively, we’ll be prepared if and when we get the kind of ruling that I think we should have gotten in the first place about our authorities to go ahead and implement. But ultimately, this has never fully replaced the need for Congress to act. And my hope is, is that after a number of the other issues that we’re working on currently get cleared, that some quiet conversations start back up again, particularly in the Republican Party, about the shortsighted approach that they’re taking when it comes to immigration.
Okay. Christi Parsons.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. More than six million Americans may soon lose health insurance if the Supreme Court this month backs the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act. A growing number of states are looking for assistance as they face the prospect that their residents may lose federal insurance subsidies and their insurance markets may collapse. Yet, your administration has given very little to no guidance on how states can prepare. What can you tell state leaders and advocates who worry that health care markets in half the country may be thrown into chaos?
THE PRESIDENT: What I can tell state leaders is, is that under well-established precedent, there is no reason why the existing exchanges should be overturned through a court case. It has been well documented that those who passed this legislation never intended for folks who were going through the federal exchange not to have their citizens get subsidies. That’s not just the opinion of me; that’s not just the opinion of Democrats; that’s the opinion of the Republicans who worked on the legislation. The record makes it clear.
And under well-established statutory interpretation, approaches that have been repeatedly employed — not just by liberal, Democratic judges, but by conservative judges like some on the current Supreme Court — you interpret a statute based on what the intent and meaning and the overall structure of the statute provides for.
And so this should be an easy case. Frankly, it probably shouldn’t even have been taken up. And since we’re going to get a ruling pretty quick, I think it’s important for us to go ahead and assume that the Supreme Court is going to do what most legal scholars who’ve looked at this would expect them to do.
But, look, I’ve said before and I will repeat again: If, in fact, you have a contorted reading of the statute that says federal-run exchanges don’t provide subsidies for folks who are participating in those exchanges, then that throws off how that exchange operates. It means that millions of people who are obtaining insurance currently with subsidies suddenly aren’t getting those subsidies; many of them can’t afford it; they pull out; and the assumptions that the insurance companies made when they priced their insurance suddenly gets thrown out the window. And it would be disruptive — not just, by the way, for folks in the exchanges, but for those insurance markets in those states, generally.
So it’s a bad idea. It’s not something that should be done based on a twisted interpretation of four words in — as we were reminded repeatedly — a couple-thousand-page piece of legislation.
What’s more, the thing is working. I mean, part of what’s bizarre about this whole thing is we haven’t had a lot of conversation about the horrors of Obamacare because none of them come to pass. You got 16 million people who’ve gotten health insurance. The overwhelming majority of them are satisfied with the health insurance. It hasn’t had an adverse effect on people who already had health insurance. The only effect it’s had on people who already had health insurance is they now have an assurance that they won’t be prevented from getting health insurance if they’ve got a preexisting condition, and they get additional protections with the health insurance that they do have.
The costs have come in substantially lower than even our estimates about how much it would cost. Health care inflation overall has continued to be at some of the lowest levels in 50 years. None of the predictions about how this wouldn’t work have come to pass.
And so I’m — A, I’m optimistic that the Supreme Court will play it straight when it comes to the interpretation. And, B, I should mention that if it didn’t, Congress could fix this whole thing with a one-sentence provision.
But I’m not going to go into a long speculation anticipating disaster.
Q But you’re a plan-ahead kind of guy. Why not have a plan B?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, you know, I want to just make sure that everybody understands that you have a model where all the pieces connect. And there are a whole bunch of scenarios not just in relation to health care, but all kinds of stuff that I do, where if somebody does something that doesn’t make any sense, then it’s hard to fix. And this would be hard to fix. Fortunately, there’s no reason to have to do it. It doesn’t need fixing. All right?
Thank you very much. Thank you to the people of Germany and Bavaria. You guys were wonderful hosts.
4:43 P.M. CEST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 8, 2015
Source: WH, 6-6-15
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 6, 2015
Source: Time, 6-4-15
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry launched his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in Dallas Thursday.
Here is a transcript of the full remarks, as prepared for delivery.
Thank you. I was born five years after the end of a global war that killed more than 60 million people.
I am the son of a veteran of that war, who flew 35 missions over war-torn Europe as a tail gunner on a B-17.
When dad returned home, he married mom, and they started a life together.
They were tenant farmers.
They were raised during a time of great hardship, and had little expectation beyond living in peace, putting a roof over our heads and putting food on our table.
Home was a place called Paint Creek. Too small to be called a town, but it was the center of my universe.
For years we had an outhouse, and mom bathed us in a number two washtub on the back porch. She also hand-sewed my clothes until I went off to college.
I attended Paint Creek Rural School, grades one through 12. I played 6-man football. I was a member of Boy Scout Troop 48, became an Eagle Scout, and went off to Texas A&M where I was a member of the Corps of Cadets and an animal science major.
I was proud to wear the uniform of our country as an Air Force officer and aircraft commander.
After serving, I returned home to the rolling plains and big skies of West Texas, and I returned to farming.
There is no person on earth more optimistic than a dryland cotton farmer. We always know a good rain is just around the corner, no matter how long we’d been waiting.
The values learned on my family’s cotton farm are timeless: the dignity of work, the integrity of your word, responsibility to community, the unbreakable bonds of family, and duty to country.
These are enduring values. Not the product of some idyllic past, but a touchstone of American life in our small towns, our largest cities, our booming suburbs.
I have seen American life from the red dirt of a West Texas cotton field, from a campus in College Station, from the elevated view of a C-130 cockpit, and from the Governor’s office of the Texas Capitol.
I served a small rural community in the Texas Legislature, and I led the world’s 12th largest economy.
I know that America has experienced great change, but what it means to be an American has never changed: we are the only nation in the world founded on the power of an idea that all “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Our rights come from God, not from government, and our people are not the subjects of government, but instead government is subject to the people.
It has always been the case that there has been a social compact between one generation of Americans and the next: to pass along an inheritance of a stronger country full of greater promise and possibility.
And that social compact has been protected at great sacrifice. This was never more clear to me than when I took my father to the American cemetery that overlooks the bluffs at Omaha beach.
On that peaceful, wind-swept setting, there lie 9,000 graves, including 45 pairs of brothers, 33 of whom are buried side by side, a father and a son, two sons of a president. They all traded their future for ours in a final act of loving sacrifice.
In that American Cemetery, it is no accident each headstone faces west: west over the Atlantic, towards the nation they defended, the nation they loved, the nation they would never come home to.
It struck me as I stood in the midst of those heroes that they look upon us in silent judgment. And that we must ask ourselves: are we worthy of their sacrifice?
The truth is we are at the end of an era of failed leadership.
We have been led by a divider who has sliced and diced the electorate, pitting American against American for political purposes.
Six years into the so-called recovery, and our economy is barely growing. This winter, it actually got smaller.
Our economic slowdown is not inevitable, it is the direct result of bad economic policy.
The president’s tax and regulatory policies have slammed shut the door of opportunity for the average American trying to climb the economic ladder, resigning the middle class to stagnant wages, personal debt, and deferred dreams.
Weakness at home has led to weakness abroad.
The world has descended into a chaos of this president’s own making, while his White House loyalists construct an alternative universe where ISIS is contained and Ramadi is merely a “setback” – where the nature of the enemy can’t be acknowledged for fear of causing offense, where the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, the Islamic Republic of Iran, can be trusted to live up to a nuclear agreement.
No decision has done more harm than the president’s withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
Let no one be mistaken, leaders of both parties have made grave mistakes in Iraq. But in January, 2009 – when Barack Obama became Commander-in-Chief – Iraq had been largely pacified.
America had won the war. But our president failed to secure the peace.
How callous it seems now as cities once secured with American blood are now being taken by America’s enemies, all because of a campaign slogan.
I saw during Vietnam a war where politicians didn’t keep faith with the sacrifices and courage of America’s fighting men and women, where men were ordered into combat without the full support of their civilian commanders.
To see it happen again, 40 years later, because of political gamesmanship and dishonesty, is a national disgrace.
But my friends, we are a resilient country. We have been through a Civil War, we’ve been through two world wars, we’ve made it through a Great Depression – we even made it through Jimmy Carter. We will make it through the Obama years.
The fundamental nature of this country is our people never stay knocked down. We get back up, we dust ourselves off, and we move forward. And we will again.
I want to share some important truths with my fellow Americans, starting with this truth: we don’t have to settle for a world in chaos or an America that shrinks from its responsibilities.
We don’t have to apologize for American exceptionalism, or western values.
We don’t have to accept slow growth that leaves behind the middle class, and leaves millions of Americans out of work.
We don’t have to settle for crumbling bureaucracies that target taxpayers and harm our veterans.
And we don’t have to resign ourselves to debt, decay and slow growth.
We have the power to make things new again. To project American strength again, to get our economy going again.
And that is why today I am running for the presidency of the United States of America.
It is time to create real jobs, to raise wages, to create opportunity for all. To give every citizen a stake in this country. To restore hope, real hope to forgotten Americans, millions of middle class families who have given up hope of getting ahead, millions of workers who have given up hope of finding a job.
Yes, it’s time for a reset, time to reset the relationship between government and citizen.
Think of the arrogance of Washington, DC, representing itself as some beacon of wisdom, with policies smothering this vast land with no regard for what makes each state and community unique. That’s just wrong.
We need to return power to the states, and freedom to the individual.
Today our citizens and entrepreneurs are burdened by over-regulation and unspeakable debt.
Debt is not just a fiscal nightmare, it is a moral failure. Let me speak to the millennial generation: massive debt, passed on from our generation to yours, is a breaking of the social compact.
You deserve better. I am going to offer a responsible plan to fix the entitlement system, and to stop this theft from your generation.
To those forgotten Americans drowning in personal debt, working harder for wages that don’t keep up with the rising cost of living, I come here today to say your voice is heard.
I know you face rising health care costs, rising child care costs, skyrocketing tuition costs, and mounting student loan debt. I hear you, and I am going to do something about it.
To the one in five children in families on food stamps, to the one in seven Americans living in poverty, to the one in ten workers who are unemployed, under-employed or given up hope of finding a job: I hear you, you are not forgotten.
I am running to be your president.
For small businesses on Main Street struggling to just get by, smothered by regulations, targeted by Dodd-Frank: I hear you, you’re not forgotten. Your time is coming.
The American People see a rigged game, where insiders get rich, and the middle class pays the tab.
There is something wrong when the Dow is near record highs, and businesses on Main Street can’t even get a loan.
Since when did capitalism involve the elimination of risk for the biggest banks while regulations strangle our community banks?
Capitalism is not corporatism. It is not a guarantee of reward without risk. It is not about Wall Street at the expense of Main Street.
The reason I am running for president is I know for certain our country’s best days lie ahead. There is nothing wrong in America today that cannot be fixed with new leadership.
We are just a few good decisions away from unleashing economic growth, and reviving the American Dream.
We need to fix a tax code riddled with loopholes that sends jobs overseas and punishes success.
We have the highest corporate tax rate in the western world. It is time to reduce the rate, bring jobs home and lift wages for working families.
By the time this Administration has finished with its experiment in big government, they will have added more than 600,000 pages of new regulations to the Federal Register.
On my first day in office, I will issue an immediate freeze on all pending regulations from the Obama administration. That same day, I will send to Congress a comprehensive reform and rollback of job-killing mandates created by Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and other Obama-era policies.
Agencies will have to live under strict regulatory budgets. And health insurers will have to earn the right to your money, instead of lobbying Washington to force you to hand it over.
On day one, I will also sign an executive order approving the construction of the Keystone Pipeline.
Energy is vital to our economy, and to our national security. On day one, I will sign an executive order authorizing the export of American natural gas and oil, freeing our European allies from dependence on Russia’s energy supplies.
Vladimir Putin uses energy to hold our allies hostage. If energy is going to be used as a weapon, I say America must have the largest arsenal.
We will unleash an era of economic growth, and limitless opportunity. We will rebuild American industry. And we will lift wages for American workers.
It can be done because it has been done in Texas.
During my 14 years as governor, Texas companies created almost one-third of all new American jobs.
In the last seven years of my tenure, Texas created 1.5 million new jobs. Without Texas, America would have lost 400,000 jobs.
We were the engine of growth because we had a simple formula: control taxes and spending, implement smart regulations, invest in an educated workforce, and stop frivolous lawsuits.
Texas now has the second highest high school graduation rate in the country and the highest graduation rates for African-American and Hispanic students.
We led the nation in exports, including high-tech exports. We passed historic tax relief, and I was proud to sign balanced budgets for 14 years.
We not only created opportunity, we stood for law and order.
When there was a crisis at our border last year and the president refused my invitation to see the challenge that we faced, I told him, “Mr. President, if you won’t secure the border, Texas will.”
Because of the threat posed by drug cartels and trans-national gangs, I deployed the Texas National Guard.
The policy worked. Apprehensions declined by 74 percent. If you elect me your president,
I will secure this border.
Homeland security begins with border security. The most basic compact between a president and the people is to keep the country safe.
The great lesson of history is strength and resolve bring peace and order, and weakness and vacillation invite chaos and conflict.
My very first act as president will be to rescind any agreement with Iran that legitimizes their quest to get a nuclear weapon.
Now is the time for clear-sighted, proven leadership. We have seen what happens when we elect a president based on media acclaim rather than a record of accomplishment.
This will be a “show-me, don’t tell me” election, where voters look past the rhetoric to the real record.
The question of every candidate will be this one: when have you led? Leadership is not a speech on the senate floor, it’s not what you say, it’s what you do.
And we will not find the kind of leadership needed to revitalize the country by looking to the political class in Washington.
I have been tested. I have led the most successful state in America. I have dealt with crisis after crisis – from the disintegration of a space shuttle, to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike, to the crisis at the border, and the first diagnosis of Ebola in America.
I have brought together first responders, charities and people of faith to house and heal vulnerable citizens dealing with tragedy.
The spirit of compassion demonstrated by Texans is alive all across America today. While we have experienced a deficit in leadership, among the American People there is a surplus of spirit.
And among our great people, there is a spirit of selflessness – that we live to make the world better for our children, and not just ourselves.
It was said that when King George the Third asked what General Washington would do upon winning the war, he was told he would return to his farm and relinquish power. To that, the monarch replied, if he did that, he would be the greatest man of his age.
George Washington lived in the service of a cause greater than self.
If anyone is wondering if America still possesses the character of selfless heroes, I am here to say, “Yes, I am surrounded by such heroes.”
They are of different generations, but they are woven together by the same thread of selfless sacrifice.
They are heroes like Medal of Honor Recipient Mike Thornton, who survived an ambush by enemy forces in Vietnam, and made it back to the safety of a water rescue, only to find out a fellow team member had been left behind, presumed dead.
He didn’t leave though, he returned through enemy fire and retrieved Lieutenant Norris who was still alive – and then swam for two hours keeping his wounded teammate afloat until they were rescued.
Heroes like Marcus Luttrell, who survived a savage attack on the side of a mountain in Afghanistan, losing his three teammates and 16 fellow warriors shot down trying to rescue him.
He is not just the lone survivor, to Anita and me he is a second son.
And Taya Kyle, who suffered the deep loss of her husband Chris, an American hero. When I think of Taya Kyle, I think of a brave woman who carries not just the lofty burden of Chris’ legacy, but the grief of every family who has lost a loved one to the great tragedy of war, or its difficult aftermath. Anita and I want to thank her for her tremendous courage.
America is an extraordinary country. Our greatness lies not in our government, but in our people.
Each day Americans demonstrate tremendous courage. But many of those Americans have been knocked down and are looking for a second chance.
Let’s give them that chance. Let’s give them real leadership. Let’s give them a future greater than the greatest days of our past.
Let’s give them a president who leads us in the direction of our highest hopes, our best dreams and our greatest promise.
Thank you, and God bless you.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 4, 2015
Source: WH, 6-2-15
For the past eighteen months, I have called for reforms that better safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of the American people while ensuring our national security officials retain tools important to keeping Americans safe. That is why, today, I welcome the Senate’s passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, which I will sign when it reaches my desk.
After a needless delay and inexcusable lapse in important national security authorities, my Administration will work expeditiously to ensure our national security professionals again have the full set of vital tools they need to continue protecting the country. Just as important, enactment of this legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs, including by prohibiting bulk collection through the use of Section 215, FISA pen registers, and National Security Letters and by providing the American people with additional transparency measures.
I am gratified that Congress has finally moved forward with this sensible reform legislation. I particularly applaud Senators Leahy and Lee as well as Representatives Goodlatte, Sensenbrenner, Conyers, and Nadler for their leadership and tireless efforts to pass this important bipartisan legislative achievement.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 2, 2015
Source: WH, 6-2-15
President Obama Signs Medal of Honor Certificate and Citation
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
11:27 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Please be seated.
Welcome to the White House.
Nearly 100 years ago, a 16-year-old kid from the Midwest named Frank Buckles headed to Europe’s Western Front. An ambulance driver, he carried the wounded to safety. He lived to see our troops ship off to another war in Europe. And one in Korea. Vietnam. Iraq. Afghanistan. And Frank Buckles became a quietly powerful advocate for our veterans, and remained that way until he passed away four years ago — America’s last surviving veteran of World War I.
On the day Frank was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, Vice President Biden and I went to pay our respects. And we weren’t alone. Americans from across the country came out to express their gratitude as well. They were of different ages, different races, some military, some not. Most had never met Frank. But all of them braved a cold winter’s day to offer a final tribute to a man with whom they shared a powerful conviction — that no one who serves our country should ever be forgotten.
We are a nation — a people — who remember our heroes. We take seriously our responsibility to only send them when war is necessary. We strive to care for them and their families when they come home. We never forget their sacrifice. And we believe that it’s never too late to say thank you. That’s why we’re here this morning.
Today, America honors two of her sons who served in World War I, nearly a century ago. These two soldiers were roughly the same age, dropped into the battlefields of France at roughly the same time. They both risked their own lives to save the lives of others. They both left us decades ago, before we could give them the full recognition that they deserved. But it’s never too late to say thank you. Today, we present America’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, to Private Henry Johnson and Sergeant William Shemin.
I want to begin by welcoming and thanking everyone who made this day possible — family, friends, admirers. Some of you have worked for years to honor these heroes, to give them the honor they should have received a long time ago. We are grateful that you never gave up. We are appreciative of your efforts.
As a young man, Henry Johnson joined millions of other African-Americans on the Great Migration from the rural South to the industrial North — a people in search of a better life. He landed in Albany, where he mixed sodas at a pharmacy, worked in a coal yard and as a porter at a train station. And when the United States entered World War I, Henry enlisted. He joined one of only a few units that he could: the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment. The Harlem Hellfighters. And soon, he was headed overseas.
At the time, our military was segregated. Most black soldiers served in labor battalions, not combat units. But General Pershing sent the 369th to fight with the French Army, which accepted them as their own. Quickly, the Hellfighters lived up to their name. And in the early hours of May 15, 1918, Henry Johnson became a legend.
His battalion was in Northern France, tucked into a trench. Some slept — but he couldn’t. Henry and another soldier, Needham Roberts, stood sentry along No Man’s Land. In the pre-dawn, it was pitch black, and silent. And then — a click — the sound of wire cutters.
A German raiding party — at least a dozen soldiers, maybe more — fired a hail of bullets. Henry fired back until his rifle was empty. Then he and Needham threw grenades. Both of them were hit. Needham lost consciousness. Two enemy soldiers began to carry him away while another provided cover, firing at Henry. But Henry refused to let them take his brother in arms. He shoved another magazine into his rifle. It jammed. He turned the gun around and swung it at one of the enemy, knocking him down. Then he grabbed the only weapon he had left — his Bolo knife — and went to rescue Needham. Henry took down one enemy soldier, then the other. The soldier he’d knocked down with his rifle recovered, and Henry was wounded again. But armed with just his knife, Henry took him down, too.
And finally, reinforcements arrived and the last enemy soldier fled. As the sun rose, the scale of what happened became clear. In just a few minutes of fighting, two Americans had defeated an entire raiding party. And Henry Johnson saved his fellow soldier from being taken prisoner.
Henry became one of our most famous soldiers of the war. His picture was printed on recruitment posters and ads for Victory War Stamps. Former President Teddy Roosevelt wrote that he was one of the bravest men in the war. In 1919, Henry rode triumphantly in a victory parade. Crowds lined Fifth Avenue for miles, cheering this American soldier.
Henry was one of the first Americans to receive France’s highest award for valor. But his own nation didn’t award him anything –- not even the Purple Heart, though he had been wounded 21 times. Nothing for his bravery, though he had saved a fellow solder at great risk to himself. His injuries left him crippled. He couldn’t find work. His marriage fell apart. And in his early 30s, he passed away.
Now, America can’t change what happened to Henry Johnson. We can’t change what happened to too many soldiers like him, who went uncelebrated because our nation judged them by the color of their skin and not the content of their character. But we can do our best to make it right. In 1996, President Clinton awarded Henry Johnson a Purple Heart. And today, 97 years after his extraordinary acts of courage and selflessness, I’m proud to award him the Medal of Honor.
We are honored to be joined today by some very special guests –- veterans of Henry’s regiment, the 369th. Thank you, to each of you, for your service. And I would ask Command Sergeant Major Louis Wilson of the New York National Guard to come forward and accept this medal on Private Johnson’s behalf. (Applause.)
MILITARY AIDE: The President of the United States of America authorized buy Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Private Henry Johnson, United States Army. Private Henry Johnson distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a member of Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Forces, on May 15, 1918, during combat operations against the enemy on the front lines of the Western Front in France.
In the early morning hours, Private Johnson and another soldier were on sentry duty at a forward outpost when they received a surprise attack from the German raiding party consisting of at least 12 soldiers. While under intense enemy fire and despite receiving significant wounds, Private Johnson mounted a brave retaliation, resulting in several enemy casualties. When his fellow soldier was badly wounded and being carried away by the enemy, Private Johnson exposed himself to great danger by advancing from his position to engage the two enemy captors in hand-to-hand combat. Wielding only a knife and gravely wounded himself, Private Johnson continued fighting, defeating the two captors and rescuing the wounded soldier. Displaying great courage, he continued to hold back the larger enemy force until the defeated enemy retreated, leaving behind a large cache of weapons and equipment and providing valuable intelligence.
Without Private Johnson’s quick actions and continued fighting, even in the face of almost certain death, the enemy might have succeeded in capturing prisoners in the outpost and abandoning valuable intelligence. Private Johnson’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Infantry Division, and the United States Army.
(The Medal of Honor is presented.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Growing up in Bayonne, New Jersey, William Shemin loved sports — football, wrestling, boxing, swimming. If it required physical and mental toughness, and it made your heart pump, your muscles ache, he was all in. As a teenager, he even played semi-pro baseball. So when America entered the war, and posters asked if he was tough enough, there was no question about it — he was going to serve. Too young to enlist? No problem. He puffed his chest and lied about his age. (Laughter.) And that’s how William Shemin joined the 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, and shipped out for France.
On August 7th, 1918, on the Western Front, the Allies were hunkered down in one trench, the Germans in another, separated by about 150 yards of open space — just a football field and a half. But that open space was a bloodbath. Soldier after soldier ventured out, and soldier after soldier was mowed down. So those still in the trenches were left with a terrible choice: die trying to rescue your fellow soldier, or watch him die, knowing that part of you will die along with him.
William Shemin couldn’t stand to watch. He ran out into the hell of No Man’s Land and dragged a wounded comrade to safety. Then he did it again, and again. Three times he raced through heavy machine gunfire. Three times he carried his fellow soldiers to safety.
The battle stretched on for days. Eventually, the platoon’s leadership broke down. Too many officers had become casualties. So William stepped up and took command. He reorganized the depleted squads. Every time there was a lull in combat, he led rescues of the wounded. As a lieutenant later described it, William was “cool, calm, intelligent, and personally utterly fearless.” That young kid who lied about his age grew up fast in war. And he received accolades for his valor, including the Distinguished Service Cross.
When he came home, William went to school for forestry and began a nursery business in the Bronx. It was hard work, lots of physical labor — just like he liked it. He married a red-head, blue-eyed woman named Bertha Schiffer, and they had three children who gave them 14 grandchildren. He bought a house upstate, where the grandkids spent their summers swimming and riding horses. He taught them how to salute. He taught them the correct way to raise the flag every morning and lower and fold it every night. He taught them how to be Americans.
William stayed in touch with his fellow veterans, too. And when World War II came, William went and talked to the Army about signing up again. By then, his war injuries had given him a terrible limp. But he treated that limp just like he treated his age all those years ago — pay no attention to that, he said. He knew how to build roads, he knew camouflage — maybe there was a place for him in this war, too. To Bertha’s great relief, the Army said that the best thing William could do for his country was to keep running his business and take care of his family. (Laughter.)
His daughter, Elsie — who’s here today with what seems like a platoon of Shemins — (laughter) — has a theory about what drove her father to serve. He was the son of Russian immigrants, and he was devoted to his Jewish faith. “His family lived through the pogroms,” she says. “They saw towns destroyed and children killed. And then they came to America. And here they found a haven — a home — success — and my father and his sister both went to college. All that, in one generation! That’s what America meant to him. And that’s why he’d do anything for this country.”
Well, Elsie, as much as America meant to your father, he means even more to America. It takes our nation too long sometimes to say so — because Sergeant Shemin served at a time when the contributions and heroism of Jewish Americans in uniform were too often overlooked. But William Shemin saved American lives. He represented our nation with honor. And so it is my privilege, on behalf of the American people, to make this right and finally award the Medal of Honor to Sergeant William Shemin. I want to invite his daughters — Elsie and Ina — 86 and 83, and gorgeous — (laughter) — to accept this medal on their father’s behalf. (Applause.)
MILITARY AIDE: The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Sergeant William Shemin, United States Army.
Sergeant William Shemin distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a rifleman with G Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, American Expeditionary Forces, in connection with combat operations against an armed enemy on the Vesle River, near Bazoches, France from August 7th to August 9th, 1918.
Sergeant Shemin upon three different occasions left cover and crossed an open space of 150 yards, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy machine gun and rifle fire to rescue wounded. After officers and seniors noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Sergeant Shemin took command of the platoon and displayed great initiative under fire until wounded on August 9th.
Sergeant Shemin’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself with G Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, American Expeditionary Forces, and the United States Army.
(The Medal of Honor is presented.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it has taken a long time for Henry Johnson and William Shemin to receive the recognition they deserve. And there are surely others whose heroism is still unacknowledged and uncelebrated. So we have work to do, as a nation, to make sure that all of our heroes’ stories are told. And we’ll keep at it, no matter how long it takes. America is the country we are today because of people like Henry and William — Americans who signed up to serve, and rose to meet their responsibilities — and then went beyond. The least we can do is to say: We know who you are. We know what you did for us. We are forever grateful.
May God bless the fallen of all of our wars. May He watch over our veterans and their families and all those who serve today. May God bless the United States of America.
With that, I’d ask the Chaplain to return to the podium for a benediction.
(The benediction is given.)
THE PRESIDENT: With that, we conclude the formal ceremony. But I welcome everybody to join in a wonderful reception. And let’s give our Medal of Honor winners one big round of applause. (Applause.)
Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)
11:48 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 2, 2015
Source: WH, 5-25-15
Arlington National Cemetery
11:32 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Thank you, Secretary Carter, for your leadership of our men and women in uniform. General Dempsey; Major General Buchanan; Mr. Patrick Hallinan, Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries; Chaplain Studniewski; members of our armed services, veterans, and, most of all, families and friends of our fallen — it is my deep honor to share this day with you again.
For 147 years, our nation has set aside this day to pay solemn tribute to patriots who gave their last full measure of devotion for this country that we love. And while the nature of war has changed over that time, the values that drive our brave men and women in uniform remain constant: Honor, courage, selflessness. Those values lived in the hearts of everyday heroes who risked everything for us in every American war — men and women who now rest forever in these quiet fields and across our land.
They lived in the patriots who sparked a revolution, and who saved our union. They lived in the young GIs who defeated tyranny in Europe and the Pacific. And this year, we mark a historic anniversary — 70 years since our victory in World War II. More than 16 million Americans left everything they knew to fight for our freedom. More than 400,000 gave their lives. And today I ask all the family and friends of our fallen World War II heroes — spouses, children, brothers and sisters, and fellow veterans of World War II — to please stand if you can, or raise your hand, so that our country can thank you once more. (Applause.)
These same values lived in those who braved the mountains of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of the Middle East. And in the past decade, we’ve seen these values on display again in the men and women of our 9/11 Generation.
For many of us, this Memorial Day is especially meaningful; it is the first since our war in Afghanistan came to an end. Today is the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war. So on this day, we honor the sacrifice of the thousands of American servicemembers — men and women — who gave their lives since 9/11, including more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.
As an Arizona kid, Wyatt Martin loved the outdoors. He started fishing when he was two years old. His dad says he was pretty good for a toddler. Wyatt grew to 6-foot-4, became a hunter and wore flannel shirts every day — so his friends nicknamed him Paul Bunyan. He planned to go to college and work in the Arizona Game and Fish Department so that he could protect the land and waters he loved so much.
Wyatt’s life was animated by the belief that the blessings that he and his family enjoyed as Americans came with an obligation to give back, an obligation to serve. So before he pursued his dream of being a good steward of the great outdoors, he enlisted in the Army. And when he deployed to Afghanistan as a combat engineer, there was no doubt in his mind that he was doing the right thing. Last summer, Wyatt told his sister, “If something happens to me, know that I went happy.”
Ramon Morris was born in Jamaica. He moved to Queens as a teenager. Like so many proud immigrants, he was called –compelled — to serve his new country. He, too, enlisted in the Army, and he even recruited his older brother Marlon to join, as well. He served five tours, including several in Iraq. Along the way, he fell in love with an Army Reservist named Christina. And they had a little girl, and named her Ariana. Ramon was the kind of leader who would do anything for his men, on and off the battlefield. But nothing was more important to him than being a great father to his little girl.
Specialist Wyatt Martin and Sergeant First Class Ramon Morris were 15 years apart in age. They traveled greatly different paths in life. But those paths took them to the same unit. Those paths made them brothers-in-arms, serving together in Afghanistan. In December, an IED struck their vehicle. They were the last two Americans to give their lives during our combat mission in Afghanistan. Today, here in Arlington, in Section 60, Ramon lies in eternal rest. And we are honored to be joined by his brother, Sergeant First Class Marlon Laidley, who is deploying for Germany tonight. Thank you, Marlon. Thank you to your family. (Applause.)
These two men, these two heroes, if you saw them passing on the street, you wouldn’t have known they were brothers. But under this flag, in common cause, they were bonded together to secure our liberty, to keep us safe.
My fellow Americans, this hallowed ground is more than the final resting place of heroes; it is a reflection of America itself. It’s a reflection of our history — the wars we’ve waged for democracy, the peace we’ve laid to preserve it. It’s a reflection of our diversity — men and women of all backgrounds, all races and creeds and circumstances and faiths, willing to defend and die for the ideals that bind us as one nation. It’s a reflection of our character, seen not only in those who are buried here, but also in the caretakers who watch over them and preserve this sacred place; and in the Sentinels of the 3rd Infantry Regiment who dutifully, unfailingly watch over those patriots known only to God, but never forgotten. Today, a grateful nation thanks them as well.
Most Americans don’t fully see, don’t fully understand the sacrifice made by the one percent who serve in this all-volunteer armed forces -– a sacrifice that preserves the freedoms we too often take for granted. Few know what it’s like to take a bullet for a buddy, or to live with the fact that he or she took one for you. But our Gold Star families, our military families, our veterans — they know this, intimately.
Whenever I meet with our Gold Star families, like I did this morning, I hear their pride through their tears, as they flip through old photos and run their fingers over shiny medals. I see that their hearts are still broken, and yet still full of love. They do not ask for awards or honors. They do not ask for special treatment. They are unfailingly humble. In the face of unspeakable loss, they represent the best of who we are.
They’re people like Ramon’s mother, who could carry hate for the people who killed her son — but she says, “I have no anger, no bitterness, even for the person who did this. I feel sorry for them, and I ask God to change their hearts.” That’s one Gold Star mother’s amazing grace.
Folks like Wyatt’s parents, Brian and Julie Martin, who said of their son, “He’s not just our kid, he’s everybody’s. He’s an American soldier. And as an American soldier, he belongs to everybody.”
They are siblings, like the Gold Star sister who wrote to me of her brother, Private First Class Stephen Benish, who gave his life in Iraq in 2004: She said, “Remember him not as the 1,253rd war casualty, but the 6-foot-7 burst of light and positive influence he was on the world.”
These sons and daughters, these brothers and sisters who lay down their lives for us — they belong to us all. They’re our children, too. We benefit from their light, their positive influence on the world. And it’s our duty, our eternal obligation, to be there for them, too; to make sure our troops always have what they need to carry out the mission; to make sure we care for all those who have served; to make sure we honor all those whom we’ve lost; to make sure we keep faith with our military families; to make sure we never stop searching for those who are missing, or trying to bring home our prisoners of war. And we are grateful for the families of our POW/MIAs.
This may be the first Memorial Day since the end of our war in Afghanistan. But we are acutely aware, as we speak, our men and women in uniform still stand watch and still serve, and still sacrifice around the world.
Several years ago, we had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 10,000 troops remain on a mission to train and assist Afghan forces. We’ll continue to bring them home and reduce our forces further, down to an embassy presence by the end of next year. But Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place. And as so many families know, our troops continue to risk their lives for us.
Growing up in Massachusetts, John Dawson was an honor student who played varsity soccer. He loved the Bruins, loved the Pats, and was always up for fun — running into a room while spraying silly string, or photobombing long before it was in style.
And John was passionate about service. He shared the same convictions of so many we honor today, who wanted nothing more than to join a common cause and be part of something bigger than himself. He channeled his love of cycling into charity bike rides with his church. He joined the Army. And as a combat medic, he fulfilled his dream of helping people. He loved his job.
In April, an attacker wearing an Afghan uniform fired at a group of American soldiers. And Army Corporal John Dawson became the first American servicemember to give his life to this new mission to train Afghan forces. The words on John’s dog tag were those of Scripture: “Greater love has no other than this, than to lay down your life for your friends.”
The Americans who rest beneath these beautiful hills, and in sacred ground across our country and around the world, they are why our nation endures. Each simple stone marker, arranged in perfect military precision, signifies the cost of our blessings. It is a debt we can never fully repay, but it is a debt we will never stop trying to fully repay. By remaining a nation worthy of their sacrifice. By living our own lives the way the fallen lived theirs — a testament that “Greater love has no other than this, than to lay down your life for your friends.”
We are so grateful for them. We are so grateful for the families of our fallen. May God bless our fallen heroes and their families, and all who serve. And may He continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
11:47 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on May 25, 2015
Source: FOIA, 5-22-15
U.S Department of State Freedom of Information Act….
Posted by bonniekgoodman on May 22, 2015
Source: WH, 5-22-15
Adas Israel Congregation
10:57 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, good morning, everybody!
AUDIENCE: Good morning!
THE PRESIDENT: A slightly early Shabbat Shalom. (Laughter.) I want to thank Rabbi Steinlauf for the very kind introduction. And to all the members of the congregation, thank you so much for such an extraordinary and warm welcome.
I want to thank a couple of outstanding members of Congress who are here. Senator Michael Bennet — where did Michael Bennet go? There he is. (Applause.) And Representative Sandy Levin, who is here. (Applause.) I want to thank our special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, for his important work. There he is. (Applause) But as I said, most of all I want to thank the entire congregation of Adas Israel for having me here today.
Earlier this week, I was actually interviewed by one of your members, Jeff Goldberg. (Applause.) And Jeff reminded me that he once called me “the first Jewish President.” (Laughter.) Now, since some people still seem to be wondering about my faith — (laughter) — I should make clear this was an honorary title. (Laughter.) But I was flattered.
And as an honorary member of the tribe, not to mention somebody who’s hosted seven White House Seders and been advised by — (applause) — and been advised by two Jewish chiefs of staff, I can also proudly say that I’m getting a little bit of the hang of the lingo. (Laughter.) But I will not use any of the Yiddish-isms that Rahm Emanuel taught me because — (laughter) — I want to be invited back. (Laughter.) Let’s just say he had some creative new synonyms for “Shalom.” (Laughter.)
Now, I wanted to come here to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month because this congregation, like so many around the country, helps us to tell the American story. And back in 1876, when President Grant helped dedicate Adas Israel, he became the first sitting President in history to attend a synagogue service. And at the time, it was an extraordinarily symbolic gesture — not just for America, but for the world.
And think about the landscape of Jewish history. Tomorrow night, the holiday of Shavuot marks the moment that Moses received the Torah at Mount Sinai, the first link in a chain of tradition that stretches back thousands of years, and a foundation stone for our civilization. Yet for most of those years, Jews were persecuted — not embraced — by those in power. Many of your ancestors came here fleeing that persecution.
The United States could have been merely another destination in that ongoing diaspora. But those who came here found that America was more than just a country. America was an idea. America stood for something. As George Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island: The United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”
It’s important for us to acknowledge that too often in our history we fell short of those lofty ideals — in the legal subjugation of African Americans, through slavery and Jim Crow; the treatment of Native Americans. And far too often, American Jews faced the scourge of anti-Semitism here at home. But our founding documents gave us a North Star, our Bill of Rights; our system of government gave us a capacity for change. And where other nations actively and legally might persecute or discriminate against those of different faiths, this nation was called upon to see all of us as equal before the eyes of the law. When other countries treated their own citizens as “wretched refuse,” we lifted up our lamp beside the golden door and welcomed them in. Our country is immeasurably stronger because we did. (Applause.)
From Einstein to Brandeis, from Jonas Salk to Betty Friedan, American Jews have made contributions to this country that have shaped it in every aspect. And as a community, American Jews have helped make our union more perfect. The story of Exodus inspired oppressed people around the world in their own struggles for civil rights. From the founding members of the NAACP to a freedom summer in Mississippi, from women’s rights to gay rights to workers’ rights, Jews took the heart of Biblical edict that we must not oppress a stranger, having been strangers once ourselves.
Earlier this year, when we marked the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma, we remembered the iconic images of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Dr. King, praying with his feet. To some, it must have seemed strange that a rabbi from Warsaw would take such great risks to stand with a Baptist preacher from Atlanta. But Heschel explained that their cause was one and the same. In his essay, “No Religion is an Island,” he wrote, “We must choose between interfaith and inter-nihilism.” Between a shared hope that says together we can shape a brighter future, or a shared cynicism that says our world is simply beyond repair.
So the heritage we celebrate this month is a testament to the power of hope. Me standing here before you, all of you in this incredible congregation is a testament to the power of hope. (Applause.) It’s a rebuke to cynicism. It’s a rebuke to nihilism. And it inspires us to have faith that our future, like our past, will be shaped by the values that we share. At home, those values compel us to work to keep alive the American Dream of opportunity for all. It means that we care about issues that affect all children, not just our own; that we’re prepared to invest in early childhood education; that we are concerned about making college affordable; that we want to create communities where if you’re willing to work hard, you can get ahead the way so many who fled and arrived on these shores were able to get ahead. Around the world, those values compel us to redouble our efforts to protect our planet and to protect the human rights of all who share this planet.
It’s particularly important to remember now, given the tumult that is taking place in so many corners of the globe, in one of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods, those shared values compel us to reaffirm that our enduring friendship with the people of Israel and our unbreakable bonds with the state of Israel — that those bonds, that friendship cannot be broken. (Applause.) Those values compel us to say that our commitment to Israel’s security — and my commitment to Israel’s security — is and always will be unshakeable. (Applause.)
And I’ve said this before: It would be a moral failing on the part of the U.S. government and the American people, it would be a moral failing on my part if we did not stand up firmly, steadfastly not just on behalf of Israel’s right to exist, but its right to thrive and prosper. (Applause.) Because it would ignore the history that brought the state of Israel about. It would ignore the struggle that’s taken place through millennia to try to affirm the kinds of values that say everybody has a place, everybody has rights, everybody is a child of God. (Applause.)
As many of you know, I’ve visited the houses hit by rocket fire in Sderot. I’ve been to Yad Vashem and made that solemn vow: “Never forget. Never again.” When someone threatens Israel’s citizens or its very right to exist, Israelis necessarily that seriously. And so do I. Today, the military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries is stronger than ever. Our support of the Iron Dome’s rocket system has saved Israeli lives. And I can say that no U.S. President, no administration has done more to ensure that Israel can protect itself than this one. (Applause.)
As part of that commitment, there’s something else that the United States and Israel agrees on: Iran must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to get a nuclear weapon. (Applause.) Now, there’s a debate about how to achieve that — and that’s a healthy debate. I’m not going to use my remaining time to go too deep into policy — although for those of you who are interested — (laughter) — we have a lot of material out there. (Laughter.) But I do want everybody to just remember a few key things.
The deal that we already reached with Iran has already halted or rolled back parts of Iran’s nuclear program. Now we’re seeking a comprehensive solution. I will not accept a bad deal. As I pointed out in my most recent article with Jeff Goldberg, this deal will have my name on it, so nobody has a bigger personal stake in making sure that it delivers on its promise. (Applause.) I want a good deal.
I’m interested in a deal that blocks every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon — every single path. A deal that imposes unprecedented inspections on all elements of Iran’s nuclear program, so that they can’t cheat; and if they try to cheat, we will immediately know about it and sanctions snap back on. A deal that endures beyond a decade; that addresses this challenge for the long term. In other words, a deal that makes the world and the region — including Israel — more secure. That’s how I define a good deal.
I can’t stand here today and guarantee an agreement will be reached. We’re hopeful. We’re working hard. But nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. And I’ve made clear that when it comes to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, all options are and will remain on the table.
Moreover, even if we do get a good deal, there remains the broader issue of Iran’s support for terrorism and regional destabilization, and ugly threats against Israel. And that’s why our strategic partnership with Israel will remain, no matter what happens in the days and years ahead. And that’s why the people of Israel must always know America has its back, and America will always have its back. (Applause.)
Now, that does not mean that there will not be, or should not be, periodic disagreements between our two governments. There will be disagreements on tactics when it comes to how to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that is entirely appropriate and should be fully aired. Because the stakes are sufficiently high that anything that’s proposed has to be subjected to scrutiny — and I welcome that scrutiny.
But there are also going to be some disagreements rooted in shared history that go beyond tactics, that are rooted in how we might remain true to our shared values. I came to know Israel as a young man through these incredible images of kibbutzim, and Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir, and Israel overcoming incredible odds in the ’67 war. The notion of pioneers who set out not only to safeguard a nation, but to remake the world. Not only to make the desert bloom, but to allow their values to flourish; to ensure that the best of Judaism would thrive. And those values in many ways came to be my own values. They believed the story of their people gave them a unique perspective among the nations of the world, a unique moral authority and responsibility that comes from having once been a stranger yourself.
And to a young man like me, grappling with his own identity, recognizing the scars of race here in this nation, inspired by the civil rights struggle, the idea that you could be grounded in your history, as Israel was, but not be trapped by it, to be able to repair the world — that idea was liberating. The example of Israel and its values was inspiring.
So when I hear some people say that disagreements over policy belie a general lack of support of Israel, I must object, and I object forcefully. (Applause.) For us to paper over difficult questions, particularly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or about settlement policy, that’s not a true measure of friendship.
Before I came out here, the Rabbi showed me the room that’s been built to promote scholarship and dialogue, and to be able to find how we make our shared values live. And the reason you have that room is because applying those values to our lives is often hard, and it involves difficult choices. That’s why we study. That’s why it’s not just a formula. And that’s what we have to do as nations as well as individuals. We have to grapple and struggle with how do we apply the values that we care about to this very challenging and dangerous world.
And it is precisely because I care so deeply about the state of Israel — it’s precisely because, yes, I have high expectations for Israel the same way I have high expectations for the United States of America — that I feel a responsibility to speak out honestly about what I think will lead to long-term security and to the preservation of a true democracy in the Jewish homeland. (Applause.) And I believe that’s two states for two peoples, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. (Applause.) Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people on their land, as well. (Applause.)
Now, I want to emphasize — that’s not easy. The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners. (Laughter.) The neighborhood is dangerous. And we cannot expect Israel to take existential risks with their security so that any deal that takes place has to take into account the genuine dangers of terrorism and hostility.
But it is worthwhile for us to keep up the prospect, the possibility of bridging divides and being just, and looking squarely at what’s possible but also necessary in order for Israel to be the type of nation that it was intended to be in its earliest founding. (Applause.)
And that same sense of shared values also compel me to speak out — compel all of us to speak out — against the scourge of anti-Semitism wherever it exists. (Applause.) I want to be clear that, to me, all these things are connected. The rights I insist upon and now fight for, for all people here in the United States compels me then to stand up for Israel and look out for the rights of the Jewish people. And the rights of the Jewish people then compel me to think about a Palestinian child in Ramallah that feels trapped without opportunity. That’s what Jewish values teach me. That’s what the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches me. These things are connected. (Applause.)
And in recent years, we’ve seen a deeply disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in parts of the world where it would have seemed unthinkable just a few years or decades ago. This is not some passing fad; these aren’t just isolated phenomenon. And we know from our history they cannot be ignored. Anti-Semitism is, and always will be, a threat to broader human values to which we all must aspire. And when we allow anti-Semitism to take root, then our souls are destroyed, and it will spread.
And that’s why, tonight, for the first time ever, congregations around the world are celebrating a Solidarity Shabbat. It’s a chance for leaders to publicly stand against anti-Semitism and bigotry in all of its forms. And I’m proud to be a part of this movement, and I’m proud that six ambassadors from Europe are joining us today. And their presence here — our presence together — is a reminder that we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. (Applause.) Our traditions, our history, can help us chart a better course as long as we are mindful of that history and those traditions, and we are vigilant in speaking out and standing up against what is wrong. It’s not always easy, I think, to speak out against what is wrong, even for good people.
So I want to close with the story of one more of the many rabbis who came to Selma 50 years ago. A few days after David Teitelbaum arrived to join the protests, he and a colleague were thrown in jail. And they spent a Friday night in custody, singing Adon Olam to the tune of “We Shall Overcome.” And that in and of itself is a profound statement of faith and hope. But what’s wonderful is, is that out of respect many of their fellow protestors began wearing what they called “freedom caps” — (laughter) — yarmulkes — as they marched.
And the day after they were released from prison, Rabbi Teitelbaum watched Dr. King lead a prayer meeting before crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. And Dr. King said, “We are like the children of Israel, marching from slavery to freedom.”
That’s what happens when we’re true to our values. It’s not just good for us, but it brings the community together. (Applause.) Tikkun Olam — it brings the community together and it helps repair the world. It bridges differences that once looked unbridgeable. It creates a future for our children that once seemed unattainable. This congregation — Jewish American life is a testimony to the capacity to make our values live. But it requires courage. It requires strength. It requires that we speak the truth not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard.
So may we always remember that our shared heritage makes us stronger, that our roots are intertwined. May we always choose faith over nihilism, and courage over despair, and hope over cynicism and fear. As we walk our own leg of a timeless, sacred march, may we always stand together, here at home and around the world.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)
11:26 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on May 22, 2015