Full Text Obama Presidency July 25-28, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Trip to Kenya and Ethiopia

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Travels to Kenya and Ethiopia

Summary: 
President Obama is traveling in Kenya and Ethiopia to meet with leaders from government, business, and civil society, reinforcing the U.S. commitment to economic growth and trade, democracy, and investing in the next generation of African leaders.

Follow along for highlights from the President’s trip.

Thursday, July 25th

  • On Saturday morning, the President spoke at the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit
  • President Obama visited the Power Africa Innovation Fair
  • He then attended a wreath laying ceremony and then a welcome ceremony
  • President Obama and President Kenyatta of Kenya then held a bilateral meeting and joint press conference
  • In the evening, the President attended the Kenya State Dinner

July 26th

  • President Obama participates in a welcoming ceremony, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • The President and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn held a bilateral meeting and press conference
  • President Obama holds a multilateral meeting on South Sudan and counterterrorism issues with Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, the African Union and Uganda.
  • President Obama attends a State Dinner with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn

July 27th

  • President Obama participates in a welcoming ceremony, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • The President and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn held a bilateral meeting and press conference
  • President Obama holds a multilateral meeting on South Sudan and counterterrorism issues with Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, the African Union and Uganda.
  • President Obama attends a State Dinner with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn

July 28th

  • President Obama Visits Faffa Foods, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • President Obama Holds a Bilateral Meeting with AUC Chairperson Dr. Dlamini Zuma
  • President Obama Speaks to the African Union

Speeches

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Political Musings October 19, 2014: Obama rules out West Africa Congressionally supported travel ban over Ebola

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama rules out West Africa Congressionally supported travel ban over Ebola

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This past week as the Ebola was spreading in health care workers who treated Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, and the Obama Administration, and the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) responses where criticized, President Barack Obama…READ MORE

Political Musings October 3, 2014: Is Texas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan a terrorist, criminal or victim?

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Is Texas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan a terrorist, criminal or victim?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

After the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed the first case of Ebola on United States soil on Tuesday evening, Sept. 30, 2014, slowly the picture is getting clearer about the circumstance around the case and the dangers it poses…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency September 16, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Ebola Outbreak Announcing He is Sending 1000 Troops to Combat the Disease — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Ebola Outbreak

Source: WH, 9- 16-14

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Atlanta, Georgia

4:01 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Please be seated.  I want to thank Dr. Frieden and everybody here at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for welcoming me here today.  Tom and his team just gave me an update on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, our efforts to help mobilize the international community to fight it, and the steps that we’re taking to keep people here at home safe.

Tom and his team are doing outstanding work.  Between the specialists they have on the ground in West Africa and here at headquarters, they’ve got hundreds of professionals who are working tirelessly on this issue.  This is the largest international response in the history of the CDC.  After this, I’ll be meeting with some of these men and women, including some who recently returned from the front lines of the outbreak.  And they represent public service at its very best.  And so I just want them to know how much the American people appreciate them.  Many of them are serving far away from home, away from their families.  They are doing heroic work and serving in some unbelievably challenging conditions — working through exhaustion, day and night, and many have volunteered to go back.  So we are very, very proud of them.

Their work and our efforts across the government is an example of what happens when America leads in confronting some major global challenges.  Faced with this outbreak, the world is looking to us, the United States, and it’s a responsibility that we embrace.  We’re prepared to take leadership on this to provide the kinds of capabilities that only America has, and to mobilize the world in ways that only America can do.  That’s what we’re doing as we speak.

First and foremost, I want the American people to know that our experts, here at the CDC and across our government, agree that the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low.  We’ve been taking the necessary precautions, including working with countries in West Africa to increase screening at airports so that someone with the virus doesn’t get on a plane for the United States.  In the unlikely event that someone with Ebola does reach our shores, we’ve taken new measures so that we’re prepared here at home.  We’re working to help flight crews identify people who are sick, and more labs across our country now have the capacity to quickly test for the virus.  We’re working with hospitals to make sure that they are prepared, and to ensure that our doctors, our nurses and our medical staff are trained, are ready, and are able to deal with a possible case safely.

And here I’ve got to commend everybody at Emory University Hospital.  I just had the opportunity to meet with Doctors Gartland and Ribner and members of their team and the nurses who — sorry, doctors, but having been in hospitals, I know — (laughter) — they’re the ones really doing the work.  And I had a chance to thank them for their extraordinary efforts in helping to provide care for the first Americans who recently contracted the disease in Africa.  The first two of those patients were released last month and continue to improve.  And it’s a reminder for the American people that, should any cases appear in the United States, we have world-class facilities and professionals ready to respond.  And we have effective surveillance mechanisms in place.

I should mention, by the way, that I had a chance to see Dr. Brantly in the Oval Office this morning.  And although he is still having to gain back some weight, he looks great.  He looks strong and we are incredibly grateful to him and his family for the service that he has rendered to people who are a lot less lucky than all of us.

As we all know, however, West Africa is facing a very different situation, especially in the hardest hit countries:  Liberia, Sierra Leone, and in Guinea.  Tom and others recently returned from the region, and the scenes that they describe are just horrific.  More than 2,400 men, women and children are known to have died — and we strongly suspect that the actual death toll is higher than that.  Hospitals, clinics and the few treatment centers that do exist have been completely overwhelmed.  An already very weak public health system is near collapse in these countries.  Patients are being turned away, and people are literally dying in the streets.

Now, here’s the hard truth:  In West Africa, Ebola is now an epidemic of the likes that we have not seen before.  It’s spiraling out of control.  It is getting worse.  It’s spreading faster and exponentially.  Today, thousands of people in West Africa are infected.  That number could rapidly grow to tens of thousands.  And if the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people infected, with profound political and economic and security implications for all of us.  So this is an epidemic that is not just a threat to regional security — it’s a potential threat to global security if these countries break down, if their economies break down, if people panic.  That has profound effects on all of us, even if we are not directly contracting the disease.

And that’s why, two months ago, I directed my team to make this a national security priority.  We’re working this across our entire government, which is why today I’m joined by leaders throughout my administration, including from my national security team.

And we’ve devoted significant resources in support of our strategy with four goals in mind.  Number one, to control the outbreak.  Number two, to address the ripple effects of local economies and communities to prevent a truly massive humanitarian disaster.  Number three, to coordinate a broader global response.  And number four, to urgently build up a public health system in these countries for the future — not just in West Africa but in countries that don’t have a lot of resources generally.

Now, this is a daunting task.  But here’s what gives us hope.  The world knows how to fight this disease.  It’s not a mystery.  We know the science.  We know how to prevent it from spreading.  We know how to care for those who contract it.  We know that if we take the proper steps, we can save lives.  But we have to act fast.  We can’t dawdle on this one.  We have to move with force and make sure that we are catching this as best we can, given that it has already broken out in ways that we had not seen before.

So today, I’m announcing a major increase in our response.  At the request of the Liberian government, we’re going to establish a military command center in Liberia to support civilian efforts across the region — similar to our response after the Haiti earthquake.  It’s going to be commanded by Major General Darryl Williams, commander of our Army forces in Africa.  He just arrived today and is now on the ground in Liberia.  And our forces are going to bring their expertise in command and control, in logistics, in engineering.  And our Department of Defense is better at that, our Armed Services are better at that than any organization on Earth.

We’re going to create an air bridge to get health workers and medical supplies into West Africa faster.  We’re going to establish a staging area in Senegal to help distribute personnel and aid on the ground more quickly.  We are going to create a new training site to train thousands of health workers so they can effectively and safely care for more patients.  Personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service will deploy to the new field hospitals that we’re setting up in Liberia.  And USAID will join with international partners and local communities in a Community Care Campaign to distribute supplies and information kits to hundreds of thousands of families so they can better protect themselves.

We’re also going to build additional treatment units, including new isolation spaces and more than 1,000 beds.  And in all our efforts, the safety of our personnel will remain a top priority.  Meanwhile, our scientists continue their urgent research in the hope of finding new treatments and perhaps vaccines.  And today I’m calling on Congress to approve the funding that we’ve requested so that we can carry on with all these critical efforts.

Today, the United States is doing even more.  But this is a global threat, and it demands a truly global response.  International organizations just have to move faster than they have up until this point.  More nations need to contribute experienced personnel, supplies, and funding that’s needed, and they need to deliver on what they pledge quickly.  Charities and individual philanthropists have given generously, and they can make a big difference.  And so we’re not restricting these efforts to governmental organizations; we also need NGOs and private philanthropies to work with us in a coordinated fashion in order to maximize the impact of our response.

This week, the United States will chair an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.  Next week, I’ll join U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to continue mobilizing the international community around this effort.  And then, at the White House, we’re going to bring more nations together to strengthen our global health security so that we can better prevent, detect and respond to future outbreaks before they become epidemics.

This is actually something that we had announced several months ago at the G7 meeting.  We determined that this has to be a top priority; this was before the Ebola outbreak.  We anticipated the fact that in many of these countries with a weak public health system, if we don’t have more effective surveillance, more effective facilities on the ground, and are not helping poor countries in developing their ability to catch these things quickly, that there was at least the potential of seeing these kinds of outbreaks.  And sadly, we now see that our predictions were correct.  It gives more urgency to this effort — a global health initiative — that we have been pushing internationally.

Let me just close by saying this:  The scenes that we’re witnessing in West Africa today are absolutely gut-wrenching.  In one account over the weekend, we read about a family in Liberia.  The disease had already killed the father.  The mother was cradling a sick and listless five-year-old son.  Her other son, 10-years-old, was dying, too.  They finally reached a treatment center but they couldn’t get in.  And, said a relative, “We are just sitting.”

These men and women and children are just sitting, waiting to die, right now.  And it doesn’t have to be this way.

The reality is that this epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better.  But right now, the world still has an opportunity to save countless lives.  Right now, the world has the responsibility to act — to step up, and to do more.  The United States of America intends to do more.  We are going to keep leading in this effort.  We’re going to do our part, and we’re going to continue to make sure that the world understands the need for them to step alongside us as well in order for us to not just save the lives of families like the one I just discussed, but ultimately, to make sure that this doesn’t have the kinds of spillover effects that become even more difficult to control.

So thank you very much to the entire team that’s already doing this work.  And please know that you’ve got your President and Commander-in-Chief behind you.  Thank you.

END
4:14 P.M. EDT

White House Shareables

Full Text Obama Presidency August 16, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Press Conference After U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Press Conference After U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

Source: WH, 8-6-14 

State Department
Washington, D.C.

6:14 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  As I think everyone knows by now, this first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit has been the largest gathering we’ve ever hosted with African heads of state and government — and that includes about 50 motorcades.  So I want to begin by thanking the people of Washington, D.C. for helping us host this historic event — and especially for their patience with the traffic.

As I’ve said, this summit reflects the reality that even as Africa continues to face great challenges we’re also seeing the emergence of a new, more prosperous Africa.  Africa’s progress is being led by Africans, including leaders here today.  I want to take this opportunity again to thank my fellow leaders for being here.  Rather than a lot of prepared speeches, our sessions today were genuine discussions — a chance to truly listen and to try to come together around some pragmatic steps that we can take together.  And that’s what we’ve done this week.

First, we made important progress in expanding our trade.  The $33 billion in new trade and investments that I announced yesterday will help spur African development and support tens of thousands of American jobs.  With major new commitments to our Power Africa initiative, we’ve tripled our goal and now aim to bring electricity to 60 million African homes and businesses.  And today I reiterated that we’ll continue to work with Congress to achieve a seamless and long-term renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

We agreed that Africa’s growth depends, first and foremost, on continued reforms in Africa, by Africans.  The leaders here pledged to step up efforts to pursue reforms that attract investment, reduce barriers that stifle trade — especially between African countries — and to promote regional integration. And as I announced yesterday, the United States will increase our support to help build Africa’s capacity to trade with itself and with the world.

Ultimately, Africa’s prosperity depends on Africa’s greatest resource — its people.  And I’ve been very encouraged by the desire of leaders here to partner with us in supporting young entrepreneurs, including through our Young African Leaders Initiative.  I think there’s an increasing recognition that if countries are going to reach their full economic potential, then they have to invest in women — their education, their skills, and protect them from gender-based violence.  And that was a topic of conversation this afternoon.  And this week the United States announced a range of initiatives to help empower women across Africa.

Our New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition continues to grow, aiming to lift 50 million Africans from poverty.  In our fight against HIV/AIDS, we’ll work with 10 African countries to help them double the number of their children on lifesaving anti-retroviral drugs.  And even as the United States is deploying some of our medical first responders to West Africa to help control the Ebola outbreak, we’re also working to strengthen public health systems, including joining with the African Union to pursue the creation of an African Centers for Disease Control.

I also want to note that the American people are renewing their commitment to Africa.  Today, InterAction — the leading alliance of American NGOs — is announcing that over the next three years its members will invest $4 billion to promote maternal health, children’s health, and the delivery of vaccines and drugs.  So this is not just a government effort, it is also an effort that’s spurred on by the private sector.  Combined with the investments we announced yesterday — and the commitments made today at the symposium hosted by our spouses — that means this summit has helped to mobilize some $37 billion for Africa’s progress on top of, obviously, the substantial efforts that have been made in the past.

Second, we addressed good governance, which is a foundation of economic growth and free societies.  Some African nations are making impressive progress.  But we see troubling restrictions on universal rights.  So today was an opportunity to highlight the importance of rule of law, open and accountable institutions, strong civil societies, and protection of human rights for all citizens and all communities.  And I made the point during our discussion that nations that uphold these rights and principles will ultimately be more prosperous and more economically successful.

In particular, we agreed to step up our collective efforts against the corruption that costs African economies tens of billions of dollars every year — money that ought to be invested in the people of Africa.  Several leaders raised the idea of a new partnership to combat illicit finance, and there was widespread agreement.  So we decided to convene our experts and develop an action plan to promote the transparency that is essential to economic growth.

Third, we’re deepening our security cooperation to meet common threats, from terrorism to human trafficking.  We’re launching a new Security Governance Initiative to help our African countries continue to build strong, professional security forces to provide for their own security.  And we’re starting with Kenya, Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Ghana and Tunisia.

During our discussions, our West African partners made it clear that they want to increase their capacity to respond to crises.  So the United States will launch a new effort to bolster the regions early warning and response network and increase their ability to share information about emerging crises.

We also agreed to make significant new investments in African peacekeeping.  The United States will provide additional equipment to African peacekeepers in Somalia and the Central African Republic.  We will support the African Union’s efforts to strengthen its peacekeeping institutions.  And most importantly, we’re launching a new African peacekeeping rapid response partnership with the goal of quickly deploying African peacekeepers in support of U.N. or AU missions.  And we’ll join with six countries that in recent years have demonstrated a track record as peacekeepers — Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda.  And we’re going to invite countries beyond Africa to join us in supporting this effort, because the entire world has a stake in the success of peacekeeping in Africa.

In closing, I just want to say that this has been an extraordinary event, an extraordinary summit.  Given the success that we’ve had this week, we agreed that summits like this can be a critical part of our work together going forward, a forcing mechanism for decisions and action.  So we agreed that the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit will be a recurring event to hold ourselves accountable for our commitments and to sustain our momentum.  And I’ll strongly encourage my successor to carry on this work, because Africa must know that they will always have a strong and reliable partner in the United States of America.

So with that, I’m going to take a couple of questions.  I’m going to start with Julie Pace of Associated Press.  Where’s Julie?  There she is.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding this summit about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  And there’s an untested and unapproved drug in the U.S. that appears to be helping some of the Americans who are infected.  Is your administration considering at all sending supplies of this drug if it becomes available to some of these countries in West Africa?  And could you discuss a bit the ethics of either providing an untested drug to a foreign country, or providing it only to Americans and not to other countries that are harder hit if it could possibly save lives?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think we’ve got to let the science guide us.  And I don’t think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful.  What we do know is that the Ebola virus, both currently and in the past, is controllable if you have a strong public health infrastructure in place.

And the countries that have been affected are the first to admit that what’s happened here is, is that their public health systems have been overwhelmed.  They weren’t able to identify and then isolate cases quickly enough.  You did not have a strong trust relationship between some of the communities that were affected and public health workers.  As a consequence, it spread more rapidly than has been typical with the periodic Ebola outbreaks that have occurred previously.

But despite obviously the extraordinary pain and hardship of the families and persons who’ve been affected, and despite the fact that we have to take this very seriously, it is important to remind ourselves this is not an airborne disease; this is one that can be controlled and contained very effectively if we use the right protocols.

So what we’ve done is to make sure that we’re surging not just U.S. resources, but we’ve reached out to European partners and partners from other countries, working with the WHO.  Let’s get all the health workers that we need on the ground.  Let’s help to bolster the systems that they already have in place. Let’s nip as early as possible any additional outbreaks of the disease.  And then during the course of that process, I think it’s entirely appropriate for us to see if there are additional drugs or medical treatments that can improve the survivability of what is a very deadly and obviously brutal disease.

So we’re going to — we’re focusing on the public health approach right now because we know how to do that.  But I will continue to seek information about what we’re learning with respect to these drugs going forward.

Q    If this drug proves to be effective, would you support fast-tracking its approval in the United States?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I think it’s premature for me to say that because I don’t have enough information.  I don’t have enough data right now to offer an opinion on that.

Jon Karl, ABC News.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  When you were running for President, you said, “The biggest problems we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all.  And that’s what I intend to reverse.”  So my question to you — has Congress’s inability to do anything significant given you a green light to push the limits of executive power, even a duty to do so?  Or put another way — does it bother you more to be accused of being an imperial President, pushing those limits, or to be accused of being a do-nothing President who couldn’t get anything done because he faced a dysfunctional Congress?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I think that I never have a green light.  I’m bound by the Constitution; I’m bound by separation of powers.  There are some things we can’t do.

Congress has the power of the purse, for example.  I would love to fund a large infrastructure proposal right now that would put millions of people to work and boost our GDP.  We know we’ve got roads and bridges and airports and electrical grids that need to be rebuilt.  But without the cooperation of Congress, what I can do is speed up the permitting process, for example.  I can make sure that we’re working with the private sector to see if we can channel investment into much-needed projects.  But ultimately, Congress has to pass a budget and authorize spending. So I don’t have a green light.

What I am consistently going to do is, wherever I have the legal authorities to make progress on behalf of middle-class Americans and folks working to get into the middle class, whether it’s by making sure that federal contractors are paying a fair wage to their workers, making sure that women have the opportunity to make sure that they’re getting paid the same as men for doing the same job, where I have the capacity to expand some of the student loan programs that we’ve already put in place so that repayments are a little more affordable for college graduates — I’m going to seize those opportunities.  And that’s what I think the American people expect me to do.

My preference in all these instances is to work with Congress, because not only can Congress do more, but it’s going to be longer-lasting.  And when you look at, for example, congressional inaction, and in particular, the inaction on the part of House Republicans, when it comes to immigration reform, here’s an area where, as I’ve said before, not only the American people want to see action, not only is there 80 percent overlap between what Republicans say they want and Democrats say they want, we actually passed a bill out of the Senate that was bipartisan.

And in those circumstances, what the American people expect is that, despite the differences between the parties, there should at least be the capacity to move forward on things we agree on.  And that’s not what we’re seeing right now.  So in the face of that kind of dysfunction, what I can do is scour our authorities to try to make progress.

And we’re going to make sure that every time we take one of these steps that we are working within the confines of my executive power.  But I promise you the American people don’t want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress to get something done.  Even as we take these executive actions, I’m going to continue to reach out to Democrats and Republicans — to the Speaker, to the leadership on both sides and in both chambers — to try to come up with formulas where we can make progress, even if it’s incremental.

Q    Do you believe you have the power to grant work permits to those who are here illegally, as some of your supporters have suggested?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  What I certainly recognize with respect to immigration reform — and I’ve said this in the past — is that we have a broken system; it’s under-resourced; and we’ve got to make choices in terms of how we allocate personnel and resources.

So if I’m going to, for example, send more immigration judges down to the border to process some of these unaccompanied children that have arrived at the border, then that’s coming from someplace else, and we’re going to have to prioritize.  That’s well within our authorities and prosecutorial discretion.

My preference would be an actual comprehensive immigration law.  And we already have a bipartisan law that would solve a whole bunch of these problems.  Until that happens, I’m going to have to make choice.  That’s what I was elected to do.

Margaret Talev, Bloomberg.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Along the lines of executive authority, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has previously said that the executive branch of government doesn’t have the authority to slow or stop corporate inversions, the practice that you have called distasteful, unpatriotic, et cetera.  But now he is reviewing options to do so.  And this is an issue that a lot of business, probably including some of the ones who were paying a lot of attention to this summit, are interested in.  So what I wanted to ask you was, what prompted this apparent reversal?  What actions are now under consideration?  Will you consider an executive order that would limit or ban such companies from getting federal contracts?  And how soon would you like to see Treasury act, given Congress’s schedule?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Just to review why we’re concerned here. You have accountants going to some big corporations — multinational corporations but that are clearly U.S.-based and have the bulk of their operations in the United States — and these accountants are saying, you know what, we found a great loophole — if you just flip your citizenship to another country, even though it’s just a paper transaction, we think we can get you out of paying a whole bunch of taxes.

Well, it’s not fair.  It’s not right.  The lost revenue to Treasury means it’s got to be made up somewhere, and that typically is going to be a bunch of hardworking Americans who either pay through higher taxes themselves or through reduced services.  And in the meantime, the company is still using all the services and all the benefits of effectively being a U.S. corporation; they just decided that they’d go through this paper exercise.

So there is legislation working its way through Congress that would eliminate some of these tax loopholes entirely.  And it’s true what Treasury Secretary Lew previously said, that we can’t solve the entire problem administratively.  But what we are doing is examining are there elements to how existing statutes are interpreted by rule or by regulation or tradition or practice that can at least discourage some of the folks who may be trying to take advantage of this loophole.

And I think it’s something that would really bother the average American, the idea that somebody renounces their citizenship but continues to entirely benefit from operating in the United States of America just to avoid paying a whole bunch of taxes.

We’re reviewing all of our options.  As usual, and related to the answer I gave Jonathan about executive actions, my preference would always be for us to go ahead and get something done in Congress.  And keep in mind it’s still a small number of companies that are resorting to this, because I think most American companies are proud to be American, recognize the benefits of being American, and are responsible actors and willing to pay their fair share of taxes to support all the benefits that they receive from being here.

But we don’t want to see this trend grow.  We don’t want companies who have up until now been playing by the rules suddenly looking over their shoulder and saying, you know what, some of our competitors are gaming the system and we need to do it, too.  That kind of herd mentality I think is something we want to avoid.  So we want to move quickly — as quickly as possible.

Q    Just to clarify, the federal contracting seems like an area that you’ve liked.  It’s worked well for you on issues like promoting gay rights, or contraception policy.  Is it fair to assume that that would — attaching this to federal contractors would be the first thing you would think of?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Margaret, I’m not going to announce specifics in dribs and drabs.  When we’ve done a thorough evaluation and we understand what our authorities are, I’ll let you know.

Chris Jansing, NBC News.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Russia said today that it is going to ban food and agricultural product imports.  That was about $1.3 billion last year.  At the same time, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the massing of troops along the border of Ukraine increases the likelihood of an invasion.  Are sanctions not working?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, we don’t know yet whether sanctions are working.  Sanctions are working as intended in putting enormous pressure and strain on the Russian economy.  That’s not my estimation; if you look at the markets and you look at estimates in terms of capital flight, if you look at projections for Russian growth, what you’re seeing is that the economy has ground to a halt.  Somewhere between $100 billion and $200 billion of capital flight has taken place.  You’re not seeing a lot of investors coming in new to start businesses inside of Russia.

And it has presented the choice to President Putin as to whether he is going to try to resolve the issues in eastern Ukraine through diplomacy and peaceful means, recognizing that Ukraine is a sovereign country, and that it is up ultimately to the Ukrainian people to make decisions about their own lives; or, alternatively, continue on the course that he’s on, in which case he’s going to be hurting his economy, and hurting his own people over the long term.

And in that sense, we are doing exactly what we should be doing.  And we’re very pleased that our European allies and partners joined us in this process, as well as a number of countries around the world.

Having said all that, the issue is not resolved yet.  You still have fighting in eastern Ukraine.  Civilians are still dying.  We’ve already seen some of the consequences of this conflict in the loss of the Malaysian Airlines airliner — or jetliner.

And the sooner that we can get back on a track in which there are serious discussions taking place to ensure that all Ukrainians are heard, that they can work through the political process, that they’re represented, that the reforms that have already been offered by the government in Kyiv are implemented to protect Russian speakers, to assure decentralization of power — the sooner that we move on those, and the sooner that President Putin recognizes that Ukraine is an independent country, it’s only at that point where we can say that the problem has truly been solved.  But in the meantime, sanctions are working the way they’re supposed to.

Q    The troops that are massing on the border are more highly trained.  They seem to have more sophisticated weaponry, according to intelligence.  Does that make you reconsider — as a few Democrats have suggested — providing lethal aid to Ukraine, given those troop movements?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, keep in mind that the Russian army is a lot bigger than the Ukrainian army.  So the issue here is not whether the Ukrainian army has some additional weaponry.  At least up until this point, they’ve been fighting a group of separatists who have engaged in some terrible violence but who can’t match the Ukrainian army.

Now, if you start seeing an invasion by Russia, that’s obviously a different set of questions.  We’re not there yet.  What we have been doing is providing a whole host of assistance packages to the Ukrainian government and to their military, and we will continue to work with them to evaluate on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis what exactly they need in order to be able to defend their country and to deal with the separatist elements that currently are being armed by Russia.

But the best thing we can do for Ukraine is to try to get back on a political track.

David Ohito, The Standard.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You have been hosting African kings, prime ministers and presidents for the last three days.  But back home in Africa, media freedom is under threat.  The work of journalists is becoming increasingly difficult.  In Egypt, our Al Jazeera colleagues are in jail.  In Ethiopia, dozens of journalists are in prison.  In Kenya, they have passed very bad laws targeting the media.  What can the international community do to ensure that we have a strong media in Africa and, more importantly, to secure the release of the journalists who are behind bars?

And, two, so many countries in Africa are facing threats of terror.  I’m glad you’ve mentioned a few measures you’re going to take.  But what can the international community do also to neutralize terror threats in Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya?  Could that be the reason you have skipped Kenya in your visits to Africa?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, what was the last part of the question?

Q    Could the terror threats be the reason you have skipped Kenya in your visits to Africa?

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, no, no, no, no, no.  Well, first of all, with respect to journalists in the media, the last session that we had on good governance emphasized that good governance means everybody has a voice, that government is transparent and, thereby, accountable.  And even though leaders don’t always like it, the media plays a crucial role in assuring people that they have the proper information to evaluate the policies that their leaders are pursuing.

And so we have been very consistent in pushing governments not just in Africa, but around the world, to respect the right of journalists to practice their trade as a critical part of civil society and a critical part of any democratic norm.  The specific issue of the Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt, we’ve been clear both publicly and privately that they should be released.  And we have been troubled by some of the laws that have been passed around the world that seem to restrict the ability of journalists to pursue stories or write stories.  We’ve also been disturbed by efforts to control the Internet.  Part of what’s happened over the last decade or two is that new media, new technology allow people to get information that previously would have never been accessible, or only to a few specialists.  And now people can punch something up on the Internet and pull up information that’s relevant to their own lives and their own societies and communities.  So we’re going to continue to push back against these efforts.

As is true on a whole range of issues — and I’ve said this in the past — many times we will work with countries even though they’re not perfect on every issue.  And we find that in some cases engaging a country that generally is a good partner but is not performing optimally when it comes to all of the various categories of human rights, that we can be effective by working with them on certain areas, and criticizing them and trying to elicit improvements in other areas.  And even among countries that generally have strong human rights records, there are areas where there are problems.  That’s true of the United States, by the way.

And so the good news — and we heard this in the summit — is that more and more countries are recognizing that in the absence of good governance, in the absence of accountability and transparency, that’s not only going to have an effect domestically on the legitimacy of a government, it’s going to have an effect on economic development and growth.  Because ultimately, in an information age, open societies have the capacity to innovate and educate and move faster and be part of the global marketplace more than closed societies do over the long term.  I believe that.

Now, with respect to terrorism, I think there’s uniform concern of terrorist infiltration in many countries throughout Africa.  Obviously, this is a concern that we have globally.  A lot of the initiatives that we put forward were designed to partner so that countries, first and foremost, can deal with these problems within their own borders or regionally.  And the United States doesn’t have a desire to expand and create a big footprint inside of Africa.  What we do want to make sure we can do is partner with the African Union, with ECOWAS, with individual countries to build up their capacity.

And one of the encouraging things in the sessions was a recognition that fighting terrorism also requires security forces that are professional, that are disciplined, that themselves are not engaging in human rights violations; that part of the lesson that we’ve all learned about terrorism is that it is possible in reaction to terrorism to actually accelerate the disease if the response is one that alienates populations or particular ethnic groups or particular religions.  And so the work that we’re doing, including the security initiatives that I announced today, I think can make a big difference in that direction.

It’s not just a matter of us providing better equipment or better training.  That’s a part of it, but part of it is also making sure that these security forces and the intelligence operations are coordinated and professional, and they’re not alienating populations.  The more we do that, the more effective we can be.

Last point I’ll make is, on good governance, one of the best inoculators against terrorist infiltration is a society in which everybody feels as if they have a stake in the existing order, and they feel that their grievances can be resolved through political means rather than through violence.  And so that’s just one more reason why good governance has to be part of the recipe that we use for a strong, stable and prosperous Africa.

Last question, Jérôme Cartillier.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Earlier today, the Israeli Prime Minister described the Gaza operation as “justified and proportionate.”  Do you agree with these two words?  And Israel and Hamas seems to be at odds over prolonging the cease-fire.  Are you hopeful the cease-fire — a true cease-fire can be achieved?  And what exact role can the U.S. play in the current talks going on in Cairo?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I have said from the beginning that no country would tolerate rockets being launched into their cities.  And as a consequence, I have consistently supported Israel’s right to defend itself, and that includes doing what it needs to do to prevent rockets from landing on population centers and, more recently, as we learned, preventing tunnels from being dug under their territory that can be used to launch terrorist attacks.  I also think it is important to remember that Hamas acts extraordinarily irresponsibly when it is deliberately siting rocket launchers in population centers, putting populations at risk because of that particular military strategy.

Now, having said all that, I’ve also expressed my distress at what’s happened to innocent civilians, including women and children, during the course of this process.  And I’m very glad that we have at least temporarily achieved a cease-fire.  The question is now how do we build on this temporary cessation of violence and move forward in a sustainable way.

We intend to support the process that’s taking place in Egypt.  I think the short-term goal has to be to make sure that rocket launches do not resume, that the work that the Israeli government did in closing off these tunnels has been completed, and that we are now in the process of helping to rebuild a Gaza that’s been really badly damaged as a consequence of this conflict.  Long term, there has to be a recognition that Gaza cannot sustain itself permanently closed off from the world and incapable of providing some opportunity — jobs, economic growth — for the population that lives there, particularly given how dense that population is, how young that population is.

We’re going to have to see a shift in opportunity for the people of Gaza.  I have no sympathy for Hamas.  I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling within Gaza.  And the question then becomes, can we find a formula in which Israel has greater assurance that Gaza will not be a launching pad for further attacks, perhaps more dangerous attacks as technology develops into their country.  But at the same time, ordinary Palestinians have some prospects for an opening of Gaza so that they do not feel walled off and incapable of pursuing basic prosperity.

I think there are formulas that are available, but they’re going to require risks on the part of political leaders.  They’re going to require a slow rebuilding of trust, which is obviously very difficult in the aftermath of the kind of violence that we’ve seen.  So I don’t think we get there right away, but the U.S. goal right now would be to make sure that the cease-fire holds, that Gaza can begin the process of rebuilding, and that some measures are taken so that the people of Gaza feel some sense of hope, and the people of Israel feel confident that they’re not going to have a repeat of the kind of rocket launches that we’ve seen over the last several weeks.

And Secretary Kerry has been in consistent contact with all the parties involved.  We expect we will continue to be trying to work as diligently as we can to move the process forward.

It is also going to need to involve the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank.  I have no sympathy for Hamas.  I have great sympathy for some of the work that has been done in cooperation with Israel and the international community by the Palestinian Authority.  And they’ve shown themselves to be responsible. They have recognized Israel.  They are prepared to move forward to arrive at a two-state solution.

I think Abu Mazen is sincere in his desire for peace.  But they have also been weakened, I think, during this process.  The populations in the West Bank may have also lost confidence or lost a sense of hope in terms of how to move forward.  We have to rebuild that, as well.  And they are the delegation that’s leading the Palestinian negotiators.  And my hope is, is that we’ll be engaging with them to try to move what has been a very tragic situation over the last several weeks into a more constructive path.

Thank you very much, everybody.  And thank you all who participated in the Africa Summit.  It was an outstanding piece of work.  And I want to remind folks, in case they’ve forgotten, of the incredible young people who participated in our fellows program.  We’re very proud of you, and we’re looking forward to seeing all the great things that you do when you go back home.

Thank you.

END
6:54 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency August 5, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

Source: WH, 8-5-14

Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Washington, D.C.

3:20 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:   Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Please be seated.  Well, good afternoon, everybody.  To Mayor Bloomberg, thank you — not only for the kind introduction, but to Bloomberg Philanthropies as our co-host, and for the great work that you’re doing across Africa to help create jobs, and promote public health, encourage entrepreneurship, especially women.  So thank you very much, Michael, for your leadership.  I want to thank our other co-host — my great friend and tireless Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker.  (Applause.)

I want to welcome all of our partners who are joining us from across Africa — heads of state and government, and let me welcome the delegations from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, with whom we are working so urgently to control the Ebola outbreak and whose citizens are in our thoughts and prayers today.  I also want to welcome Madame Chairperson Dlamini-Zuma of the African Union Commission; President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka; as well as the President of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Kim.  Please give them all a round of applause.  (Applause.)

And I want to acknowledge members of Congress who are here and who are such great champions of Africa’s engagement with — America’s engagement with Africa.  In a city that does not always agree on much these days, there is broad bipartisan agreement that a secure, prosperous and self-reliant Africa is in the national interest of the United States.

And most of all, I want to thank all of you — the business leaders, the entrepreneurs both from the United States and from across Africa who are creating jobs and opportunity for our people every day.  And I want to acknowledge leaders from across my administration who, like Penny, are your partners, including our U.S. Trade Representative, Mike Froman; USAID Administrator Raj Shah; and our new head of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Dana Hyde; President of the Export-Import Bank, Fred Hochberg; Director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Lee Zak; and our President and CEO of OPIC, Elizabeth Littlefield.

So we are here, of course, as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit — the largest gathering any American President has ever hosted with African heads of state and government.  And this summit reflects a perspective that has guided my approach to Africa as President.  Even as Africa continues to face enormous challenges, even as too many Africans still endure poverty and conflict, hunger and disease, even as we work together to meet those challenges, we cannot lose sight of the new Africa that’s emerging.

We all know what makes Africa such an extraordinary opportunity.  Some of the fastest-growing economies in the world.  A growing middle class.  Expanding sectors like manufacturing and retail.  One of the fastest-growing telecommunications markets in the world.  More governments are reforming, attracting a record level of foreign investment.  It is the youngest and fastest-growing continent, with young people that are full of dreams and ambition.

Last year in South Africa, in Soweto, I held a town hall with young men and women from across the continent, including some who joined us by video from Uganda.  And one young Ugandan woman spoke for many Africans when she said to me, “We are looking to the world for equal business partners and commitments, and not necessarily aid.  We want to do [business] at home and be the ones to own our own markets.”  That’s a sentiment we hear over and over again.  When I was traveling throughout Africa last year, what I heard was the desire of Africans not just for aid, but for trade and development that actually helps nations grow and empowers Africans for the long term.

As President, I’ve made it clear that the United States is determined to be a partner in Africa’s success — a good partner, an equal partner, and a partner for the long term.  (Applause.)  We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources; we recognize Africa for its greatest resource, which is its people and its talents and their potential.  (Applause.)  We don’t simply want to extract minerals from the ground for our growth; we want to build genuine partnerships that create jobs and opportunity for all our peoples and that unleash the next era of African growth.  That’s the kind of partnership America offers.

And since I took office, we’ve stepped up our efforts across the board.  More investments in Africa; more trade missions, like the one Penny led this year; and more support for U.S. exports.  And I’m proud — I’m proud that American exports to Africa have grown to record levels, supporting jobs in Africa and the United States, including a quarter of a million good American jobs.

But here’s the thing:  Our entire trade with all of Africa is still only about equal to our trade with Brazil — one country.  Of all the goods we export to the world, only about one percent goes to Sub-Saharan Africa.  So we’ve got a lot of work to do.  We have to do better — much better.  I want Africans buying more American products.  I want Americans buying more African products.  I know you do, too.  And that’s what you’re doing today.  (Applause.)

So I’m pleased that in conjunction with this forum, American companies are announcing major new deals in Africa.  Blackstone will invest in African energy projects.  Coca-Cola will partner with Africa to bring clean water to its communities.  GE will help build African infrastructure.  Marriott will build more hotels.  All told, American companies — many with our trade assistance — are announcing new deals in clean energy, aviation, banking, and construction worth more than $14 billion, spurring development across Africa and selling more goods stamped with that proud label, “Made in America.”

And I don’t want to just sustain this momentum, I want to up it.  I want to up our game.  So today I’m announcing a series of steps to take our trade with Africa to the next level.

First, we’re going to keep working to renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act — and enhance it.  (Applause.)  We still do the vast majority of our trade with just three countries — South Africa, Nigeria and Angola.  It’s still heavily weighted towards the energy sector.  We need more Africans, including women and small- and medium-sized businesses, getting their goods to market.  And leaders in Congress — Democrats and Republicans — have said they want to move forward.  So I’m optimistic we can work with Congress to renew and modernize AGOA before it expires, renew it for the long term.  We need to get that done.  (Applause.)

Second, as part of our “Doing Business in Africa” campaign, we’re going to do even more to help American companies compete.  We’ll put even more of our teams on the ground, advocating on behalf of your companies.  We’re going to send even more trade missions.  Today, we’re announcing $7 billion in new financing to promote American exports to Africa.  Earlier today, I signed an executive order to create a new President’s advisory council of business leaders to help make sure we’re doing everything we can to help you do business in Africa.  (Applause.)

And I would be remiss if I did not add that House Republicans can help by reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank.  That is the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  I was trying to explain to somebody that if I’ve got a Ford dealership and the Toyota dealership is providing financing to anybody who walks in the dealership and I’m not, I’m going to lose business.  It’s pretty straightforward.  We need to get that reauthorized.  (Applause.)  And you business leaders can help make clear that it is critical to U.S. business.

Number three, we want to partner with Africa to build the infrastructure that economies need to flourish.  And that starts with electricity, which most Africans still lack.  That’s why last year while traveling throughout the continent, I announced a bold initiative, Power Africa, to double access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa and help bring electricity to more than 20 million African homes and businesses.

Now, we’ve joined with African governments, the African Development Bank, and the private sector — and I will tell you, the response has exceeded our projections.  It has been overwhelming.  Already, projects and negotiations are underway that, when completed, will put us nearly 80 percent of the way toward our goal.  On top of the significant resources we’ve already committed, I’m announcing that the United States will increase our pledge to $300 million a year for this effort.

And as of today — including an additional $12 billion in new commitments being announced this week by our private sector partners and the World Bank and the government of Sweden — we’ve now mobilized a total of more than $26 billion to Power Africa just since we announced it — $26 billion.  (Applause.)  So today we’re raising the bar.  We decided we’re meeting our goal too easily, Zuma, so we’ve got to go up.  So we’re tripling our goal, aiming to bring electricity to more than 60 million African homes and businesses that can spark growth for decades to come.  (Applause.)

Fourth, we’ll do more to help Africans trade with each other, because the markets with the greatest potential are often the countries right next door.  And it should not be harder to export your goods to your neighbor than it is to export those goods to Los Angeles or to Amsterdam.  (Applause.)  So through our Trade Africa initiative, we’ll increase our investments to help our African partners build their own capacity to trade, to strengthen regional markets, make borders more efficient, modernize the customs system.  We want to get African goods moving faster within Africa, as well as outside of Africa.

And finally, we’re doing more to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs and business leaders — it’s young men and women, like our extraordinary Mandela Washington Fellows that I met with last week.  And I have to say to the heads of state and government, you would have been extraordinarily proud to meet these young people who exhibit so much talent and so much energy and so much drive.

With new Regional Leadership Centers and online courses, we’re going to offer training and networking for tens of thousands of young entrepreneurs across Africa. New grants will help them access the capital they need to grow.  Our annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit this year will be held in Morocco.  Next year, it will be held for the first time in Sub-Saharan Africa — because we want to make sure that all that talent is tapped and they have access to the capital and the networks and the markets that they need to succeed.  Because if they succeed, then the countries in which they live will succeed.  They’ll create jobs.  They’ll create growth.  They’ll create opportunity.

So the bottom line is the United States is making a major and long-term investment in Africa’s progress.  And taken together, the new commitments I’ve described today — across our government and by our many partners — total some $33 billion.  And that will support development across Africa and jobs here in the United States.  Up to tens of thousands of American jobs are supported every time we expand trade with Africa.

As critical as all these investments are, the key to unlocking the next era of African growth is not going to be here in the United States, it’s going to be in Africa.  And so, during this week’s summit, we’ll be discussing a whole range of areas where we’re going to have to work together — areas that are important in their own right, but which are also essential to Africa’s growth.

Capital is one thing.  Development programs and projects are one thing.  But rule of law, regulatory reform, good governance — those things matter even more, because people should be able to start a business and ship their goods without having to pay a bribe or hire somebody’s cousin.

Agricultural development is critical because it’s the best way to boost incomes for the majority of Africans who are farmers, especially as they deal with the impacts of climate change.

Rebuilding a strong health infrastructure, especially for mothers and children, is critical because no country can prosper unless its citizens are healthy and strong, and children are starting off with the advantages they need to grow to their full potential.

And we’re going to have to talk about security and peace, because the future belongs to those who build, not those who destroy.  And it’s very hard to attract business investment, and it’s very hard to build infrastructure, and it’s very hard to sustain entrepreneurship in the midst of conflict.

So I just want to close with one example of what trade can help us build together.  Kusum Kavia was born in Kenya; her family was originally from India.  Eventually, she emigrated to the United States and along with her husband started a small business in California.  It started off as a small engineering firm.  Then it started manufacturing small power generators.  With the help of the Export-Import Bank — including seminars and a line of credit and risk insurance — they started exporting power generators to West Africa.  In Benin, they helped build a new electric power plant.

And it’s ended up being a win-win for everybody.  It’s been a win for their company, Combustion Associates, because exports to Africa have boosted their sales, which means they’ve been able to hire more workers here in the United States.  They partner with GE; GE is doing well.  Most of their revenues are from exports to Africa.  It’s been a win for their suppliers in Texas and Ohio and New York.  It’s been a win for Benin and its people, because more electricity for families and businesses, jobs for Africans at the power plant because the company hires locally and trains those workers.  And they hope to keep expanding as part of our Power Africa initiative.

So this is an example of just one small business.  Imagine if we can replicate that success across our countries.

Kusum says, “When our customers see the label, ‘Made in America,’ when they see our flag, it puts us above all the competition.”  And her vision for their company is the same vision that brings us all here today.  She says, “We really want to have a long-term partnership with Africa.”  So Kusum is here.  I had a chance to meet her backstage.  Where is she?  Right there.  Stand up, Kusum.  So she’s doing great work.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

But she’s an example of what’s possible — a long-term partnership with Africa.  And that’s what America offers.  That’s what we’re building.  That’s the difference we can make when Africans and Americans work together.  So let’s follow Kusum’s lead.  Let’s do even more business together.  Let’s tear down barriers that slow us down and get in the way of trade.  Let’s build up the infrastructure — the roads, the bridges, the ports, the electricity — that connect our countries.  Let’s create more and sell more and buy more from each other.  I’m confident that we can.  And when we do, we won’t just propel the next era of African growth, we’ll create more jobs and opportunity for everybody — for people here in the United States and for people around the world.

So thank you very much, everybody, for what so far has been an outstanding session.  And I’ve got the opportunity to speak to this young man.  (Applause.)

Q    So thank you very much, Mr. President for this opportunity.  I’ll start by wishing you a belated Happy Birthday.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Q    Thank you very much.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Have you introduced yourself to everybody?

Q    I wanted to really jump into the issues.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, go ahead and introduce yourself.

Q    All right.  I’m Takunda Chingonzo.  I’m a young entrepreneur.  I’m 21.  I’m from Zimbabwe.  And I’m working in the wireless technology space.  We’re essentially liberating the Internet for Zimbabweans.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  And let me just — this is an example of our young African leaders; in fact, the youngest young African leader.  But one thing I will say, though, if you’re going to promote your business, you’ve got to make sure to let people know who you are.  (Laughter.)

Q    Definitely, definitely.

THE PRESIDENT:  Just a little tip.

Q    Definitely.

THE PRESIDENT:  You can’t be shy, man.  (Laughter.)  Please, go ahead.

Q    That’s correct, Mr. President.  So I was really going to start by delving into a personal experience.  I was going to get to my business and how I got to where we are.

So as I was saying, we’re working in the technology space.  I’m working on my third startup — it’s called Saisai.  We’re creating Zimbabwe’s first free Internet-access network, hence liberating the Internet.  So in our working, we came to a point in time where we needed to import a bit of technology from the United States, and so we were engaging in conversation with these U.S.-based businesses.  And the response that we got time and time again was that unfortunately we cannot do business with you because you are from Zimbabwe.  And I was shocked — this doesn’t make sense.

And so this is the exact same experience that other entrepreneurs that are in Zimbabwe have gone through, even through the meetings that I’ve had here.  You know, you sit down with potential investors, you talk about the project, the outlook, the opportunity, the growth and all that — and they’re excited, you can see.  All systems are firing, right?  And then I say I’m from Zimbabwe and they look at me and they say, young man, this is a good project, very good, very good, but unfortunately we cannot engage in business with you.

And I understand that the sanctions that we have — that are imposed on entities in Zimbabwe, these are targeted sanctions, right?  But then we have come to a point in time where we as young Africans are failing to properly engage in business with U.S.-based entities because there hasn’t been that clarity.  These entities believe that Zimbabwe is under sanctions.  So what really can we do to do try and clarify this to make sure that we as the young entrepreneurs can effectively develop Africa and engage in business?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, obviously, the situation in Zimbabwe is somewhat unique.  The challenge for us in the United States has been how do we balance our desire to help the people of Zimbabwe with what has, frankly, been a repeated violation of basic democratic practices and human rights inside of Zimbabwe.

And we think it is very important to send clear signals about how we expect elections to be conducted, governments to be conducted — because if we don’t, then all too often, with impunity, the people of those countries can suffer.  But you’re absolutely right that it also has to be balanced with making sure that whatever structures that we put in place with respect to sanctions don’t end up punishing the very people inside those countries.

My immediate suggestion — and this is a broader point to all the African businesses who are here, as well as the U.S. businesses — is to make sure that we’re using the Department of Commerce and the other U.S. agencies where we can gather groups of entrepreneurs and find out exactly what can be done, what can’t be done, what resources are available.  It may be that you and a group of entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe are able to meet with us and propose certain projects that allow us to say this is something that will advance as opposed to retard the progress for the Zimbabwean people.

So what I’d suggest would be that we set up a meeting and we find out what kinds of things that the young entrepreneurs of Zimbabwe want to do, and see if there are ways that we can work with you consistent with the strong message that we send about good governance in Zimbabwe.

Q    I see.  Because really — the point of emphasis really is that as young Africans we want to converse with other business entities here in the U.S., and if these sanctions are really targeted, then in honest truth, they aren’t supposed to hamper the business that we’re trying to engage in, the development that we’re talking about.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let’s see if we can refine them further based on some of the things you’re talking about.

Q    That’s all right.  Now, there have been a good number of investments that have been announced here — multibillion-dollar investments in Africa — and we’re really excited.  And there’s been a lot of talk about how the public and private partnerships are the vehicle through which this investment will come into Africa, but I really want to bring it to a point of clarity.  I believe that the private sector is stratified in itself.  We have the existing indigenous businesses in these countries that you’re hoping to invest in, and this is where usually the funding comes through — the partnerships and all that.  That is well and fine.

But then, underneath that, we have these young, upcoming entrepreneurs — the innovators, those that come up with products and services that disrupt the industry.  And this is the innovation that we want in Africa, to build products by Africans for Africans.  But in most cases, in what we have seen over the past years, is that, indeed, this investment comes through but it never cascades down to these young entrepreneurs, the emerging businesses.  And so the existing businesses then form a sort of ceiling which we cannot break through.

When it comes to investment, when you’re talking about solving unemployment, I believe that it’s more realistic to assume and understand that the probability of 10 startups employing 10 people in a given time period, it’s more realistic than one indigenous company employing 100 people.

So what really has been — or rather, has there been any consideration in these deals that have been structured in the investments that you announced to cater for the young entrepreneur who is trying to innovate to solve the problems in society?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I think for the business leaders who are here, both African and U.S., it’s hard being a startup everywhere.

Q    That’s true.

THE PRESIDENT:  Part of what you’re describing is typical of business around the world:  Folks who are already in, they don’t necessarily want to share.  They don’t want to be disrupted.  If there’s a good opportunity, they’d rather do it themselves.  If they see a small up-and-coming hotshot who might disrupt their business, they may initially try to block you or they may try to buy you out.  And getting financing for a startup is always going to be difficult.  You hear that from entrepreneurs here in the U.S. as well.

Having said that, what is absolutely true is that as we think about the billions of dollars that we’re mobilizing, we want to make sure that small businesses, medium-size businesses, women-owned businesses — that they have opportunity.  And so my instructions to all of our agencies and hopefully the work that we’re doing with all of our partners is how can we identify, target financing for the startup; how can we identify and link up U.S. companies with small and medium-size businesses and not just the large businesses?  And I think you are absolutely right that by us trying to spread investment, not narrowly through one or two companies but more broadly, that the opportunities for success in those countries are higher, and it also creates a healthy competition.

And that’s true also in terms of how we’re designing – for example, our Feed the Future program, which is working with almost 2 million small farmers inside of Africa.  When I was in Senegal, I met with a woman, maybe in her 30s; she had a small plot of land initially.  Through the Feed the Future program, she had been able to mechanize, double her productivity.  By doubling her productivity and, through a smartphone, getting better prices to the market, she was able to increase her profits.  Then she bought a tractor.  Then she doubled her productivity again.  And suddenly what had started off as just a program to increase her income had become capital for a growing business where she was now hiring people in her area and doing some of the process of the grain that she grew herself, so that she could move up the value chain.

There are entrepreneurs like that all across Africa.  Sometimes the capital they need is not very large.  Sometimes it’s a fairly modest amount.  And so what I want to do is to make sure that we are constantly looking out for opportunities to disburse this capital not just narrowly, but broadly.  And one of the things that I hope happens with U.S. companies is that they’re constantly looking for opportunities to partner with young entrepreneurs, startups, and not just always going to the same well-established businesses.

Now, there are going to be some large-capital projects where you’ve got a good, solid, established company.  Hopefully they, themselves, have policies with respect to their suppliers that allow them to start encouraging and growing small businesses as well.

Q    Exactly.  And on that note, I’m glad that you acknowledged that and I hope that even in these deals, in the investments that you’re talking about, that one of the conditions be that those large organizations that are getting investment have policies that cascade down to people at the grassroots.

You spoke about this lady who was using a smartphone to — it is one key issue that is really propelling business and development in Africa, the ability to leverage technology.  And really it is all about the Internet of things.  And that is why I’m personally working in liberating the Internet to get more people connected.

Now, this is a huge opportunity in Africa as well.  Now, there is this troubling issue that has been brought to our attention with entities and organizations that have come up and have said we want to control the Internet, we want to see who gets what traffic and from whom.  And policies and activities like that become challenges for startups that are trying to leverage the Internet, for this lady farmer that you talked about who is trying to leverage and get information from the Internet.

So I want to understand what is your stance on net neutrality and its effects on the global development in Africa?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, this is an important issue for all the heads of state and government not just in Africa but around the world.  The reason the Internet is so powerful is because it’s open.  My daughters, 16 and 13, they can access information from anyplace in the world.  They can learn about a particular discipline instantaneously, in ways that when I was their age — first of all, I wasn’t as motivated as they are.  I was lazier than them.  (Laughter.)  They do much better in school than I did.  But the world is at their fingertips.

And what facilitates that, and what has facilitated the incredible value that’s been built by companies like Google and Facebook and so many others, all the applications that you find on your smartphone, is that there are not restrictions, there are not barriers to entry for new companies who have a good idea to use this platform that is open to create value.  And it is very important I think that we maintain that.

Now, I know that there’s a tension in some countries — their attitude is we don’t necessarily want all this information flowing because it can end up also being used as a tool for political organizing, it can be used as a tool to criticize the government, and so maybe we’d prefer a system that is more closed.  I think that is a self-defeating attitude.  Over the long term, because of technology, information, knowledge, transparency is inevitable.  And that’s true here in the United States; it’s true everywhere.

And so what we should be doing is trying to maintain an open Internet, trying to keep a process whereby any talented person who has an idea can suddenly use the Internet to disperse information.  There are going to be occasional tensions involved in terms of us monitoring the use of the Internet for terrorist networks or criminal enterprises or human trafficking.  But we can do that in ways that are compatible with maintaining an open Internet.

And this raises the broader question that I mentioned earlier, which is Africa needs capital; in some cases, Africa needs technical assistance; Africa certainly needs access to markets.  But perhaps the biggest thing that Africa is going to need to unleash even more the potential that’s already there and the growth that’s already taking place is laws and regulations and structures that empower individuals and are not simply designed to control or empower those at the very top.

And the Internet is one example.  You’ve got to have a system and sets of laws that encourage entrepreneurship, but that’s also true when it comes to a whole host of issues.  It’s true when it comes to how hard is it to get a business permit when a new startup like yours wants to establish itself.

When it comes to Power Africa, there are billions of dollars floating around the world that are interested in investing in power generation in Africa.  And the countries that are going to attract that investment are the ones where the investor knows that if a power plant is built, that there are rules in place that are transparent that ensure that they’re going to get a decent return, and that some of the revenue isn’t siphoned off in certain ways so that the investor has political risks or risks with respect to corruption.

The more that governments set up the right rules, understanding that in the 21st century the power that drives growth and development and the marketplace involves knowledge and that can’t be controlled, the more successful countries are going to be.

Q    I see.  So just to clarify on the issue of net neutrality, you are advocating for an open and fair Internet —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    — which would — then it has structure to ensure that the platform itself isn’t abused.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there are two issues — net neutrality — in the United States, one of the issues around net neutrality is whether you are creating different rates or charges for different content providers.  That’s the big controversy here.  You have big, wealthy media companies who might be willing to pay more but then also charge more for more spectrum, more bandwidth on the Internet so they can stream movies faster or what have you.

And I personally — the position of my administration, as well as I think a lot of companies here is you don’t want to start getting a differentiation in how accessible the Internet is to various users.  You want to leave it open so that the next Google or the next Facebook can succeed.

There’s another problem, though — there are other countries — and I think this is what you were alluding to — that feel comfortable with the idea of controlling and censoring Internet content in their home countries, and setting up rules and laws about what can or cannot be on the Internet.  And I think that that not only is going to inhibit entrepreneurs who are creating value on the Internet; I think it’s also going to inhibit the growth of the country generally, because closed societies that are not open to new ideas, eventually they fall behind.  Eventually, they miss out on the future because they’re so locked into trying to maintain the past.

Q    I see.  Thank you for the clarity.  I think we’re out of a bit of time.  I’ll ask my final question.  When we began this conversation, we were alluding to the fact that — the need to separate the political function and economic function.  In other words, politics should not get in the way of business.  And I’ve gone to quite a good number of — I know it’s difficult — so I’ve gone to a good number of conferences where the end deliverable of the entire summit, or whatever it is, is that we need to lobby government to create policies that are conducive, and this and that.  And that’s usually what you get — either you’re trying to lobby somebody to do something, right?  And, in turn, governments come up and say, yes, we promise to come up with this and that, and this and that.  And that’s a whole political sphere of things.  My question is, apart from that, what can we as business leaders, as the private sector, what can we do sort of independently to — what can we do to create this economic environment that fosters for the growth and development of Africa as a continent?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, although this isn’t always a popular position here in Washington these days, the truth is, is that government really can help set the conditions and the framework for markets to function effectively — in part because governments are able to initiate projects like roads and bridges and airports that any individual business would find cost prohibitive.  It wouldn’t make sense to invest in what is a collective good; it’s not going to help your bottom line if everybody else is using it.  So that’s part of the function of government.

Part of the function of government is to educate a population so that you got a well-trained workforce.  It’s hard for companies to invest in doing that by themselves.  There are certain common goods, like maintaining clean air and clean water, and making sure that if you have capital markets, that they’re well-regulated so that they’re trust-worthy, and small investors and large investors know that if they invest in a stock that they’re not being cheated.

So there are a whole host of functions that government has to play.  But in the end, what drives innovation typically is not what happens in government, it’s what’s happening in companies.  And what we found in the United States is, is that companies, once they’ve got the basic rules and they’ve got the basic platform, they are able to create value and innovation and cultures that encourage growth.  And I think that African entrepreneurs are going to be the trendsetters for determining how societies think about themselves and, ultimately, how governments think about these issues.

The truth of the matter is, is that if you have big, successful companies or you’ve got widespread entrepreneurship, and you have a growing middle class and practices have been established in terms of fair dealing, and treating your workers properly, and extending opportunity to smaller contractors, and promoting women and making sure women are paid like men — suddenly, what happens is businesses create new norms and new sensibilities.  And governments oftentimes will respond.

And so I think in Africa what I’d like to see more and more of is partnerships between American businesses, between African businesses.  Some of the incredible cultures of some of our U.S. businesses that do a really good job promoting people and maintaining a meritocracy, and treating women equally, and treating people of different races and faiths and sexual orientations fairly and equally, and making sure that there are typical norms of how you deal with people in contracts and respect legal constraints — all those things I think can then take root in a country like Zimbabwe or any other country.  Hopefully, governments are encouraging that, not inhibiting that.  They recognize that that’s how the world as a whole is increasingly moving in that direction.  And over time, you will see an Africa that is driven by individual entrepreneurs and private organizations, and governments will be responsive to their demands.

So I think the one thing I want to make sure people understand, though, is it’s not an either/or issue.  Government has a critical role to play.  The marketplace has a critical role to play.  Nonprofit organizations have a critical role to play.  But the goal and the orientation constantly should be how do we empower individuals to work together.  And if we are empowering young people like you all across Africa, if we’ve got a 21-year-old who has already started three businesses, we’ve got to figure out how to invest in him, how to make it easier for him to succeed.  If you succeed, you’re going to then be hiring a whole bunch of people, and they, in turn, will succeed.  And that’s been the recipe for growth in the 20th century and the 21st century.

And I’m confident that Africa is well on its way.  America just wants to make sure that we’re helpful in that process.  And I know that all the U.S. companies who are here, that’s their goal as well.  We are interested in Africa, because we know that if Africa thrives and succeeds, and if you’ve got a bunch of entrepreneurs, they’re going to need supplies from us maybe, or they may supply us with outstanding products; they’re going to have a growing middle class that wants to buy iPhones or applications from us.  In turn, they may provide us new services and we can be the distributor for something that’s invented in Africa, and all of us grow at the same time.

That’s our goal, and I’m confident that we can make it happen.  And this summit has been a great start.  So I want to thank you for doing a great job moderating.  I want to thank all the leaders here not only of government, but also business for participating.  There’s been great energy, great enthusiasm.  I know a lot of business has gotten done.  If any of you are interested in investing in this young man, let him know.  (Laughter.)

All right, thank you, guys.

END
4:05 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency May 11, 2014: Weekly Address: First Lady Michelle Obama Marks Mother’s Day and Speaks Out on the Tragic Kidnapping in Nigeria

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: The First Lady Marks Mother’s Day and Speaks Out on the Tragic Kidnapping in Nigeria

Source: WH, 5-10-14

The White House

In this week’s address, First Lady Michelle Obama honored all mothers on this upcoming Mother’s Day and offered her thoughts, prayers and support in the wake of the unconscionable terrorist kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls.

Remarks of First Lady Michelle Obama

Weekly Address

May 10, 2014

Hello everyone, I’m Michelle Obama, and on this Mother’s Day weekend, I want to take a moment to honor all the mothers out there and wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.

I also want to speak to you about an issue of great significance to me as a First Lady, and more importantly, as the mother of two young daughters.

Like millions of people across the globe, my husband and I are outraged and heartbroken over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night.

This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls.

And I want you to know that Barack has directed our government to do everything possible to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to find these girls and bring them home.

In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams – and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.

Many of them may have been hesitant to send their daughters off to school, fearing that harm might come their way.

But they took that risk because they believed in their daughters’ promise and wanted to give them every opportunity to succeed.

The girls themselves also knew full well the dangers they might encounter.

Their school had recently been closed due to terrorist threats…but these girls still insisted on returning to take their exams.

They were so determined to move to the next level of their education…so determined to one day build careers of their own and make their families and communities proud.

And what happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident…it’s a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions.

It’s the story of girls like Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan.

Malala spoke out for girls’ education in her community…and as a result, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while on a school bus with her classmates.

But fortunately Malala survived…and when I met her last year, I could feel her passion and determination as she told me that girls’ education is still her life’s mission.

As Malala said in her address to the United Nations, she said “The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”

The courage and hope embodied by Malala and girls like her around the world should serve as a call to action.

Because right now, more than 65 million girls worldwide are not in school.

Yet, we know that girls who are educated make higher wages, lead healthier lives, and have healthier families.

And when more girls attend secondary school, that boosts their country’s entire economy.

So education is truly a girl’s best chance for a bright future, not just for herself, but for her family and her nation.

And that’s true right here in the U.S. as well…so I hope the story of these Nigerian girls will serve as an inspiration for every girl – and boy – in this country.

I hope that any young people in America who take school for granted – any young people who are slacking off or thinking of dropping out – I hope they will learn the story of these girls and recommit themselves to their education.

These girls embody the best hope for the future of our world…and we are committed to standing up for them not just in times of tragedy or crisis, but for the long haul.

We are committed to giving them the opportunities they deserve to fulfill every last bit of their God-given potential.

So today, let us all pray for their safe return… let us hold their families in our hearts during this very difficult time…and let us show just a fraction of their courage in fighting to give every girl on this planet the education that is her birthright.  Thank you.

Political Musings December 11, 2013: Obama and world leaders honor Nelson Mandela at memorial service

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

On a rainy Tuesday in Johannesburg, South Africa over 60,000 thousand people, including over 90 world leaders came to honor a man that bridged the racial divide and ended apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela. The former South African…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 10, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Memorial Service for Former South African President Nelson Mandela

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama at Memorial Service for Former South African President Nelson Mandela

Source: WH, 12-10-13

ABC News

First National Bank Stadium
Johannesburg, South Africa

1:31 P.M. SAST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  To Graça Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and members of the government; to heads of states and government, past and present; distinguished guests — it is a singular honor to be with you today, to celebrate a life like no other.  To the people of South Africa — (applause) — people of every race and walk of life — the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.  His struggle was your struggle.  His triumph was your triumph.  Your dignity and your hope found expression in his life.  And your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.

It is hard to eulogize any man — to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person — their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul.  How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.

Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by the elders of his Thembu tribe, Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century.  Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement — a movement that at its start had little prospect for success.  Like Dr. King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed and the moral necessity of racial justice.  He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War.  Emerging from prison, without the force of arms, he would — like Abraham Lincoln — hold his country together when it threatened to break apart.  And like America’s Founding Fathers, he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations — a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power after only one term.

Given the sweep of his life, the scope of his accomplishments, the adoration that he so rightly earned, it’s tempting I think to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men.  But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait.  (Applause.)  Instead, Madiba insisted on sharing with us his doubts and his fears; his miscalculations along with his victories.  “I am not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection — because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carried — that we loved him so.  He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood — a son and a husband, a father and a friend.  And that’s why we learned so much from him, and that’s why we can learn from him still.  For nothing he achieved was inevitable.  In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness, and persistence and faith.  He tells us what is possible not just in the pages of history books, but in our own lives as well.

Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals.  Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited, “a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” from his father.  And we know he shared with millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of, “a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments…a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people,” he said.

But like other early giants of the ANC — the Sisulus and Tambos — Madiba disciplined his anger and channeled his desire to fight into organization, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men and women could stand up for their God-given dignity.  Moreover, he accepted the consequences of his actions, knowing that standing up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price.  “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination.  I’ve cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and [with] equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”  (Applause.)

Mandela taught us the power of action, but he also taught us the power of ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those who you agree with, but also those who you don’t agree with.  He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet.  He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and his passion, but also because of his training as an advocate.  He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement.  And he learned the language and the customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depend upon his.  (Applause.)

Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough.  No matter how right, they must be chiseled into law and institutions.  He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history.  On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of unconditional release, reminding the Apartheid regime that “prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”

But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal.  And because he was not only a leader of a movement but a skillful politician, the Constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy, true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African.

And finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit.  There is a word in South Africa — Ubuntu — (applause) — a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift:  his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.

We can never know how much of this sense was innate in him, or how much was shaped in a dark and solitary cell.  But we remember the gestures, large and small — introducing his jailers as honored guests at his inauguration; taking a pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS — that revealed the depth of his empathy and his understanding.  He not only embodied Ubuntu, he taught millions to find that truth within themselves.

It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well — (applause) — to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth.  He changed laws, but he also changed hearts.

For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe, Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate a heroic life.  But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection.  With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must ask:  How well have I applied his lessons in my own life?  It’s a question I ask myself, as a man and as a President.

We know that, like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation.  As was true here, it took sacrifice — the sacrifice of countless people, known and unknown, to see the dawn of a new day.  Michelle and I are beneficiaries of that struggle.  (Applause.)  But in America, and in South Africa, and in countries all around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not yet done.

The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important.  For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease.  We still see run-down schools.  We still see young people without prospects for the future.  Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love.  That is happening today.  (Applause.)

And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice.  We, too, must act on behalf of peace.  There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.  There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.  (Applause.)  And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.

The questions we face today — how to promote equality and justice; how to uphold freedom and human rights; how to end conflict and sectarian war — these things do not have easy answers.  But there were no easy answers in front of that child born in World War I.  Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done.  South Africa shows that is true.  South Africa shows we can change, that we can choose a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes.  We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.

We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.  But let me say to the young people of Africa and the young people around the world — you, too, can make his life’s work your own.  Over 30 years ago, while still a student, I learned of Nelson Mandela and the struggles taking place in this beautiful land, and it stirred something in me.  It woke me up to my responsibilities to others and to myself, and it set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today.  And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be a better man.  (Applause.)  He speaks to what’s best inside us.

After this great liberator is laid to rest, and when we have returned to our cities and villages and rejoined our daily routines, let us search for his strength.  Let us search for his largeness of spirit somewhere inside of ourselves.  And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, when our best-laid plans seem beyond our reach, let us think of Madiba and the words that brought him comfort within the four walls of his cell:  “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

What a magnificent soul it was.  We will miss him deeply.  May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela.  May God bless the people of South Africa.  (Applause.)

END
1:50 P.M. SAST

Political Musings December 8, 2013: Obama, former Presidents, world leaders honor Nelson Mandela will attend funeral

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama, former Presidents, world leaders honor Nelson Mandela will attend funeral

By Bonnie K. Goodman

As the world’s nations and their leaders mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95 after a lengthy illness late Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 flags all over the world were ordered to fly at half…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 5, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Death of Nelson Mandela

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the Death of Nelson Mandela

Source: WH, 12-5-13 

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

5:25 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  At his trial in 1964, Nelson Mandela closed his statement from the dock saying, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.  I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

And Nelson Mandela lived for that ideal, and he made it real.  He achieved more than could be expected of any man.  Today, he has gone home.  And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth.  He no longer belongs to us — he belongs to the ages.

Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa — and moved all of us.  His journey from a prisoner to a President embodied the promise that human beings — and countries — can change for the better.  His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives.  And the fact that he did it all with grace and good humor, and an ability to acknowledge his own imperfections, only makes the man that much more remarkable.  As he once said, “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life.  My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid.  I studied his words and his writings.  The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears.  And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.

To Graça Machel and his family, Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathy and gratitude for sharing this extraordinary man with us.  His life’s work meant long days away from those who loved him the most.  And I only hope that the time spent with him these last few weeks brought peace and comfort to his family.

To the people of South Africa, we draw strength from the example of renewal, and reconciliation, and resilience that you made real.  A free South Africa at peace with itself — that’s an example to the world, and that’s Madiba’s legacy to the nation he loved.

We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.  So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set:  to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.

For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived — a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.  May God Bless his memory and keep him in peace.

END
5:30 P.M. EST

Political Musings July 8, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Africa trip in the shadow of Nelson Mandela and George W. Bush legacies

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama’s Africa trip in the shadow of Mandela and Bush legacies (Photos)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

On July 2, United States President Barack Obama ended an important overseas trip to Africa. On the last day of his trip, Obama attended a ceremony with his predecessor former President George W. Bush in Tanzania….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 27-July 2, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speeches and Remarks During his Africa Trip to Senegal, South Africa & Tanzania

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speeches and Remarks During their Africa Trip to Senegal, South Africa & Tanzania

Political Headlines July 2, 2013: Michelle Obama & Laura Bush at George W. Bush Institute’s First Annual African First Ladies Summit

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Michelle Obama, Laura Bush Bemoan Focus on Their Looks

Source: WH, 7-2-13

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Tuesday to highlight the role of African first ladies, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama sat down together to dish on their husbands and share the frustrations of constant public scrutiny, telling ABC News’ Cokie Roberts that there’s no preparation for the complications of life in the White House.

Michelle Obama said first ladies have “probably the best jobs in the world” because their husbands, “who have to react and respond to crisis on a minute-by-minute basis … come into office with a wonderful, profound agenda, and then they’re faced with the reality. On the other hand, we [first ladies] get to work on what we’re passionate about.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines June 30, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at University of Cape Town Urges African Youth to Live Up to Mandela’s Legacy

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Urges African Youth to Live Up to Mandela’s Legacy

Source: ABC News Radio, 7-1-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama on Sunday urged South Africa’s youth to continue the fight for equality and opportunity, as he challenged them to live up to the legacy of ailing civil rights icon Nelson Mandela.

“Nelson Mandela showed us that one man’s courage can move the world. And he calls on us to make choices that reflect not our fears, but our hopes — in our own lives, and in the lives of our communities and our countries,” the president told a crowd of more than 1,000 people at the University of Cape Town….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 30, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at University of Cape Town Urges African Youth to Live Up to Mandela’s Legacy

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama at the University of Cape Town

Source: WH, 6-30-13

Cape Town, South Africa

6:14 P.M. SAST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Please, please, everybody have a seat.  Hello Cape Town!

AUDIENCE:  Hello!

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thobela.  Molweni.  Sanibona.  Dumelang.  Ndaa.  Reperile.

AUDIENCE:  Reperile!

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  See, I’ve been practicing.  How-zit?  (Applause.)  Did I leave anybody out?  All right, well, I didn’t want to leave anybody out here.

I want to thank Vice Chancellor Max Price, who’s here, as well as Archbishop Njongonkulu.  It’s wonderful to have them in attendance.

I am so happy to be here today.  It is wonderful to see all of these outstanding young people.  I just had the honor of going to Robben Island with Michelle and our two daughters this afternoon.  And this was my second time; I had the chance to visit back in 2006.  But there was something different about bringing my children.  And Malia is now 15, Sasha is 12 — and seeing them stand within the walls that once surrounded Nelson Mandela, I knew this was an experience that they would never forget.  I knew that they now appreciated a little bit more the sacrifices that Madiba and others had made for freedom.

But what I also know is that because they’ve had a chance to visit South Africa for a second time now, they also understand that Mandela’s spirit could never be imprisoned — for his legacy is here for all to see.  It’s in this auditorium:  young people, black, white, Indian, everything in between — (laughter) — living and learning together in a South Africa that is free and at peace.

Now, obviously, today Madiba’s health weighs heavily on our hearts.  And like billions all over the world, I — and the American people — have drawn strength from the example of this extraordinary leader, and the nation that he changed.  Nelson Mandela showed us that one man’s courage can move the world.  And he calls on us to make choices that reflects not our fears, but our hopes — in our own lives, and in the lives of our communities and our countries.  And that’s what I want to speak to all of you about today.

Some of you may be aware of this, but I actually took my first step into political life because of South Africa.  (Applause.)  This is true.  I was the same age as some of you — 19 years old, my whole life ahead of me.  I was going to school on a campus in California — not quite as pretty as this one — (laughter) — but similar.  And I must confess I was not always focused on my studies.  (Laughter.)  There were a lot of distractions.  (Laughter.)  And I enjoyed those distractions.

And as the son of an African father and a white American mother, the diversity of America was in my blood, but I had never cared much for politics.  I didn’t think it mattered to me.  I didn’t think I could make a difference.  And like many young people, I thought that cynicism — a certain ironic detachment — was a sign of wisdom and sophistication.

But then I learned what was happening here in South Africa.  And two young men, ANC representatives, came to our college and spoke, and I spent time hearing their stories.  And I learned about the courage of those who waged the Defiance Campaign, and the brutality leveled against innocent men, women and children from Sharpeville to Soweto.  And I studied the leadership of Luthuli, and the words of Biko, and the example of Madiba, and I knew that while brave people were imprisoned just off these shores on Robben Island, my own government in the United States was not standing on their side.  That’s why I got involved in what was known as the divestment movement in the United States.

It was the first time I ever attached myself to a cause.  It was the first time also that I ever gave a speech.  It was only two minutes long — (laughter) — and I was really just a warm-up act at a rally that we were holding demanding that our college divest from Apartheid South Africa.  So I got up on stage, I started making my speech, and then, as a bit of political theater, some people came out with glasses that looked like security officers and they dragged me off the stage.  (Laughter.)  Fortunately, there are no records of this speech.  (Laughter.)  But I remember struggling to express the anger and the passion that I was feeling, and to echo in some small way the moral clarity of freedom fighters an ocean away.

And I’ll be honest with you, when I was done, I did not think I’d made any difference — I was even a little embarrassed.  And I thought to myself — what’s a bunch of university kids doing in California that is somehow going to make a difference?  It felt too distant from what people were going through in places like Soweto.  But looking back, as I look at that 19-year old young man, I’m more forgiving of the fact that the speech might not have been that great, because I knew — I know now that something inside me was stirring at that time, something important.  And that was the belief that I could be part of something bigger than myself; that my own salvation was bound up with those of others.

That’s what Bobby Kennedy expressed, far better than I ever could, when he spoke here at the University of Cape Town in 1966.  He said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Now, the world was very different on that June day in 1966 when Bobby Kennedy spoke those words.  Mandela faced many more years as a prisoner.  Apartheid was entrenched in this land.  In the United States, the victories of the Civil Rights Movement were still uncertain.  In fact, on the very day that Kennedy spoke here, the American civil rights leader, James Meredith, was shot in Mississippi, where he was marching to inspire blacks to register to vote.

Those were difficult, troubled, trying times.  The idea of hope might have seemed misplaced.  It would have seemed inconceivable to people at that time — that less than 50 years later, an African American President might address an integrated audience, at South Africa’s oldest university, and that this same university would have conferred an honorary degree to a President, Nelson Mandela.  (Applause.)  It would have seemed impossible.

That’s the power that comes from acting on our ideals.  That’s what Mandela understood.  But it wasn’t just the giants of history who brought about this change.  Think of the many millions of acts of conscience that were part of that effort.  Think about how many voices were raised against injustice over the years — in this country, in the United States, around the world.  Think of how many times ordinary people pushed against those walls of oppression and resistance, and the violence and the indignities that they suffered; the quiet courage that they sustained.  Think of how many ripples of hope it took to build a wave that would eventually come crashing down like a mighty stream.

So Mandela’s life, like Kennedy’s life, like Gandhi’s life, like the life of all those who fought to bring about a new South Africa or a more just America — they stand as a challenge to me.  But more importantly, they stand as a challenge to your generation, because they tell you that your voice matters — your ideals, your willingness to act on those ideals, your choices can make a difference.  And if there’s any country in the world that shows the power of human beings to affect change, this is the one.  You’ve shown us how a prisoner can become a President.  You’ve shown us how bitter adversaries can reconcile.  You’ve confronted crimes of hatred and intolerance with truth and love, and you wrote into your constitution the human rights that sustain freedom.

And those are only the most publicized aspects of South Africa’s transformation, because alongside South Africa’s political struggle, other battles have been waged as well to improve the lives of those who for far too long have been denied economic opportunity and social justice.

During my last journey here in 2006, what impressed me so much was the good works of people on the ground teaching children, caring for the sick, bringing jobs to those in need.  In Khayelitsha Township — I’m still working on some of these — (laughter) — I met women who were living with HIV.  And this is at a time back in 2006, where there were still some challenges in terms of the policies around HIV and AIDS here in South Africa.  But they were on the ground, struggling to keep their families together — helping each other, working on behalf of each other.  In Soweto, I met people who were striving to carry forward the legacy of Hector Pieterson.  At the Rosa Parks Library in Pretoria, I was struck by the energy of students who — they wanted to capture this moment of promise for South Africa.

And this is a moment of great promise.  South Africa is one of the world’s economic centers.  Obviously, you can see it here in Cape Town.  In the country that saw the first human heart transplant, new breakthroughs are being made in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.  I was just talking to your Vice Chancellor.  People come to this University from over 100 countries to study and teach.  In America, we see the reach of your culture from “Freshly Ground” concerts to the — (applause) — we’ve got the Nando’s just a couple of blocks from the White House.  (Laughter and applause.)  And thanks to the first World Cup ever held on this continent, the world now knows the sound of the vuvuzela.  (Applause.)  I’m not sure that’s like the greatest gift that South Africa ever gave.  (Laughter.)

But progress has also rippled across the African continent.  From Senegal to Cote D’Ivoire to Malawi, democracy has weathered strong challenges.

Many of the fastest-growing economies in the world are here in Africa, where there is an historic shift taking place from poverty to a growing, nascent middle class.  Fewer people are dying of preventable disease.  More people have access to health care.  More farmers are getting their products to market at fair prices.  From micro-finance projects in Kampala, to stock traders in Lagos, to cell phone entrepreneurs in Nairobi, there is an energy here that can’t be denied — Africa rising.

We know this progress, though, rests on a fragile foundation.  We know that progress is uneven.  Across Africa, the same institutions that should be the backbone of democracy can all too often be infected with the rot of corruption.  The same technology that enables record profits sometimes means widening a canyon of inequality.  The same interconnection that binds our fates makes all of Africa vulnerable to the undertow of conflict.

So there is no question that Africa is on the move, but it’s not moving fast enough for the child still languishing in poverty in forgotten townships.  It’s not moving fast enough for the protester who is beaten in Harare, or the woman who is raped in Eastern Congo.  We’ve got more work to do, because these Africans must not be left behind.

And that’s where you come in –- the young people of Africa.  Just like previous generations, you’ve got choices to make.  You get to decide where the future lies.  Think about it — over 60 percent of Africans are under 35 years old.  So demographics means young people are going to be determining the fate of this continent and this country.  You’ve got time and numbers on your side, and you’ll be making decisions long after politicians like me have left the scene.

And I can promise you this:  The world will be watching what decisions you make.  The world will be watching what you do.  Because one of the wonderful things that’s happening is, where people used to only see suffering and conflict in Africa, suddenly, now they’re seeing opportunity for resources, for investment, for partnership, for influence.  Governments and businesses from around the world are sizing up the continent, and they’re making decisions themselves about where to invest their own time and their own energy.  And as I said yesterday at a town hall meeting up in Johannesburg, that’s a good thing.  We want all countries — China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Europe, America — we want everybody paying attention to what’s going on here, because it speaks to your progress.

And I’ve traveled to Africa on this trip because my bet is on the young people who are the heartbeat of Africa’s story.  I’m betting on all of you.  As President of the United States, I believe that my own nation will benefit enormously if you reach your full potential.

If prosperity is broadly shared here in Africa, that middle class will be an enormous market for our goods.  If strong democracies take root, that will enable our people and businesses to draw closer to yours.  If peace prevails over war, we will all be more secure.  And if the dignity of the individual is upheld across Africa, then I believe Americans will be more free as well, because I believe that none of us are fully free when others in the human family remain shackled by poverty or disease or oppression.

Now, America has been involved in Africa for decades.  But we are moving beyond the simple provision of assistance, foreign aid, to a new model of partnership between America and Africa -– a partnership of equals that focuses on your capacity to solve problems, and your capacity to grow.  Our efforts focus on three areas that shape our lives:  opportunity, democracy, and peace.

So first off, we want a partnership that empowers Africans to access greater opportunity in their own lives, in their communities, and for their countries.

As the largest economy on the continent, South Africa is part of a trend that extends from south to north, east to west — more and more African economies are poised to take off.  And increased trade and investment from the United States has the potential to accelerate these trends –- creating new jobs and opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic.

So I’m calling for America to up our game when it comes to Africa.  We’re bringing together business leaders from America and Africa to deepen our engagement.  We’re going to launch new trade missions, and promote investment from companies back home.  We’ll launch an effort in Addis to renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act to break down barriers to trade, and tomorrow I’ll discuss a new Trade Africa initiative to expand our ties across the continent, because we want to unleash the power of entrepreneurship and markets to create opportunity here i Africa.

It was interesting — yesterday at the town hall meeting I had with a number of young people, the first three questions had to do with trade, because there was a recognition — these young people said, I want to start a — I want to start something.  I want to build something, and then I want to sell something.  Now, to succeed, these efforts have to connect to something bigger.

And for America, this isn’t just about numbers on a balance sheet or the resources that can be taken out of the ground.  We believe that societies and economies only advance as far as individuals are free to carry them forward.  And just as freedom cannot exist when people are imprisoned for their political views, true opportunity cannot exist when people are imprisoned by sickness, or hunger, or darkness.

And so, the question we’ve been asking ourselves is what will it take to empower individual Africans?

For one thing, we believe that countries have to have the power to feed themselves, so instead of shipping food to Africa, we’re now helping millions of small farmers in Africa make use of new technologies and farm more land.  And through a new alliance of governments and the private sector, we’re investing billions of dollars in agriculture that grows more crops, brings more food to market, give farmers better prices and helps lift 50 million people out of poverty in a decade.  An end to famine, a thriving African agricultural industry –- that’s what opportunity looks like.  That’s what we want to build with you.

We believe that countries have to have the power to prevent illness and care for the sick.  And our efforts to combat malaria and tropical illness can lead to an achievable goal:  ending child and maternal deaths from preventable disease.  Already, our commitment to fight HIV/AIDS has saved millions, and allows us to imagine what was once unthinkable:  an AIDS-free generation.  And while America will continue to provide billions of dollars in support, we can’t make progress without African partners.  So I’m proud that by the end of my presidency, South Africa has determined it will be the first African country to fully manage its HIV care and treatment program.  (Applause.)  That’s an enormous achievement.  Healthy mothers and healthy children; strong public health systems — that’s what opportunity looks like.

And we believe that nations must have the power to connect their people to the promise of the 21st century.  Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age.  It’s the light that children study by; the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business.  It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs.  And it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.  You’ve got to have power.  And yet two-thirds of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to power — and the percentage is much higher for those who don’t live in cities.

So today, I am proud to announce a new initiative.  We’ve been dealing with agriculture, we’ve been dealing with health.  Now we’re going to talk about power — Power Africa — a new initiative that will double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa.  Double it.  (Applause.)  We’re going to start by investing $7 billion in U.S. government resources.  We’re going to partner with the private sector, who themselves have committed more than $9 billion in investment.  And in partnership with African nations, we’re going to develop new sources of energy.  We’ll reach more households not just in cities, but in villages and on farms.  We’ll expand access for those who live currently off the power grid.  And we’ll support clean energy to protect our planet and combat climate change.  (Applause.)  So, a light where currently there is darkness; the energy needed to lift people out of poverty — that’s what opportunity looks like.

So this is America’s vision:  a partnership with Africa that unleashes growth, and the potential of every citizen, not just a few at the very top.  And this is achievable.  There’s nothing that I’ve outlined that cannot happen.  But history tells us that true progress is only possible where governments exist to serve their people, and not the other way around.  (Applause.)

If anyone wants to see the difference between freedom and tyranny, let them come here, to South Africa.  Here, citizens braved bullets and beatings to claim that most basic right:  the ability to be free, to determine your own fate, in your own land.  And Madiba’s example extended far beyond that victory.  Now, I mentioned yesterday at the town hall — like America’s first President, George Washington, he understood that democracy can only endure when it’s bigger than just one person.  So his willingness to leave power was as profound as his ability to claim power.  (Applause.)

The good news is that this example is getting attention across the continent.  We see it in free and fair elections from Ghana to Zambia.  We hear it in the voices of civil society.  I was in Senegal and met with some civil society groups, including a group called Y’en Marre, which meant “fed up” — (laughter) — that helped to defend the will of the people after elections in Senegal.  We recognize it in places like Tanzania, where text messages connect citizens to their representatives.  And we strengthen it when organizations stand up for democratic principles, like ECOWAS did in Cote d’Ivoire.

But this work is not complete — we all know that.  Not in those countries where leaders enrich themselves with impunity; not in communities where you can’t start a business, or go to school, or get a house without paying a bribe to somebody.  These things have to change.  And they have to chance not just because such corruption is immoral, but it’s also a matter of self-interest and economics.  Governments that respect the rights of their citizens and abide by the rule of law do better, grow faster, draw more investment than those who don’t.  That’s just a fact.  (Applause.)

Just look at your neighbor, Zimbabwe, where the promise of liberation gave way to the corruption of power and then the collapse of the economy.  Now, after the leaders of this region — led by South Africa — brokered an end to what has been a long-running crisis, Zimbabweans have a new constitution, the economy is beginning to recover.  So there is an opportunity to move forward — but only if there is an election that is free, and fair, and peaceful, so that Zimbabweans can determine their future without fear of intimidation and retribution.  And after elections, there must be respect for the universal rights upon which democracy depends.  (Applause.)

These are things that America stands for — not perfectly — but that’s what we stand for, and that’s what my administration stands for.  We don’t tell people who their leaders should be, but we do stand up with those who support the principles that lead to a better life.  And that’s why we’re interested in investing not in strongmen, but in strong institutions:  independent judiciaries that can enforce the rule of law — (applause); honest police forces that can protect the peoples’ interests instead of their own; an open government that can bring transparency and accountability.  And, yes, that’s why we stand up for civil society — for journalists and NGOs, and community organizers and activists — who give people a voice.  And that’s why we support societies that empower women — because no country will reach its potential unless it draws on the talents of our wives and our mothers, and our sisters and our daughters.  (Applause.)

Just to editorialize here for a second, because my father’s home country of Kenya — like much of Africa — you see women doing work and not getting respect.  I tell you, you can measure how well a country does by how it treats its women.  (Applause.)  And all across this continent, and all around the world, we’ve got more work to do on that front.  We’ve got some sisters saying, “Amen.”  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, I know that there are some in Africa who hear me say these things — who see America’s support for these values — and say that’s intrusive.  Why are you meddling?  I know there are those who argue that ideas like democracy and transparency are somehow Western exports.  I disagree.  Those in power who make those arguments are usually trying to distract people from their own abuses.  (Applause.)  Sometimes, they are the same people who behind closed doors are willing to sell out their own country’s resource to foreign interests, just so long as they get a cut.  I’m just telling the truth.  (Laughter and applause.)

Now ultimately, I believe that Africans should make up their own minds about what serves African interests.  We trust your judgment, the judgment of ordinary people.  We believe that when you control your destiny, if you’ve got a handle on your governments, then governments will promote freedom and opportunity, because that will serve you.  And it shouldn’t just be America that stands up for democracy — it should be Africans as well.  So here in South Africa, your democratic story has inspired the world.  And through the power of your example, and through your position in organizations like SADC and the African Union, you can be a voice for the human progress that you’ve written into your own Constitution.  You shouldn’t assume that that’s unique to South Africa.  People have aspirations like that everywhere.

And this brings me to the final area where our partnership can empower people — the pursuit and protection of peace in Africa.  So long as parts of Africa continue to be ravaged by war and mayhem, opportunity and democracy cannot take root.  Across the continent, there are places where too often fear prevails.  From Mali to Mogadishu, senseless terrorism all too often perverts the meaning of Islam — one of the world’s great religions — and takes the lives of countless innocent Africans.  From Congo to Sudan, conflicts fester — robbing men, women and children of the lives that they deserve.  In too many countries, the actions of thugs and warlords and drug cartels and human traffickers hold back the promise of Africa, enslaving others for their own purposes.

America cannot put a stop to these tragedies alone, and you don’t expect us to.  That’s a job for Africans.  But we can help, and we will help.  I know there’s a lot of talk of America’s military presence in Africa.  But if you look at what we’re actually doing, time and again, we’re putting muscle behind African efforts.  That’s what we’re doing in the Sahel, where the nations of West Africa have stepped forward to keep the peace as Mali now begins to rebuild.  That’s what we’re doing in Central Africa, where a coalition of countries is closing the space where the Lord’s Resistance Army can operate.  That’s what we’re doing in Somalia, where an African Union force, AMISOM, is helping a new government to stand on its own two feet.

These efforts have to lead to lasting peace, not just words on a paper or promises that fade away.  Peace between and within Sudan and South Sudan, so that these governments get on with the work of investing in their deeply impoverished peoples.  Peace in the Congo with nations keeping their commitments, so rights are at last claimed by the people of this war-torn country, and women and children no longer live in fear.  (Applause.)  Peace in Mali, where people will make their voices heard in new elections this summer.  In each of these cases, Africa must lead and America will help.  And America will make no apology for supporting African efforts to end conflict and stand up for human dignity.  (Applause.)

And this year marks the 50th anniversary of the OAU, now the African Union — an occasion that is more historic, because the AU is taking on these challenges.  And I want America to take our engagement not just on security issues, but on environmental issues — and economic issues and social issues, education issues — I want to take that engagement to a whole new level.  So I’m proud to announce that next year, I’m going to invite heads of state from across sub-Saharan Africa to a summit in the United States to help launch a new chapter in U.S.-African relations.  (Applause.)  And as I mentioned yesterday, I’m also going to hold a summit with the next class of our Young African Leaders Initiative, because we want to engage leaders and tomorrow’s leaders in figuring out how we can best work together.  (Applause.)

So let me close by saying this.  Governments matter.  Political leadership matters.  And I do hope that some of you here today decide to follow the path of public service.  It can sometimes be thankless, but I believe it can also be a noble life.  But we also have to recognize that the choices we make are not limited to the policies and programs of government.  Peace and prosperity in Africa, and around the world, also depends on the attitudes of people.

Too often, the source of tragedy, the source of conflict involves the choices ordinary people make that divide us from one another — black from white, Christian from Muslim, tribe from tribe.  Africa contains a multitude of identities, but the nations and people of Africa will not fulfill their promise so long as some use these identities to justify subjugation –- an excuse to steal or kill or disenfranchise others.

And ultimately, that’s the most important lesson that the world learned right here in South Africa.  Mandela once wrote, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  (Applause.)

I believe that to be true.  I believe that’s always been true — from the dawn of the first man to the youth today, and all that came in between here in Africa — kingdoms come and gone; the crucible of slavery and the emergence from colonialism; senseless war, but also iconic movements for social justice; squandered wealth, but also soaring promise.

Madiba’s words give us a compass in a sea of change, firm ground amidst swirling currents.  We always have the opportunity to choose our better history.  We can always understand that most important decision — the decision we make when we find our common humanity in one another.  That’s always available to us, that choice.

And I’ve seen that spirit in the welcoming smiles of children on Gorée Island, and the children of Mombasa on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast.  That spirit exists in the mother in the Sahel who wants a life of dignity for her daughters; and in the South African student who braves danger and distance just to get to school.  It can be heard in the songs that rise from villages and city streets, and it can be heard in the confident voices of young people like you.

It is that spirit, that innate longing for justice and equality, for freedom and solidarity — that’s the spirit that can light the way forward.  It’s in you.  And as you guide Africa down that long and difficult road, I want you to know that you will always find the extended hand of a friend in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

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

END                7:02 P.M. SAST

Political Headlines June 13, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Upcoming Africa Trip Comes to Cost Taxpayers Tens of Millions

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama’s Africa Trip Comes with Hefty Price Tag

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-13-13

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama’s upcoming trip to Africa will require extraordinary security measures and will likely cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, according to a confidential planning document obtained by the Washington Post….READ MORE

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