Full Text Obama Presidency May 25, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Memorial Day Ceremony Speech Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Memorial Day

Source: WH, 5-25-15 

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:32 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Thank you, Secretary Carter, for your leadership of our men and women in uniform.  General Dempsey; Major General Buchanan; Mr. Patrick Hallinan, Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries; Chaplain Studniewski; members of our armed services, veterans, and, most of all, families and friends of our fallen — it is my deep honor to share this day with you again.

For 147 years, our nation has set aside this day to pay solemn tribute to patriots who gave their last full measure of devotion for this country that we love.  And while the nature of war has changed over that time, the values that drive our brave men and women in uniform remain constant:  Honor, courage, selflessness.  Those values lived in the hearts of everyday heroes who risked everything for us in every American war — men and women who now rest forever in these quiet fields and across our land.

They lived in the patriots who sparked a revolution, and who saved our union.  They lived in the young GIs who defeated tyranny in Europe and the Pacific.  And this year, we mark a historic anniversary — 70 years since our victory in World War II.   More than 16 million Americans left everything they knew to fight for our freedom.  More than 400,000 gave their lives.  And today I ask all the family and friends of our fallen World War II heroes — spouses, children, brothers and sisters, and fellow veterans of World War II — to please stand if you can, or raise your hand, so that our country can thank you once more.  (Applause.)

These same values lived in those who braved the mountains of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of the Middle East.  And in the past decade, we’ve seen these values on display again in the men and women of our 9/11 Generation.

For many of us, this Memorial Day is especially meaningful; it is the first since our war in Afghanistan came to an end.  Today is the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war.  So on this day, we honor the sacrifice of the thousands of American servicemembers — men and women — who gave their lives since 9/11, including more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.

As an Arizona kid, Wyatt Martin loved the outdoors.  He started fishing when he was two years old.  His dad says he was pretty good for a toddler.  Wyatt grew to 6-foot-4, became a hunter and wore flannel shirts every day — so his friends nicknamed him Paul Bunyan.  He planned to go to college and work in the Arizona Game and Fish Department so that he could protect the land and waters he loved so much.

Wyatt’s life was animated by the belief that the blessings that he and his family enjoyed as Americans came with an obligation to give back, an obligation to serve.  So before he pursued his dream of being a good steward of the great outdoors, he enlisted in the Army.  And when he deployed to Afghanistan as a combat engineer, there was no doubt in his mind that he was doing the right thing.  Last summer, Wyatt told his sister, “If something happens to me, know that I went happy.”

Ramon Morris was born in Jamaica.  He moved to Queens as a teenager.  Like so many proud immigrants, he was called –compelled — to serve his new country.  He, too, enlisted in the Army, and he even recruited his older brother Marlon to join, as well.  He served five tours, including several in Iraq.  Along the way, he fell in love with an Army Reservist named Christina.  And they had a little girl, and named her Ariana.  Ramon was the kind of leader who would do anything for his men, on and off the battlefield.  But nothing was more important to him than being a great father to his little girl.

Specialist Wyatt Martin and Sergeant First Class Ramon Morris were 15 years apart in age.  They traveled greatly different paths in life.  But those paths took them to the same unit.  Those paths made them brothers-in-arms, serving together in Afghanistan.  In December, an IED struck their vehicle.  They were the last two Americans to give their lives during our combat mission in Afghanistan.  Today, here in Arlington, in Section 60, Ramon lies in eternal rest.  And we are honored to be joined by his brother, Sergeant First Class Marlon Laidley, who is deploying for Germany tonight.  Thank you, Marlon.  Thank you to your family.  (Applause.)

These two men, these two heroes, if you saw them passing on the street, you wouldn’t have known they were brothers.  But under this flag, in common cause, they were bonded together to secure our liberty, to keep us safe.

My fellow Americans, this hallowed ground is more than the final resting place of heroes; it is a reflection of America itself.  It’s a reflection of our history — the wars we’ve waged for democracy, the peace we’ve laid to preserve it.  It’s a reflection of our diversity — men and women of all backgrounds, all races and creeds and circumstances and faiths, willing to defend and die for the ideals that bind us as one nation.  It’s a reflection of our character, seen not only in those who are buried here, but also in the caretakers who watch over them and preserve this sacred place; and in the Sentinels of the 3rd Infantry Regiment who dutifully, unfailingly watch over those patriots known only to God, but never forgotten.  Today, a grateful nation thanks them as well.

Most Americans don’t fully see, don’t fully understand the sacrifice made by the one percent who serve in this all-volunteer armed forces -– a sacrifice that preserves the freedoms we too often take for granted.  Few know what it’s like to take a bullet for a buddy, or to live with the fact that he or she took one for you.  But our Gold Star families, our military families, our veterans — they know this, intimately.

Whenever I meet with our Gold Star families, like I did this morning, I hear their pride through their tears, as they flip through old photos and run their fingers over shiny medals.  I see that their hearts are still broken, and yet still full of love.  They do not ask for awards or honors.  They do not ask for special treatment.  They are unfailingly humble.  In the face of unspeakable loss, they represent the best of who we are.

They’re people like Ramon’s mother, who could carry hate for the people who killed her son — but she says, “I have no anger, no bitterness, even for the person who did this.  I feel sorry for them, and I ask God to change their hearts.”  That’s one Gold Star mother’s amazing grace.

Folks like Wyatt’s parents, Brian and Julie Martin, who said of their son, “He’s not just our kid, he’s everybody’s.  He’s an American soldier.  And as an American soldier, he belongs to everybody.”

They are siblings, like the Gold Star sister who wrote to me of her brother, Private First Class Stephen Benish, who gave his life in Iraq in 2004:  She said, “Remember him not as the 1,253rd war casualty, but the 6-foot-7 burst of light and positive influence he was on the world.”

These sons and daughters, these brothers and sisters who lay down their lives for us — they belong to us all.  They’re our children, too.  We benefit from their light, their positive influence on the world.  And it’s our duty, our eternal obligation, to be there for them, too; to make sure our troops always have what they need to carry out the mission; to make sure we care for all those who have served; to make sure we honor all those whom we’ve lost; to make sure we keep faith with our military families; to make sure we never stop searching for those who are missing, or trying to bring home our prisoners of war.  And we are grateful for the families of our POW/MIAs.

This may be the first Memorial Day since the end of our war in Afghanistan.  But we are acutely aware, as we speak, our men and women in uniform still stand watch and still serve, and still sacrifice around the world.

Several years ago, we had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 10,000 troops remain on a mission to train and assist Afghan forces.  We’ll continue to bring them home and reduce our forces further, down to an embassy presence by the end of next year.  But Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place.  And as so many families know, our troops continue to risk their lives for us.

Growing up in Massachusetts, John Dawson was an honor student who played varsity soccer.  He loved the Bruins, loved the Pats, and was always up for fun — running into a room while spraying silly string, or photobombing long before it was in style.

And John was passionate about service.  He shared the same convictions of so many we honor today, who wanted nothing more than to join a common cause and be part of something bigger than himself.  He channeled his love of cycling into charity bike rides with his church.  He joined the Army.  And as a combat medic, he fulfilled his dream of helping people.  He loved his job.

In April, an attacker wearing an Afghan uniform fired at a group of American soldiers.  And Army Corporal John Dawson became the first American servicemember to give his life to this new mission to train Afghan forces.  The words on John’s dog tag were those of Scripture:  “Greater love has no other than this, than to lay down your life for your friends.”

The Americans who rest beneath these beautiful hills, and in sacred ground across our country and around the world, they are why our nation endures.  Each simple stone marker, arranged in perfect military precision, signifies the cost of our blessings.  It is a debt we can never fully repay, but it is a debt we will never stop trying to fully repay.  By remaining a nation worthy of their sacrifice.  By living our own lives the way the fallen lived theirs — a testament that “Greater love has no other than this, than to lay down your life for your friends.”

We are so grateful for them.  We are so grateful for the families of our fallen.  May God bless our fallen heroes and their families, and all who serve.  And may He continue to bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:47 A.M. EDT

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Happy Holidays from the President and First Lady

Source: WH, 12-25-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political Musings June 5, 2014: Obama hits new approval ratings poll lows on foreign policy, economy, Benghazi

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 gives President Barack Obama the lowest marks of presidency on foreign policy and the handling of the Benghazi Affair. The presidency also keeps getting low approval ratings…Continue

Full Text Obama Presidency May 31, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the Release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl

Source: WH, 5-31-14

Rose Garden

6:16 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  This morning, I called Bob and Jani Bergdahl and told them that after nearly five years in captivity, their son, Bowe, is coming home.

Sergeant Bergdahl has missed birthdays and holidays and the simple moments with family and friends, which all of us take for granted.  But while Bowe was gone he was never forgotten.  His parents thought about him and prayed for him every single day, as did his sister, Sky, who prayed for his safe return.

He wasn’t forgotten by his community in Idaho, or the military, which rallied to support the Bergdahls through thick and thin.  And he wasn’t forgotten by his country, because the United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.

As Commander-in-Chief, I am proud of the servicemembers who recovered Sergeant Bergdahl and brought him safely out of harm’s way.  As usual, they performed with extraordinary courage and professionalism, and they have made their nation proud.

Right now, our top priority is making sure that Bowe gets the care and support that he needs and that he can be reunited with his family as soon as possible.

I’m also grateful for the tireless work of our diplomats, and for the cooperation of the government of Qatar in helping to secure Bowe’s release.  We’ve worked for several years to achieve this goal, and earlier this week I was able to personally thank the Emir of Qatar for his leadership in helping us get it done.  As part of this effort, the United States is transferring five detainees from the prison in Guantanamo Bay to Qatar.  The Qatari government has given us assurances that it will put in place measures to protect our national security.

I also want to express gratitude to the Afghan government, which has always supported our efforts to secure Bowe’s release. Going forward, the United States will continue to support an Afghan-led process of reconciliation, which could help secure a hard-earned peace within a sovereign and unified Afghanistan.

As I said earlier this week, we’re committed to winding down the war in Afghanistan, and we are committed to closing Gitmo.  But we also made an ironclad commitment to bring our prisoners of war home.  That’s who we are as Americans.  It’s a profound obligation within our military, and today, at least in this instance, it’s a promise we’ve been able to keep.

I am mindful, though, that there are many troops who remain missing in the past.  That’s why we’re never going to forget; we’re never going to give up our search for servicemembers who remain unaccounted for.  We also remain deeply committed to securing the release of American citizens who are unjustly detained abroad and deserve to be reunited with their families, just like the Bergdahls soon will be.

Bob and Jani, today families across America share in the joy that I know you feel.  As a parent, I can’t imagine the hardship that you guys have gone through.  As President, I know that I speak for all Americans when I say we cannot wait for the moment when you are reunited and your son, Bowe, is back in your arms.

So, with that, I’d like Bob to have an opportunity to say something, and Jani, if she’d like as well.  Please.

MRS. BERGDAHL:  I just want to say thank you to everyone who has supported Bowe.  He’s had a wonderful team everywhere.  We will continue to stay strong for Bowe while he recovers.  Thank you.

MR. BERGDAHL:  I’d like to say to Bowe right now, who is having trouble speaking English — (speaks in Pashto) — I’m your father, Bowe.

To the people of Afghanistan, the same — (speaks in Pashto) — the complicated nature of this recovery was — will never really be comprehended.  To each and every single one who effected this, in this country, in the service branches, at the State Department, throughout the whole of American government, and around the world, international governments around the world, thank you so much.  We just can’t communicate the words this morning when we heard from the President.

So we look forward to continuing the recovery of our son, which is going to be a considerable task for our family.  And we hope that the media will understand that that will keep us very preoccupied in the coming days and weeks as he gets back home to the United States.

Thank you all for being here very much.

END
6:23 P.M. EDT

Political Musings February 24, 2014: Bush highlights Military Service Initiative helping veterans reintegrate

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Former President George W. Bush appeared on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday Feb. 23, 2014 speaking to Martha Raddatz about the Military Service Initiative at the Bush Institute geared especially towards veterans were served in the…READ MORE

Political Musings January 29, 2014: Obama’s foreign policy goes from war to diplomacy in State of the Union Address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

While the core President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address delivered on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 focused on the President’s economic opportunity program and domestic policy in general taking up nearly an hour of…READ MORE

Political Headlines August 26, 2013: Obama Issues Medal of Honor to Afghan War Veteran

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Issues Medal of Honor to Afghan War Veteran

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama on Monday bestowed the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, praising his courageous actions during one of the most intense battles in Afghanistan and crediting him with speaking openly about the invisible wounds of war….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 27, 2013: President Barack Obama Honors Fallen Troops at Arlington National Cemetary — Looks to the War’s End on Memorial Day

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Honors Fallen Troops, Looks to the War’s End on Memorial Day

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-27-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

In a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama today called on Americans to never forget the sacrifice of soldiers who served in harm’s way and died for their fellow countrymen.

“America stands at a crossroads, but even as we turn a page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget as we gather here today that our nation is still at war,” Obama said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 27, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Commemorating Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Delivers Memorial Day Remarks at Arlington National Cemetery

Source: WH, 5-27-13 

Today President Obama traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate Memorial Day, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and delivering remarks.

The President thanked members of the armed forces and veterans for their service to the United States, and paid tribute to our fallen heroes laid to rest at Arlington

President Barack Obama participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying (5/27/13)President Barack Obama participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., May 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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Watch the President’s full remarks

Remarks by the President Commemorating Memorial Day

Source: WH, 5-27-13 

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:31 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Please be seated.  Thank you very much.  Good morning, everybody.  I want to thank Secretary Chuck Hagel, not only for the introduction but, Chuck, for your lifetime of service — from sergeant in the Army to Secretary of Defense, but always a man who carries with you the memory of friends and fallen heroes from Vietnam.  We’re grateful to you.

I want to thank General Dempsey, Major General Linnington, Kathryn Condon, who has served Arlington with extraordinary  dedication and grace and who will be leaving us, but we are so grateful for the work that she’s done; for Chaplain Brainerd, Secretary Shinseki, all our guests.  And most of all, to members of our armed services and our veterans; to the families and friends of the fallen who we honor today; to Americans from all across the country who have come to pay your respects:  I have to say it is always a great honor to spend this Memorial Day with you at this sacred place where we honor our fallen heroes — those who we remember fondly in our memories, and those known only to God.

Beyond these quiet hills, across that special bridge, is a city of monuments dedicated to visionary leaders and singular moments in the life of our Republic.  But it is here, on this hallowed ground, where we choose to build a monument to a constant thread in the American character — the truth that our nation endures because it has always been home to men and women who are willing to give their all, and lay down their very lives, to preserve and protect this land that we love.

That character — that selflessness — beats in the hearts of the very first patriots who died for a democracy they had never known and would never see.  It lived on in the men and women who fought to hold our union together, and in those who fought to defend it abroad — from the beaches of Europe to the mountains and jungles of Asia.  This year, as we mark the 60th anniversary of the end of fighting in Korea, we offer a special salute to all those who served and gave their lives in the Korean War.  And over the last decade, we’ve seen the character of our country again — in the nearly 7,000 Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice on battlefields and city streets half a world away.

Last Memorial Day, I stood here and spoke about how, for the first time in nine years, Americans were no longer fighting and dying in Iraq.  Today, a transition is underway in Afghanistan, and our troops are coming home.  Fewer Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and that’s progress for which we are profoundly grateful.  And this time next year, we will mark the final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan.

And so, as I said last week, America stands at a crossroads.  But even as we turn the page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget, as we gather here today, that our nation is still at war.

It should be self-evident.  And in generations past, it was.  And during World War II, millions of Americans contributed to the war effort — soldiers like my own grandfather; women like my grandmother, who worked the assembly lines.  During the Vietnam War, just about everybody knew somebody — a brother, a son, a friend — who served in harm’s way.

Today, it’s different.  Perhaps it’s a tribute to our remarkable all-volunteer force, made up of men and women who step forward to serve and do so with extraordinary skill and valor.  Perhaps it’s a testament to our advanced technologies, which allow smaller numbers of troops to wield greater and greater power.  But regardless of the reason, this truth cannot be ignored that today most Americans are not directly touched by war.

As a consequence, not all Americans may always see or fully grasp the depth of sacrifice, the profound costs that are made in our name — right now, as we speak, every day.  Our troops and our military families understand this, and they mention to me their concern about whether the country fully appreciates what’s happening.  I think about a letter I received from a Naval officer, a reservist who had just returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.  And he wrote me, “I’m concerned that our work in Afghanistan is fading from memory.”  And he went on to ask that we do more to keep this conflict “alive and focused in the hearts and minds of our own people.”

And he’s right.  As we gather here today, at this very moment, more than 60,000 of our fellow Americans still serve far from home in Afghanistan.  They’re still going out on patrol, still living in spartan forward operating bases, still risking their lives to carry out their mission.  And when they give their lives, they are still being laid to rest in cemeteries in the quiet corners across our country, including here in Arlington.

Captain Sara Cullen had a smile that could light up a room and a love of country that led her to West Point.  And after graduation, Sara became a Black Hawk pilot — and married a former Black Hawk pilot.  She was just 27 years old when she and four other soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash during a training mission near Kandahar.  This past April, Sara was laid to rest here, in Section 60.  Today, Sara is remembered by her mother, Lynn, who says she is “proud of her daughter’s life, proud of her faith and proud of her service to our country.”  (Applause.)

Staff Sergeant Frankie Phillips came from a military family and was as tough as they come.  A combat medic, Frankie was on patrol in Afghanistan three weeks ago when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.  He was so humble that his parents never knew how many lives he had saved until soldiers started showing up at his funeral from thousands of miles away.  And last week, Frankie was laid to rest just a few rows over from Sara.

Staff Sergeant Eric Christian was a born leader.  A member of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, Eric had served five tours of duty, but kept going back because he felt responsible for his teammates and was determined to finish the mission.  On May 4th, Eric gave his life after escorting a high-ranking U.S. official to meet with Afghan leaders.  Later, his family got a letter from a Marine who had served two tours with Eric.  In it, the Marine wrote, “There were people who measured their success based on how many enemies they killed or how many missions they led to conquer a foe.  Eric based his success on how many of his friends he brought home, and he brought home many — including me.”  Eric was laid to rest here at Arlington, just six days ago.  (Applause.)

So today, we remember their service.  Today, just steps from where these brave Americans lie in eternal peace, we declare, as a proud and grateful nation, that their sacrifice will never be forgotten.  And just as we honor them, we hold their families close.  Because for the parents who lose a child; for the husbands and wives who lose a partner; for the children who lose a parent, every loss is devastating.  And for those of us who bear the solemn responsibility of sending these men and women into harm’s way, we know the consequences all too well.  I feel it every time I meet a wounded warrior, every time I visit Walter Reed, and every time I grieve with a Gold Star family.

And that’s why, on this day, we remember our sacred obligation to those who laid down their lives so we could live ours:  to finish the job these men and women started by keeping our promise to those who wear America’s uniform — to give our troops the resources they need; to keep faith with our veterans and their families, now and always; to never stop searching for those who have gone missing or who are held as prisoners of war.

But on a more basic level, every American can do something even simpler.  As we go about our daily lives, we must remember that our countrymen are still serving, still fighting, still putting their lives on the line for all of us.

Last fall, I received a letter from Candie Averette, of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Both of her sons are Marines.  Her oldest served two tours in Iraq.  Her youngest was in Afghanistan at the time.  He was, in her words, “100 percent devoted to his deployment and wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Reading Candie’s letter, it was clear she was extraordinarily proud of the life her boys had chosen.  But she also had a request on behalf of all the mothers just like her.  She said, “Please don’t forget about my child and every other Marine and soldier over there who proudly choose to defend their country.”

A mother’s plea — please don’t forget.  On this Memorial Day, and every day, let us be true and meet that promise.  Let it be our task, every single one of us, to honor the strength and the resolve and the love these brave Americans felt for each other and for our country.  Let us never forget to always remember and to be worthy of the sacrifice they make in our name.

May God bless the fallen and all those who serve.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:44 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines February 11, 2013: President Barack Obama Awards Medal of Honor to Former Army Sergeant Clinton Romesha

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Awards Medal of Honor to Former Army Sergeant

Source: NYT, 2-11-13

President Obama gave Clinton Romesha, a retired Army staff sergeant, the Medal of Honor in the East Room of the White House on Monday.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

President Obama gave Clinton Romesha, a retired Army staff sergeant, the Medal of Honor in the East Room of the White House on Monday.

President Obama bestowed the nation’s highest military honor on Clinton Romesha for defending a remote American outpost in Afghanistan from a Taliban attack in 2009….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 11, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech in Presentation of the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha

POLITICAL BUZZ


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Presentation of the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha

Source: WH, 2-11-13 

East Room

1:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  And on behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.

Every day at the White House we receive thousands of letters from folks all across America.  And at night, upstairs in my study, I read a few.  About three years ago, I received a letter from a mom in West Virginia.  Her son, Stephan, a Specialist in the Army, just 21 years old, had given his life in Afghanistan.  She had received the condolence letter that I’d sent to her family, as I send to every family of the fallen.  And she wrote me back.  “Mr. President,” she said, “you wrote me a letter telling me that my son was a hero.  I just wanted you to know what kind of hero he was.”

“My son was a great soldier,” she wrote.  “As far back as I can remember, Stephan wanted to serve his country.”  She spoke of how he “loved his brothers in B Troop.”  How he “would do anything for them.”  And of the brave actions that would cost Stephan his life, she wrote, “His sacrifice was driven by pure love.”

Today, we are honored to be joined by Stephan’s mother Vanessa and his father Larry.  Please stand, Vanessa and Larry. (Applause.)  We’re joined by the families of the seven other patriots who also gave their lives that day.  Can we please have them stand so we can acknowledge them as well.  (Applause.)  We’re joined by members of Bravo Troop whose courage that day was driven by pure love.  And we gather to present the Medal of Honor to one of these soldiers — Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha.

Clint, this is our nation’s highest military decoration.  It reflects the gratitude of our entire country.  So we’re joined by members of Congress; leaders from across our Armed Forces, including Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marty Dempsey, Army Secretary John McHugh, and Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno.  We are especially honored to be joined by Clint’s 4th Infantry Division — “Iron Horse” — soldiers, and members of the Medal of Honor Society, who today welcome you into their ranks.

Now, despite all this attention, you may already have a sense that Clint is a pretty humble guy.  We just spent some time together in the Oval Office.  He grew up in Lake City, California — population less than a hundred.  We welcome his family, including mom and dad, Tish and Gary.  Clint — I hope he doesn’t mind if I share that Clint was actually born at home. These days, Clint works in the oilfields of North Dakota.  He is a man of faith, and after more than a decade in uniform, he says the thing he looks forward to the most is just being a husband and a father.

In fact, this is not even the biggest event for Clint this week, because tomorrow, he and his wife Tammy will celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary.  Clint and Tammy, this is probably not the kind of intimate anniversary you planned.  (Laughter.)  But we’re so glad that you’re here, along with your three beautiful children — Dessi, Gwen and Colin.  Colin is not as shy as Clint.  (Laughter.)  He was in the Oval Office, and he was racing around pretty good.  (Laughter.)  And sampled a number of the apples before he found the one that was just right.  (Laughter.)

Now, to truly understand the extraordinary actions for which Clint is being honored, you need to understand the almost unbelievable conditions under which he and B Troop served.  This was a time, in 2009, when many of our troops still served in small, rugged outposts, even as our commanders were shifting their focus to larger towns and cities.

So Combat Outpost Keating was a collection of buildings of concrete and plywood with trenches and sandbags.  Of all the outposts in Afghanistan, Keating was among the most remote.  It sat at the bottom of a steep valley, surrounded by mountains — terrain that a later investigation said gave “ideal” cover for insurgents to attack.  COP Keating, the investigation found, was “tactically indefensible.”  But that’s what these soldiers were asked to do — defend the indefensible.

The attack came in the morning, just as the sun rose.  Some of our guys were standing guard; most, like Clint, were still sleeping.  The explosions shook them out of their beds and sent them rushing for their weapons.  And soon, the awful odds became clear:  These 53 Americans were surrounded by more than 300 Taliban fighters.

What happened next has been described as one of the most intense battles of the entire war in Afghanistan.  The attackers had the advantage — the high ground, the mountains above.  And they were unleashing everything they had — rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns, mortars; snipers taking aim.  To those Americans down below, the fire was coming in from every single direction.  They’d never seen anything like it.

With gunfire impacting all around him, Clint raced to one of the barracks and grabbed a machine gun.  He took aim at one of the enemy machine teams and took it out.  A rocket-propelled grenade exploded, sending shrapnel into his hip, his arm, and his neck.  But he kept fighting, disregarding his own wounds, and tending to an injured comrade instead.

Then, over the radio, came words no soldier ever wants to hear — “enemy in the wire.”  The Taliban had penetrated the camp.  They were taking over buildings.  The combat was close; at times, as close as 10 feet.  When Clint took aim at three of them, they never took another step.

But still, the enemy advanced.  So the Americans pulled back, to buildings that were easier to defend, to make one last stand.  One of them was later compared to the Alamo — one of them later compared it to the Alamo.  Keating, it seemed, was going to be overrun.  And that’s when Clint Romesha decided to retake that camp.

Clint gathered up his guys, and they began to fight their way back.  Storming one building, then another.  Pushing the enemy back.  Having to actually shoot up — at the enemy in the mountains above.  By now, most of the camp was on fire.  Amid the flames and smoke, Clint stood in a doorway, calling in airstrikes that shook the earth all around them.

Over the radio, they heard comrades who were pinned down in a Humvee.  So Clint and his team unloaded everything they had into the enemy positions.  And with that cover, three wounded Americans made their escape — including a grievously injured Stephan Mace.

But more Americans, their bodies, were still out there.  And Clint Romesha lives the Soldier’s Creed — “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”  So he and his team started charging, as enemy fire poured down.  And they kept charging — 50 meters; 80 meters — ultimately, a 100-meter run through a hail of bullets.  They reached their fallen friends and they brought them home.

Throughout history, the question has often been asked, why? Why do those in uniform take such extraordinary risks?  And what compels them to such courage? You ask Clint and any of these soldiers who are here today, and they’ll tell you.  Yes, they fight for their country, and they fight for our freedom.  Yes, they fight to come home to their families.  But most of all, they fight for each other, to keep each other safe and to have each other’s backs.

When I called Clint to tell him that he would receive this medal, he said he was honored, but he also said, it wasn’t just me out there, it was a team effort.  And so today we also honor this American team, including those who made the ultimate sacrifice — Private First Class Kevin Thomson, who would have turned 26 years old today; Sergeant Michael Scusa; Sergeant Joshua Kirk; Sergeant Christopher Griffin; Staff Sergeant Justin Gallegos; Staff Sergeant Vernon Martin; Sergeant Joshua Hardt; and Specialist Stephan Mace.

Each of these patriots gave their lives looking out for each other.  In a battle that raged all day, that brand of selflessness was displayed again and again and again — soldiers exposing themselves to enemy fire to pull a comrade to safety, tending to each other’s wounds, performing “buddy transfusions” — giving each other their own blood.

And if you seek a measure of that day, you need to look no further than the medals and ribbons that grace their chests — for their sustained heroism, 37 Army Commendation Medals; for their wounds, 27 Purple Hearts; for their valor, 18 Bronze Stars; for their gallantry, 9 Silver Stars.

These men were outnumbered, outgunned and almost overrun.  Looking back, one of them said, “I’m surprised any of us made it out.”  But they are here today.  And I would ask these soldiers — this band of brothers — to stand and accept the gratitude of our entire nation.  (Applause.)

There were many lessons from COP Keating.  One of them is that our troops should never, ever, be put in a position where they have to defend the indefensible.  But that’s what these soldiers did — for each other, in sacrifice driven by pure love.  And because they did, eight grieving families were at least able to welcome their soldiers home one last time.  And more than 40 American soldiers are alive today to carry on, to keep alive the memory of their fallen brothers, to help make sure that this country that we love so much remains strong and free.

What was it that turned the tide that day?  How was it that so few Americans prevailed against so many?  As we prepare for the reading of the citation, I leave you with the words of Clint himself, because they say something about our Army and they say something about America; they say something about our spirit, which will never be broken:  “We weren’t going to be beat that day,” Clint said. “You’re not going to back down in the face of adversity like that.  We were just going to win, plain and simple.”

God bless you, Clint Romesha, and all of your team.  God bless all who serve.  And God bless the United States of America.

With that, I’d like the citation to be read.

MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to
Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Section Leader with Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy at Combat Outpost Keating, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on October 3rd, 2009.

On that morning, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his comrades awakened to an attack by an estimated 300 enemy fighters occupying the high ground on all four sides of the complex, employing concentrated fire from recoilless rifles, rocket propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars and small-arms fire.  Staff Sergeant Romesha moved uncovered under intense enemy fire to conduct a reconnaissance of the battlefield and seek reinforcements from the barracks before returning to action with the support of an assistant gunner.

Staff Sergeant Romesha took out an enemy machine gun team, and, while engaging a second, the generator he was using for cover was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, inflicting him with shrapnel wounds.  Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sergeant Romesha continued to fight, and upon the arrival of another soldier to aid him and the assistant gunner, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers.

Staff Sergeant Romesha then mobilized a five-man team and returned to the fight equipped with a sniper rifle.  With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Romesha continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire, as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets, including three Taliban fighters who had breached the combat outpost’s perimeter.

While orchestrating a successful plan to secure and reinforce key points of the battlefield, Staff Sergeant Romesha maintained radio communication with the tactical operations center.  As the enemy forces attacked with even greater ferocity, unleashing a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and recoilless rifle rounds, Staff Sergeant Romesha identified the point of attack and directed air support to destroy over 30 enemy fighters.

After receiving reports that seriously injured soldiers were at a distant battle position, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his team provided covering fire to allow the injured Soldiers to safely reach the aid station. Upon receipt of orders to proceed to the next objective, his team pushed forward 100 meters under overwhelming enemy fire to recover and prevent the enemy fighters from taking the bodies of their fallen comrades.

Staff Sergeant Romesha’s heroic actions throughout the day-long battle were critical in suppressing an enemy that had far greater numbers.  His extraordinary efforts gave Bravo Troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the counterattack that allowed the Troop to account for its personnel and secure Combat Outpost Keating.

Staff Sergeant Romesha’s discipline and extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty reflect great credit upon himself, Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and the United States Army.

(The Medal of Honor is awarded.)  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, everybody.  Most of all, thank you for Clint and the entire team for their extraordinary service and devotion to our country.

We’re going to have an opportunity to celebrate and there’s going to be a wonderful reception — I hear the food around here is pretty good.  (Laughter.)  I know the band is good.  And Colin really needs to get down.  (Laughter.)

So, enjoy, everybody.  Give our newest recipient of the Medal of Honor a big round of applause once again.  (Applause.)

END
2:10 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency September 1, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Marks the Anniversary of the End of the Iraq War — Honoring Our Nation’s Service Members and Military Families

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Obama’s Weekly Address: Marking the Anniversary of the End of the Iraq War

Source: ABC News Radio, 9-1-12

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Two years after he ended the combat mission in Iraq, President Obama is touting his plan to bring troops home from Afghanistan, saying it’s time to “do some nation-building here at home.”

In his weekly address, the president congratulated troops for a “job well done” in Iraq but noted “there is still difficult work ahead of us in Afghanistan.”

“We’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and begun the transition to an Afghan lead.  Next month, the last of the troops I ordered as part of the surge against the Taliban will come home, and by 2014, the transition to Afghan lead will be complete,” he said in remarks taped at Fort Bliss in Texas, where Obama addressed troops Friday….READ MORE

Weekly Address: Honoring Our Nation’s Service Members and Military Families

Source: WH, 9-1-12
President Obama marks the second anniversary of the end of our combat mission in Iraq by thanking our nation’s extraordinary men and women in uniform for their service.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

Weekly Address: Honoring Our Nation’s Service Members and Military Families

Hi, everybody.  On Friday, I visited Fort Bliss in Texas, where I met with some of our extraordinary men and women in uniform to mark the second anniversary of the end of major combat in Iraq.

It was a chance to thank our troops for the outstanding work they’ve done over the last decade.  Fort Bliss is home to soldiers who took part in every major phase of the Iraq War – from the initial assault on Baghdad; to the years of fighting block by block; to the partnership with the Iraqi people that helped give them a chance to forge their own destiny.

And while the war itself remains a source of controversy here at home, one thing will never be in doubt – the members of our armed forces are patriots in every sense of the word.  They met every mission and performed every task that was asked of them with precision, commitment and skill.  And now, with no Americans fighting in Iraq, it’s my privilege on behalf of a grateful nation to once again congratulate these men and women on a job well done.

This anniversary is a chance to appreciate how far we’ve come.  But it’s also a reminder that there is still difficult work ahead of us in Afghanistan.  Some of the soldiers I met at Fort Bliss had just come home from the battlefield, and others are getting ready to ship out.

We’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and begun the transition to an Afghan lead.  Next month, the last of the troops I ordered as part of the surge against the Taliban will come home, and by 2014, the transition to Afghan lead will be complete.

But as long as we have a single American in harm’s way, we will continue to do everything in our power to keep them safe and help them succeed.  That means giving them a clear mission and the equipment they need on the front lines.  But it also means taking care of our veterans and their families.  Because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job or a roof over their head when they come home.

I also told our soldiers at Bliss that part of honoring their service means strengthening the nation they fought so hard to protect.  As we turn the page on a decade of war, it’s time to do some nation-building here at home.

My grandfather’s generation came back from World War II and helped form the backbone of the greatest middle-class in history.  They helped this country come back stronger than before.  Today’s veterans have the skills, the discipline, and the leadership skills to do the exact same thing – and it’s our job to give them that chance.

It’s time to build a nation that lives up to the ideals that so many Americans have fought for – a nation where they can realize the dream they sacrificed to protect.  We need to rebuild our roads and runways and ports.  We need to lay broadband lines across this country and put our veterans back to work as cops and firefighters in communities that need them.  And we need to come together to make America a place where hard work is rewarded and anyone willing to put in the effort can make it if they try.

That’s how we can honor our troops.  That’s the welcome home they’ve earned.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Full Text Obama Presidency May 1, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech to US Troops During Surprise Visit to Afghanistan

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

On Surprise Trip to Kabul, Obama Signs Afghan Pact

Source: NYT, 5-1-12

President Obama got a high five from a member of the U.S. military at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan on Tuesday.
Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama got a high five from a member of the U.S. military at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

President Obama signed a strategic partnership agreement with President Hamid Karzai meant to mark the beginning of the end of the Afghanistan war….READ MORE

The Caucus: Obama’s Afghanistan Trip Latest in Tradition of Covert Travel

President Obama Pays a Surprise Visit to U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

Source: WH, 5-1-12

President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, where he signed an historic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that defines how the partnership between the United States and Afghanistan will be normalized as we look beyond a responsible end to the war.

After his meeting with President Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, President Obama headed to Bagram Air Base, where he met with U.S. troops serving in that country, and thanked them for the sacrifices that they have made, and that their families have made, over the past decade of war, and paid tribute to their successes:

When we see our homeland violated, when we see our fellow citizens killed, then we understand what we have to do. And because of the sacrifices now of a decade, and a new Greatest Generation, not only were we able to blunt the Taliban momentum, not only were we able to drive al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but slowly and systematically we have been able to decimate the ranks of al Qaeda, and a year ago we were able to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice.

That could have only happened because each and every one of you, in your own way, were doing your jobs.  Each and every one of you — without a lot of fanfare, without a lot of fuss — you did your jobs.  No matter how small or how big, you were faithful to the oath that you took to protect this nation.  And your families did their job — supporting you and loving you and remembering you and being there for you.

And so, together, you guys represent what is best in America.  And you’re part of a long line of those who have worn this uniform to make sure that we are free and secure, to make sure that those of us at home have the capacity to live our lives.  And when you’re missing a birthday or you’re missing a soccer game or when you’re missing an anniversary, and those of us back home are able to enjoy it, it’s because of you.

And I’m here to tell you, everybody in America knows that.  And everybody in America appreciates it.  And everybody in America honors it.  And when the final chapter of this war is written, historians will look back and say, not only was this the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, but all of you also represented the values of America in an exemplary way.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President to the Troops in Afghanistan

Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan

1:21 A.M. AFT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hooah!  How’s everybody doing tonight?  Hooah!  (Applause.)

TROOPS:  Hooah!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It is good to be back here with all of you.  (Applause.)

I’ve got a few acknowledgments I’ve got to make before I say what I’ve got to say.  First of all, somebody who has served our country with the kind of distinction that doesn’t happen a lot, somebody who has been a leader for you and a leader for our country for a very long time — give your commander, General John Allen, a big, big round of applause.  (Applause.)

We also have somebody who is John’s partner on the civilian side and has made extraordinary sacrifices, first in Iraq, now in Afghanistan — Ambassador Ryan Crocker is here.  Please give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

All right, now, let me just see if I’ve got this right.  We’ve got the First Infantry Division in the house.  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the Task Force Muleskinner.  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the 101st Army Field Sustainment Brigade.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Hooah!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ve got Task Force Paladin in the house.  (Hooah!)  And we’ve got Task Force Defender in the house.  (Hooah!)  And we’ve got me in the house.  (Applause.)  Eighty-second in the house — 82nd in the house.  (Hooah!)  You know, somebody is going to be in trouble that they didn’t have 82nd on here. Anybody else I’m missing?  There you go.  All right.  I love all of you.

Now, listen, I’m not going to give a long speech. I’m going to have the opportunity to address the nation from Bagram just in a little bit, and it’s going to be broadcast back home during primetime. So all I want to do is just say thank you.

The sacrifices all of you have made, the sacrifices your families make every single day are what make America free and what make America secure. And I know that sometimes, out here, when you’re in theater, it’s not clear whether folks back home fully appreciate what’s going on. And let’s face it, a lot of times it’s easier to get bad news on the news than good news.

But here’s the good news, and here’s part of the reason that I’m here.  I just finished signing a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan that signals the transition in which we are going to be turning over responsibility for Afghan security to the Afghans. We’re not going to do it overnight. We’re not going to do it irresponsibly.  We’re going to make sure that the gains, the hard-fought gains that have been made are preserved. But the reason we’re able to do that is because of you. The reason that the Afghans have an opportunity for a new tomorrow is because of you.  And the reason America is safe is because of you.

We did not choose this war. This war came to us on 9/11. And there are a whole bunch of folks here, I’ll bet, who signed up after 9/11.

TROOPS:  Hooah!

THE PRESIDENT:  We don’t go looking for a fight. But when we see our homeland violated, when we see our fellow citizens killed, then we understand what we have to do. And because of the sacrifices now of a decade, and a new Greatest Generation, not only were we able to blunt the Taliban momentum, not only were we able to drive al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but slowly and systematically we have been able to decimate the ranks of al Qaeda, and a year ago we were able to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice.

TROOPS:  Hooah!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That could have only happened because each and every one of you, in your own way, were doing your jobs.  Each and every one of you — without a lot of fanfare, without a lot of fuss — you did your jobs.  No matter how small or how big, you were faithful to the oath that you took to protect this nation.  And your families did their job — supporting you and loving you and remembering you and being there for you.

And so, together, you guys represent what is best in America.  And you’re part of a long line of those who have worn this uniform to make sure that we are free and secure, to make sure that those of us at home have the capacity to live our lives.  And when you’re missing a birthday or you’re missing a soccer game or when you’re missing an anniversary, and those of us back home are able to enjoy it, it’s because of you.

And I’m here to tell you, everybody in America knows that.  And everybody in America appreciates it.  And everybody in America honors it.  And when the final chapter of this war is written, historians will look back and say, not only was this the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, but all of you also represented the values of America in an exemplary way.

I could not be prouder of you. And I want you to understand, I know it’s still tough. I know the battle is not yet over.  Some of your buddies are going to get injured, and some of your buddies may get killed.  And there’s going to be heartbreak and pain and difficulty ahead. But there’s a light on the horizon because of the sacrifices you’ve made.  And that’s the reason why for Michelle and me nothing is more important than looking after your families while you’re here.  And I want everybody here to know that when you get home, we are going to be there for you when you’re in uniform and we will stay there for you when you’re out of uniform. Because you’ve earned it; you earned a special place in our hearts. And I could not be prouder to be your Commander-in-Chief.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  Now I want to shake some hands.  (Applause.)

END                1:30 A.M. AFT

Full Text Obama Presidency May 1, 2012: Speeches by President Obama and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan at Signing of Strategic Partnership Agreement

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrive before signing a strategic partnership agreement, Tuesday, May 1, 2012, at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

AP Photo/Charles Dharapa

President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai before signing a strategic partnership agreement Tuesday at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

Remarks by President Obama and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan at Signing of Strategic Partnership Agreement

Presidential Palace, Kabul, Afghanistan

May 2, 2012 AFT

12:00 A.M. AFT

PRESIDENT KARZAI:  (Interpretation begins in progress) — prosperity and peace for the people of Afghanistan.

Stability in Afghanistan and peace in Afghanistan — people will sleep, will be safe in their house, and also law-abiding citizens.  Their life will be — will not threat their life by any forces.  The people of Afghanistan in past three decades, they didn’t have this, so now they want.  This is the responsibility of government of Afghanistan to fulfill the wishes of the people of Afghanistan to a better life, better future, and peace and prosperity and changing to reality for them.

For us, people of Afghanistan, this is a very important year in our life of our country and the people of Afghanistan.  The people of Afghanistan want the transition of Afghanistan before 2014, end of 2014, with all the responsibility and take the responsibility for the people of Afghanistan as one of our responsibility we have to take.

Accepting this responsibility — all the forces who were in Afghanistan the past 10 years, they worked with us, helped us and supported us — go back to their country.  And of course, the people of Afghanistan will never forget their help and their support, and also their relationship with this country.  We will start a new start with this relationship and we will continue with this relationship.

Mr. President, sir, I just want to say all the help and support the people of the United States to the people of Afghanistan did, I thank you for that from the bottom of my heart, sir.  And I just thank you.  And also, we just want to thank you, sir, for all the — which is provide all the necessity to bring this strategic partnership for signing tonight.  And I just thank you, all your team — Ryan Crocker, Ambassador Crocker, General Allen — I thank them for the hard work that with our team worked together.  They very patiently worked together to continue this dialogue.  Today we will see the result of this talking and communication — today we sign.

And I just want to thank you.  I just ask you, sir, to — give your speech, sir.  Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  President Karzai, the leaders of the Afghan government and society who are here, and most of all, to the Afghan people, thank you so much for welcoming me here today, especially in these beautiful surroundings.

I, too, want to thank Ambassador Ryan Crocker and National Security Advisor Spanta and their teams for the extraordinary work that brought about this day.

I’ve come to Afghanistan to mark a historic moment for our two nations, and to do so on Afghan soil.  I’m here to affirm the bonds between our countries, to thank American and Afghans who have sacrificed so much over these last 10 years, and to look forward to a future of peace and security and greater prosperity for our nations.

Neither Americans nor the Afghan people asked for this war. Yet, for a decade, we’ve stood together to drive al Qaeda from its camps, to battle an insurgency, and to give the people of Afghanistan the possibility to live in peace and in dignity.  The wages of war have been great for both our nations.  But today, with the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement, we look forward to a future of peace.

Together, we’ve made much progress.  We’ve reached an agreement to transition detention facilities to Afghan control, and to put Afghans in the lead on special operations.  And today, we’re agreeing to be long-term partners in combating terrorism, and training Afghan security forces, strengthening democratic institutions and supporting development, and protecting human rights of all Afghans.  With this agreement, the Afghan people in the world should know that Afghanistan has a friend and a partner in the United States.

Mr. President, there will be difficult days ahead.  But as we move forward with our transition, I’m confident that Afghan forces will grow stronger, the Afghan people will take control of their future.  With this agreement, I am confident that the Afghan people will understand that the United States will stand by them, and they will know that the United States can achieve our goal of destroying al Qaeda and denying it a safe haven, but at the same time, we have the capacity to wind down this war and usher in a new era of peace here in Afghanistan.

Mr. President, I’m reminded of all who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, including members of your own family.  I pay tribute to those Afghans who have lost their lives alongside our men and women, and sacrificed for their country.  Of course, our hearts are heavy as we remember so many who have died in this war.  I’m grateful that this agreement pays tribute to the sacrifices made by the American people here in Afghanistan.

As I’ve said before, the United States has not come here to claim resources or to claim territory.  We came with a very clear mission:  We came to destroy al Qaeda.  And we have enormous respect for Afghan sovereignty and the dignity of the Afghan people.  Together, we’re now committed to replacing war with peace and pursuing a more hopeful future as equal partners.

To borrow words from this agreement, we are committed to seeking a future of justice, peace, security, and opportunity.  And I’m confident that although our challenges are not yet behind us, that the future before us is bright.

Thank you so much, Mr. President.  (Applause.)

(The Strategic Partnership Agreement is signed.)

END                                           12:15 A.M. AFT

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