Full Text Obama Presidency July 23, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech to 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nevada — Defends Foreign Policy Record

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Obama Speaks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars

Source: WH, 7-23-12

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Reno, Nev., July 23, 2012 (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Today, President Obama spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and discussed the promises his Administration has kept to secure our nation, fight terrorism, renew American leadership in the world, better serve our troops and military families and honor our veterans. He also thanked veterans for their service to our nation:

Even after you took off the uniform, you never stopped serving.  You took care of each other — fighting for the benefits and care you had earned.  And you’ve taken care of the generations that followed, including our newest veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  On behalf of all our men and women in uniform, and on behalf of the American people, I want to thank you, VFW.  Thank you for your outstanding work.

Our troops have helped secure a better future for our country, the President said:

Thanks to the extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform, we’re winding down a decade of war; we’re destroying the terrorist network that attacked us; we’re strengthening the alliances that extend our values.  And today, every American can be proud that the United States is safer and stronger and more respected in the world.

“Every generation among you served to keep us strong and free,” the President said. “And it falls to us, those that follow, to preserve what you won.”

President Obama discussed his administration’s work to strengthen our military, support military families and uphold the nation’s sacred trust with our veterans, and announced a redesign of the Transition Assistance Program, which helps service members transition to the civilian workforce:

We’re going to set up a kind of “reverse boot camp” for our departing service members.  Starting this year, they’ll get more personalized assistance as they plan their careers. We’ll provide the training they need to find that job, or pursue that education, or start that business. And just as they’ve maintained their military readiness, we’ll have new standards of “career readiness.

The President also called on Congress to pass his Veterans Job Corps proposal and to extend the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior tax credits for businesses that hire veterans.

Remarks by the President to the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars

VFW Convention Hall

Reno, Nevada

12:35 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Please, please, everybody have a seat.

Commander DeNoyer, thank you for your introduction, and your service in Vietnam and on behalf of America’s veterans.  I want to thank your executive director, Bob Wallace; your next commander, who I look forward to working with, John Hamilton.  And to Gwen Rankin, Leanne Lemley, and the entire Ladies Auxiliary, thank you for your patriotic service to America.  (Applause.)

I stand before you as our hearts still ache over the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado.  Yesterday I was in Aurora, with families whose loss is hard to imagine — with the wounded, who are fighting to recover; with a community and a military base in the midst of their grief.  And they told me of the loved ones they lost.  And here today, it’s fitting to recall those who wore our nation’s uniform:

Staff Sergeant Jesse Childress — an Air Force reservist, 29 years old, a cyber specialist who loved sports, the kind of guy, said a friend, who’d help anybody.

Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer — 27 years old, who, like his father and grandfather before him, joined the Navy, and who is remembered as an outstanding shipmate.

Rebecca Wingo — 32 years old, a veteran of the Air Force, fluent in Chinese, who served as a translator; a mother, whose life will be an inspiration to her two little girls.

And Jonathan Blunk — from Reno, just 26 years old, but a veteran of three Navy tours, whose family and friends will always know that in that theater he gave his own life to save another.

These young patriots were willing to serve in faraway lands, yet they were taken from us here at home.  And yesterday I conveyed to their families a message on behalf of all Americans: We honor your loved ones.  We salute their service.  And as you summon the strength to carry on and keep bright their legacy, we stand with you as one united American family.  (Applause.)

Veterans of Foreign Wars, in you I see the same shining values, the virtues that make America great.  When our harbor was bombed and fascism was on the march, when the fighting raged in Korea and Vietnam, when our country was attacked on that clear September morning, when our forces were sent to Iraq — you answered your country’s call.  Because you know what Americans must always remember — our nation only endures because there are patriots who protect it.

In the crucible of battle, you were tested in ways the rest of us will never know.  You carry in your hearts the memory of the comrades you lost.  For you understand that we must honor our fallen heroes not just on Memorial Day, but all days.  And when an American goes missing, or is taken prisoner, we must do everything in our power to bring them home.  (Applause.)

Even after you took off the uniform, you never stopped serving.  You took care of each other — fighting for the benefits and care you had earned.  And you’ve taken care of the generations that followed, including our newest veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  On behalf of all our men and women in uniform, and on behalf of the American people, I want to thank you, VFW.  Thank you for your outstanding work.  (Applause.)

Of course, some among you — our Vietnam veterans — didn’t always receive that thanks, at least not on time.  This past Memorial Day, I joined some of you at The Wall to begin the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.  And it was another chance to say what should have been said all along:  You did your duty, and you made us proud.  And as this 50th anniversary continues, I’d ask all our Vietnam vets to stand, or raise your hand, as we say:  Thank you and welcome home.  (Applause.)

Every generation among you served to keep us strong and free.  And it falls to us, those that follow, to preserve what you won.  Four years ago, I stood before you at a time of great challenge for our nation.  We were engaged in two wars.  Al Qaeda was entrenched in their safe havens in Pakistan.  Many of our alliances were frayed.  Our standing in the world had suffered.  We were in the worst recession of our lifetimes.  Around the world, some questioned whether the United States still had the capacity to lead.

So, four years ago, I made you a promise.  I pledged to take the fight to our enemies, and renew our leadership in the world. As President, that’s what I’ve done.  (Applause.)  And as you reflect on recent years, as we look ahead to the challenges we face as a nation and the leadership that’s required, you don’t just have my words, you have my deeds.  You have my track record. You have the promises I’ve made and the promises that I’ve kept.

I pledged to end the war in Iraq honorably, and that’s what we’ve done.  (Applause.)  After I took office, we removed nearly 150,000 U.S. troops from Iraq.  And some said that bringing our troops home last year was a mistake.  They would have kept tens of thousands of our forces in Iraq — indefinitely, without a clear mission.  Well, when you’re Commander-in-Chief, you owe the troops a plan, you owe the country a plan — and that includes recognizing not just when to begin wars, but also how to end them.

So we brought our troops home responsibly.  They left with their heads held high, knowing they gave Iraqis a chance to forge their own future.  And today, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq, and we are proud of all the Americans who served there.  (Applause.)

I pledged to make it a priority to take out the terrorists who had attacked us on 9/11.  And as a candidate, I said that if we had Osama bin Laden in our sights, we would act to keep America safe — even if it meant going into Pakistan.  Some of you remember, at the time, that comment drew quite a bit of criticism.  But since I took office, we’ve worked with our allies and our partners to take out more top al Qaeda leaders than any time since 9/11.  And thanks to the courage and the skill of our forces, Osama bin Laden will never threaten America again, and al Qaeda is on the road to defeat.  (Applause.)

I pledged to finish the job in Afghanistan.  After years of drift, we had to break the momentum of the Taliban, and build up the capacity and the capability of Afghans.  And so, working with our commanders, we came up with a new strategy, and we ordered additional forces to get the job done.  This is still a tough fight.  But thanks to the incredible services and sacrifices of our troops, we pushed the Taliban back; we’re training Afghan forces; we’ve begun the transition to Afghan lead.

Again, there are those who argued against a timeline for ending this war — or against talking about it publicly.  But you know what, that’s not a plan for America’s security either.  After 10 years of war, and given the progress we’ve made, I felt it was important that the American people — and our men and women in uniform — know our plan to end this war responsibly.  (Applause.)  And so by the end of this summer, more than 30,000 of our troops will have come home.  Next year, Afghans will take the lead for their own security.  In 2014, the transition will be complete.  And even as our troops come home, we’ll have a strong partnership with the Afghan people, and we will stay vigilant so Afghanistan is never again a source for attacks against America. (Applause.)

We’re not just ending these wars; we’re doing it in a way that achieves our objectives.  Moreover, it’s allowed us to broaden our vision and begin a new era of American leadership.  We’re leading from Europe to the Asia Pacific, with alliances that have never been stronger.  We’re leading the fight against nuclear dangers.  We’ve applied the strongest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea — nations that cannot be allowed to threaten the world with nuclear weapons.  (Applause.)  We’re leading on behalf of freedom — standing with people in the Middle East and North Africa as they demand their rights; protecting the Libyan people as they rid the world of Muammar Qaddafi.

Today, we’re also working for a transition so the Syrian people can have a better future, free of the Assad regime.  And given the regime’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching, and that they will be held accountable by the international community and the United States, should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons.  (Applause.)  And we will continue to work with our friends and our allies and the Syrian opposition on behalf of the day when the Syrian people have a government that respects their basic rights to live in peace and freedom and dignity.

Because we’re leading around the world, people have a new attitude toward America.  There’s more confidence in our leadership.  We see it everywhere we go.  We saw it as grateful Libyans waved American flags.  We see it across the globe — when people are asked, which country do you admire the most, one nation comes out on top — the United States of America.  (Applause.)

So this is the progress that we’ve made.  Thanks to the extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform, we’re winding down a decade of war; we’re destroying the terrorist network that attacked us; we’re strengthening the alliances that extend our values.  And today, every American can be proud that the United States is safer and stronger and more respected in the world.

And all this allows us to fulfill another promise that I made to you four years ago — strengthening our military.  After 10 years of operations, our soldiers will now have fewer and shorter deployments, which means more time on the home front to keep their families strong; more time to heal from the wounds of war; more time to improve readiness and prepare for future threats.

As President, I’ve continued to make historic investments to keep our armed forces strong.  And guided by our new defense strategy, we will maintain our military superiority.  It will be second to none as long as I am President and well into the future.  We’ve got the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped military in history.  And as Commander-in-Chief I am going to keep it that way.  (Applause.)

And by the way, given all the rhetoric lately — it is political season — let’s also set the record straight on the budget.  Those big, across-the-board cuts, including defense, that Congress said would occur next year if they couldn’t reach a deal to reduce the deficit?  Let’s understand, first of all, there’s no reason that should happen, because people in Congress ought to be able to come together and agree on a plan, a balanced approach that reduces the deficit and keeps our military strong. It should be done.  (Applause.)

And there are a number of Republicans in Congress who don’t want you to know that most of them voted for these cuts.  Now they’re trying to wriggle out of what they agreed to.  Instead of making tough choices to reduce the deficit, they’d rather protect tax cuts for some of the wealthiest Americans, even if it risks big cuts in our military.  And I’ve got to tell you, VFW, I disagree.  If the choice is between tax cuts that the wealthiest Americans don’t need and funding our troops that they definitely need to keep our country strong, I will stand with our troops every single time.  (Applause.)

So let’s stop playing politics with our military.  Let’s get serious and reduce our deficit and keep our military strong.   Let’s take some of the money that we’re saving because we’re not fighting in Iraq and because we’re winding down in Afghanistan — use half that money to pay down our deficit; let’s use half of it to do some nation-building here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Let’s keep taking care of our extraordinary military families.  For the first time ever, we’ve made military families and veterans a top priority not just at DOD, not just at the VA, but across the government.  As Richard mentioned, this has been a mission for my wife, Michelle, and Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden.  Today, more people across America in every segment of society are Joining Forces to give our military families the respect and the support that they deserve.  (Applause.)

And there’s another way we can honor those who serve.  It may no longer be a crime for con artists to pass themselves off as heroes, but one thing is certain — it is contemptible.  So this week, we will launch a new website, a living memorial, so the American people can see who’s been awarded our nation’s highest honors.  Because no American hero should ever have their valor stolen.  (Applause.)

This leads me to another promise I made four years ago —  upholding America’s sacred trust with our veterans.  I promised to strengthen the VA, and that promise has been kept.  In my first year, we achieved the largest percentage increase in the VA budget in 30 years.  And we’re going to keep making historic investments in our veterans.  When Richard came to the Oval Office, we talked about what those automatic budget cuts — sequestration — could mean for the VA.  So my administration has made it clear:  Your veteran’s benefits are exempt from sequestration.  They are exempt.  (Applause.)  And because advance appropriations is now the law of the land, veterans’ health care is protected from the budget battles in Washington.  (Applause.)

I promised you that I’d stand up for veterans’ health care. As long as I’m President, I will not allow VA health care to be turned into a voucher system, subject to the whims of the insurance market.  Some have argued for this plan.  I could not disagree more. You don’t need vouchers, you need the VA health care that you have earned and that you depend on.  (Applause.)

So we’ve made dramaticinvestments to help care for our veterans.  For our Vietnam veterans, we declared that more illnesses are now presumed connected to your exposure to Agent Orange.  As a result of our decision, Vietnam-era vets and your families received nearly $4 billion in disability pay.  You needed it; you fought for it.  We heard you and we got it done.  (Applause.)

We’ve added mobile clinics for our rural veterans; more tailored care for our women veterans; unprecedented support for veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury.  All tolled, we’ve made VA health care available to nearly 800,000 veterans who didn’t have it before.  (Applause.)  And we’re now supporting caregivers and families with the skills and the stipends to help care for the veterans that they love.

Of course, more veterans in the system means more claims.  So we’ve hired thousands of claims processors.  We’re investing in paperless systems.  To their credit, the dedicated folks at the VA are now completing one million claims a year.  But there’s been a tidal wave of new claims.  And when I hear about veterans waiting months, or years, for your benefits — it is unacceptable.  And we are doing something about it.  (Applause.)

We’re taking all those folks who processed your Agent Orange claims — more than 1,200 experts — and giving them a new mission:  Attack the backlog.  We’re prioritizing veterans with the most serious disabilities.  And the VA and DOD will work harder towards a seamless transition so new veterans aren’t just piled on to the backlog. And we will not rest — I will not be satisfied until we get this right.  And today, I’m also calling on all those who help our vets complete their claims — state VAs, physicians and veteran groups like the VFW — to join us.  You know how this can work better, so let’s get it done, together.

We’re also focused on the urgent needs of our veterans with PTSD.  We’ve poured tremendous resources into this fight — thousands of more counselors and more clinicians, more care and more treatment.  And we’ve made it easier for veterans with PTSD to qualify for VA benefits.  But after a decade of war, it’s now an epidemic.  We’re losing more troops to suicide — one every single day — than we are in combat.  According to some estimates, about 18 veterans are taking their lives each day — more every year than all the troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.  That’s a tragedy.  It’s heartbreaking.  It should not be happening in the United States of America.

So when I hear about servicemembers and veterans who had the courage to seek help but didn’t get it, who died waiting, that’s an outrage.  And I’ve told Secretary Panetta, Chairman Dempsey and Secretary Shinseki we’ve got to do better.  This has to be all hands on deck.

So our message to everyone who’s ever worn the uniform — if you’re hurting, it’s not a sign of weakness to seek help, it’s a sign of strength.  And when you do, we’ll be there and do more to help — including more counselors and clinicians to help you heal.  We need to end this tragedy, VFW.  (Applause.)  And we’re going to work together to make it happen.

So, too with our campaign to end homelessness among our veterans.  We’ve now helped to bring tens of thousands of veterans off the streets and into permanent housing.  This has to be a core mission, because every veteran who has fought for America ought to have a home in America.  (Applause.)

And this brings me to the last promise I want to discuss with you.  Four years ago, I said that I’d do everything I could to help our veterans realize the American Dream, to enlist you in building a stronger America.  After all, our veterans have the skills that America needs.  So today, our economy is growing and creating jobs, but it’s still too hard for too many folks to find work, especially our younger veterans, our veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  And with a million more troops rejoining civilian life in the years ahead — and looking for work — we’ve got to step up our game, at every stage of their careers.

So today, I’m announcing a major overhaul of our transition assistance program.  We’re going to set up a kind of “reverse boot camp” for our departing servicemembers.  Starting this year, they’ll get more personalized assistance as they plan their careers.  We’ll provide the training they need to find that job, or pursue that education, or start that business.  And just as they’ve maintained their military readiness, we’ll have new standards of “career readiness.”

In addition, by making the Post-9/11 GI Bill a priority, we’ve helped more than 800,000 veterans and their families pursue their education.  And I’ve issued an executive order to help put a stop to schools that are ripping off our veterans.  (Applause.)

I’ve directed the federal government to step up on jobs.  Since I took office, we’ve hired more than 200,000 veterans into the federal government.  We made it a priority.  (Applause.)  And we’re keeping track — every agency, every department:  What are you doing for our veterans?

I’ve challenged community health centers to hire thousands of veterans as physicians and nurses.  And as we help local communities hire new police officers and firefighters and first responders, we’re giving a preference to veterans.

We’re also fighting to get more vets hired in the private sector.  With new tools like our online Veterans Jobs Bank, we’re connecting veterans directly to jobs.  We’re helping thousands of veterans get certified for good-paying jobs in manufacturing.  We succeeded in passing tax credits for businesses that hire our veterans and our wounded warriors.  And this morning, I signed into law the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act — making it easier for veterans to transfer their outstanding military skills into the licenses and credentials they need to get civilian jobs.  (Applause.)

If you are a young man that is in charge of a platoon or millions of dollars of equipment and are taking responsibility, or you’re a medic out in the field who is saving lives every single day — when you come home, you need to be credentialed and certified quickly so you can get on the job.  People should understand how skilled you are.  (Applause.)  And there shouldn’t be bureaucrats or runarounds.  We’ve got to put those folks to work.

Last summer, I also challenged the private sector to hire or train 100,000 veterans or their spouses.  Michelle and Jill Biden have been leading the effort, through Joining Forces.  And so far, thousands of patriotic businesses have hired or trained more than 90,000 veterans and spouses.  And our message to companies is simple:  If you want somebody who gets the job done, then hire a vet.  (Applause.)  Hire a vet.  Hire a vet and they will make you proud just like they’ve made America proud.

And we’re fighting for veterans who want to start their own businesses, including more training in entrepreneurship.  It’s one of the reasons we’ve cut taxes — 18 times for small businesses, including veteran-owned businesses.  And the effects ripple out, because vets are more likely to hire vets.

So today, we can point to progress.  More veterans are finding jobs; the unemployment rate for veterans has come down.  Yes, it’s still too high, but it’s coming down.  And now we’ve got to sustain that momentum.  It’s one of the reasons I’ve proposed to Congress a Veterans Jobs Corps to put our veterans back to work protecting and rebuilding America.  And today, I am again calling on Congress:  Pass this Veterans Jobs Corps and extend the tax credits for businesses that hire veterans so we can give these American heroes the jobs and opportunities that they deserve.  (Applause.)

So, VFW, these are the promises that I made.  These are the promises that I’ve kept.  Where we still have more to do, we will not rest.  That’s my vow to you.  I’ve got your back.  I’ve got your six.  Because we have a solemn obligation to all who serve

— not just for the years you’re in uniform, but for all the decades that follow, and because even though today’s wars are ending, the hard work of taking care of our newest veterans has only just begun.

Just as you protected America, we’re going to pass our country to the next generation, stronger and safer and more respected in the world.  So if anyone tries to tell you that our greatness has passed, that America is in decline, you tell them this:  Just like the 20th century, the 21st is going to be another great American Century.  For we are Americans, blessed with the greatest form of government ever devised by man, a democracy dedicated to freedom and committed to the ideals that still light the world.  We will never apologize for our way of life; we will never waver in its defense.

We are a nation that freed millions and turned adversaries into allies.  We are the Americans who defended the peace and turned back aggression.  We are Americans who welcome our global responsibilities and our global leadership.  The United States has been, and will remain, the one indispensable nation in world affairs.

And you, you are the soldiers, the sailors, the airmen, the Marines and the Coast Guardsmen who have kept us strong.  We will honor your legacy.  And we will ensure that the military you served, and the America that we love, remains the greatest force for freedom that the world has ever known.

God bless you.  God bless all of our veterans.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END               1:08 P.M. PDT

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Full Text Obama Presidency July 22, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Honoring Victims of Aurora, Colorado Movie Theater Shooting after Visiting Victims at University of Colorado Hospital

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Obama Consoles Aurora as City Begins Healing

Source: NYT, 7-22-12

President Obama came to Aurora, Colo., to meet with survivors of a rampage at a movie theater. The police said they had finished collecting evidence out of the suspect’s apartment….READ MORE

Source: WH. 7-23-12

President Barack Obama hugs Stephanie Davies (July 22, 2012)President Barack Obama hugs Stephanie Davies, who helped keep her friend, Allie Young, left, alive after she was shot during the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado. The President visited patients and family members affected by the shootings at the University of Colorado Hospital July 22, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On Sunday, President Obama traveled to Aurora, Colorado to meet with the survivors of the movie theater shooting and offer solace to families of the victims.

“I had a chance to visit with each family, and most of the conversation was filled with memory,” the President said. “I confessed to them that words are always inadequate in these kinds of situations, but that my main task was to serve as a representative of the entire country and let them know that we are thinking about them at this moment and will continue to think about them each and every day.”

During his visit to University of Colorado Hospital, the President had a chance to meet Allie Young and Stephanie Davies, and speaking to reporters, he described their story.

During the film, Allie and Stephanie were seated near an aisle and when the gunman began his attack by tossing a canister of gas into the crowd, Allie, just 19 years old, stood up to warn those around her. She was hit in the neck by a bullet, which punctured a vein.

Stephanie, the President said, dropped to the ground beside her friend, applied pressure to Allie’s wound to slow the bleeding, then dialed 911 with her cell phone. Even after Allie told Stephanie to run, the 21 year old stayed by her friend — and when first responders arrived, Stephanie helped to carry Allie to a waiting ambulance.

Doctors expect Allie to make a full recovery.

President Barack Obama makes a statement to the press at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora (July 22, 2012) President Barack Obama makes a statement to the press at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colo., July, 22, 2012, following his meetings with families of victims killed in last Thursday’s shootings. Standing with the President, from left, are: Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., Police Chief Dan Oates, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

“I don’t know how many people at any age would have the presence of mind that Stephanie did, or the courage that Allie showed,” President Obama said.  “And so, as tragic as the circumstances of what we’ve seen today are, as heartbreaking as it is for the families, it’s worth us spending most of our time reflecting on young Americans like Allie and Stephanie, because they represent what’s best in us, and they assure us that out of this darkness a brighter day is going to come.”

Read his full remarks here.

Remarks by the President After Hospital Visit

Source: WH, 7-22-12 

University of Colorado Hospital
Aurora, Colorado

6:40 P.M. MDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I want to begin by just thanking all the state, local, and federal officials who have responded magnificently to this tragedy.

Governor Hickenlooper, who has already been dealing with a range of natural disasters here in the state, has been an extraordinary example of strength.  The Mayor, who has only been on the job seven months, and obviously has responded with great strength and leadership.  The Police Chief, who — we had an opportunity to speak over the phone — Chief Oates has been dealing with as difficult a set of circumstances as any law enforcement officer deals with, and he and his officers have done everything right, by the book, with great courage and great determination.  And so we are very proud of them.  And I think I speak for the entire congressional delegation who is here as well.

Scripture says that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more.  Neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  And when you have an opportunity to visit with families who have lost their loved ones — as I described to them, I come to them not so much as President as I do as a father and as a husband.  And I think that the reason stories like this have such an impact on us is because we can all understand what it would be to have somebody that we love taken from us in this fashion — what it would be like and how it would impact us.

I had a chance to visit with each family, and most of the conversation was filled with memory.  It was an opportunity for families to describe how wonderful their brother, or their son, or daughter was, and the lives that they have touched, and the dreams that they held for the future.  I confessed to them that words are always inadequate in these kinds of situations, but that my main task was to serve as a representative of the entire country and let them know that we are thinking about them at this moment and will continue to think about them each and every day, and that the awareness that not only all of America but much of the world is thinking about them might serve as some comfort.

I also tried to assure them that although the perpetrator of this evil act has received a lot of attention over the last couple of days, that attention will fade away.  And in the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy.

And I also had a chance to give folks some hugs and to shed some tears, but also to share some laughs as they remembered the wonderful lives that these men and women represented.

I also had a chance, fortunately, to visit some folks who are going to be okay, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the staff at this hospital.  And I just want to thank everybody who’s worked tirelessly here to deal with this tragedy.

Some of the stories are remarkable.  You see young people who’ve come in and just two days ago, or 36 hours ago, or even 24 hours ago, it wasn’t certain whether they’d make it.  And now suddenly, their eyes are open, they’re alert and they’re talking. And it reminds you that even in the darkest of days, life continues, and people are strong and people bounce back and people are resilient.  And particularly, given the fact that so many of the victims were young, it is a great blessing to see how rapidly they’re able to recover from some pretty devastating injuries.

There’s one particular story I want to tell because this was the last visit that I had and I think it’s representative of everything that I saw and heard today.  I had a chance, just now, about five minutes ago, to visit with Allie Young — Allie is 19 years old — and I also had a chance to visit with Allie’s best friend, Stephanie Davies, who’s 21.  Stephanie was actually downstairs with Allie as well as Allie’s parents when I walked into the room.

And I don’t think this story has been heard — at least I hadn’t read it yet — but I wanted to share it with you.  When the gunman initially came in and threw the canisters, he threw them only a few feet away from Allie and Stephanie, who were sitting there watching the film.  Allie stood up, seeing that she might need to do something or at least warn the other people who were there.  And she was immediately shot.  And she was shot in the neck, and it punctured a vein, and immediately she started spurting blood.

And apparently, as she dropped down on the floor, Stephanie — 21 years old — had the presence of mind to drop down on the ground with her, pull her out of the aisle, place her fingers over where she — where Allie had been wounded, and applied pressure the entire time while the gunman was still shooting.  Allie told Stephanie she needed to run.  Stephanie refused to go — instead, actually, with her other hand, called 911 on her cell phone.

Once the SWAT team came in, they were still trying to clear the theater.  Stephanie then, with the help of several others, carries Allie across two parking lots to where the ambulance is waiting.  And because of Stephanie’s timely actions, I just had a conversation with Allie downstairs, and she is going to be fine.

I don’t know how many people at any age would have the presence of mind that Stephanie did, or the courage that Allie showed.  And so, as tragic as the circumstances of what we’ve seen today are, as heartbreaking as it is for the families, it’s worth us spending most of our time reflecting on young Americans like Allie and Stephanie, because they represent what’s best in us, and they assure us that out of this darkness a brighter day is going to come.

To the entire community of Aurora, the country is thinking of you.  I know that there’s going to be a vigil and an opportunity for everybody to come together.  And I hope that all those who are in attendance understand that the entire country will be there in prayer and reflection today.

So thank you.  God bless you.  God bless all who helped to respond to this tragedy.  And I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months, we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country, but also reflect on all the wonderful people who make this the greatest country on Earth.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END             6:50 P.M. CDT

Full Text Political Headlines July 21, 2012: GOP Weekly Address: Speaker John Boehner Offers Thoughts on Shooting Tragedy in Aurora, Colorado

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

GOP Address: Boehner Offers Thoughts on Shooting Tragedy in Colorado

Source: ABC News Radio, 7-21-12

TOBY JORRIN/AFP/Getty Images

Putting aside his initial plan to discuss the U.S. economy in this week’s Republican address, House Speaker John Boehner offers prayers for the those affected by the Friday mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., and appreciation for the efforts of first responders at the scene.
“We join President Obama in sending condolences and prayers to the loved ones of those who were killed and wounded. And we all say ‘thank God’ for the police, the first responders, the doctors, and the nurses whose swift and heroic efforts saved lives,” Boehner says in the address….READ MORE

Weekly Republican Address: Speaker Boehner on the Tragedy in Aurora, Colorado

Source: Speaker.gov, 7-21-12

Delivering the Weekly Republican Address, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) offers prayers to those affected and appreciation for the heroes who responded swiftly to the horrific tragedy in Aurora, Colorado.

Download Audio   |   YouTube   |   Download Video

“Hello, I’m John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“My plan today was to share some thoughts with you about the economy.  But life, they say, is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

“There is still so much, too much, to sort out about the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado.  Words cannot capture the horror, or make sense of something so senseless.  So I won’t try.

“This much I know.

“I know that when confronted with evil we cannot comprehend, Americans pull together and embrace our national family more tightly.

“We join President Obama in sending condolences and prayers to the loved ones of those who were killed and wounded.  And we all say ‘thank God’ for the police, the first responders, the doctors, and the nurses whose swift and heroic efforts saved lives.

“At a time like this, we count our blessings.  And as we do, we come to be reminded that the depth of our grief also reveals the depth of our love and our resolve.

“Scripture tells us that the faith that sustains us is ‘the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.’  We may not yet see or fathom comfort for the mourning, but we’ll stand by them and we’ll stand together, as one nation, in the difficult hours that lie ahead.

“May God bless the grieving families – and yours.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

“Thank you.”

Full Text Obama Presidency July 21, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Remembers the Victims of the Aurora, Colorado Shooting

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Obama’ Weekly Address: ‘Time for Prayer and Reflection’ After Colorado Shooting

White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy

Following the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, President Obama urges Americans to take “some time for prayer and reflection” this weekend while offering condolences to families of the victims.

In his weekly address, Obama remembers the at least 12 victims of the Aurora, Colo., tragedy early Friday morning, calling them lives lost from “senseless” violence that can be difficult to understand….READ MORE

President Obama honors the victims of the tragedy in Colorado, the people who knew them and loved them, and those who are still struggling to recover.

President Obama tapes the weekly address

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room, White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 7/20/12

Weekly Address: Remembering the Victims of the Aurora, Colorado Shooting

Source: WH, 7-21-12

President Obama honors the victims of the tragedy in Colorado, the people who knew them and loved them, and those who are still struggling to recover.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

 

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Remembering the Victims of the Aurora, Colorado Shooting

 

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
July 21, 2012

As many of you know, early on Friday, at least twelve people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.  Dozens more are being treated for injuries at local hospitals.  Some of the victims are being treated at a children’s hospital.

We are still gathering all the facts about what happened, but we do know that the police have one suspect in custody.  And the federal government stands ready to do everything necessary to bring whoever’s responsible for this heinous crime to justice.  We will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all our people.  And we will stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time.

Even as we come to learn how this happened and who’s responsible, we may never understand what leads anyone to terrorize their fellow human beings.  Such evil is senseless – beyond reason.  But while we will never know fully what causes someone to take the life of another, we do know what makes that life worth living.

The people we lost in Aurora loved, and were loved.  They were mothers and fathers; husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters; friends and neighbors.  They had hopes for the future and dreams that were not yet fulfilled.  And if there’s anything to take away from this tragedy, it’s a reminder that life is fragile.  Our time here is limited and it is precious.  And what matters in the end are not the small and trivial things which often consume our lives.  It’s how we choose to treat one another, and love one another.  It’s what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose.  That’s what matters.  That’s why we’re here.

I’m sure many of you who are parents had the same reaction I did when you first heard this news: what if it had been my daughters at the theater, doing what young children enjoy doing every day?  Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter this weekend, as I’m sure you will do with your children.  But for those parents who may not be so fortunate, we need to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation.

This weekend I hope everyone takes some time for prayer and reflection – for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of the less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities on a daily basis.  Let us keep all these Americans in our prayers.  And to the people of Aurora, may the Lord bring you comfort and healing in the hard days to come.

Full Text Political Buzz July 20, 2012: Mitt Romney’s Statement on the Aurora, Colorado Shootings: Ann And I Are Saddened By Today’s Tragedy In Colorado

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Romney Reacts to Colorado Shooting

Source: NYT, 7-20-12

Mitt Romney dispensed with a scheduled campaign speech to offer condolences to the lives shattered in “a few moments of evil in Colorado.”…READ MORE

Mitt Romney: Ann And I Are Saddened By Today’s Tragedy In Colorado

Source: Mitt Romney, 7-20-12

Mitt Romney today made the following statement on this morning’s tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado:

“Ann and I are deeply saddened by the news of the senseless violence that took the lives of 15 people in Colorado and injured dozens more. We are praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of deep shock and immense grief.  We expect that the person responsible for this terrible crime will be quickly brought to justice.”

Full Text Obama Presidency July 20, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Shooting at a Aurora, Colorado Movie Theater

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

The Tragedy in Colorado

Source: WH, 7-20-12

President Barack Obama pauses for a moment of silence for the victims of the Colorado shootings (July 20, 2012)President Barack Obama pauses for a moment of silence for the victims of the Colorado shootings, following his remarks in Fort Myers, Fla., July 20, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Just after midnight, a gunman walked into a busy movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire into the crowd. Police report that 12 people have been killed and dozens more are currently being treated for injuries.

Just moments ago, President Obama discussed the shooting, calling on the country to stand with those who have been touched by the tragedy:

[Even] as we learn how this happened and who’s responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this. Such violence, such evil is senseless. It’s beyond reason. But while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living.  The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved. They were mothers and fathers; they were husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.

Earlier, the President spoke with both the mayor of Aurora, Steve Hogan, and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper — and pledged the full support of federal law enforcement to aid the investigation.

To read President Obama’s full remarks, click here. To read a statement from the President, click here.

Vice President Joe Biden has also issued a statement.

Update: President Obama has issued a proclamation that the flag of the United States be flown at half-staff at the White House and at all public buildings and grounds until sunset on July 25.

Remarks by the President on the Shootings in Aurora, Colorado

Harborside Event Center
Fort Myers, Florida

10:44 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me, first of all, say how grateful I am for all of you being here, and how much we appreciate everything that you’ve done.  I know that there are a lot of people here who have been so engaged in the campaign, have sacrificed so much, people who’ve been involved back since 2007. (Applause.)  And so I want all of you to know how appreciative I am.

And I know many of you came here today for a campaign event. I was looking forward to having a fun conversation with you about some really important matters that we face as a country and the differences between myself and my opponent in this election.  But this morning, we woke up to news of a tragedy that reminds us of all the ways that we are united as one American family.

By now, many of you know, many of you have heard that a few miles outside of Denver in a town call Aurora, at least 12 people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater, and dozens more are being treated for injuries at a local hospital.  Some of the victims are being treated at a children’s hospital.

We’re still gathering all the facts about what happened in Aurora, but what we do know is that the police have one suspect in custody.  And the federal government stands ready to do whatever is necessary to bring whoever is responsible for this heinous crime to justice.  (Applause.)  And we will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all of our people.

We’re going to stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time.  And I had a chance to speak with the Mayor of Aurora as well as the Governor of Colorado to express, not just on behalf of Michelle and myself, but the entire American family, how heartbroken we are.

Now, even as we learn how this happened and who’s responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this.  Such violence, such evil is senseless.  It’s beyond reason.  But while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living.  The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved.  They were mothers and fathers; they were husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters, friends and neighbors.  They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.

And if there’s anything to take away from this tragedy it’s the reminder that life is very fragile.  Our time here is limited and it is precious.  And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives.  Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.  (Applause.)

It’s what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose.  That’s what matters.  At the end of the day, what we’ll remember will be those we loved and what we did for others.  That’s why we’re here.

I’m sure that many of you who are parents here had the same reaction that I did when I heard this news.  My daughters go to the movies.  What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater, as so many of our kids do every day?  Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight, and I’m sure you will do the same with your children.  But for those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation.

So, again, I am so grateful that all of you are here.  I am so moved by your support.  But there are going to be other days for politics.  This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.

So what I’d ask everybody to do, I’d like us to pause in a moment of silence for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day.  So if everybody can just take a moment.

(Moment of silence.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  I hope all of you will keep the people of Aurora in your hearts and minds today.  May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come.

I am grateful to all of you, and I hope that as a consequence of today’s events, as you leave here, you spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, Obama!  (Applause.)

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

END
10:51 A.M. EDT

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