Full Text Obama Presidency July 1, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Twitter Chat on Obamacare

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

  1. Gotta go, but this was fun. Let’s keep the health care conversation going – share how the for you or your family.

 

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted Victor Samuda

    people lack info/turned off by political noise. w court case done, let’s focus on getting people signed up.

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted ryan kartune

    pushing to make 2 yrs comm college free; permit refinancing on student loans; push colleges to keep tuition low

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted JustinGreen∞

    respect the nyt, but not buying peas in guac. onions, garlic, hot peppers. classic.

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted natalie

    was listening to outkast/liberation and the black keys/lonely boy this morning.

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted Christina Loucks

    there’s a hardship exemption; fine only applies to folks who can afford insurance but choose not to.

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted Emma’s Politics

    have principles and issues you are passionate about, and act; worry more about doing something than being something.

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted Sable Systems

    EX-IM bank helps US companies export; that means good paying american jobs. optimistic that congress gets it done.

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted Kat Robison

    now’s time to encourage states that held off for political reasons to do the right thing; contact state officials!

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted nathan210

    congratulations! hope you guys are getting sleep. nothing beats babies!

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted Raul Gonzales

    not true – like last year, insurers request premium hikes, but must be approved; expect final increases to be less

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted Dylan Green

    we need to encourage states to take advantage of medicaid expansion; could insure 4 mil more people in 22 states!

    President Obama added,

 

 

 

 

 

Full Text Obama Presidency July 1, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Re-Establishment of Diplomatic Relations with Cuba and Reopening Embassies Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the Re-Establishment of Diplomatic Relations with Cuba

Source: WH, 7-1-15

Rose Garden

11:08 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Please have a seat.

More than 54 years ago, at the height of the Cold War, the United States closed its embassy in Havana.  Today, I can announce that the United States has agreed to formally re-establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba, and re-open embassies in our respective countries.  This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people, and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas.

When the United States shuttered our embassy in 1961, I don’t think anyone expected that it would be more than half a century before it re-opened.  After all, our nations are separated by only 90 miles, and there are deep bonds of family and friendship between our people.  But there have been very real, profound differences between our governments, and sometimes we allow ourselves to be trapped by a certain way of doing things.

For the United States, that meant clinging to a policy that was not working.  Instead of supporting democracy and opportunity for the Cuban people, our efforts to isolate Cuba despite good intentions increasingly had the opposite effect -– cementing the status quo and isolating the United States from our neighbors in this hemisphere.  The progress that we mark today is yet another demonstration that we don’t have to be imprisoned by the past. When something isn’t working, we can -– and will –- change.

Last December, I announced that the United States and Cuba had decided to take steps to normalize our relationship.  As part of that effort, President Raul Castro and I directed our teams to negotiate the re-establishment of embassies.  Since then, our State Department has worked hard with their Cuban counterparts to achieve that goal.  And later this summer, Secretary Kerry will travel to Havana formally to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more.

This is not merely symbolic.  With this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people.  We’ll have more personnel at our embassy.  And our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the island.  That will include the Cuban government, civil society, and ordinary Cubans who are reaching for a better life.

On issues of common interest –- like counterterrorism, disaster response, and development -– we will find new ways to cooperate with Cuba.  And I’ve been clear that we will also continue to have some very serious differences.  That will include America’s enduring support for universal values, like freedom of speech and assembly, and the ability to access information.  And we will not hesitate to speak out when we see actions that contradict those values.

However, I strongly believe that the best way for America to support our values is through engagement.  That’s why we’ve already taken steps to allow for greater travel, people-to-people and commercial ties between the United States and Cuba.  And we will continue to do so going forward.

Since December, we’ve already seen enormous enthusiasm for this new approach. Leaders across the Americas have expressed support for our change in policy; you heard that expressed by President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil yesterday.  Public opinion surveys in both our countries show broad support for this engagement.  One Cuban said, “I have prepared for this all my life.”  Another said that that, “this is like a shot of oxygen.”  One Cuban teacher put it simply:  “We are neighbors.  Now we can be friends.”

Here in the United States, we’ve seen that same enthusiasm.  There are Americans who want to travel to Cuba and American businesses who want to invest in Cuba.  American colleges and universities that want to partner with Cuba.  Above all, Americans who want to get to know their neighbors to the south. And through that engagement, we can also help the Cuban people improve their own lives.  One Cuban American looked forward to “reuniting families and opening lines of communications.”  Another put it bluntly:  “You can’t hold the future of Cuba hostage to what happened in the past.”

And that’s what this is about:  a choice between the future and the past.

Americans and Cubans alike are ready to move forward.  I believe it’s time for Congress to do the same.  I’ve called on Congress to take steps to lift the embargo that prevents Americans from travelling or doing business in Cuba.  We’ve already seen members from both parties begin that work.  After all, why should Washington stand in the way of our own people?

Yes, there are those who want to turn back the clock and double down on a policy of isolation.  But it’s long past time for us to realize that this approach doesn’t work.  It hasn’t worked for 50 years.  It shuts America out of Cuba’s future, and it only makes life worse for the Cuban people.

So I’d ask Congress to listen to the Cuban people.  Listen to the American people.  Listen to the words of a proud Cuban American, Carlos Gutierrez, who recently came out against the policy of the past, saying, “I wonder if the Cubans who have to stand in line for the most basic necessities for hours in the hot Havana sun feel that this approach is helpful to them.”

Of course, nobody expects Cuba to be transformed overnight. But I believe that American engagement — through our embassy, our businesses, and most of all, through our people — is the best way to advance our interests and support for democracy and human rights.  Time and again, America has demonstrated that part of our leadership in the world is our capacity to change.  It’s what inspires the world to reach for something better.

A year ago, it might have seemed impossible that the United States would once again be raising our flag, the stars and stripes, over an embassy in Havana.  This is what change looks like.

In January of 1961, the year I was born, when President Eisenhower announced the termination of our relations with Cuba, he said:  It is my hope and my conviction that it is “in the not-too-distant future it will be possible for the historic friendship between us once again to find its reflection in normal relations of every sort.”  Well, it took a while, but I believe that time has come.  And a better future lies ahead.

Thank you very much.  And I want to thank some of my team who worked diligently to make this happen.  They’re here.  They don’t always get acknowledged.  We’re really proud of them.  Good work.

END
11:15 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 1, 2015: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at Let’s Move Camp Out on the South Lawn

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

White House Girl Scout Campout

Girl Scouts join hands and sing “Taps” at the White House Campout, as part of the “Let’s Move! Outside” initiative, on the South Lawn of the White House, June 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Remarks by The First Lady at Let’s Move! Campout on The South Lawn

Source: WH, 6-30-15

South Lawn

4:36 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Great job, Aniyah!  (Applause.)  Hey, guys.  You ready for this?

AUDIENCE:  Yes!

MRS. OBAMA:  We are so excited to have you here.  I’m not going to talk long because I really just wanted to formally welcome you to the White House.  There it is.  It’s right there. It is right there.  And you’re going to be sleeping out here.  Can you imagine that?  This is the first time we’ve ever done a campout on the South Lawn of the White House.  You are making history.  This is something you can tell your kids and your grandkids.  Do you understand the impact — (laughter) — the importance of this moment, today?

It’s exciting.  Well, you know who’s more excited than you all?  Me.  (Laughter.)  And everyone here at the White House.  I have to tell you, to make this happen it took a lot of work.  We have security.  The Secret Service had to be involved.  The Social Office, the Department of the Interior.  We couldn’t do this without them.  We’re so excited and so proud of Secretary Jewell, who couldn’t be here because she’s doing stuff for the President.  But she wanted to say hi.  And she put a lot of energy into making this day and night happen for you guys.

So I want to make sure you thank all the people around you while you’re here, all the staff people.  Because people are going to be sleeping out here with you, making sure that you’re safe and that everything goes well.  Okay?  So make sure you thank folks.  But everybody is excited to have you here.

We’re doing this because I am the honorary [National President] of the Girl Scouts.  I’m very proud to be the honorary co-chair.  And I am also very — a big proponent of getting outside and staying active.  You guys have heard of Let’s Move.  That’s my program about keeping kids active and healthy.  And one of the components of the program is something called Let’s Move Outside.  And this is something that we’re doing to encourage kids to get outside and get moving in their National Parks, because this is the 100th anniversary of our National Parks.  And we have so many beautiful parks all over this country that are free to families and kids, and they can hike and they can camp and they can discover the great outdoors.  We want people to find their parks all around.

And one of the reasons why we wanted you all here — did you know that the White House is a National Park?  You knew that?  You did your research?  Well, what better way to highlight Let’s Move Outside than to have the Girl Scouts camping out right here in a National Park at the White House.  Good idea, huh?

Well, I’m very proud of you all because you all get outside a lot.  You’re good campers.  And I’m happy that Kathy and the Girl Scouts — you’ve developed these new outdoor badges that you can earn, I understand.  All these things — hiking, and all these exciting outdoor things.  So you guys are going to teach me how to do some of these things, will you please?  I don’t know if I can officially earn a badge, but I want to try.  All right?

So I want to get going.  But you guys have got to be helpful.  I don’t know anything.  I don’t know how to tie a knot. I don’t know how to pitch a tent.  I can sing a little bit.  I’m definitely not climbing that wall.  (Laughter.)  That’s up to you all, okay?

So will you help me get moving and learn how to do some new stuff?  All right, let’s get going!  (Applause.)

END
4:40 P.M. EDT

Remarks by the President at Let’s Move Camp Out on the South Lawn

Source: WH, 6-30-15

South Lawn

8:35 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Why are you guys still up here?  (Laughter.) How’s it going?  So what’s been going on?  What have you guys been up to?

GIRLS:  Singing!

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re singing camp songs?

GIRLS:  Yes!

MRS. OBAMA:  Is that all you’ve been doing is singing — and why are you all dusty?  (Laughter.)  What game were you all playing?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  So you’ve been singing.  What were you doing before you were singing?  You guys had dinner.

GIRLS:  Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  You did some rock climbing?

GIRLS:  Yes!

THE PRESIDENT:  Where did you go rock climbing?  (Laughter.) There are no rocks over there.  What are you talking about?  (Laughter.)  So you guys been having fun?

GIRLS:  Yes!

THE PRESIDENT:  So most of you guys are going into 5th grade or 6th grade?

GIRLS:  Fifth.

THE PRESIDENT:  Going into 5th.  And so you guys are from a bunch of different troops, or —

GIRLS:  Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, from all over the country?

GIRLS:  Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  So you guys are making new friends.

GIRLS:  Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s terrific.

MRS. OBAMA:  Look at their cool little chairs.

THE PRESIDENT:  They’re very nice chairs.

GIRL:  They roll back.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Can I just say back when I went camping my tents weren’t as nice.  (Laughter.)  And I didn’t have cool chairs like this.  (Laughter.)

GIRL:  Where did they come from?

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t know.  They just showed up.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know what you guys are doing here.  (Laughter.)

GIRL:  Camping on your lawn.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re camping on my lawn.  I don’t know how that happened.

MRS. OBAMA:  They’re making history.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think the reason you guys are here is because we’re celebrating the Great Outdoors and the National Park Service is trying to make sure that young people get outside — so you guys aren’t watching TV all the time, or playing video games all the time, but you’re getting outside, getting some fresh air and spending time with your friends and having adventures.  And there are national parks all across the country, and it turns out that the White House is a national park.  (Applause.)  I didn’t know that.

MRS. OBAMA:  They knew.

THE PRESIDENT:  You guys knew.  Okay.  So you guys are helping to celebrate and kick off this whole Great Outdoors adventure that everybody is going to be having this summer, right?

GIRLS:  Yes!

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  So I don’t really know any campfire songs.  Are you guys going to teach me one?

GIRLS:  Yes!

(The President and the First Lady sing along to campfire songs.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Did you see the First Lady rocking out a little bit?  (Laughter.)  She had the moves.

All right, well, you know what, you guys are having so much fun.  Unfortunately, I’ve got to go to work.

GIRLS:  Noooo —

THE PRESIDENT:  I am not allowed to have fun.  (Laughter.)

GIRL:  Can we have a hug?

THE PRESIDENT:  We can have a group hug.  (All the girls at once come running up for a group hug.)  Those are some good hugs! I didn’t know that Girl Scouts gave such good hugs.  (Laughter.) Who are those Girl Scouts over there? (pointing to the troop leaders.)  They look at least like they’re juniors.  (Laughter.)
I’m so glad you guys are having fun.  But I want to make sure — you guys better clean up this mess.  (Laughter.)  When I wake up in the morning — I’m teasing.  You guys aren’t going to be making a racket, are you?

GIRLS:  Yes!

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  It was good to see you guys.  All right, have fun.

END
8:47 P.M. RDT

 

Full Text Obama Presidency June 30, 2015: Middle Class Economics Rewarding Hard Work by Restoring Overtime Pay

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

FACT SHEET: Middle Class Economics Rewarding Hard Work by Restoring Overtime Pay

Source: WH, 6-30-15

“Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages…We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned.”

– President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 20, 2015

Middle class economics means that a hard day’s work should lead to a fair day’s pay.  For much of the past century, a cornerstone of that promise has been the 40-hour workweek.  But for decades, industry lobbyists have bottled up efforts to keep these rules up to date, leaving millions of Americans working long hours, and taking them away from their families without the overtime pay that they have earned. Business owners who treat their employees fairly are being undercut by competitors who don’t.

Today, President Obama announced that the Department of Labor will propose extending overtime pay to nearly 5 million workers. The proposal would guarantee overtime pay to most salaried workers earning less than an estimated $50,440 next year. The number of workers in each state who would be affected by this proposal can be found here.

The salary threshold guarantees overtime for most salaried workers who fall below it, but it is eroded by inflation every year.  It has only been updated once since the 1970s, when the Bush Administration published a weak rule with the strong support of industry.  Today, the salary threshold remains at $23,660 ($455 per week), which is below the poverty threshold for a family of four, and only 8 percent of full-time salaried workers fall below it.

Full Text Transcripts Obama Presidency June 26, 2015: President Barack Obama Delivers Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney Sings Amazing Grace

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney

Source: WH, 6-26-15

President Obama delivers remarks in Charleston, SC

College of Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina

2:49 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Giving all praise and honor to God.  (Applause.)

The Bible calls us to hope.  To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.

“They were still living by faith when they died,” Scripture tells us. “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth.”

We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith.  A man who believed in things not seen.  A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance.  A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.

To Jennifer, his beloved wife; to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters; to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.

I cannot claim to have the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well.  But I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger.  (Laughter.)  Back when I didn’t have visible grey hair.  (Laughter.)  The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor — all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.

Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived; that even from a young age, folks knew he was special.  Anointed.  He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful — a family of preachers who spread God’s word, a family of protesters who sowed change to expand voting rights and desegregate the South.  Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching.

He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23.  He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth, nor youth’s insecurities; instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years, in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith, and purity.

As a senator, he represented a sprawling swath of the Lowcountry, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America.  A place still wracked by poverty and inadequate schools; a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment.  A place that needed somebody like Clem.  (Applause.)

His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long.  His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded, the votes he cast were sometimes lonely.  But he never gave up.  He stayed true to his convictions.  He would not grow discouraged.  After a full day at the capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him.  There he would fortify his faith, and imagine what might be.

Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean, nor small.  He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently.  He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone, but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen.  He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.  No wonder one of his senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us — the best of the 46 of us.”

Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant.  But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of the AME church.  (Applause.)  As our brothers and sisters in the AME church know, we don’t make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation, but…the life and community in which our congregation resides.”  (Applause.)

He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words; that the “sweet hour of prayer” actually lasts the whole week long — (applause) — that to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation; that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.

What a good man.  Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized — after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man.  (Applause.)

You don’t have to be of high station to be a good man.  Preacher by 13.  Pastor by 18.  Public servant by 23.  What a life Clementa Pinckney lived.  What an example he set.  What a model for his faith.  And then to lose him at 41 — slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.

Cynthia Hurd.  Susie Jackson.  Ethel Lance.  DePayne Middleton-Doctor.  Tywanza Sanders.  Daniel L. Simmons.  Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.  Myra Thompson.  Good people.  Decent people. God-fearing people.  (Applause.)  People so full of life and so full of kindness.  People who ran the race, who persevered.  People of great faith.

To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief.  Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church.  The church is and always has been the center of African-American life — (applause) — a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety; praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah — (applause) — rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad; bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement.  They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice; places of scholarship and network; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart — (applause) — and taught that they matter.  (Applause.)  That’s what happens in church.

That’s what the black church means.  Our beating heart.  The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate.  When there’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel — (applause) — a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes.  (Applause.)

When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws.  When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps.  A sacred place, this church.  Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion — (applause) — of human rights and human dignity in this country; a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all.  That’s what the church meant.  (Applause.)

We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history.  But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act.  It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress.  (Applause.)  An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination; violence and suspicion.  An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.

Oh, but God works in mysterious ways.  (Applause.)  God has different ideas.  (Applause.)

He didn’t know he was being used by God.  (Applause.)  Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group — the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle.  The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court — in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness.  He couldn’t imagine that.  (Applause.)

The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston, under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley — (applause) — how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond — not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.

Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace.  (Applause.)

This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. (Applause.)  The grace of the families who lost loved ones.  The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons.  The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals — the one we all know:  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  (Applause.)  I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.  (Applause.)

According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned.  Grace is not merited.  It’s not something we deserve.  Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God — (applause) — as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.  Grace.

As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind.  (Applause.)  He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves.  (Applause.)  We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other — but we got it all the same.  He gave it to us anyway.  He’s once more given us grace.  But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.

For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens.  (Applause.)  It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders.  But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge — including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise — (applause) — as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride.  (Applause.)  For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.  We see that now.

Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers.  It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — (applause) — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong.  (Applause.) It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds.  It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union.  By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.  (Applause.)

But I don’t think God wants us to stop there.  (Applause.)  For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present.  Perhaps we see that now.  Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.  (Applause.)

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate.  (Applause.)  Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system — (applause) — and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.  (Applause.)

Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal.  (Applause.)  So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote.  (Applause.)  By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American — by doing that, we express God’s grace.  (Applause.)

For too long —

AUDIENCE:  For too long!

THE PRESIDENT:  For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.  (Applause.) Sporadically, our eyes are open:  When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school.  But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day; the countless more whose lives are forever changed — the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.

The vast majority of Americans — the majority of gun owners — want to do something about this.  We see that now.  (Applause.)  And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country — by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.  (Applause.)

We don’t earn grace.  We’re all sinners.  We don’t deserve it.  (Applause.)  But God gives it to us anyway.  (Applause.)  And we choose how to receive it.  It’s our decision how to honor it.

None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight.  Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race.  We talk a lot about race.  There’s no shortcut.  And we don’t need more talk.  (Applause.)  None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy.  It will not.  People of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies, as our democracy requires — this is a big, raucous place, America is.  And there are good people on both sides of these debates.  Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete.

But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.  (Applause.)  Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual — that’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society.  (Applause.)  To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change — that’s how we lose our way again.

It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history — we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”  (Applause.)  What is true in the South is true for America.  Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other.  That my liberty depends on you being free, too.  (Applause.)  That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past — how to break the cycle.  A roadway toward a better world.  He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind — but, more importantly, an open heart.

That’s what I’ve felt this week — an open heart.  That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think — what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”

That reservoir of goodness.  If we can find that grace, anything is possible.  (Applause.)  If we can tap that grace, everything can change.  (Applause.)

Amazing grace.  Amazing grace.

(Begins to sing) — Amazing grace — (applause) — how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.  (Applause.)

Clementa Pinckney found that grace.

Cynthia Hurd found that grace.

Susie Jackson found that grace.

Ethel Lance found that grace.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.

Tywanza Sanders found that grace.

Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.

Myra Thompson found that grace.

Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us.  May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure.  May grace now lead them home.  May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
3:28 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 26, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks after the Supreme Court Rules Same-Sex Marriage legal in all 50 States Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Supreme Court Decision on Marriage Equality

Source: WH, 6-26-15

Rose Garden

11:14 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal.  The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times — a never-ending quest to ensure those words ring true for every single American.

Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens.  And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.

This morning, the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality.  In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law.  That all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love.

This decision will end the patchwork system we currently have.  It will end the uncertainty hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples face from not knowing whether their marriage, legitimate in the eyes of one state, will remain if they decide to move [to] or even visit another.  This ruling will strengthen all of our communities by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land.

In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.  It is gratifying to see that principle enshrined into law by this decision.

This ruling is a victory for Jim Obergefell and the other plaintiffs in the case.  It’s a victory for gay and lesbian couples who have fought so long for their basic civil rights.  It’s a victory for their children, whose families will now be recognized as equal to any other.  It’s a victory for the allies and friends and supporters who spent years, even decades, working and praying for change to come.

And this ruling is a victory for America.  This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts:  When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free.

My administration has been guided by that idea.  It’s why we stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and why we were pleased when the Court finally struck down a central provision of that discriminatory law.  It’s why we ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  From extending full marital benefits to federal employees and their spouses, to expanding hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones, we’ve made real progress in advancing equality for LGBT Americans in ways that were unimaginable not too long ago.

I know change for many of our LGBT brothers and sisters must have seemed so slow for so long.  But compared to so many other issues, America’s shift has been so quick.  I know that Americans of goodwill continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs.  All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact; recognize different viewpoints; revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.

But today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully, real change is possible. Shifts in hearts and minds is possible.  And those who have come so far on their journey to equality have a responsibility to reach back and help others join them.  Because for all our differences, we are one people, stronger together than we could ever be alone.  That’s always been our story.

We are big and vast and diverse; a nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, different experiences and stories, but bound by our shared ideal that no matter who you are or what you look like, how you started off, or how and who you love, America is a place where you can write your own destiny.
We are a people who believe that every single child is entitled to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

There’s so much more work to be done to extend the full promise of America to every American.  But today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect.

That’s the consequence of a decision from the Supreme Court, but, more importantly, it is a consequence of the countless small acts of courage of millions of people across decades who stood up, who came out, who talked to parents — parents who loved their children no matter what.  Folks who were willing to endure bullying and taunts, and stayed strong, and came to believe in themselves and who they were, and slowly made an entire country realize that love is love.

What an extraordinary achievement.  What a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.  What a reminder of what Bobby Kennedy once said about how small actions can be like pebbles being thrown into a still lake, and ripples of hope cascade outwards and change the world.

Those countless, often anonymous heroes — they deserve our thanks.  They should be very proud.  America should be very proud.

Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
11:22 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 25, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Supreme Court’s Ruling in favor of Affordable Care Act Obamacare Federal Subsidies Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Supreme Court’s Ruling of the Affordable Care Act

Source: WH, 6-25-15

Rose Garden

11:34 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Have a seat.  Five years ago, after nearly a century of talk, decades of trying, a year of bipartisan debate — we finally declared that in America, health care is not a privilege for a few, but a right for all.

Over those five years, as we’ve worked to implement the Affordable Care Act, there have been successes and setbacks.  The setbacks I remember clearly.  (Laughter.)  But as the dust has settled, there can be no doubt that this law is working.  It has changed, and in some cases saved, American lives.  It set this country on a smarter, stronger course.

And today, after more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or weaken this law; after a presidential election based in part on preserving or repealing this law; after multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court — the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.

This morning, the Court upheld a critical part of this law -– the part that’s made it easier for Americans to afford health insurance regardless of where you live.  If the partisan challenge to this law had succeeded, millions of Americans would have had thousands of dollars’ worth of tax credits taken from them.  For many, insurance would have become unaffordable again.  Many would have become uninsured again.  Ultimately, everyone’s premiums could have gone up.  America would have gone backwards.  And that’s not what we do.  That’s not what America does.  We move forward.

So today is a victory for hardworking Americans all across this country whose lives will continue to become more secure in a changing economy because of this law.

If you’re a parent, you can keep your kids on your plan until they turn 26 — something that has covered millions of young people so far.  That’s because of this law.

If you’re a senior, or an American with a disability, this law gives you discounts on your prescriptions — something that has saved 9 million Americans an average of $1,600 so far.

If you’re a woman, you can’t be charged more than anybody else — even if you’ve had cancer, or your husband had heart disease, or just because you’re a woman.  Your insurer has to offer free preventive services like mammograms.  They can’t place annual or lifetime caps on your care because of this law.

Because of this law, and because of today’s decision, millions of Americans who I hear from every single day will continue to receive the tax credits that have given about eight in ten people who buy insurance on the new marketplaces the choice of a health care plan that costs less than $100 a month.

And when it comes to preexisting conditions — someday, our grandkids will ask us if there was really a time when America discriminated against people who get sick.  Because that is something this law has ended for good.  That affects everybody with health insurance — not just folks who got insurance through the Affordable Care Act.  All of America has protections it didn’t have before.

As the law’s provisions have gradually taken effect, more than 16 million uninsured Americans have gained coverage so far.  Nearly one in three Americans who was uninsured a few years ago is insured today.  The uninsured rate in America is the lowest since we began to keep records.  And that is something we can all be proud of.

Meanwhile, the law has helped hold the price of health care to its slowest growth in 50 years.  If your family gets insurance through your job — so you’re not using the Affordable Care Act — you’re still paying about $1,800 less per year on average than you would be if we hadn’t done anything.  By one leading measure, what business owners pay out in wages and salaries is now finally growing faster than what they spend on health insurance.  That hasn’t happened in 17 years — and that’s good for workers and it’s good for the economy.

The point is, this is not an abstract thing anymore.  This is not a set of political talking points.  This is reality.  We can see how it is working.  This law is working exactly as it’s supposed to.  In many ways, this law is working better than we expected it to.  For all the misinformation campaigns, all the doomsday predictions, all the talk of death panels and job destruction, for all the repeal attempts — this law is now helping tens of millions of Americans.

And they’ve told me that it has changed their lives for the better.  I’ve had moms come up and say, my son was able to see a doctor and get diagnosed, and catch a tumor early, and he’s alive today because of this law.  This law is working.  And it’s going to keep doing just that.

Five years in, this is no longer about a law.  This is not about the Affordable Care Act as legislation, or Obamacare as a political football.  This is health care in America.

And unlike Social Security or Medicare, a lot of Americans still don’t know what Obamacare is beyond all the political noise in Washington.  Across the country, there remain people who are directly benefitting from the law but don’t even know it.  And that’s okay.  There’s no card that says “Obamacare” when you enroll.  But that’s by design, for this has never been a government takeover of health care, despite cries to the contrary.  This reform remains what it’s always been:  a set of fairer rules and tougher protections that have made health care in America more affordable, more attainable, and more about you — the consumer, the American people.  It’s working.

And with this case behind us, let’s be clear — we’ve still got work to do to make health care in America even better.  We’ll keep working to provide consumers with all the tools you need to make informed choices about your care.  We’ll keep working to increase the use of preventive care that avoids bigger problems down the road.  We’ll keep working to boost the steadily improving quality of care in hospitals, and bring down costs even lower, make the system work even better.  Already we’ve seen reductions, for example, in the number of readmissions at hospitals.  That saves our society money, it saves families money, makes people healthier.

We’re making progress.  We’re going to keep working to get more people covered.  I’m going to work as hard as I can to convince more governors and state legislatures to take advantage of the law, put politics aside, and expand Medicaid and cover their citizens.  We’ve still got states out there that, for political reasons, are not covering millions of people that they could be covering, despite the fact that the federal government is picking up the tab.

So we’ve got more work to do.  But what we’re not going to do is unravel what has now been woven into the fabric of America.  And my greatest hope is that rather than keep refighting battles that have been settled again and again and again, I can work with Republicans and Democrats to move forward.  Let’s join together, make health care in America even better.

Three generations ago, we chose to end an era when seniors were left to languish in poverty.  We passed Social Security, and slowly it was woven into the fabric of America and made a difference in the lives of millions of people.  Two generations ago, we chose to end an age when Americans in their golden years didn’t have the guarantee of health care.  Medicare was passed, and it helped millions of people.

This generation of Americans chose to finish the job — to turn the page on a past when our citizens could be denied coverage just for being sick.  To close the books on a history where tens of millions of Americans had no hope of finding decent, affordable health care; had to hang their chances on fate.  We chose to write a new chapter, where in a new economy, Americans are free to change their jobs or start a business, chase a new idea, raise a family, free from fear, secure in the knowledge that portable, affordable health care is there for us and always will be.  And that if we get sick, we’re not going to lose our home.  That if we get sick, that we’re going to be able to still look after our families.

That’s when America soars -– when we look out for one another.  When we take care of each other.  When we root for one another’s success.  When we strive to do better and to be better than the generation that came before us, and try to build something better for generations to come.  That’s why we do what we do.  That’s the whole point of public service.

So this was a good day for America.  Let’s get back to work.  (Applause.)

END
11:45 A.M. EDT

History Musings June 23, 2015: The Confederacy hostile to African Americans safe haven for American Jews

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Note: The following includes an extensive excerpt from the author’s unpublished thesis entitled, “Unconditional Loyalty to the Cause: Southern Whiteness, Jewish Women, and Anti-Semitism, 1860-1913″ for the MA in Judaic Studies program at Concordia University.

After the shooting attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 where Dylann Roof, 21 shot and killed nine African Americans, in what is being deemed a racist attack, the debate over South Carolina‘s official usage of the Confederate flag is again heating up. On Saturday, June 20, protesters gathered objecting to the flag remaining at the capital, thousands signed a petition on moveon.org. There are now calls for the flag to be removed from its official spot in South Carolina’s state capitol of Columbia.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP Presidential nominee set the bar high calling for the flag’s removal in a tweet on Saturday, June 20, 2015, where he called it a “symbol of racial hatred.” Romney shares the same views as President Barack Obama, who has long called for the flag’s removal. One by one, the Republican presidential candidates weighed in on the issue, many called an issue for the state to decide, a few called for its downright removal including front runner Jeb Bush. In the wake of the movement to remove the flag, SC governor Nikki Haley, Charleston’s mayor, and a group of bipartisan legislators agreed on Monday, June 22, the flag has to go. The state started the process by removing the flag from the Citadel just a day later on Tuesday, June 23.

South Carolina is not the only state to look to end the Confederate flag’s continued life; Virginia will no longer allow the flag to appear on any license plates. The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, June 18 that it was not a violation of the first amendment for the government deny certain images or words be placed on specialty license plates. The case revolved around the Texas Motor Vehicles Board refusing the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) a license plate design with the Confederate flag on it. Retailers including Walmart, Etsy, Sears and Amazon.com will no longer sell any items with the Confederate flag on them. The calls are not just to remove Confederate flags, but statues and monuments relating to the Confederacy trying wipe away a major part of American history.

In a long held tradition sacred for the state, South Carolina flies in addition to the American flag the Confederate flag. South Carolina has fought to keep flying the flag, which they deem an important part of “their heritage.” For many others it is a symbol of the Civil War and slavery, a “dark” time in American history. After the Charleston church shooting, and the perpetrator’s racist motives and plans becoming clearer, many are calling for the flag to be removed from the state capitol grounds in Columbia. In 2000, after a similar fight, civil rights activists had a minor victory when the flag was removed from inside the statehouse and capitol dome, however, it remained flying on the grounds.

For Southerners the flag has historical significance for other especially after the shooting it is considered even more so a symbol of racial hatred and a reminder of slavery. The Confederate south was not racially hostile to every racial group that did not fit the mold of a white Christian, in fact American Jews found an oasis in the antebellum and Civil War south, free of the anti-Jewish prejudice that was prevalent in the North at that time. Part of the reason was that American Jews joined and found common ground with Southern White Christians and partook in every aspect of Southern life, the good, the bad, slavery, racism, participating in every aspect of the Civil War on the side of the South and the Confederacy.

Even from Colonial times, life in America for Jews offered more freedom than they could hope for in Europe.  In North America, the division of society was based less on religion, as had been the case in Europe, but on skin color. The first slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619, even before the arrival of the first Jews in 1654, and although slavery was not the system that it would become, by the time Jews began arriving, the distinction between black and white was set in colonial society.  Slavery spread throughout the American colonies with Rhode Island acting as an exemption.  There are two primary reasons that motivated a slavery system in America; slave labor was a driving force behind economic development, as well as the main method in determining class status.

Whiteness equaled to freedom, while slave ownership, and the number of slaves owned indicated wealth and social status; it allowed the poorest of whites to remain always above blacks in the social ladder. In a society were race was more important than religion, Jews believed they could escape religious persecution because they were white, and they could exploit this fact to gain freedom and social acceptance. Fifty years after their entrance into America, Jews had already integrated and assimilated themselves through the practice of owning slaves; Jewish involvement in the slave trade and slavery was another way to integrate with America’s Christian population. The South’s peculiar institution of slavery touched every Jew that chose to live in the South in the antebellum period, and in the antebellum period, this was a large portion of America’s Jewish population.

The population of Jewish in the southern colonies and then states was practically old as their founding. Robert Rosen writing in The Jewish Confederates points out, Southern Jews were an integral part of the Confederate States of America and had been breathing the free air of Dixie for 200 years” by the time the Civil War ended.[i] The historian Steven Hertzberg recounts in Strangers within the Gate City: The Jews of Atlanta, 1845-1915, “Jews had resided in the South since the seventeenth century, and a party of 42 Jews landed at Savannah in July 1733, just five months after the arrival of Georgia’s first colonists.  At the time of the first federal census in 1790, nearly half of the approximately 1,300 to 1,500 Jews in the United States lived below the Mason-Dixon Line, and Charleston, with an estimated 200 Jewish inhabitants, sheltered the second largest Jewish community in the country.” [ii]

By 1820, Charleston would surpass New York as the most populous Jewish city in the new nation with a total 700 Jews living there. Although during this period, a good portion of America’s Jews made their home in the South their numbers were small in comparison to the Southern white majority. Clive Webb argues in Fight Against Fear: Southern Jews and Black Civil Rights, “Jews never constituted more than a tiny percentage of the southern population. Their desire for social acceptance ensured their compliance with the laws and customs of their adopted homeland.  In particular this involved their acceptance of slavery and then racial segregation.” [iii]

Jews thoroughly accepted slavery; its practices and rules, and ingrained it into the fabric and day to day living of their lives. Whichever economic pursuit Southern Jews were involved in, or their economic status in Southern society; they were fervent advocates of slavery. Jews participated in the plantation lifestyle; adhered to Southern norms in their treatment of their slaves, and were even involved in slave trading. On Jewish owned plantations, slaves would work as either field hands, or house servants, while urban dwelling Jews would own slaves that worked in their homes and businesses or hired them out, while a smaller number of Jews even participated in the slave trade.

Jews participated in these practices because they wanted to feel they belonged to the chivalry and elite Southern society.  Participating in the slave system was the primary method for Southern Jews to belong to white Southern society, but also partaking in the South’s code of honor, and duels were another, historian “Mark I. Greenberg points out that Jews adopted the Southern way of life, including the code of honor, dueling, slavery and Southern notions about race and states’ rights.”[iv]

Adhering to the majority allowed Jews to be as “white” as Southern Christians, and they also could contrast sharply with the slave population, move up in American society, and take part equally in the American democratic dream; a position of equality continually denied to Jews in their European countries of origin. Historians Marvin Perry and Frederick Schweitzer write in Antisemitism: Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the Present, “The views of southern Jews on race and slavery differed little from other white southerners who regarded slavery as the natural condition of blacks. An insecure minority eager to be accepted as equals by the society which they dwelled, southern Jews, like other southerners, did not challenge the slave system.” [v]

Many Jews were recent immigrants who did not want to instigate the segregationist anti-Semitism they experienced in Europe by their opposition. As Webb argues “Confronted with such a hostile political climate, Jews had little choice but to accept slavery. Those who did harbor doubts about the ethics of the slave system kept such thoughts to themselves for fear of provoking an anti-Semitic backlash. Gary Zola has indeed suggested that at times this determination to avoid conflict caused southern Jews to support slavery even more aggressively than other whites.”[vi]

This whiteness allowed many Southern Jews to shared similar experiences and beliefs about slavery as their Christian counterparts did, and were devoted to the cause. America’s Jews as Jacob Rader Marcus writes had “a readiness, if not an eagerness, to adapt themselves to the life and culture about them”[vii]  In fact Southern Jewry’s participation in the South cultural and societal norms such as slavery and the honor code did serve as Jews’ acceptance into the Christian society as white Southerners.  As Lauren Winner claims, “Recent scholarship has attempted to argue that Jews were accepted fully into the society of the Old South. One recent enterprising scholar claimed that Jews in antebellum South Carolina, because they dueled, sported hoop skirts, and owned slaves, were full participants in Southern society.”[viii]

Southern Jews did enjoy a relative prejudice free life in the antebellum South, “Nowhere else in the United States had Jews been as fully accepted into the mainstream of society. Nowhere else in the United States had Jews become as fully integrated into the political and economic fabric of everyday life.”[ix] In their opinion, it was a privilege they held dear, and supported the South’s peculiar institutions to hold on to this acceptance.

There was still one aspect however; Southern Jews differed from the rest of the Southern white population: religion.  Jews could not participate in Christian evangelism that was so prevalent in the South during that period.  As Lauren Winner points out in her article “Taking up the Cross: Conversion among black and white Jews in the Civil War South”, “That Jews could not engage in that essential feature of the South’s social landscape-evangelicalism-is, in this scholar’s estimation, inconsequential at best.” [x]  That was why is was so essential in Southern Jewry’s opinion to integrate and participate in the South’s other customs to ensure they would be considered white, and avoid any religious animosity, and anti-Jewish prejudice was more prevalent in the North.

In nineteenth century, America slavery became probably the most divisive issue both politically and socially, and one of the main causes leading to the Civil War (1861-1865). As the doyen of history of Jews during the Civil War Bertram Korn indicates, “had Negro slavery not been an integral aspect of the life of the Old South, there would have been no conflict, no secession, no war.  Differences there might have been, but not violence and bloodshed.  Slavery was the single indigestible element in the life of the American people which fostered disunion, strife, and carnage, just as the concomitant race problem has continued to an important degree to be a divisive force in American life to this day.”[xi]

Its effects were not unnoticed on America’s small but ever growing Jewish population. Slavery was predominately a Southern issue although its moral and political ramifications affected the entire American population. Americans took positions on the issue, while many remained indifferent. There was however, a small minority of northern reformers who believed that slavery should be abolished in the South, and they worked towards this goal much to the resentment of Americans both in the North and much more vehemently in the South.

As relative newcomers to America, the majority of the Jewish population did not speak out against slavery; essentially all of the South’s small Jewish population supported slavery, since it was their entrée into acceptance by the Christian majority. Korn, notes “No Jewish political figure of the Old South ever expressed reservations about the justice of slavery or the rightness of the Southern position.”[xii]

Even when slavery was becoming more controversial, and Civil War loomed Southern Jews still continued their support of slavery. As Arthur Hertzberg writes in The Jews of America: Four Centuries of an Uneasy Encounter : A History, “In the 1850s most people in America hoped that the issue of slavery could be avoided; so did most Jews. In the Southern states Jews almost unanimously supported the proslavery interests.”[xiii] Hasia Diner concurs explaining in The Jews of the United States, “Nothing demonstrated this fact better than the Civil War and the issue of slavery. Southern Jews regarded the matter no differently than did their neighbors. Three thousand Jewish men fought in gray uniforms, and Jewish women aided the cause with volunteer work.”[xiv]

Jews were loyal to slavery, the Southern way of life, and the Confederate cause. As Abolitionist Rabbi Bernhard Felsenthal observed “Israelites residing in New Orleans are man by man—with very few exceptions—ardently in favor of secession, and many among them are intense fanatics.” [xv] Most Southern Jews supported the South’s secession from the Union and the newly established Confederacy, whether they were citizens of the South for many years or recently arrived immigrants. The South had been good to its Jewish population they flourished economically, politically and socially in a Christian society, essentially without anti-Semitism.

Most Jews however, believed their support for the Confederacy; states’ rights, and slavery were the key to maintaining acceptance as a part of the white majority. As Oscar R. Williams in “Historical Impressions of Black Jewish Relations Prior to World War II” writes, “During the Civil War Jews defended the system which insured them acceptance and success in the South.” [xvi] While Webb writes that “Through their loyal support for secession, southern Jews therefore hoped to reinforce their social acceptance.”[xvii] As Robert Rosen describes in Confederate Charleston, “The Charleston Jewish community gave its enthusiastic support to the Confederacy. Having found in South Carolina from colonial times a haven from religious persecution, a freedom to practice their religion, and the freedom to engage in all forms of commerce, the Jews of Charleston showed great devotion to the Confederate cause.”[xviii]

All over the South, Jews heeded the call to support the Confederate cause. The obvious choice for most men was to join a company in the Confederate army, many Southern Jews could not physically give their support, they used the other means they had in the powers to help in the Confederacy, for some it was political and most often monetary contributions. Southern Jewry’s devotion to the Confederacy translated into the actions in support of the Southern cause approximately two to three thousand Jewish men fought for the gray, while on the home front the women worked as loyal volunteers, as nurses resisting Northern, Yankee troops’ growing occupation of their beloved South. Rosen claims, “Thus, overwhelmingly, and almost unanimously, some with fear and trepidation, others with courage and enthusiasm, some with reservations, others with a firm unflinching resolve, Southern Jewry cast its lot with the Confederate States of America.”[xix]

So fierce was Jewish devotion to Southern ideals that when as Rosen writes “in April 1861 the Jewish messenger of New York City called upon American Jewry to “rally as one man for the Union and Constitution,” the Jews of Shreveport responded with a resolution denouncing the newspaper and its editor
“We, the Hebrew congregation of Shreveport,” the resolution began, “scorn and repel your advice, although we might be called Southern rebels; still, as law-abiding citizens, we solemnly pledge ourselves to stand by, protect, and honor the flag, with its stars and stripes, the Union and Constitution of the Southern Confederacy, with our lives, liberty, and all that is dear to us.”[xx] Southern rabbis agreed with the congregations’ support of the war and preached and prayed for the Confederacy in their services: “This once happy country is enflamed by the fury of war; a menacing enemy is arrayed against the rights, and liberties and freedom of this, our Confederacy;…Here I stand now with many thousands of the sons of the sunny South, to face the foe, to drive him back, and to defend our natural rights, O Lord…Be unto the Army of the Confederacy as though were of the old, unto us, thy chosen people-Inspire them with patriotism!”[xxi]

Southern Jewish men that remained on the home front during the war also made tremendous contributions in support of the war. Many men continued their mercantile businesses, or as peddlers or in their stores, supplying the troops as well as those that remained on the home front. They also worked as innkeepers, tanners, apothecaries, doctors or teachers.[xxii] Many who unable to literally go off to fight in the war would join the home guard or militia to protect the city or town where they lived. The Jewish men who remained on the home front were also involved in philanthropic efforts.

The most common form of philanthropy was the creation of benevolent societies to help the poor affected the war, donate money to hospitals, and bury dead Confederate Jewish soldiers in Jewish cemeteries. Southern rabbis remained fervent advocates of the South and the Confederacy throughout the war, as were their Christian counterparts; they prayed for and praised the Confederacy in their services. Rabbi James Gutheim of Montgomery, AL, had recently arrived in the South 1843, prayed for it at the onset of the war, asking for divine intervention for “our beloved country, the Confederate States of America. May our young Republic increase in strength, prosperity and renown.”[xxiii]

Southern Jews supported the Confederacy because they believed they had a haven from the anti-Semitism that hounded them in Europe this was especially true for new and recent immigrants from Central Europe, whom compromised a majority of Southern Jews serving in the Confederate Army. Rosen continues, “Many like “Ike” Hermann, had found the land of Canaan. Others, like Gustavus Poznanski, had found their Jerusalem, their Palestine. Still others, like Marcus Baum, Jacob Samuels, Adolph Proskauer and Herschell Kempner, had finally found their Fatherland.”[xxiv]  Leopold Weil a Jewish cotton merchant wrote at the time “This land has been good to all of us…I shall fight to my last breath and to the full extent of my fortune to defend that in which I believe.”[xxv] Weil did he enlisted in the Confederate Army as a lieutenant.

Southern Jewry was motivated to support the Confederacy as Webb explains, “there were a number of reasons why Jews championed the Confederate cause. Like many southern Jews, Leopold Weil attained privilege and prosperity through the exploitation of slave labor. The South also offered safe haven to thousands of Jews who fled persecution in Europe. Although Weil recognized that slavery was immoral, he was not prepared to abandon a land that “has been good to all of us.”[xxvi] Even many years after the war Southern Jews could declaring how good the South was for immigrant Jews  Isaac “Ike” Hermann, a private 1st Georgia Infantry proclaimed  “I found in [the South] an ideal and harmonious people; they treated me as one of their own; in fact for me, it was the land of Canaan where milk and honey flowed.” [xxvii] Testifying that Southern Jewry in the antebellum period had found in the South the haven from prejudice they had been looking for.

When Civil War erupted after the Southern states seceded from the Union, women in the South faced an upheaval as their way of life was threatened to be changed forever.  For Southern Jewish women were fiercely attached to the Southern way of life, and this manifested itself into a deep loyalty for the Confederacy and support that it would win the war.  As historians Hasia Diner and Beryl Lieff Benderly indicate in Her Works Prise Her: A History of Jewish Women in America from Colonial Times to the Present, “When the Civil War split America, Jews, as Americans, supported both sides, either as passionate proponents of the Union or devoted sons and daughters of the Confederacy.” [xxviii]  Jacob Rader Marcus, the doyen of American Jewish history concurs in Memoirs of American Jews, 1775-1865, “The apogee of patriotism was reached by the Southern women, including Jewesses.”[xxix]  While Marli F. Weiner explains in Mistresses and Slaves: Plantation Women in South Carolina, 1830-80, “In the antebellum South gender and race were the two most significant shapers of individual experiences.  Other factors such as class, region, religion, family skill, personality even appearance, were also important, of course but being born free or enslaved, male or female determined the possibilities and limitations for each individual.” [xxx]

The majority of these Jewish women were not recent immigrants, but American born and shared the lifestyle and values of their Christian counterparts. As Diner and Benderly recount, “Rosana [Osterman], the Levy sisters, and the Natchez M[a]yer daughters were not, of course, recent immigrants but rather the American-born descendants of earlier migrant generations.  But they, like Jews throughout the country, both newly arrived and long established, saw themselves as wholehearted Americans and fashioned their lives and identities in response to an American reality quite unlike anything Jews had ever experienced elsewhere.”[xxxi]  These women were Jewish southern belles and lived their lives accordingly.

These Southern Jewish women were integrated in Southern society, and were attached to lifestyle they had become accustomed to, and as the war, demonstrated Southerners and the Confederacy were more tolerant of Jews than the Union army that ravaged the South, Southern Jewish recognized this and devotedly aligned themselves with their beloved South at all costs.  Marcus writes, “The Southern Jewesses were fanatically, almost hysterically, passionate in their sympathies for their new regime.  Were they trying to prove that they were more ardent than their neighbors? Why?”[xxxii]

Like many other Christian women in the South, Southern women contributed on many levels through volunteer work, as war supply collectors, sewing circles, and nursing, but the far more committed chose to rebel against the Union officials. Jewish women especially took advantage of this new politicizing position the war granted women by demonstrating their loyalty to the South, through fiercer methods, often through illegal means including, smuggling, espionage, and belligerency.  Practicing slavery and being perceived as white, and generally adhering to the South’s social norms helped Southern Jewry escape Anti-Semitism.\

When Civil War erupted the North was threatening the Southern oasis Jews had created, virtually free of old prejudices.  The North in contrast, was more anti-Semitic and welcomed less its Jewish population into the Christian majority. Although the majority of Southerners Jews tried to defend the Confederacy and the land that had been so good to them, Southern women left on the home front were supporters that were even more ardent. As Catherine Clinton explains, “The Civil War, many Southern Jews felt, would change all this. Not unlike African Americans, who have believed throughout U.S. history that military service would guarantee them rights of full citizenship, Southern Jews expected that if they embraced the Confederate cause wholeheartedly, they would in turn be embraced by the Confederacy and accorded a new role in the society of the new nation.”[xxxiii]

Southern Jewish women adhered to the similar place other Southern women took in society, but also in supporting the Confederacy, Southern Jewish women took on added role defending Southern Jewry whiteness and place in Southern Christian society with their war efforts.  To the end, Southern Jews were even more enthusiastic towards their allegiance to all Southern practices, especially Jewish women.

Southern Jewish women knew that the Southern way of life was integral to maintaining the racial equilibrium for Jews and for avoiding anti-Semitism.  As Steven Hertzberg writes in Strangers Within The Gate City: The Jews Of Atlanta, 1845- 1915, “While suspicion engendered by their foreign birth and alien religion may have induced some Jews to conform outwardly to regional values as a means of protective coloration, most willingly embraced Southern attitudes because they had a consuming desire to succeed in their new home.”[xxxiv]  These women would go to great lengths to support the Confederacy in the manner they best knew how, and within the limits of the white womanhood, they wished to maintain.  They felt if they would defend the Confederacy on the home front, after the war they would keep being defined as white Southerners, and find a sense of belonging in the land they were living in.

The Jews’ harmony living in a Southern Christian society however was not without anti-Semitism. Seth Forman explain in his article “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Jewish: Desegregation in the South and the Crisis of Jewish Liberalism,” “All of this does not mean that the position of Southern Jews was not in any way precarious. Living in a region characterized largely by an overpowering caste system and fierce racial bigotry, Southern Jews treaded lightly and made their way in a place that was largely ambivalent about their presence.” [xxxv] Webb concurs, “Southern Jews did not succeed entirely in eroding anti-Semitism.” [xxxvi]

Even with all Southern Jewry’s efforts and support for Southern institutions, they could not entirely escape anti-Jewish prejudice in the South, since it essentially began with their arrival in 1733, as Hertzberg claims “even in the colonies which were hospitable to Jews.”[xxxvii]  Winner explains, “The new nation did not come to fruition, and neither did Southern Jews’ expectations of their support of the Confederacy. To the contrary, they found that during wartime, their support was not welcomed but, rather, received warily. Protestant Confederates blamed Southern Jews when any aspect of the war effort went wrong, accusing them of espionage, racketeering, and conspiracy.”[xxxviii]

With trying times, and the increase of the Jewish population in 1850 caused an increase in anti-Semitism. A general dislike of all aliens and foreigners increased during the Civil War. Korn describes, “Additional social factors peculiar to life in the South tended to strengthen and heighten the reaction to Jews: a general dislike of all aliens and foreigners which, during the War, created the legend that the Union Army was a band of German and Irish hirelings and mercenaries, while the Confederate Army was said to be exclusively native; a wide-spread suspicion of the merchant and storekeeper, typical of a society dominated by the plantation owner and farmer.”[xxxix]

Jews however, hoped that their strict adherence to Southern norms, with either keep anti-Semitism to a minimum or restrict any further occurrence of anti-Jewish activity. As the Civil War was becoming a reality, Jewish support for the Confederacy, states’ rights, and ultimately slavery was the key according to the Southern Jewish population to acceptance as a part of the white majority. Forman writes, “For the most part, however, these kinds of actions were mitigated by countervailing Southern ideas concerning the equality of all white men, the overriding concern with the subordination of black Americans, and the usefulness of the Jews as merchants and artisans. Spread thinly throughout the vast region, the Jews in the South tended to avoid taking public stands on controversial issues. When the issue of slavery tore the country in two during the Civil War, for example, Southern Jews largely accepted slavery and supported the South.[xl]

The rise in anti-Semitism commenced as the war turned towards the worse for the South, defeat was imminent, and the economy worsened with food and supplies difficult to acquire as the war raged on. Jews were blamed because their religion differed, clashing with the Christian Fundamentalism of the Confederate South, Jews roles as merchants and Judah P. Benjamin prominent political role in the Confederate government as attorney general, secretary of state and secretary of war. This only magnified after the South lost the war, the blame shifted over to the Southern population, despite the fact that very few Jews had any political or economic power.

Leonard Dinnerstein explains in Antisemitism in America, that Southern Jews despite living among evangelical Christian only sporadically experienced Anti-Semitism, and this was usually just in the most trying economic times. “Thus Jews as a group, despite their opportunities in the United States, never quite relaxed, and always kept a watchful eye open for Christian bias. Such prejudice was not uniformly exhibited and it often depended on historical circumstances and the strengths or trials of distinct Christian groups at different times in history as to how the beliefs would be exercised. Sometimes numbers made a difference; when Jews were strong in number they often felt more secure and comfortable. Other times local values dictated their reception and demeanor.”[xli]

Although the South had always been a Christian and religious area, the war was only reinforced this, and brought religion to the forefront. As the war raged on Southerners began invoking Christian religious language in relation to the Southern cause, and the Confederacy, which separated Jews from the pre-war unified white majority; classifying them as foreigners both religiously, and with the implications that Jews were Yankees, Northerners. Myron Berman states, “public demonstrations of piety and the use of Christian concepts became more pronounced in the course of the war.”[xlii]

This was because of the fundamentalist style that Southerners were invoking in their religious practices. Diane Ashton explains in her article “Shifting Veils: Religion, Politics and Womanhood Among Jewish Women During the Civil War,” “First in the North and later in the South, the belief that America played a pivotal role in bringing the second coming of Christ reached an apogee just before and during the Civil War. Southern anti-Semitism was fueled in part by a more fundamentalist style reading the New Testament than was common in most Northern Churches. The Confederacy went so far as to define itself as a Christian nation in its constitution. Southern clergy mounted frequent revivals among the troops, both to obtain God’s favor and to enable soldiers to fight without fear of death. Historian Harry Stout explained that the Confederacy declared many fast days, a practice previously more common in the North, to bind the civilians troops alike to display their patriotism and piety-then defined as the same thing.”[xliii]

As the situation in the Civil War was becoming increasingly worse for the Confederacy, Southerner’s anti-Semitism arose, when before the before the war these sentiments had publicly been kept to a minimum, and Jews were for the most part tolerated in Southern society. Korn explains, “Granted an original suspicion and dislike of the Jew before the War, the four-year-long travail of the Confederacy was certain to emphasize it.”[xliv] Southern Christians began to blame to the Jewish leaders of the Confederacy for the South’s loses. Diane Ashton writes that “Denunciations of Jews became more commonplace during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Southerners explained their defeat as God’s chastisement for widespread sinfulness.”[xlv] The Confederate anti-Jewish feelings however, were mostly reserved for Judah Benjamin and Jewish merchants. Southern newspapers and magazines would refer to Jews as “Yankees among us” or as shylocks.[xlvi]

Judah Benjamin was the Secretary of War and then State for the Confederate government, and he took the blame for many of the South’s defeats and problems. The fact that he was a Jew led a citizen of North Carolina, John Beauchamp Jones to swear that “all the distresses of the people were owing to a Nero-like despotism, originating in the brain of Benjamin, the Jew.”[xlvii] Henry L.
also reiterates that Benjamin was blamed for war loses because of his religion as opposed to his actually polices and military decisions. As Feingold writes in Zion in America: The Jewish Experience from Colonial Times to the Present, “In 1862 Judah Benjamin, who had suffered much calumny because of his being Jewish, was censured by the Confederate Congress for failing to send war supplies to Roanoke and thus causing its loss to the Union Army. He did not reveal that if he had complied with Roanoke’s request, Norfolk would have been left vulnerable.”[xlviii] Winner states, “Benjamin was only one of the many Confederate Jews whom Confederate Christians plugged into age-old stereotypes of the Jew qua extortionist, thief, shylock, of Jews driven by, in the words of historian John Higham, “cunning” and “avarice.”[xlix]

This anti-Jewish prejudice also was seen in the Confederate military. Jewish Confederate’s in the military were faced with prejudice and ridicule, and were often prevented from receiving promotions that were due to them or they were reluctantly given to them. Winner writes, “Captain R. E. Park recounted that his colonel attempted to block the promotion of Mobile’s Captain Proskauer because the Colonel was suspicious of Jews’ loyalty to the Confederacy. A Jewish Colonel assigned to a Texas regiment experienced such ridicule and antagonism that within forty-eight hours of joining up with his new regiment, he left.”[l]

On the home front, the situation was not quite different; Southern Jews faced anti-Jewish prejudice in their daily lives. In the United States at the time is not uncharacteristic for Jews to be scapegoats blamed for an economic situation, which was out of their control, and a product of the war rather than anything else. In these desperate times Christian Southerners were looking for scapegoats and the rising prices for living essential made the Jew and particularly the Jewish merchant the ideal scapegoat, and the fact that most Jews were merchants, an important component of the Confederate economy did not help the increase of anti-Jewish prejudice. Ashton claims this economic blame was widespread writing “Across the South, both small merchants and public figures like Benjamin were blamed for the region’s economic woes and its military defeat. Although Richmond‘s major industries were not in Jewish hands, Jews were among those blamed for the South‘s economic ills as the war dragged on.”[li]

Southerners often saw the high prices merchants charged as extortion, and they viewed the Jewish merchants as “extortionists.” George Rable notes in The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics, “Many Confederates looked for scapegoats and discovered an ancient one: foreign-born Jewish merchants. Henry S. Foote denounced “shylocks,” Examiner editorials deplored “synagogue” influences, and Texas vigilance committees harassed Jewish businessmen.” [lii] While Winner explains, “Confederate Christians, as Gary L. Bunker and John Appel have shown, portrayed Jews as vultures hoping to gain from wartime shortages.”[liii] The majority of anti-Jewish sentiment experienced in America was in direct relation to economics. As Leonard Rogoff clarifies in his article “Is the Jew White?: The Racial Place of the Southern Jew,” “The Jewish racial question was not a social or political issue in the antebellum South: whatever anti-Semitism Southern Jews encountered was primarily economic or religious.” [liv]

Southern women had additional responsibilities resulting from the men being away at war, and dealing with the desperation in the South’s situation at home. The women were faced with providing for their families while the war that kept dragging on, without the men to provide for them many women had little to go on to survive, even the wealthier ones dealt with these issues. This also contributed to the image of the image of the Jewish merchant as a profiteer of the poor. As Feingold notes, “Jewish merchants in the Southland felt the sting of anti-Semitic slander as civilian goods became scarce.”[lv]

These women actively and most time violently attacked the Jewish merchants for raising the cost of food and supplies. The most violent occurrence was in Georgia, where Jewish merchants were accused repeatedly as Winner explains of “unpatriotic conduct.” Fear and suspicion of Jewish merchants was only exacerbated by the extreme shortages that became frequent as the war progressed.”[lvi] In desperation, these women blamed their unfortunate situation on the merchants particularly Jewish buying into the anti-Semitic rhetoric about Jewish merchants. The women went in at gunpoint, justifying their criminal activity by as Winner writes accusing “the owner of speculating and making a fortune while their husbands died in defense of their country;”[lvii] they then proceeded to steal all the supplies and goods they possibly could from the store. Korn claims, “These examples indicate a trend which was characteristic of many sections of the Confederacy — the Jews being held responsible for the inflation of prices and the shortages of goods a pattern which bears a remarkable likeness to the background of the Grant Order.”[lviii]

Southerners seemed to believe that Jews controlled on its commerce and trade. A leader in this anti-Jewish opinion was Congressman Hilton of Florida. To illustrate his point Hilton would recount the story of a blockade-runner, who although was found out by the authorities, but before they could confiscate his goods. Winner writes “Florida Jews, however, had somehow learned the whereabouts of the blockade runner, and “at least one hundred” Jews, flocked there, led even to this remote point of the scent of gain, and they had to be driven actually at point of bayonet.”[lix]

In Richmond, Virginia, the Christian population had a similar opinion of its Jewish merchants; that they had the ability to acquire goods and luxury items that were impossible for anybody else in the South to acquire when a blockade was enforced. Winner writes, “they called one store, one by a German Jew, “Noah’s Ark” because it “seemed capable of producing anything from a needle to firearms.”[lx] Although this opinion of Jewish merchants as profiteers was prevalent in South, by those who were suffering from the war, this opinion was common with outsiders as well. As Miller explains “One Englishman described how Jews stood by the Confederacy only in hopes of turning a profit: “The Israelites, as usual, far surpassed the Gentiles in shrewdness to the auspicious moment, and laid in stocks.”[lxi]

Jews were also accused of other illegal activities however, including passing counterfeit money and running the blockade. This anti-Jewish prejudice manifested itself in the South’s newspapers, particularly the Richmond Examiner. As Feingold explains, “The Richmond Examiner filled its pages with anti-Semitic diatribes which began by complaining about Jewish war profiteering and ended by accusing them of being responsible for Confederate defeats on the field of battle.”[lxii] One particular instance was on January 7, 1864, when the paper printed a rumor that an unnamed Congressman had obtained passports for three Jews to leave the Confederacy. Congressman Henry S. Foote of Tennessee took this as an opportunity to vent his prejudice towards Jews. As Korn writes Congressman Foote “was generally known that he disliked Jews and took advantage of every opportunity to vent his hatred upon them, no matter how flimsy the evidence.”

Foote called for an investigation, but Congress was not interested in pursue the matter. Additionally the Richmond Daily Examiner, Jan. 8, 1864 reported another instance where Jews appeared as balking their responsibilities to the Confederacy: “very recently, two immensely wealthy Israelitish merchants on Broad Street, departed for the North leaving their wives and daughters to carry on the business of their stores.” [lxiii]  The anti-Jewish prejudice above all accused Jews of being unpatriotic and supportive of the South, especially during the Confederacy’s most trying times. These accusations often led to South Christians demonstrating fierce anti-Jewish prejudice towards their Jewish neighbors. One town; Thomasville, Georgia passed a legal resolution to banish all of their Jewish resident, while another town found the Jewish residents guilty of “evil and unpatriotic conduct.”[lxiv]

Upper class Southern Jewish women for the most part did not experience anti-Semitism, but as Ashton states, “For Jewish women of this period, anti-Semitism could not be said to have been universal and open, but rather sporadic and threatening.”[lxv] There always the possibility that anti-Semitism could occur and that altered the behavior of Jewish women. Ashton recounts, “To navigate that social and political turbulence, to maintain established ties, or to forge new alliances, Jewish women displayed either their patriotism, their religious piety, or their common understanding that good women are supposed to maintain family and social ties. Their personal perception of their own needs and of the degree of danger they faced determined their highly individualized shaping of their community during the Civil War. After determining whom they loved and needed and whom they could trust, they displayed those aspects of their own identities that would in turn enable them to present themselves as trustworthy.” [lxvi]

Despite the sporadic incidents towards the end of the war Jews in the South faced less anti-Semitism on a whole than then their Northern counterparts did. Southern Christians did in fact accept individual Jews into kinship, developing friendships with them, and socializing with Jews. Jews were more accepted into the South by the Christian majority, because of slavery and the racial issue but also as Rosen claims, “It was OK to be anti-Semitic in Boston in the 19th century. Jewish immigrants were discriminated against in New York. There was less of this in New Orleans and Charleston, I think because of the diversity of religions in Southern cities, the lack of Puritanism, which was anti-Semitic generally.”[lxvii]

The North’s Union Army committed the worst incident of anti-Semitism during the Civil War. The Shylock stereotype was behind Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s reasons for ordering General Order Number 11, on December 17, 1862 , expelling Jews from areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. General Order Number 11stands out in American history as the first instance of a policy of official anti-Semitism on a large scale. The anti-Semitic order had deeper roots; many Northerners and Union army officials harbored anti-Jewish resentments. Jews in Union occupied Southern cities and towns faced the brunt of this prejudice. As Korn explains in his authoritative work, American Jewry and the Civil War (1951); “Some of the most prominent people in the Union were imbued with prejudice against the Jews.”[lxviii]

The racial situation in the South and the practice of slavery were one of the primary reasons Jews were able to avoid widespread anti-Semitism; Seth Forman points out “But the racial divide was the most substantial reason why anti-Semitism in the South remained tempered.”[lxix] While Korn writes, “The institution also furthered the Jew’s social acceptance. By providing a class of defenseless victims, slavery acted as an escape valve for frustrations which might otherwise have been expressed more frequently as anti-Jewish sentiment.” [lxx] Southern Jewry truly believed they could avoid anti-Jewish prejudice in the South by complying with the slavery system, and adhering to rest of Southern society.

It was primarily the issue of shared whiteness the smoothed the way for, and elevated Jewish social status at all levels. Southern Jews reached higher levels in the Confederate government, than they would see for nearly 75 years in any administration in the United States government. Southern Jews took up preeminent positions in the new Confederate nation, reaching ranks that were unheard for Jews anywhere even in the North. Judah Benjamin took up the most important positions, essentially being Confederate President, Jefferson Davis’ right hand man. Benjamin held numerous positions in the Confederate cabinet including, Attorney General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State.

Although Jews represented a small portion of the Southern population, they disproportionately held high-ranking positions in the Confederacy, including, “the Quartermaster General, the Surgeon General, several Congressmen, and other high public and military officers of the Confederacy.”[lxxi] Other Southern Jews that reached high positions included David Camden De Leon who was appointed the Surgeon General after the outbreak of the Civil War. His brother Edwin also held a prominent position, as an overseas representative for the Confederacy. De Leon was responsible for persuading European nations to recognize the Confederacy.

Now 150 years after the Civil War ended, and the Confederacy took its last breath, immortalized in a life “Gone with the Wind,” and a mythology still referred by many Southern states, including South Carolina, it is widely forgotten, that the Confederacy was not entirely a nation of hatred for all who were not White Christians. American Jewry found a haven in the South, experiencing some anti-Semitism, but not nearly at the level, they did in the North, or that Southern Jewry ever faced in the hands of the Confederate government or their southern neighbors as they did by the Union army and a future President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant.

The Confederacy did imbue subservience for African Americans in the form of slavery, but Jewish activists now, need to remember their own participation in the full life of the slave holding antebellum South and Confederacy. The white supremacist hatred that caused the Charleston Church shooting historically was not born in the Confederacy, but in its death, during Reconstruction and its aftermath resulting in the rise of Jim Crow segregationalist laws, and vicious hatred of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) where a defeated South could not find its footing after losing the life they loved.

In mourning a mythological Confederacy, this hatred was born, but with the civil rights movement’s victories, and the election of the first African American president, this hatred is but sporadic. Removing every monument or reminder of the Confederacy is not the solution to the problem, we need to learn from history not erase it. Although the Confederacy and its flag and confederate symbols and monuments are bearing the brunt of the blame now, the United States as whole is facing continuing problems with race relations. The epidemic of police shooting African Americans is predominately in the North or so-called border states. Unfortunately, persistent racism in the North has no symbol like the Confederate flag to blame, but it is still there, and is still a problem. As President Obama stated in his famous speech in March 2008 as a Democratic candidate, the country as a whole needs to strive for a “More Perfect Union” in order to end racism in the entire United States of America.

[i] “Robert Rosen, The Jewish Confederates,” Susannah J. Uralp, ed. Civil War Citizens: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in America’s Bloodiest Conflict, 157.
[ii]  Steven Hertzberg, Strangers within the Gate City: The Jews of Atlanta, 1845-1915, (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1978), 13-14.
[iii]  Clive Webb, Fight Against Fear: Southern Jews and Black Civil Rights, (University of Georgia Press, 2001), 2.
[iv]   Robert N. Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, (University of South Carolina Press, 2000), p. 15-16
[v]   Marvin Perry and Frederick M. Schweitzer, Antisemitism: Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the Present, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 241.
[vi]  Webb, Fight Against Fear, 7.
[vii]  Leonard Dinnerstein and Mary Dale Palsson, eds., Jews of the South, (Louisiana State University Press, 1973), 25.
[viii] Catherine Clinton, Southern Families at War: Loyalty and Conflict in the Civil War South, (Oxford University Press, 2000)p. 194.
[ix] Arthur W. Bergeron Jr., Lawrence Lee Hewitt, Louisianians in the Civil War, (Columbia, MO.: University of Missouri Press, 2002, 73.
[x]  Lauren F. Winner, “Taking up the Cross: Conversion among black and white Jews in the Civil War South” in Catherine Clinton, ed. Southern Families at War : Loyalty and Conflict in the Civil War South, (Oxford University Press, 2000), 194.
[xi]  Dinnerstein, Jews and the South, 89, 90.
[xii]  Dinnerstein, Jews and the South, 27.
[xiii]  Arthur Hertzberg, The Jews of America: Four Centuries of an Uneasy Encounter : A History, (Columbia University Press, 1998), 111.
[xiv]  Hasia Diner, The Jews of the United States, 1654 to 2000, (University of California Press, 2004), 155.
[xv] Bergeron, Louisianians in the Civil War, 2002. 75, 76.
[xvi]  Maurianne Adams and John H. Bracey, eds., Strangers & Neighbors: Relations between Blacks & Jews in the United States, ( University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), 35.
[xvii]  Webb, Fight Against Fear, 11.
[xviii]  Robert Rosen, Confederate Charleston, University of South Carolina Press, 88.
[xix]   Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, 14.
[xx]   Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, 38.
[xxi]   Lewis M. Killian, White Southerners, (University of Massachusetts Press, 1985), 73.
[xxii]  Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, 219.
[xxiii]  LTC John C. Whatley VI, Jews in the Confederacy.
[xxiv]  Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, 14.
[xxv]   Webb, Fight Against Fear, 11.
[xxvi]   Webb, Fight Against Fear, 11.
[xxvii] Isaac Hermann, Memoirs of a Veteran Who Served as a Private in the 60s in the War Between the States, (CSA Press, 1911). The biblical reference is to Exod. 3:17.
[xxviii]  Hasia R. Diner and Beryl Lieff Benderly, Her Works Prise Her: A History of Jewish Women in America from Colonial Times to the Present, (Basic Books, 2002), 100.
[xxix]  Jacob Rader Marcus, Memoirs of American Jews, 1775-1865, (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1955), 21
[xxx]  Marli F. Weiner, Mistresses and Slaves: Plantation Women in South Carolina, 1830-80, (1997), 1.
[xxxi]  Diner and Benderly, Her Works Praise Her, 106.
[xxxii]  Jacob R. Marcus, The American Jewish Woman: A Documentary History, 31.
[xxxiii]  Clinton, Southern Families at War, 195.
[xxxiv] Hertzberg, Strangers Within The Gate City, 26
[xxxv]   Seth Forman, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Jewish: Desegregation in the South and the Crisis of Jewish Liberalism,” 121.
[xxxvi]   Webb, Fight Against Fear, 8.
[xxxvii]   Arthur. Hertzberg, The Jews in America: Four Centuries of an Uneasy Encounter : a History, (Simon and Schuster, 1989), 47.
[xxxviii]   Clinton, Southern Families at War,  195.
[xxxix]   Korn, “Jews and Negro Slavery in the Old South, 1789-1865,” in Dinnerstein, Jews in the South, 136.
[xl]   Seth Forman, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Jewish: Desegregation in the South and the Crisis of Jewish Liberalism,” 121.
[xli]  Leonard Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, (Oxford University Press, 1994), xi.
[xlii]   Diane Ashton, “Shifting Veils: Religion, Politics and Womanhood Among Jewish Women During the Civil War” in Pamela S. Nadell and Jonathan D. Sarna, eds., Women and American Judaism: Historical Perspectives, (University Press of New England, 2001), 83.
[xliii]   Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, 82.
[xliv]   Dinerstein, Jews in the South, 136.
[xlv]   Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, 83.
[xlvi]   Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, 83.
[xlvii]   Dinerstein, Jews in the South, 137.
[xlviii]   Henry L. Feingold, Zion in America: The Jewish Experience from Colonial Times to the Present, (Twayne Publishers, 1974), 93.
[xlix]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[l]    Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[li]   Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, 83.
[lii]    George C. Rable, The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics, (University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 185. (Michelbacher, Sermon Delivered, 3-14.)
[liii]    Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[liv]    Leonard Rogoff, “Is the Jew White?: The Racial Place of the Southern Jew,” 195.
[lv]    Feingold, Zion in America, 93.
[lvi]    Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lvii]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lviii]   Dinnerstein, Jews in the South, 141, 142.
[lix]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lx]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lxi]   Clinton, Southern Families at War, 196.
[lxii]   Feingold, Zion in America, 93
[lxiii]   Dinnerstein, Jews in the South, 150.
[lxiv]   Feingold, Zion in America, 93.
[lxv]    Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, p. 83.
[lxvi]    Nadell and Sarna, Women and American Judaism, p. 83.
[lxvii]  http://www.truthinstitute.org/AJC_010701J_Conf.htm
[lxviii]  Bertram W. Korn, American Jewry and the Civil War, (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1951), 164.
[lxix]  Seth Forman, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Jewish: Desegregation in the South and the Crisis of Jewish Liberalism,” 121.
[lxx]  Adams and Bracey, eds., Strangers & Neighbors, 175.
[lxxi]  Dinnerstein, Jews in the South, 239.

Full Text Obama Presidency June 24, 2015: President Barack Obama, White House shifts hostage policy

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

FACT SHEET: U.S. Government Hostage Policy

Source: WH, 6-24-15

Over the past decade, we have witnessed a significant shift in hostage-takings by terrorist organizations and criminal groups that has challenged the ability of the U.S. Government to secure the safe recovery of U.S. nationals taken captive.  The wanton and brutal murder of several Americans held hostage over the past year lays bare the magnitude of this challenge.  Other less publicized cases of Americans held hostage overseas, including several who remain in captivity, are no less tragic and have presented the U.S. Government with a similar set of difficult choices.  The Government’s response to hostage-takings must therefore evolve to account for this new reality.  Moreover, the Government’s handling of these hostage cases – and in particular its interaction and communication with families whose loved ones have been taken hostage – must improve.  To that end, in December 2014 President Obama directed a comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward overseas hostage-takings.

Based on the recommendations resulting from this review, the President approved Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 29, U.S. Nationals Taken Hostage Abroad and Personnel Recovery Efforts and issued an Executive Order on the recovery of U.S. hostages taken abroad, which directs key organizational changes to ensure that the U.S. Government is doing all that it can to safely recover Americans taken hostage overseas and is being responsive to the needs of their families.  The key findings and recommendations set forth by the review can be found in the Report on U.S. Hostage Policy at the following link.  PPD-29 and the Executive Order can be found on WhiteHouse.gov….READ MORE

Presidential Policy Directive — Hostage Recovery Activities

Source: WH, 6-24-15

DIRECTIVE/PPD-29

SUBJECT:      U.S. Nationals Taken Hostage Abroad and Personnel Recovery Efforts

The 21st century has witnessed a significant shift in hostagetakings by terrorist organizations and criminal groups abroad.  Hostage-takers frequently operate in unstable environments that challenge the ability of the United States Government and its partners and allies to operate effectively.  Increasingly, hostage-takers target private citizens — including journalists and aid workers — as well as Government officials.  They also utilize sophisticated networks and tactics to derive financial, propaganda, and recruitment benefits from hostage-taking operations.  The United States Government’s response to hostage-takings must evolve with this ever-changing landscape.

This Presidential Policy Directive (PPD), including its classified annex, supersedes and revokes NSPD-12, United States Citizens Taken Hostage Abroad, dated February 18, 2002, along with Annex 1 and Appendix A to NSPD-12, dated December 4, 2008.  The policy directs a renewed, more agile United States Government response to hostage-takings of U.S. nationals and other specified individuals abroad.  It establishes processes to enable consistent implementation of the policies set forth in this directive, to ensure close interagency coordination in order to employ all appropriate means to recover U.S. hostages held abroad, and to significantly enhance engagement with hostages’ families.  It also reaffirms the United States Government’s personnel recovery policy, which seeks to prevent, prepare for, and respond to hostage-takings and other circumstances in which U.S. nationals are isolated from friendly support.  This policy will thereby further important national security and foreign policy interests by strengthening the protections for U.S. nationals outside the United States….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 18, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Pope Francis’s Encyclical on Climate Change Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Pope Francis’s Encyclical

Source: WH, 6-18-15

I welcome His Holiness Pope Francis’s encyclical, and deeply admire the Pope’s decision to make the case – clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position – for action on global climate change.

As Pope Francis so eloquently stated this morning, we have a profound responsibility to protect our children, and our children’s children, from the damaging impacts of climate change. I believe the United States must be a leader in this effort, which is why I am committed to taking bold actions at home and abroad to cut carbon pollution, to increase clean energy and energy efficiency, to build resilience in vulnerable communities, and to encourage responsible stewardship of our natural resources. We must also protect the world’s poor, who have done the least to contribute to this looming crisis and stand to lose the most if we fail to avert it.

I look forward to discussing these issues with Pope Francis when he visits the White House in September. And as we prepare for global climate negotiations in Paris this December, it is my hope that all world leaders–and all God’s children–will reflect on Pope Francis’s call to come together to care for our common home.

Full Text Obama Presidency June 18, 2015: President Barack #Obama’s Statement on the Charleston Church Shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the Shooting in Charleston, South Carolina

Source: WH, 6-18-15

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:20 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  This morning, I spoke with, and Vice President Biden spoke with, Mayor Joe Riley and other leaders of Charleston to express our deep sorrow over the senseless murders that took place last night.

Michelle and I know several members of Emanuel AME Church.  We knew their pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who, along with eight others, gathered in prayer and fellowship and was murdered last night.  And to say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel.

Any death of this sort is a tragedy.  Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy.  There is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.

Mother Emanuel is, in fact, more than a church.  This is a place of worship that was founded by African Americans seeking liberty.  This is a church that was burned to the ground because its worshipers worked to end slavery.  When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret.  When there was a nonviolent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church’s steps.  This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America.

The FBI is now on the scene with local police, and more of the Bureau’s best are on the way to join them.  The Attorney General has announced plans for the FBI to open a hate crime investigation.  We understand that the suspect is in custody.  And I’ll let the best of law enforcement do its work to make sure that justice is served.

Until the investigation is complete, I’m necessarily constrained in terms of talking about the details of the case.  But I don’t need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise.  I’ve had to make statements like this too many times.  Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times.  We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.  Now is the time for mourning and for healing.

But let’s be clear:  At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.  It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.  And it is in our power to do something about it.  I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now.  But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it.  And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.

The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history.  This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked.  And we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.

The good news is I am confident that the outpouring of unity and strength and fellowship and love across Charleston today, from all races, from all faiths, from all places of worship indicates the degree to which those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome.  That, certainly, was Dr. King’s hope just over 50 years ago, after four little girls were killed in a bombing in a black church in Birmingham, Alabama.

He said they lived meaningful lives, and they died nobly.  “They say to each of us,” Dr. King said, “black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution.  They say to us that we must be concerned not merely with [about] who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.  Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream.

“And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.”

Reverend Pinckney and his congregation understood that spirit.  Their Christian faith compelled them to reach out not just to members of their congregation, or to members of their own communities, but to all in need.  They opened their doors to strangers who might enter a church in search of healing or redemption.

Mother Emanuel church and its congregation have risen before –- from flames, from an earthquake, from other dark times -– to give hope to generations of Charlestonians.  And with our prayers and our love, and the buoyancy of hope, it will rise again now as a place of peace.

Thank you.

END
12:28 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 9, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Catholic Health Association Conference defending Obamacare — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the Catholic Health Association Conference

Source: WH, 6-9-15 

Washington Marriott Wardman Park
Washington, D.C.

11:58 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much. (Applause.)  Everybody, please have a seat.  Thank you so much.

Well, I don’t know whether this is appropriate, but I just told Sister Carol I love her.  (Laughter.)  On a big stage.  It is true, though — I do.  She is just wonderful.  Her dedication to doing God’s work here on Earth, her commitment to serving “the least of these,” here steadiness, her strength, her steadfast voice have been an inspiration to me.  We would not have gotten the Affordable Care Act done had it not been for her.  I want to thank the entire Catholic Health Association for the incredible work you do.  (Applause.)

And it’s true, I just love nuns, generally.  (Laughter.)  I’m just saying.  (Laughter.)

It is an honor to join you on your 100th anniversary of bringing hope and healing to so many.  I want to acknowledge Dignity Health and its CEO, Lloyd Dean — (applause) — honored by the Catholic Health Association last night for his outstanding support of our efforts to improve health care in America.  He has been a great friend.

I want to thank Ascension Health, a great provider of care  — that also recently raised its minimum wage.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Secretary Burwell and the members of Congress who are here today, because they have been obviously doing extraordinary work.  (Applause.)

My first job in Chicago when I moved after college to work as a community organizer — my first job was funded by the Campaign for Human Development, an anti-poverty initiative of the Catholic Church.  And my first office was at Holy Rosary Church on the South Side of Chicago, across from Palmer Park.  (Applause.)  You’re clapping there — she knows Holy Rosary.  (Laughter.)  And the task was to work with parishes and neighbors and faith and community leaders to bring low-income people together, to stitch neighborhoods together, clergy and laypeople. And the work was hard, and there were times where it was dispiriting.  We had plenty of setbacks.  There were times where I felt like quitting, where I wondered if the path I’d chosen was too hard.

But despite these challenges, I saw how kindness and compassion and faith can change the arc of people’s lives.  And I saw the power of faith — a shared belief that every human being, made in the image of God, deserves to live in dignity; that all children, no matter who they are or where they come from or how much money they were born into, ought to have the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential; that we are all called, in the words of His Holiness Pope Francis, “to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness, and respect for every human being.”

And at the time, when I had just moved to Chicago, the Cardinal there was Cardinal Bernardin, an extraordinary man.  And he understood that part of that commitment, part of that commitment to the dignity of every human being also meant that we had to care about the health of every human being.  And he articulated that, and the Church articulated that, as we moved at the state level in the Illinois legislature, once I was elected there later on in life, to advance the proposition that health care is not a privilege, it is a right.

And that belief is at the heart of the Catholic Health Association’s mission.  For decades, your member hospitals have been on the front lines, often serving the marginalized, the vulnerable and the sick and the uninsured.  And that belief is at the heart of why we came together more than five years ago to reform our health care system — to guarantee that every American has access to quality, affordable care.

So I’m here today to say thank you for your tireless efforts to make health reform a reality.  Without your commitment to compassionate care, without your moral force, we would not have succeeded.  (Applause.)  We would not have succeeded had it not been for you and the foundation you had laid.  (Applause.)

And pursuing health care reform wasn’t about making good on a campaign promise for me.  It was, remember, in the wake of an economic crisis with a very human toll and it was integral to restoring the basic promise of America — the notion that in this country, if you work hard and you take responsibility, you can get ahead.  You can make it if you try.  Everything we’ve done these past six years and a half years to rebuild our economy on a new foundation — from rescuing and retooling our industries, to reforming our schools, to rethinking the way we produce and use energy, to reducing our deficits — all of that has been in pursuit of that one goal, creating opportunity for all people.  And health reform was a critical part of that effort.

For decades, a major barrier to economic opportunity was our broken health care system.  It exposed working families to the insecurities of a changing economy.  It saddled our businesses with skyrocketing costs that made it hard to hire or pay a good wage.  It threatened our entire nation’s long-term prosperity, was the primary driver of our deficits.

And for hospitals like yours, the fact that so many people didn’t have basic care meant you were scrambling and scratching every single day to try to figure out how do we keep our doors open.

Leaders from Teddy Roosevelt to Teddy Kennedy wanted to reform it.  For as long as there were Americans who couldn’t afford decent health care, as long as there were people who had to choose between paying for medicine or paying the rent, as long as there were parents who had to figure out whether they could sell or borrow to pay for a child’s treatment just a few months more, and beg for God’s mercy to make it work in time — as long as those things were happening, America was not living up to our highest ideals.

And that’s why providers and faith leaders like you called for expanding access to affordable care.  Every day, you saw the very personal suffering of those who go without it.  And it seemed like an insurmountable challenge.  Every time there was enough political will to alleviate that suffering and to reform the health care system — whether it was under Democratic Presidents or Republican Presidents — you had special interests arraying and keeping the status quo in place.  And each year that passed without reform the stakes kept getting higher.

By the time I took office, thousands of Americans were losing their health insurance every single day.  Many people died each year because they didn’t have health insurance.  Many families who thought they had coverage were driven into bankruptcy by out-of-pocket costs.  Tens of millions of our fellow citizens had no coverage at all in this, the wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth.  And despite being the only advanced economy in the world without universal health care, our health care costs grew to be the most expensive in the world with no slowing in sight.  And that trend strained the budgets of families and businesses and our government.

And so we determined that we could not keep kicking that can down the road any longer.  We could not leave that problem for another generation to solve, or another generation after that.

And remember, this was not easy.  (Laughter.)  There were those who thought health care reform was too messy, and too complicated, and too politically risky.  I had pollsters showing me stuff, and 85 percent of folks at any given time had health care and so they weren’t necessarily incentivized to support it. And you could scare the heck out of them about even if they weren’t entirely satisfied with the existing system that somehow it would be terrible to change it.  All kinds of warning signs about how tough this was — bad politics.

But for every politician and pundit who said we should wait, why rush, barely a day went by where I didn’t hear from hardworking Americans who didn’t have a moment left to lose.  These were men and women from all backgrounds, all walks of life, all races, all faiths, in big cities, small towns, red states, blue states.  Middle-class families with coverage that turned out not to be there for them when they needed it.  Moms and dads desperately seeking care for a child with a chronic illness only to be told “no” again and again — or fearful as their child got older, what was there future going to be because they weren’t going to be able to get insurance once they left the house.  Small business owners forced to choose between insuring their employees and keeping the “open” sign hanging in the window.

And every one of these stories tugged at me in a personal way — because I spoke about seeing my mom worry about how she was going to deal with her finances when she got very sick.  And I was reminded of the fear that Michelle and I felt when Sasha was a few months old and we had to race to the hospital, in the emergency room learning that she had meningitis — that we caught only because we had a wonderful pediatrician and regular care.  Never felt so scared or helpless in my life.

We were fortunate enough to have good health insurance.   And I remember looking around in that emergency room and thinking what about the parents who aren’t that lucky?  What about the parents who get hit with a bill of $20,000 or $30,000, and they’ve got no idea how to pay for it?  What about those parents with kids who have a chronic illness like asthma and have to keep going back to the emergency room because they don’t have a regular doctor, and the bills never stop coming?  Who’s going to stand up for them?

Behind every single story was a simple question:  What kind of country do we want to be?  Are we a country that’s defined by values that say access to health care is a commodity awarded to only the highest bidders, or by the values that say health care is a fundamental right?  Do we believe that where you start should determine how far you go, or do we believe that in the greatest nation on Earth, everybody deserves the opportunity to make it — to make of their lives what they will?

The rugged individualism that defines America has always been bound by a shared set of values, an enduring sense that we’re in this together, that America is not a place where we simply turn away from the sick, or turn our backs on the tired, the poor, the huddled masses.  It is a place sustained by the idea:  I am my brother’s keeper.  I am my sister’s keeper — that we have an obligation to put ourselves in our neighbor’s shoes and see each other’s common humanity.

And so, after a century of talk, after decades of trying, after a year of sustained debate, we finally made health care reform a reality here in America.  (Applause.)

And despite the constant doom-and-gloom predictions, the unending Chicken Little warnings that somehow making health insurance fairer and easier to buy would lead to the end of freedom, the end of the American way of life — lo and behold, it did not happen.  None of this came to pass.  In fact, in a lot of ways, the Affordable Care Act worked out better than some of us anticipated.

Nearly one in three uninsured Americans have already been covered — more than 16 million people -– driving our uninsured rate to its lowest level ever.  (Applause.)  Ever.  On top of that, tens of millions more enjoy new protections with the coverage that they’ve already got.  That 85 percent who had health insurance, they may not know that they’ve got a better deal now than they did, but they do.  Americans can no longer be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions — from you having had cancer to you having had a baby.  Women can’t be charged more just for being a woman.  (Applause.)  And they get free preventive services like mammograms.  And there are no more annual or lifetime caps on the care patients receive.

Medicare has been strengthened and protected.  We’ve added 13 years to its actuarial life.  The financial difference for business owners trying to invest and grow, and the families trying to save and spend — that’s real, too.  Health care prices have risen at the lowest rate in 50 years.  Employer premiums are rising at a rate tied for the lowest on record.  The average family premium is $1,800 lower today than it would have been had trends over the decade before the ACA passed continued.

In the years to come, countless Americans who can now buy plans that are portable and affordable on a competitive marketplace will be free to chase their own ideas, unleash new enterprises across the country, knowing they’ll be able to buy health insurance.

And here’s the thing — that security won’t just be there for us.  It will be there for our kids as they go through life.  When they graduate from college, they’re looking for that first job, they can stay on our plans until they’re 26.  When they start a family, pregnancy will no longer count against them as a preexisting condition.  When they change jobs or lose a job, or strike out on their own to start a business, they’ll still be able to get good coverage.  They’ll have that peace of mind all the way until they retire into a Medicare that now has cheaper prescription drugs and wellness visits to make sure that they stay healthy.

And while we were told again and again that Obamacare would be a job-killer — amazingly enough, some critics still peddle this notion — it turns out in reality, America has experienced 63 straight months of private sector job growth — a streak that started the month we passed the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.) The longest streak of private sector job growth on record — that adds up to 12.6 million new jobs.  (Applause.)

So the critics stubbornly ignore reality.  In reality, there is a self-employed single mom of three who couldn’t afford health insurance until health reform passed and she qualified for Medicaid in her state.  And she was finally able to get a mammogram, which detected early-stage breast cancer and may have saved her life.  That’s the reality, not the mythology.

In reality, there are parents in Texas whose autistic son couldn’t speak.  Even with health insurance, they struggled to pay for his treatment.  But health reform meant they could buy an affordable secondary plan that covered therapy for their son — and today, that little boy can tell his parents that he loves them.  That’s the reality.  (Applause.)

In reality, there’s a self-employed barber from Tennessee — who happens to be a Republican — who couldn’t afford health insurance until our new marketplace opened up.  And once he bought a plan, he finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.  In the old days, without coverage, he wouldn’t have even known that he was sick.  And today, he’s now cancer-free.

So five years in, what we are talking about it is no longer just a law.  It’s no longer just a theory.  This isn’t even just about the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.  This isn’t about myths or rumors that folks try to sustain.  There is a reality that people on the ground day to day are experiencing.  Their lives are better.

This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another.  This is health care in America — which is why, once you get outside of Washington and leave behind the Beltway chatter and the politics, Americans support this new reality.  When you talk to people who actually are enrolled in a new marketplace plan, the vast majority of them like their coverage. The vast majority are satisfied with their choice of doctors and hospitals and satisfied with their monthly premiums.  They like their reality.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have more work to do.  Sister Carol and I were talking backstage — we know we got more work to do.  Like any serious attempt at change, there were disruptions in the rollout, there are policies we can put in place to make health care work even better.  Secretary Burwell is talking about all the things we have to do together around delivery system reform.  We have to protect the coverage that people have now and sign even more people up.  We need more governors and state legislatures to expand Medicaid, which was a central part of the architecture of the overall plan.  We have to continue to improve the quality of care.  And we know we can still bring down costs.

And none of this is going to be easy.  Nobody suggests that somehow our health care system is perfect as a consequence of the law being passed, but it is serving so many more people so much better.  And we’re not going to go backwards.  There’s something, I have to say, just deeply cynical about the ceaseless, endless partisan attempts to roll back progress.  I mean, I understood folks being skeptical or worried before the law passed and there wasn’t a reality there to examine.  But once you see millions of people of having health care, once you see that all the bad things that were predicted didn’t happen, you’d think that it would be time to move one.

Let’s figure out how to make it better.  It seems so cynical to want to take coverage away from millions of people; to take care away from people who need it the most; to punish millions with higher costs of care and unravel what’s now been woven into the fabric of America.

And that kind of cynicism flies in the face of our history.  Our history is one of each generation striving to do better and to be better than the last.  Just as we’ll never go back to a time when seniors were left to languish in poverty or not have any health insurance in their golden years.  There was a generation that didn’t have that guarantee of health care.  We’re not going to go back to a time when our citizens can be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition.  When tens of millions of people couldn’t afford decent, affordable care — that wasn’t a better America.  That’s not freedom.  The freedom to languish in illness, or to be bankrupt because somebody in your family gets stick — that’s not who we are.  That’s not what we’re about.

Debra Lea Oren of Pennsylvania knows that.  Debra suffers from osteoarthritis that was so severe that it put her in a wheelchair.  And for years she couldn’t stand or walk at all, and was in constant pain — through no fault of her own, just the twists and turns of life.  And without health insurance to get treatment, it seemed as though she might never again live a life that was full.  Today, Debra is enrolled in affordable health coverage, was able to have surgery to replace her knees.  She’s back on her feet.  She walks her dogs, shops at the grocery store, gets to her doctor’s appointments.  She’s cooking, she’s exercising, regaining her health.

Debra couldn’t be here today, but she recently wrote to me and she said:  “I walk with my husband Michael and hold hands.  It’s like a whole new world for me.”  Just walking and holding hands — something that one of our fellow Americans for years could not do.

Every day, miracles happen in your hospitals.  But remaking Debra’s world didn’t require a miracle.  It just required that Debra have access to something that she and every other American has a right to expect, which is health care coverage.

And while there are outcomes that we can calculate and enumerate — the number of newly insured families, the number of lives saved — those numbers all add up to success in this reform effort.  But there are also outcomes that are harder to calculate — in the tally of pain and tragedy and bankruptcies that have been averted, but also in the security of a parent who can afford to take her kid to the doctor; or the dignity of a grandfather who can get the preventive care that he needs; or the freedom of an entrepreneur who can start a new venture — or the joy of a wife who thought she’d never again take her husband’s hand and go for a walk.

In the end, that’s why you do what you do.  Isn’t that what this is all about?  Is there any greater measure of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness than those simple pleasures that are afforded because you have good health and you have some security?

More than five years ago, I said that while I was not the first President to take up this cause, I was determined to be the last.  And now it’s up to all of us — the citizens in this room and across the country- — to continue to help make the right to health care a reality for all Americans.  And if we keep faith with one another and keep working for each other to create opportunity for everybody who strives for it, then, in the words of Senator Ted Kennedy, “the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.”
It couldn’t have happened without you.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  God bless you all.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

END
12:25 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 6, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference after G7 Summit — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama in Press Conference after G7 Summit

Source: WH, 6-8-15

Elmau Briefing Center
Krün, Germany

4:08 P.M. CEST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good afternoon.  Let me begin by once again thanking Chancellor Merkel and the people of Bavaria and Germany for their extraordinary hospitality here at the G7.  My stay here has been extraordinary.  I wish I could stay longer.  And one of the pleasures of being President is scouting out places that you want to come back to, where you don’t have to spend all your time in a conference room.  The setting is breathtaking.  Our German friends have been absolutely wonderful, and the success of this summit is a tribute to their outstanding work.

The G7 represents some of the largest economies in the world.  But in our G7 partners, the United States also embraces some of our strongest allies and closest friends in the world.  So, even as we work to promote the growth that creates jobs and opportunity, we’re also here to stand up for the fundamental principles that we share as democracies:  for freedom; for peace; for the right of nations and peoples to decide their own destiny; for universal human rights and the dignity of every human being.  And I’m pleased that here in Krün, we showed that on the most pressing global challenges, America and our allies stand united.

We agree that the best way to sustain the global economic recovery is by focusing on jobs and growth.  That’s what I’m focused on in the United States.  On Friday, we learned that our economy created another 280,000 jobs in May — the strongest month of the year so far — and more than 3 million new jobs over the past year, nearly the fastest pace in over a decade.  We’ve now seen five straight years of private sector job growth — 12.6 million new jobs created — the longest streak on record.  The unemployment rate is near its lowest level in seven years.  Wages for American workers continue to rise.  And since I took office, the United States has cut our deficit by two-thirds.  So, in the global economy, America is a major source of strength.

At the same time, we recognize that the global economy, while growing, is still not performing at its full potential, And we agreed on a number of necessary steps.  Here in Europe, we support efforts to find a path that enables Greece to carry out key reforms and return to growth within a strong, stable and growing Eurozone.  I updated my partners on our effort with Congress to pass trade promotion authority so we can move ahead with TPP in the Asia Pacific region, and T-TIP here in Europe –agreements with high standards to protect workers, public safety and the environment.

We continue to make progress toward a strong global climate agreement this year in Paris.  All the G7 countries have now put forward our post-2020 targets for reducing carbon emissions, and we’ll continue to urge other significant emitters to do so as well.  We’ll continue to meet our climate finance commitments to help developing countries transition to low-carbon growth.

As we’ve done in the U.S., the G7 agreed on the need to integrate climate risks into development assistance and investment programs across the board, and to increase access to risk insurance to help developing countries respond to and recover from climate-related disasters.  And building on the Power Africa initiative I launched two years ago, the G7 will work to mobilize more financing for clean-energy projects in Africa.

With respect to security, the G7 remains strongly united in support for Ukraine.  We’ll continue to provide economic support and technical assistance that Ukraine needs as it moves ahead on critical reforms to transform its economy and strengthen its democracy.  As we’ve seen again in recent days, Russian forces continue to operate in eastern Ukraine, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  This is now the second year in a row that the G7 has met without Russia -— another example of Russia’s isolation -— and every member of the G7 continues to maintain sanctions on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.

Now, it’s important to recognize the Russian economy has been seriously weakened.  The ruble and foreign investment are down; Inflation is up.  The Russian central bank has lost more than $150 billion in reserves.  Russian banks and firms are virtually locked out of the international markets.  Russian energy companies are struggling to import the services and technologies they need for complex energy projects.  Russian defense firms have been cut off from key technologies.  Russia is in deep recession.  So Russia’s actions in Ukraine are hurting Russia and hurting the Russian people.

Here at the G7, we agreed that even as we will continue to seek a diplomatic solution, sanctions against Russia will remain in place so long as Russia continues to violate its obligations under the Minsk agreements.  Our European partners reaffirmed that they will maintain sanctions on Russia until the Minsk agreements are fully implemented, which means extending the EU’s existing sectoral sanctions beyond July.  And the G7 is making it clear that, if necessary, we stand ready to impose additional, significant sanctions against Russia.

Beyond Europe, we discussed the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, and we remain united heading into the final stages of the talks.  Iran has a historic opportunity to resolve the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program, and we agreed that Iran needs to seize that opportunity.

Our discussions with Prime Minister Abadi of Iraq, President Caid Essebsi of Tunisia and President Buhari of Nigeria were a chance to address the threats of ISIL and Boko Haram.  The G7 countries, therefore, agreed to work -— together and with our partners -— to further coordinate our counterterrorism efforts.

As many of the world’s leading partners in global development — joined by leaders of Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and the African Union — we discussed how to maximize the impact of our development partnerships.  We agreed to continue our landmark initiative to promote food security and nutrition — part of our effort to lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.  We’ll continue to work with our partners in West Africa to get Ebola cases down to zero.  And as part of our Global Health Security Agenda, I’m pleased that the G7 made a major commitment to help 60 countries over the next five years achieve specific targets to better prevent, detect and respond to future outbreaks before they become epidemics.

And finally, I want to commend Chancellor Merkel for ensuring that this summit included a focus on expanding educational and economic opportunities for women and girls. The G7 committed to expanding career training for women in our own countries, and to increase technical and vocational training in developing countries, which will help all of our nations prosper.
So, again, I want to thank Angela and the people of Germany for their extraordinary hospitality.  I leave here confident that when it comes to the key challenges of our time, America and our closest allies stand shoulder to shoulder.

So with that, I will take some questions.  And I will start off with Jeff Mason of Reuters.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  After your meetings here, you mentioned Greece in your opening statement.  Do you believe that the Europeans are being too tough on Greece in these talks? And what else needs to be done on both sides to ensure there’s a deal and to ensure that there isn’t the undue harm to financial markets that you’ve warned about?

And on a separate and somewhat related topic, the French told reporters today that you said to G7 leaders that you’re concerned that the dollar is too strong.  What did you say exactly?  And are you concerned that the dollar is too strong?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  First of all, don’t believe unnamed quotes. I did not say that.  And I make a practice of not commenting on the daily fluctuations of the dollar or any other currency.

With respect to Greece, I think that not only our G7 partners but the IMF and other institutions that were represented here feel a sense of urgency in finding a path to resolve the situation there.  And what it’s going to require is Greece being serious about making some important reforms not only to satisfy creditors, but, more importantly, to create a platform whereby the Greek economy can start growing again and prosper.  And so the Greeks are going to have to follow through and make some tough political choices that will be good for the long term.

I also think it’s going to be important for the international community and the international financial agencies to recognize the extraordinary challenges that Greeks face.  And if both sides are showing a sufficient flexibility, then I think we can get this problem resolved.  But it will require some tough decisions for all involved, and we will continue to consult with all the parties involved to try to encourage that kind of outcome.

Q    Are you confident it will happen before the deadline?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I think that everybody wants to make it happen and they’re working hard to get it done.

Nedra.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  How frustrated are you that after you personally raised your concerns about cybersecurity with the Chinese President that a massive attack on U.S. personnel files seems to have originated from China?  Was the Chinese government involved?  And separately, as a sports fan, can you give us your reaction to the FIFA bribery scandal?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  With respect to FIFA, I cannot comment on a pending case by our Attorney General.  I will say that in conversations I’ve had here in Europe, people think it is very important for FIFA to be able to operate with integrity and transparency and accountability.

And so as the investigation and charges proceed, I think we have to keep in mind that although football — soccer — depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on, is a game, it’s also a massive business.  It is a source of incredible national pride, and people want to make sure that it operates with integrity.

The United States, by the way, since we keep on getting better and better at each World Cup, we want to make sure that a sport that’s gaining popularity is conducted in an upright manner.

I don’t want to discuss — because we haven’t publicly unveiled who we think may have engaged in these cyber-attacks — but I can tell you that we have known for a long time that there are significant vulnerabilities and that these vulnerabilities are going to accelerate as time goes by, both in systems within government and within the private sector.  This is why it’s so important that Congress moves forward on passing cyber legislation — cybersecurity legislation that we’ve been pushing for; why, over the last several years, I’ve been standing up new mechanisms inside of government for us to investigate what happens and to start finding more effective solutions.

Part of the problem is, is that we’ve got very old systems. And we discovered this new breach in OPM precisely because we’ve initiated this process of inventorying and upgrading these old systems to address existing vulnerabilities.  And what we are doing is going agency by agency, and figuring out what can we fix with better practices and better computer hygiene by personnel, and where do we need new systems and new infrastructure in order to protect information not just of government employees or government activities, but also, most importantly, where there’s an interface between government and the American people.

And this is going to be a big project and we’re going to have to keep on doing it, because both state and non-state actors are sending everything they’ve got at trying to breach these systems.  In some cases, it’s non-state actors who are engaging in criminal activity and potential theft.  In the case of state actors, they’re probing for intelligence or, in some cases, trying to bring down systems in pursuit of their various foreign policy objectives.  In either case, we’re going to have to be much more aggressive, much more attentive than we have been.

And this problem is not going to go away.  It is going to accelerate.  And that means that we have to be as nimble, as aggressive, and as well-resourced as those who are trying to break into these systems.

Justin Sink.

Q    Thanks, Mr. President.  I wanted to ask about two things that were on the agenda at the G7 this weekend.  The first was the Islamic State.  You said yesterday, ahead of your meeting with Prime Minister Cameron, that you’d assess what was working and what wasn’t.  So I’m wondering, bluntly, what is not working in the fight against the Islamic State.  And in today’s bilateral with Prime Minister Abadi, you pledged to step up assistance to Iraq.  I’m wondering if that includes additional U.S. military personnel.

Separately, on trade, Chancellor Merkel said today that she was pleased you would get fast track authority.  I’m wondering if that means that you gave her or other leaders here assurance that it would go through the House.  And if it doesn’t, what does it say about your ability to achieve meaningful agreements with Congress for the remainder of your time in office?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, on the latter question, I’m not going to hypothesize about not getting it done.  I intend to get it done.  And, hopefully, we’re going to get a vote soon because I think it’s the right thing to do.

With respect to ISIL, we have made significant progress in pushing back ISIL from areas in which they had occupied or disrupted local populations, but we’ve also seen areas like in Ramadi where they’re displaced in one place and then they come back in, in another.  And they’re nimble, and they’re aggressive, and they’re opportunistic.

So one of the areas where we’re going to have to improve is the speed at which we’re training Iraqi forces.  Where we’ve trained Iraqi forces directly and equipped them, and we have a train-and-assist posture, they operate effectively.  Where we haven’t, morale, lack of equipment, et cetera, may undermine the effectiveness of Iraqi security forces.  So we want to get more Iraqi security forces trained, fresh, well-equipped and focused. And President Abadi wants the same thing.

So we’re reviewing a range of plans for how we might do that, essentially accelerating the number of Iraqi forces that are properly trained and equipped and have a focused strategy and good leadership.  And when a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people.  We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis, as well, about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place.  And so the details of that are not yet worked out.

Q    Is it fair to say that additional military personnel — U.S. military personnel are of what’s under consideration?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I think what is fair to say is that all the countries in the international coalition are prepared to do more to train Iraqi security forces if they feel like that additional work is being taken advantage of.  And one of the things that we’re still seeing is — in Iraq — places where we’ve got more training capacity than we have recruits.  So part of my discussion with Prime Minister Abadi was how do we make sure that we get more recruits in.  A big part of the answer there is our outreach to Sunni tribes.

We’ve seen Sunni tribes who are not only willing and prepared to fight ISIL, but have been successful at rebuffing ISIL.  But it has not been happening as fast as it needs to.  And so one of the efforts that I’m hoping to see out of Prime Minister Abadi, and the Iraqi legislature when they’re in session, is to move forward on a National Guard law that would help to devolve some of the security efforts in places like Anbar to local folks, and to get those Sunni tribes involved more rapidly.

This is part of what helped defeat AQI — the precursor of ISIL — during the Iraq War in 2006.  Without that kind of local participation, even if you have a short-term success, it’s very hard to hold those areas.

The other area where we’ve got to make a lot more progress is on stemming the flow of foreign fighters.  Now, you’ll recall that I hosted a U.N. General Security Council meeting specifically on this issue, and we’ve made some progress, but not enough.  We are still seeing thousands of foreign fighters flowing into, first, Syria, and then, oftentimes, ultimately into Iraq.

And not all of that is preventable, but a lot of it is preventable — if we’ve got better cooperation, better coordination, better intelligence, if we are monitoring what’s happening at the Turkish-Syria border more effectively.  This is an area where we’ve been seeking deeper cooperation with Turkish authorities who recognize it’s a problem but haven’t fully ramped up the capacity they need.  And this is something that I think we got to spend a lot of time on.

If we can cut off some of that foreign fighter flow then we’re able to isolate and wear out ISIL forces that are already there.  Because we’re taking a lot of them off the battlefield, but if they’re being replenished, then it doesn’t solve the problem over the long term.

The final point that I emphasized to Prime Minister Abadi is the political agenda of inclusion remains as important as the military fight that’s out there.  If Sunnis, Kurds, and Shia all feel as if they’re concerns are being addressed, and that operating within a legitimate political structure can meet their need for security, prosperity, non-discrimination, then we’re going to have much easier time.

And the good news is Prime Minister Abadi is very much committed to that principle.  But, obviously, he’s inheriting a legacy of a lot of mistrust between various groups in Iraq — he’s having to take a lot of political risks.  In some cases, there are efforts to undermine those efforts by other political factions within Iraq.  And so we’ve got to continue to monitor that and support those who are on the right side of the issue there.

Colleen Nelson.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You mentioned that the U.S. and its European allies have reached a consensus on extending the sanctions against Russia.  Is there a consensus, though, about what specifically the next step should be if Russia continues to violate the Minsk agreement?  And also, can you deter Russian aggression in other parts of Eastern Europe without a permanent U.S. troop presence?

And separately, I wanted to ask you about the possibility that the court battle over your actions on immigration could extend late into your term.  Do you think that there’s anything more that you can do for the people who would have benefitted from that program and now are in limbo?  And how do you view the possibility of your term ending without accomplishing your goals on immigration?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  On Ukraine and Russia and Minsk, there is strong consensus that we need to keep pushing Russia to abide by the terms of the Minsk agreement; we need to continue to support and encourage Ukraine to meet its obligations under Minsk — that until that’s completed, sanctions remain in place.

There was discussion about additional steps that we might need to take if Russia, working through separatists, doubled down on aggression inside of Ukraine.  Those discussions are taking place at a technical level, not yet at a political level — because I think the first goal here going into a European Council meeting that’s coming up is just rolling over the existing sanctions.  But I think at a technical level, we want to be prepared.

Our hope is, is that we don’t have to take additional steps because the Minsk agreement is met.  And I want to give enormous credit to Chancellor Merkel, along with President Hollande, who have shown extraordinary stick-to-itiveness and patience in trying to get that done.

Ultimately, this is going to be an issue for Mr. Putin.  He’s got to make a decision:  Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to re-create the glories of the Soviet empire?  Or does he recognize that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?

And as I mentioned earlier, the costs that the Russian people are bearing are severe.  That’s being felt.  It may not always be understood why they’re suffering, because of state media inside of Russia and propaganda coming out of state media in Russia and to Russian speakers.  But the truth of the matter is, is that the Russian people would greatly benefit.  And, ironically, one of the rationales that Mr. Putin provided for his incursions into Ukraine was to protect Russian speakers there.  Well, Russian speakers inside of Ukraine are precisely the ones who are bearing the brunt of the fighting.  Their economy has collapsed.  Their lives are disordered.  Many of them are displaced.  Their homes may have been destroyed.  They’re suffering.  And the best way for them to stop suffering is if the Minsk agreement is fully implemented.

Oh, immigration.  With respect to immigration, obviously, I’m frustrated by a district court ruling that now is winding its way through the appeals process.  We are being as aggressive as we can legally to, first and foremost, appeal that ruling, and then to implement those elements of immigration executive actions that were not challenged in court.

But, obviously, the centerpiece, one of the key provisions for me was being able to get folks who are undocumented to go through a background check — criminal background check — pay back taxes, and then have a legal status.  And that requires an entire administrative apparatus and us getting them to apply and come clean.

I made a decision, which I think is the right one, that we should not accept applications until the legal status of this is clarified.  I am absolutely convinced this is well within my legal authority, Department of Homeland Security’s legal authority.  If you look at the precedent, if you look at the traditional discretion that the executive branch possesses when it comes to applying immigration laws, I am convinced that what we’re doing is lawful, and our lawyers are convinced that what we’re doing is lawful.

But the United States is a government of laws and separations of power, and even if it’s an individual district court judge who’s making this determination, we’ve got to go through the process to challenge it.  And until we get clarity there, I don’t want to bring people in, have them apply and jump through a lot of hoops only to have it deferred and delayed further.

Of course, there’s one really great way to solve this problem, and that would be Congress going ahead and acting, which would obviate the need for executive actions.  The majority of the American people I think still want to see that happen.  I suspect it will be a major topic of the next presidential campaign.

And so we will continue to push as hard as we can on all fronts to fix a broken immigration system.  Administratively, we’ll be prepared if and when we get the kind of ruling that I think we should have gotten in the first place about our authorities to go ahead and implement.  But ultimately, this has never fully replaced the need for Congress to act.  And my hope is, is that after a number of the other issues that we’re working on currently get cleared, that some quiet conversations start back up again, particularly in the Republican Party, about the shortsighted approach that they’re taking when it comes to immigration.

Okay.  Christi Parsons.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  More than six million Americans may soon lose health insurance if the Supreme Court this month backs the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act. A growing number of states are looking for assistance as they face the prospect that their residents may lose federal insurance subsidies and their insurance markets may collapse.  Yet, your administration has given very little to no guidance on how states can prepare.  What can you tell state leaders and advocates who worry that health care markets in half the country may be thrown into chaos?

THE PRESIDENT:  What I can tell state leaders is, is that under well-established precedent, there is no reason why the existing exchanges should be overturned through a court case.  It has been well documented that those who passed this legislation never intended for folks who were going through the federal exchange not to have their citizens get subsidies.  That’s not just the opinion of me; that’s not just the opinion of Democrats; that’s the opinion of the Republicans who worked on the legislation.  The record makes it clear.

And under well-established statutory interpretation, approaches that have been repeatedly employed — not just by liberal, Democratic judges, but by conservative judges like some on the current Supreme Court — you interpret a statute based on what the intent and meaning and the overall structure of the statute provides for.

And so this should be an easy case.  Frankly, it probably shouldn’t even have been taken up.  And since we’re going to get a ruling pretty quick, I think it’s important for us to go ahead and assume that the Supreme Court is going to do what most legal scholars who’ve looked at this would expect them to do.

But, look, I’ve said before and I will repeat again:  If, in fact, you have a contorted reading of the statute that says federal-run exchanges don’t provide subsidies for folks who are participating in those exchanges, then that throws off how that exchange operates.  It means that millions of people who are obtaining insurance currently with subsidies suddenly aren’t getting those subsidies; many of them can’t afford it; they pull out; and the assumptions that the insurance companies made when they priced their insurance suddenly gets thrown out the window. And it would be disruptive — not just, by the way, for folks in the exchanges, but for those insurance markets in those states, generally.

So it’s a bad idea.  It’s not something that should be done based on a twisted interpretation of four words in — as we were reminded repeatedly — a couple-thousand-page piece of legislation.

What’s more, the thing is working.  I mean, part of what’s bizarre about this whole thing is we haven’t had a lot of conversation about the horrors of Obamacare because none of them come to pass.  You got 16 million people who’ve gotten health insurance.  The overwhelming majority of them are satisfied with the health insurance.  It hasn’t had an adverse effect on people who already had health insurance.  The only effect it’s had on people who already had health insurance is they now have an assurance that they won’t be prevented from getting health insurance if they’ve got a preexisting condition, and they get additional protections with the health insurance that they do have.

The costs have come in substantially lower than even our estimates about how much it would cost.  Health care inflation overall has continued to be at some of the lowest levels in 50 years.  None of the predictions about how this wouldn’t work have come to pass.

And so I’m — A, I’m optimistic that the Supreme Court will play it straight when it comes to the interpretation.  And, B, I should mention that if it didn’t, Congress could fix this whole thing with a one-sentence provision.

But I’m not going to go into a long speculation anticipating disaster.

Q    But you’re a plan-ahead kind of guy.  Why not have a plan B?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, you know, I want to just make sure that everybody understands that you have a model where all the pieces connect.  And there are a whole bunch of scenarios not just in relation to health care, but all kinds of stuff that I do, where if somebody does something that doesn’t make any sense, then it’s hard to fix.  And this would be hard to fix.  Fortunately, there’s no reason to have to do it.  It doesn’t need fixing.  All right?

Thank you very much.  Thank you to the people of Germany and Bavaria.  You guys were wonderful hosts.

END
4:43 P.M. CEST

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Eulogy in Honor of Beau Biden

Source: WH, 6-6-15

Remarks by the President in Eulogy in Honor of Beau Biden

St. Anthony of Padua Church Wilmington, Delaware

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

Full Text Obama Presidency June 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s on the Passage of the USA FREEDOM Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the USA FREEDOM Act

Source: WH, 6-2-15

For the past eighteen months, I have called for reforms that better safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of the American people while ensuring our national security officials retain tools important to keeping Americans safe.  That is why, today, I welcome the Senate’s passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, which I will sign when it reaches my desk.

After a needless delay and inexcusable lapse in important national security authorities, my Administration will work expeditiously to ensure our national security professionals again have the full set of vital tools they need to continue protecting the country. Just as important, enactment of this legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs, including by prohibiting bulk collection through the use of Section 215, FISA pen registers, and National Security Letters and by providing the American people with additional transparency measures.

I am gratified that Congress has finally moved forward with this sensible reform legislation. I particularly applaud Senators Leahy and Lee as well as Representatives Goodlatte, Sensenbrenner, Conyers, and Nadler for their leadership and tireless efforts to pass this important bipartisan legislative achievement.

Full Text Obama Presidency June 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Medal of Honor Presentation Sergeant William Shemin and Private Henry Johnson — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Presentation of the Medal of Honor

Source: WH, 6-2-15

President Obama Signs Medal of Honor Certificate and Citation

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

11:27 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Please be seated.

Welcome to the White House.

Nearly 100 years ago, a 16-year-old kid from the Midwest named Frank Buckles headed to Europe’s Western Front.  An ambulance driver, he carried the wounded to safety.  He lived to see our troops ship off to another war in Europe.  And one in Korea.  Vietnam.  Iraq.  Afghanistan.  And Frank Buckles became a quietly powerful advocate for our veterans, and remained that way until he passed away four years ago — America’s last surviving veteran of World War I.

On the day Frank was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, Vice President Biden and I went to pay our respects.  And we weren’t alone.  Americans from across the country came out to express their gratitude as well.  They were of different ages, different races, some military, some not.  Most had never met Frank.  But all of them braved a cold winter’s day to offer a final tribute to a man with whom they shared a powerful conviction — that no one who serves our country should ever be forgotten.

We are a nation — a people — who remember our heroes.  We take seriously our responsibility to only send them when war is necessary.  We strive to care for them and their families when they come home.  We never forget their sacrifice.  And we believe that it’s never too late to say thank you.  That’s why we’re here this morning.

Today, America honors two of her sons who served in World War I, nearly a century ago.  These two soldiers were roughly the same age, dropped into the battlefields of France at roughly the same time.  They both risked their own lives to save the lives of others.  They both left us decades ago, before we could give them the full recognition that they deserved.  But it’s never too late to say thank you.  Today, we present America’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, to Private Henry Johnson and Sergeant William Shemin.

I want to begin by welcoming and thanking everyone who made this day possible — family, friends, admirers.  Some of you have worked for years to honor these heroes, to give them the honor they should have received a long time ago.  We are grateful that you never gave up.  We are appreciative of your efforts.

As a young man, Henry Johnson joined millions of other African-Americans on the Great Migration from the rural South to the industrial North — a people in search of a better life.  He landed in Albany, where he mixed sodas at a pharmacy, worked in a coal yard and as a porter at a train station.  And when the United States entered World War I, Henry enlisted.  He joined one of only a few units that he could:  the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment.  The Harlem Hellfighters.  And soon, he was headed overseas.

At the time, our military was segregated.  Most black soldiers served in labor battalions, not combat units.  But General Pershing sent the 369th to fight with the French Army, which accepted them as their own.  Quickly, the Hellfighters lived up to their name.  And in the early hours of May 15, 1918, Henry Johnson became a legend.

His battalion was in Northern France, tucked into a trench. Some slept — but he couldn’t.  Henry and another soldier, Needham Roberts, stood sentry along No Man’s Land.  In the pre-dawn, it was pitch black, and silent.  And then — a click — the sound of wire cutters.

A German raiding party — at least a dozen soldiers, maybe more — fired a hail of bullets.  Henry fired back until his rifle was empty.  Then he and Needham threw grenades.  Both of them were hit.  Needham lost consciousness.  Two enemy soldiers began to carry him away while another provided cover, firing at Henry.  But Henry refused to let them take his brother in arms.  He shoved another magazine into his rifle.  It jammed.  He turned the gun around and swung it at one of the enemy, knocking him down.  Then he grabbed the only weapon he had left — his Bolo knife — and went to rescue Needham.  Henry took down one enemy soldier, then the other.  The soldier he’d knocked down with his rifle recovered, and Henry was wounded again.  But armed with just his knife, Henry took him down, too.

And finally, reinforcements arrived and the last enemy soldier fled.  As the sun rose, the scale of what happened became clear.  In just a few minutes of fighting, two Americans had defeated an entire raiding party.  And Henry Johnson saved his fellow soldier from being taken prisoner.

Henry became one of our most famous soldiers of the war.  His picture was printed on recruitment posters and ads for Victory War Stamps.  Former President Teddy Roosevelt wrote that he was one of the bravest men in the war.  In 1919, Henry rode triumphantly in a victory parade.  Crowds lined Fifth Avenue for miles, cheering this American soldier.

Henry was one of the first Americans to receive France’s highest award for valor.  But his own nation didn’t award him anything –- not even the Purple Heart, though he had been wounded 21 times.  Nothing for his bravery, though he had saved a fellow solder at great risk to himself.  His injuries left him crippled. He couldn’t find work.  His marriage fell apart.  And in his early 30s, he passed away.

Now, America can’t change what happened to Henry Johnson.  We can’t change what happened to too many soldiers like him, who went uncelebrated because our nation judged them by the color of their skin and not the content of their character.  But we can do our best to make it right.  In 1996, President Clinton awarded Henry Johnson a Purple Heart.  And today, 97 years after his extraordinary acts of courage and selflessness, I’m proud to award him the Medal of Honor.

We are honored to be joined today by some very special guests –- veterans of Henry’s regiment, the 369th.  Thank you, to each of you, for your service.  And I would ask Command Sergeant Major Louis Wilson of the New York National Guard to come forward and accept this medal on Private Johnson’s behalf.  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States of America authorized buy Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Private Henry Johnson, United States Army.  Private Henry Johnson distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a member of Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Forces, on May 15, 1918, during combat operations against the enemy on the front lines of the Western Front in France.

In the early morning hours, Private Johnson and another soldier were on sentry duty at a forward outpost when they received a surprise attack from the German raiding party consisting of at least 12 soldiers.  While under intense enemy fire and despite receiving significant wounds, Private Johnson mounted a brave retaliation, resulting in several enemy casualties.  When his fellow soldier was badly wounded and being carried away by the enemy, Private Johnson exposed himself to great danger by advancing from his position to engage the two enemy captors in hand-to-hand combat.  Wielding only a knife and gravely wounded himself, Private Johnson continued fighting, defeating the two captors and rescuing the wounded soldier.  Displaying great courage, he continued to hold back the larger enemy force until the defeated enemy retreated, leaving behind a large cache of weapons and equipment and providing valuable intelligence.

Without Private Johnson’s quick actions and continued fighting, even in the face of almost certain death, the enemy might have succeeded in capturing prisoners in the outpost and abandoning valuable intelligence.  Private Johnson’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Infantry Division, and the United States Army.

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

THE PRESIDENT:  Growing up in Bayonne, New Jersey, William Shemin loved sports — football, wrestling, boxing, swimming.  If it required physical and mental toughness, and it made your heart pump, your muscles ache, he was all in.  As a teenager, he even played semi-pro baseball.  So when America entered the war, and posters asked if he was tough enough, there was no question about it — he was going to serve.  Too young to enlist?  No problem.  He puffed his chest and lied about his age.  (Laughter.)  And that’s how William Shemin joined the 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, and shipped out for France.

On August 7th, 1918, on the Western Front, the Allies were hunkered down in one trench, the Germans in another, separated by about 150 yards of open space — just a football field and a half.  But that open space was a bloodbath.  Soldier after soldier ventured out, and soldier after soldier was mowed down.  So those still in the trenches were left with a terrible choice: die trying to rescue your fellow soldier, or watch him die, knowing that part of you will die along with him.

William Shemin couldn’t stand to watch.  He ran out into the hell of No Man’s Land and dragged a wounded comrade to safety.  Then he did it again, and again.  Three times he raced through heavy machine gunfire.  Three times he carried his fellow soldiers to safety.

The battle stretched on for days.  Eventually, the platoon’s leadership broke down.  Too many officers had become casualties. So William stepped up and took command.  He reorganized the depleted squads.  Every time there was a lull in combat, he led rescues of the wounded.  As a lieutenant later described it, William was “cool, calm, intelligent, and personally utterly fearless.”  That young kid who lied about his age grew up fast in war.  And he received accolades for his valor, including the Distinguished Service Cross.

When he came home, William went to school for forestry and began a nursery business in the Bronx.  It was hard work, lots of physical labor — just like he liked it.  He married a red-head, blue-eyed woman named Bertha Schiffer, and they had three children who gave them 14 grandchildren.  He bought a house upstate, where the grandkids spent their summers swimming and riding horses.  He taught them how to salute.  He taught them the correct way to raise the flag every morning and lower and fold it every night.  He taught them how to be Americans.

William stayed in touch with his fellow veterans, too.  And when World War II came, William went and talked to the Army about signing up again.  By then, his war injuries had given him a terrible limp.  But he treated that limp just like he treated his age all those years ago — pay no attention to that, he said.  He knew how to build roads, he knew camouflage — maybe there was a place for him in this war, too.  To Bertha’s great relief, the Army said that the best thing William could do for his country was to keep running his business and take care of his family.  (Laughter.)

His daughter, Elsie — who’s here today with what seems like a platoon of Shemins — (laughter) — has a theory about what drove her father to serve.  He was the son of Russian immigrants, and he was devoted to his Jewish faith.  “His family lived through the pogroms,” she says.  “They saw towns destroyed and children killed.  And then they came to America.  And here they found a haven — a home — success — and my father and his sister both went to college.  All that, in one generation!  That’s what America meant to him.  And that’s why he’d do anything for this country.”

Well, Elsie, as much as America meant to your father, he means even more to America.  It takes our nation too long sometimes to say so — because Sergeant Shemin served at a time when the contributions and heroism of Jewish Americans in uniform were too often overlooked.  But William Shemin saved American lives.  He represented our nation with honor.   And so it is my privilege, on behalf of the American people, to make this right and finally award the Medal of Honor to Sergeant William Shemin. I want to invite his daughters — Elsie and Ina — 86 and 83, and gorgeous — (laughter) — to accept this medal on their father’s behalf.  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Sergeant William Shemin, United States Army.

Sergeant William Shemin distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a rifleman with G Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, American Expeditionary Forces, in connection with combat operations against an armed enemy on the Vesle River, near Bazoches, France from August 7th to August 9th, 1918.

Sergeant Shemin upon three different occasions left cover and crossed an open space of 150 yards, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy machine gun and rifle fire to rescue wounded.  After officers and seniors noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Sergeant Shemin took command of the platoon and displayed great initiative under fire until wounded on August 9th.

Sergeant Shemin’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself with G Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, American Expeditionary Forces, and the United States Army.

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

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it has taken a long time for Henry Johnson and William Shemin to receive the recognition they deserve.  And there are surely others whose heroism is still unacknowledged and uncelebrated.  So we have work to do, as a nation, to make sure that all of our heroes’ stories are told.   And we’ll keep at it, no matter how long it takes.  America is the country we are today because of people like Henry and William — Americans who signed up to serve, and rose to meet their responsibilities — and then went beyond.  The least we can do is to say:  We know who you are.  We know what you did for us.  We are forever grateful.

May God bless the fallen of all of our wars.  May He watch over our veterans and their families and all those who serve today.  May God bless the United States of America.

With that, I’d ask the Chaplain to return to the podium for a benediction.

(The benediction is given.)

THE PRESIDENT:  With that, we conclude the formal ceremony.  But I welcome everybody to join in a wonderful reception.  And let’s give our Medal of Honor winners one big round of applause. (Applause.)

Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
11:48 A.M. EDT

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

Full Text Obama Presidency May 22, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Jewish American Heritage Month Adas Israel Synagogue

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Jewish American Heritage Month

Source: WH, 5-22-15

Adas Israel Congregation
Washington, D.C.

10:57 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Well, good morning, everybody!

AUDIENCE: Good morning!

THE PRESIDENT:  A slightly early Shabbat Shalom.  (Laughter.)  I want to thank Rabbi Steinlauf for the very kind introduction.  And to all the members of the congregation, thank you so much for such an extraordinary and warm welcome.

I want to thank a couple of outstanding members of Congress who are here.  Senator Michael Bennet — where did Michael Bennet go?  There he is.  (Applause.)  And Representative Sandy Levin, who is here.  (Applause.)  I want to thank our special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, for his important work.  There he is.  (Applause)  But as I said, most of all I want to thank the entire congregation of Adas Israel for having me here today.

Earlier this week, I was actually interviewed by one of your members, Jeff Goldberg.  (Applause.)  And Jeff reminded me that he once called me “the first Jewish President.”  (Laughter.)  Now, since some people still seem to be wondering about my faith — (laughter) — I should make clear this was an honorary title.  (Laughter.)  But I was flattered.

And as an honorary member of the tribe, not to mention somebody who’s hosted seven White House Seders and been advised by — (applause) — and been advised by two Jewish chiefs of staff, I can also proudly say that I’m getting a little bit of the hang of the lingo.  (Laughter.)  But I will not use any of the Yiddish-isms that Rahm Emanuel taught me because — (laughter) — I want to be invited back.  (Laughter.)  Let’s just say he had some creative new synonyms for “Shalom.”  (Laughter.)

Now, I wanted to come here to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month because this congregation, like so many around the country, helps us to tell the American story.  And back in 1876, when President Grant helped dedicate Adas Israel, he became the first sitting President in history to attend a synagogue service.  And at the time, it was an extraordinarily symbolic gesture — not just for America, but for the world.

And think about the landscape of Jewish history.  Tomorrow night, the holiday of Shavuot marks the moment that Moses received the Torah at Mount Sinai, the first link in a chain of tradition that stretches back thousands of years, and a foundation stone for our civilization.  Yet for most of those years, Jews were persecuted — not embraced — by those in power.  Many of your ancestors came here fleeing that persecution.
The United States could have been merely another destination in that ongoing diaspora.  But those who came here found that America was more than just a country.  America was an idea.  America stood for something.  As George Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island:  The United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

It’s important for us to acknowledge that too often in our history we fell short of those lofty ideals — in the legal subjugation of African Americans, through slavery and Jim Crow; the treatment of Native Americans.  And far too often, American Jews faced the scourge of anti-Semitism here at home.  But our founding documents gave us a North Star, our Bill of Rights; our system of government gave us a capacity for change.  And where other nations actively and legally might persecute or discriminate against those of different faiths, this nation was called upon to see all of us as equal before the eyes of the law.  When other countries treated their own citizens as “wretched refuse,” we lifted up our lamp beside the golden door and welcomed them in.  Our country is immeasurably stronger because we did.  (Applause.)

From Einstein to Brandeis, from Jonas Salk to Betty Friedan, American Jews have made contributions to this country that have shaped it in every aspect.  And as a community, American Jews have helped make our union more perfect.  The story of Exodus inspired oppressed people around the world in their own struggles for civil rights.  From the founding members of the NAACP to a freedom summer in Mississippi, from women’s rights to gay rights to workers’ rights, Jews took the heart of Biblical edict that we must not oppress a stranger, having been strangers once ourselves.

Earlier this year, when we marked the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma, we remembered the iconic images of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Dr. King, praying with his feet.  To some, it must have seemed strange that a rabbi from Warsaw would take such great risks to stand with a Baptist preacher from Atlanta.  But Heschel explained that their cause was one and the same.  In his essay, “No Religion is an Island,” he wrote, “We must choose between interfaith and inter-nihilism.”  Between a shared hope that says together we can shape a brighter future, or a shared cynicism that says our world is simply beyond repair.

So the heritage we celebrate this month is a testament to the power of hope.  Me standing here before you, all of you in this incredible congregation is a testament to the power of hope.  (Applause.)  It’s a rebuke to cynicism.  It’s a rebuke to nihilism.  And it inspires us to have faith that our future, like our past, will be shaped by the values that we share.  At home, those values compel us to work to keep alive the American Dream of opportunity for all.  It means that we care about issues that affect all children, not just our own; that we’re prepared to invest in early childhood education; that we are concerned about making college affordable; that we want to create communities where if you’re willing to work hard, you can get ahead the way so many who fled and arrived on these shores were able to get ahead.  Around the world, those values compel us to redouble our efforts to protect our planet and to protect the human rights of all who share this planet.

It’s particularly important to remember now, given the tumult that is taking place in so many corners of the globe, in one of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods, those shared values compel us to reaffirm that our enduring friendship with the people of Israel and our unbreakable bonds with the state of Israel — that those bonds, that friendship cannot be broken.  (Applause.)  Those values compel us to say that our commitment to Israel’s security — and my commitment to Israel’s security — is and always will be unshakeable.  (Applause.)

And I’ve said this before:  It would be a moral failing on the part of the U.S. government and the American people, it would be a moral failing on my part if we did not stand up firmly, steadfastly not just on behalf of Israel’s right to exist, but its right to thrive and prosper.  (Applause.)  Because it would ignore the history that brought the state of Israel about.  It would ignore the struggle that’s taken place through millennia to try to affirm the kinds of values that say everybody has a place, everybody has rights, everybody is a child of God.  (Applause.)

As many of you know, I’ve visited the houses hit by rocket fire in Sderot.  I’ve been to Yad Vashem and made that solemn vow:  “Never forget.  Never again.”  When someone threatens Israel’s citizens or its very right to exist, Israelis necessarily that seriously.  And so do I.  Today, the military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries is stronger than ever.  Our support of the Iron Dome’s rocket system has saved Israeli lives.  And I can say that no U.S. President, no administration has done more to ensure that Israel can protect itself than this one.  (Applause.)

As part of that commitment, there’s something else that the United States and Israel agrees on:  Iran must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to get a nuclear weapon.  (Applause.)  Now, there’s a debate about how to achieve that — and that’s a healthy debate.  I’m not going to use my remaining time to go too deep into policy — although for those of you who are interested — (laughter) — we have a lot of material out there.  (Laughter.)  But I do want everybody to just remember a few key things.

The deal that we already reached with Iran has already halted or rolled back parts of Iran’s nuclear program.  Now we’re seeking a comprehensive solution.  I will not accept a bad deal.  As I pointed out in my most recent article with Jeff Goldberg, this deal will have my name on it, so nobody has a bigger personal stake in making sure that it delivers on its promise.  (Applause.)  I want a good deal.

I’m interested in a deal that blocks every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon — every single path.  A deal that imposes unprecedented inspections on all elements of Iran’s nuclear program, so that they can’t cheat; and if they try to cheat, we will immediately know about it and sanctions snap back on.  A deal that endures beyond a decade; that addresses this challenge for the long term.  In other words, a deal that makes the world and the region — including Israel — more secure.  That’s how I define a good deal.

I can’t stand here today and guarantee an agreement will be reached.  We’re hopeful.  We’re working hard.  But nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.  And I’ve made clear that when it comes to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, all options are and will remain on the table.

Moreover, even if we do get a good deal, there remains the broader issue of Iran’s support for terrorism and regional destabilization, and ugly threats against Israel.  And that’s why our strategic partnership with Israel will remain, no matter what happens in the days and years ahead.  And that’s why the people of Israel must always know America has its back, and America will always have its back.  (Applause.)

Now, that does not mean that there will not be, or should not be, periodic disagreements between our two governments.  There will be disagreements on tactics when it comes to how to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that is entirely appropriate and should be fully aired.  Because the stakes are sufficiently high that anything that’s proposed has to be subjected to scrutiny — and I welcome that scrutiny.

But there are also going to be some disagreements rooted in shared history that go beyond tactics, that are rooted in how we might remain true to our shared values.  I came to know Israel as a young man through these incredible images of kibbutzim, and Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir, and Israel overcoming incredible odds in the ’67 war.  The notion of pioneers who set out not only to safeguard a nation, but to remake the world.  Not only to make the desert bloom, but to allow their values to flourish; to ensure that the best of Judaism would thrive.  And those values in many ways came to be my own values.  They believed the story of their people gave them a unique perspective among the nations of the world, a unique moral authority and responsibility that comes from having once been a stranger yourself.

And to a young man like me, grappling with his own identity, recognizing the scars of race here in this nation, inspired by the civil rights struggle, the idea that you could be grounded in your history, as Israel was, but not be trapped by it, to be able to repair the world — that idea was liberating.  The example of Israel and its values was inspiring.

So when I hear some people say that disagreements over policy belie a general lack of support of Israel, I must object, and I object forcefully.  (Applause.)  For us to paper over difficult questions, particularly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or about settlement policy, that’s not a true measure of friendship.

Before I came out here, the Rabbi showed me the room that’s been built to promote scholarship and dialogue, and to be able to find how we make our shared values live.  And the reason you have that room is because applying those values to our lives is often hard, and it involves difficult choices.  That’s why we study.  That’s why it’s not just a formula.  And that’s what we have to do as nations as well as individuals.  We have to grapple and struggle with how do we apply the values that we care about to this very challenging and dangerous world.

And it is precisely because I care so deeply about the state of Israel — it’s precisely because, yes, I have high expectations for Israel the same way I have high expectations for the United States of America — that I feel a responsibility to speak out honestly about what I think will lead to long-term security and to the preservation of a true democracy in the Jewish homeland.  (Applause.)  And I believe that’s two states for two peoples, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.  (Applause.)  Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people on their land, as well.  (Applause.)

Now, I want to emphasize — that’s not easy.  The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners.  (Laughter.)  The neighborhood is dangerous.  And we cannot expect Israel to take existential risks with their security so that any deal that takes place has to take into account the genuine dangers of terrorism and hostility.

But it is worthwhile for us to keep up the prospect, the possibility of bridging divides and being just, and looking squarely at what’s possible but also necessary in order for Israel to be the type of nation that it was intended to be in its earliest founding.  (Applause.)

And that same sense of shared values also compel me to speak out — compel all of us to speak out — against the scourge of anti-Semitism wherever it exists.  (Applause.)  I want to be clear that, to me, all these things are connected.  The rights I insist upon and now fight for, for all people here in the United States compels me then to stand up for Israel and look out for the rights of the Jewish people.  And the rights of the Jewish people then compel me to think about a Palestinian child in Ramallah that feels trapped without opportunity.  That’s what Jewish values teach me.  That’s what the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches me.  These things are connected.  (Applause.)

And in recent years, we’ve seen a deeply disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in parts of the world where it would have seemed unthinkable just a few years or decades ago.  This is not some passing fad; these aren’t just isolated phenomenon.  And we know from our history they cannot be ignored.  Anti-Semitism is, and always will be, a threat to broader human values to which we all must aspire.  And when we allow anti-Semitism to take root, then our souls are destroyed, and it will spread.

And that’s why, tonight, for the first time ever, congregations around the world are celebrating a Solidarity Shabbat.  It’s a chance for leaders to publicly stand against anti-Semitism and bigotry in all of its forms.  And I’m proud to be a part of this movement, and I’m proud that six ambassadors from Europe are joining us today.  And their presence here — our presence together — is a reminder that we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.  (Applause.)  Our traditions, our history, can help us chart a better course as long as we are mindful of that history and those traditions, and we are vigilant in speaking out and standing up against what is wrong.  It’s not always easy, I think, to speak out against what is wrong, even for good people.

So I want to close with the story of one more of the many rabbis who came to Selma 50 years ago.  A few days after David Teitelbaum arrived to join the protests, he and a colleague were thrown in jail.  And they spent a Friday night in custody, singing Adon Olam to the tune of “We Shall Overcome.”  And that in and of itself is a profound statement of faith and hope.  But what’s wonderful is, is that out of respect many of their fellow protestors began wearing what they called “freedom caps” — (laughter) — yarmulkes — as they marched.

And the day after they were released from prison, Rabbi Teitelbaum watched Dr. King lead a prayer meeting before crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  And Dr. King said, “We are like the children of Israel, marching from slavery to freedom.”

That’s what happens when we’re true to our values.  It’s not just good for us, but it brings the community together.  (Applause.)  Tikkun Olam — it brings the community together and it helps repair the world.  It bridges differences that once looked unbridgeable.  It creates a future for our children that once seemed unattainable.  This congregation — Jewish American life is a testimony to the capacity to make our values live.  But it requires courage.  It requires strength.  It requires that we speak the truth not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard.

So may we always remember that our shared heritage makes us stronger, that our roots are intertwined.  May we always choose faith over nihilism, and courage over despair, and hope over cynicism and fear.  As we walk our own leg of a timeless, sacred march, may we always stand together, here at home and around the world.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
11:26 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency May 18, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Steps to Demilitarize Local Police Forces

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Community Policing

Source: WH, 5-18-15 

Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center
Camden, New Jersey

2:42 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Have a seat.  Well, thank you so much.  It is good to be in Camden.  (Applause.)

I want to thank your Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno; your Congressman, Donald Norcross; and your Mayor, Dana Redd, for being here.  Give them all a big round of applause.  (Applause.) I want to thank the outstanding facility, our hosts.  The Salvation Army is doing great work, and the Ray Kroc Center here seems like just a wonderful, wonderful facility.  (Applause.)  So we’re very proud of them.

I want to thank Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson for his outstanding work.  (Applause.)  Where’s the Chief?  There he is.

So I’ve come here to Camden to do something that might have been unthinkable just a few years ago — and that’s to hold you up as a symbol of promise for the nation.  (Applause.)  Now, I don’t want to overstate it.  Obviously Camden has gone through tough times and there are still tough times for a lot of folks here in Camden.  But just a few years ago, this city was written off as dangerous beyond redemption — a city trapped in a downward spiral.  Parents were afraid to let their children play outside.  Drug dealers operated in broad daylight.  There weren’t enough cops to patrol the streets.

So two years ago, the police department was overhauled to implement a new model of community policing.  They doubled the size of the force — while keeping it unionized.  They cut desk jobs in favor of getting more officers out into the streets.  Not just to walk the beat, but to actually get to know the residents — to set up basketball games, to volunteer in schools, to participate in reading programs, to get to know the small businesses in the area.

Now, to be a police officer takes a special kind of courage. And I talked about this on Friday at a memorial for 131 officers who gave their lives to protect communities like this one.  It takes a special kind of courage to run towards danger, to be a person that residents turn to when they’re most desperate.  And when you match courage with compassion, with care and understanding of the community — like we’ve seen here in Camden — some really outstanding things can begin to happen.

Violent crime in Camden is down 24 percent.  (Applause.)    Murder is down 47 percent.  (Applause.)  Open-air drug markets have been cut by 65 percent.  (Applause.)  The response time for 911 calls is down from one hour to just five minutes.  And when I was in the center, it was 1.3 minutes, right when I was there. (Applause.)  And perhaps most significant is that the police and residents are building trust.  (Applause.)  Building trust.

Now, nobody is suggesting that the job is done.  This is still a work in progress.  The Police Chief would be the first one to say it.  So would the Mayor.  Camden and its people still face some very big challenges.  But this city is on to something. You’ve made real progress in just two years.  And that’s why I’m here today — because I want to focus on the fact that other cities across America can make similar progress.

Everything we’ve done over the past six years, whether it’s rescuing the economy, or reforming our schools, or retooling our job training programs, has been in pursuit of one goal, and that’s creating opportunity for all of us, all our kids.  But we know that some communities have the odds stacked against them, and have had the odds stacked against them for a very long time  — in some cases, for decades.  You’ve got rural communities that have chronic poverty.  You have manufacturing communities that got hit hard when plants closed and people lost jobs.  There are not only cities but also suburbs where jobs can be tough to find, and tougher to get to because of development patterns and lack of transportation options.  And folks who do work, they’re working harder than ever, but sometimes don’t feel like they can get ahead.

And in some communities, that sense of unfairness and powerlessness has contributed to dysfunction in those communities.  Communities are like bodies, and if the immunity system is down, they can get sick.  And when communities aren’t vibrant, where people don’t feel a sense of hope and opportunity, then a lot of times that can fuel crime and that can fuel unrest.
We’ve seen it in places like Baltimore and Ferguson and New York.  And it has many causes — from a basic lack of opportunity to some groups feeling unfairly targeted by their police forces. And that means there’s no single solution.  There have to be a lot of different solutions and different approaches that we try.
So one of the things that we did to address these issues was to create a task force on the future of community policing.  And this task force was outstanding because it was made up of all the different stakeholders — we had law enforcement; we had community activists; we had young people.  They held public meetings across the country.  They developed concrete proposals that every community in America can implement to rebuild trust and help law enforcement.

The recommendations were released in March; they were finalized today.  They include everything from enhanced officer training to improving the use of body cameras and other technologies to make sure that police departments are being smart about crime and that there’s enough data for them to be accountable as well.

And we’re trying to support the great work that’s happening at the local level where cities are already responding to these recommendations.  And before I go further, I just want the members of our task force to stand, because they’ve done some outstanding work and they deserve to be acknowledged.  Thank you. (Applause.)

Now, we’ve launched a Police Data Initiative that’s helping Camden and other innovative cities use data to strengthen their work and hold themselves accountable by sharing it with the public.  Departments might track things like incidents of force so that they can identify and handle problems that could otherwise escalate.

Here in Camden, officers deal with some 41 different data systems, which means they have to enter the same information multiple times.  So today, we’ve brought a volunteer, Elite Tech Team, to help — a group of data scientists and software engineers, and tech leaders.  They’re going to work with the police department here to troubleshoot some of the technical challenges so it’s even easier for police departments to do the things they already want to do in helping to track what’s going on in communities, and then also helping to make sure that that data is used effectively to identify where there are trouble spots, where there are problems, are there particular officers that may need additional help, additional training.  All that can be obtained in a really effective, efficient way.

Today, we’re also releasing new policies on the military-style equipment that the federal government has in the past provided to state and local law enforcement agencies.  We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them.  It can alienate and intimidate local residents, and send the wrong message.  So we’re going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments. (Applause.)

There is other equipment that may be needed in certain cases, but only with proper training.  So we’re going to ensure that departments have what they need, but also that they have the training to use it.

We’re doing these things because we’re listening to what law enforcement is telling us.  The overwhelming majority of police officers are good and honest and fair.  They care deeply about their communities.  They put their lives on the line every day to keep them safe.  Their loved ones wait and worry until they come through the door at the end of their shift.  So we should do everything in our power to make sure that they are safe, and help them do the job the best they can.

And what’s interesting about what Chief Thomson has done, and what’s happening here in Camden, is these new officers — who I have to confess made me feel old — (laughter) — because they all look like they could still be in school.  (Laughter.)  The approach that the Chief has taken in getting them out of their squad cars, into the communities, getting them familiar with the people that they’re serving — they’re enjoying their jobs more because they feel as if, over time, they can have more of an impact, and they’re getting more help from the community because the community has seen them and knows them before there’s a crisis, before there’s an incident.

So it’s not just crisis response.  It’s not after the fact there’s a crime, there’s a dead body, there’s a shooting, and now we’re going to show up.  It’s, we’re here all the time, and hopefully, we can prevent those shootings from happening in the first place.  (Applause.)

But one of the things I also want to focus on is the fact that a lot of the issues that have been raised here, and in places like Baltimore and Ferguson and New York, goes beyond policing.   We can’t ask the police to contain and control problems that the rest of us aren’t willing to face or do anything about.  (Applause.)

If we as a society don’t do more to expand opportunity to everybody who’s willing to work for it, then we’ll end up seeing conflicts between law enforcement and residents.  If we as a society aren’t willing to deal honestly with issue of race, then we can’t just expect police departments to solve these problems. If communities are being isolated and segregated, without opportunity and without investment and without jobs — if we politicians are simply ramping up long sentences for nonviolent drug crimes that end up devastating communities, we can’t then ask the police to be the ones to solve the problem when there are no able-bodied men in the community, or kids are growing up without intact households.  (Applause.)

We can’t just focus on the problems when there’s a disturbance — and then cable TV runs it for two or three or four days, and then suddenly we forget about it again, until the next time.  Communities like some poor communities in Camden or my hometown in Chicago, they’re part of America, too.  The kids who grow up here, they’re America’s children.  Just like children everyplace else, they’ve got hopes and they’ve got dreams and they’ve got potential.  And if we’re not investing in them, no matter how good Chief Thomson and the police are doing, these kids are still going to be challenged.  So we’ve all got to step up.  We’ve all got to care about what happens.

Chief Thomson will tell you that his officers read to young children in the communities not just to build positive relationships, but because it’s in the interest of the community to make sure these kids can read — so that they stay in school and graduate ready for college and careers, and become productive members of society.  That’s in his interest not just as a police chief, but also as a citizen of this country, and somebody who grew up in this areas and knows this area.

And that’s why we’ve partnered with cities and states to get tens of thousands more kids access to quality early childhood education.  No matter who they are or where they’re born, they should get a good start in life.  (Applause.)

That’s why we’ve partnered with cities, including Camden, to create what we call Promise Zones — (applause) — where all-hands-on-deck efforts to change the odds for communities start happening because we’re providing job training, and helping to reduce violence, and expanding affordable housing.

It’s why we’re ready to work with folks from both sides of the aisle to reform our criminal justice system.  We all want safety, and we all know how pernicious the drug culture can be in undermining communities.  But this massive trend toward incarceration even of nonviolent drug offenders, and the costs of that trend are crowding out other critical investments that we can make in public safety.  If we’re spending a whole lot of money on prisons, and we don’t have computers or books or enough teachers or sports or music programs in our schools, we are being counterproductive.  It’s not a good strategy.  (Applause.)

And so, in addition to the work we’re doing directly on the criminal justice front, we’re also launching something that we call My Brother’s Keeper — an initiative to ensure that all young people, but with a particular focus on young men of color, have a chance to go as far as their dreams will take them.  (Applause.)  Now, over the coming weeks, members of my Cabinet will be traveling around the country to highlight communities that are doing great work to improve the lives of their residents.

We know these problems are solvable.  We’re know that we’re not lacking for answers, we’re just lacking political will.  We have to see these problems for what they are — not something that’s happening in some other city to some other people, but something that’s happening in our community, the community of America.  (Applause.)

And we know that change is possible because we’ve seen it in places like this.  We’ve seen it, thanks to people like Officer Virginia Matias.  Where is Virginia?  There she is right there.  (Applause.)  Earlier this year, Vice President Biden and I got to sit with Officer Matias and rank-and-file law enforcement officers from around the country.  And Virginia was talking about how when she was growing up in East Camden, crime was so bad she wasn’t allowed to go to the store alone.  Her mom was once robbed at gunpoint.  When she was 17, her uncle was shot and killed in his own store.  Instead of turning away from Camden, she decided she wanted to become a cop where she grew up to help the community she loved.  (Applause.)  And today, she is a proud member of the Camden County Police Department.  (Applause.)

And she’s a constant presence in the community, getting to know everybody she passes on her beat, even volunteering in a kindergarten.  Officer Matias isn’t just helping to keep her community safe, she’s also a role model for young people of Camden.  And anybody who thinks that things aren’t getting better, she says, “I see kids playing outside, riding bikes in the neighborhood, on their porches having a conversation.  That’s how I measure change.”

That’s how we should all measure change.  I had a chance to meet with some of the young people here who participated in a little roundtable with the officers, and they’re extraordinary young people.  And they’ve got hopes and dreams just like Malia and Sasha, and they’re overcoming some bigger barriers than my children ever had to go through, or I had to go through.  And they’re strong, and they’re focused.

But in talking to them, some of them — the reason they’ve been able to make it and do well is because their parents don’t let them out outside.  Well, you know what, children shouldn’t have to be locked indoors in order to be safe.  That’s not right. Some of them still have concerns about friends of theirs that have taken a wrong path and gotten involved in the streets and drugs.  That’s not the environment we need our kids to be growing up in.

I challenge everybody to get to know some of these young people.  They’re outstanding, and they’re going to do great things in their lives.  (Applause.)  But the point is, is that they shouldn’t have to go through superhuman efforts just to be able to stay in school and go to college and achieve their promise.  That should be the norm.  That should be standard.  And if it isn’t, we’re not doing something right.  We as a society are not doing something right if it isn’t.  (Applause.)

So, ultimately, that’s how we’re going to measure change:  Rising prospects for our kids.  Rising prospects for the neighborhood.  Do our children feel safe on the streets?  Do they feel cared for by their community?  Do they feel like the police departments care about them?  Do they feel as if when they work hard they can succeed?  Do they feel like the country is making an investment in them?  Do they see role models for success?  Are there pathways to jobs that they can identify?  Do they know that if they put in effort, they can make it?  Are they going to be treated fairly regardless of the color of their skin or what their last name is?

It’s pretty basic.  I travel around the country — the one thing that makes me always so optimistic is our children.  And what you realize is everywhere, kids are — kids are kids.  Sometimes they’ll drive you crazy.  (Laughter.)  They’ll make mistakes.  But there’s an inherent goodness in them.  They want to do the right thing.  They just need to be given a chance.

And some of them aren’t going to be lucky enough to have the structures at home that they need — in which case then, we all have to pick up the slack.  And if we do, they’ll respond.  They will.  But we got to feel like that they’re our kids.  We got to see our children in them, in their eyes.  And we haven’t done enough of that.  But we can.

This is a moment of great promise; this is a moment of great hope.  And if we’re seeing such extraordinary improvement in Camden because of the good efforts of a lot of elected officials, and an outstanding police chief and some wonderful police officers, and a community that’s supportive, and nonprofit organizations like the Salvation Army and others that are doing some great work — if it’s working here, it can work anywhere. (Applause.)  It can work anywhere.

On the City Hall of Camden you got an inscription by Walt Whitman:  “In a dream, I saw a city invincible.”  In a dream I see a country invincible — if we care enough to make the effort on behalf of every child in this country.  (Applause.)

Camden is showing that it can be done.  I want America to show everybody around the world that it can be done.

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

END
3:05 P.M. EDT

Political Musings May 18, 2015: Obama finally joins Twitter as @POTUS

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Obama finally joins Twitter as @POTUS

May 18, 2015

President Barack Obama now has his very own Twitter account as president, with the handle @POTUS, President of the United States. The account was verified almost instantly. The president’s personal Twitter account went live late Monday morning, May…

Political Headlines May 15, 2015: Obamas have assets worth less than 7 million

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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PRESIDENCY, CONGRESS & CAMPAIGNS:

Obamas have assets worth less than 7 million

The White House released the financial disclosures for President Barack Obama and Vice president Joe Biden on Friday, May 15, 2015, indicating that the president has a net worth of between $2 and $7 million, whereas the Vice President is worth between $275,000 to $1.1 million. The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 requires disclosures each year, but only indicates broad ranges not exact amounts.

Full Text Obama Presidency May 8, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Trade at Nike

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Trade

Source: WH, 5-8-15

Nike, Inc.
Beaverton, Oregon

9:44 A.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Oregon!  (Applause.)  Well, who arranged this day?  (Applause.)  Every time I come to Oregon this is what it looks like.  (Laughter.)  Yeah!  It never rains in Oregon, does it?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  Never.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Don’t come to California.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  Well, listen, it is wonderful to see all of you.  First of all, please give Mark another round of applause for his hospitality.  (Applause.)  And thanks to everyone at Nike for hosting us today, here in “Federer Platz.”  (Laughter.)  You know, the White House is cool.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got a basketball court — actually, it’s a tennis court that we repainted some lines — (laughter) — when I came into office.  So it’s a combination basketball-tennis court.  There is a putting green that President Eisenhower put in.  Can you imagine, by the way, if I had put in a putting green?  (Laughter.)  Things have changed.  (Laughter.)

But you’ve got all that and the 18th tee box from Pebble Beach.  (Applause.)  Come on.  I’m sure some of my staff is running around right now in the Michael Jordan and Mia Hamm buildings — (laughter) — they want to be lab rats for your new gear.  (Laughter.)

But it is wonderful to be here.  Please give it up for two people who fight every single day for Oregon workers — your Representatives in Congress — they do a great job — Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici.  They are both here.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Yay!  And there are two people who couldn’t make it here today, but they’re doing a great job and you should give them a round of applause as well, and that’s Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Kurt Schrader.  (Applause.)

So it is great to be at the world headquarters of such an iconic company — a company that helps athletes succeed from the individual to the world stage.  And as you’ve heard, I’ve come to Oregon to talk a little bit about trade — which initially may have had some people thinking, what, is Mariota going someplace that we didn’t know about?  (Laughter.)  He’s going to be great. He’s an outstanding young man.  He’s going to be terrific — and from Hawaii, by the way.  (Applause.)  Local boy.

But this is important, and I want to tell you why I think trade deals and our willingness to go out there and compete on the global stage is so important.

Before I came out here, I had a chance to meet with some    small business owners from across Oregon, whose workers make everything from bikes to tea to stationery to wine.  And they know how important this is to them.  Sometimes when we talk about trade, we think of Nike, or we think of Boeing, or we think of G.E. — we think about these big multinational companies.  But those small business leaders came here today because they understood that these markets outside the United States will help them grow, and will help them hire more folks — just as all the suppliers to Nike or Boeing or G.E. or any of these other companies understand this is going to be critical to their growth and their ability to create new jobs.

In fact, that’s why Ron Wyden is not here — because he’s in Washington, D.C. as we speak quarterbacking this effort on behalf of Oregon’s small business owners and workers.

Now, small businesses are the backbone of our economy.  Eventually, like Nike, they grow sometimes into really, really big companies.  They employ millions of people; 98 percent of exporters are small businesses.  They’re the ones who make Made in Oregon and Made in the USA mean something.  And they represent something essential about this country — the notion that if you’ve got a good idea and you’re willing to work at it, you can turn that idea into a business, you can growth that business, and eventually, who knows what might happen.  You can give other people a chance to earn a living even as you do well.  That’s America’s promise.  And it’s up to us to keep that promise alive.

Now, that promise was threatened for almost everybody just about seven years ago, when the economy nearly collapsed, and millions of Americans lost their jobs and their homes and their life savings.  But thanks to the hard work of the American people and entrepreneurs like the ones who are here today — and some pretty good policies from my administration — (laughter) — we’re in a different place today.  (Applause.)  We’re in a different place today.

This morning, we learned that our economy created 223,000 new jobs last month.  (Applause.)  The unemployment rate ticked down again to 5.4 percent — which is the lowest it’s been in almost seven years.  (Applause.)  That’s 3 million new jobs over the past 12 months — nearly the fastest pace in over a decade.  And all told, over the past 62 months in a row, America’s businesses have created 12.3 million new jobs.

I should add, by the way, 62 months ago is when I signed the Affordable Care Act.  So, obviously, it hasn’t done too bad in terms of employment in this country.  (Applause.)  I just thought I’d mention that.  (Applause.)  Since there were a lot of predictions of doom and gloom, I would just suggest those who were making those predictions go back and check the statistics.  (Laughter.)  Just saying.  (Laughter.)

So small businesses deserve a lot of credit for that.  In fact, over the past several years, small businesses have created nearly two out of every three new American jobs.  And the question is, how do we build on that success?  We’ve got to be relentless in our efforts to support small businesses who are creating jobs and helping to grow the economy.

And that’s been the purpose behind many of the policies I’ve fought for as President.  I’ve cut taxes for small businesses more than a dozen times.  I’ve pushed for investments in infrastructure and faster Internet.  It’s why we’ve made health care more accessible, affordable, portable — to give people the freedom to change jobs or launch that startup without worrying about losing their health insurance.

And passing trade agreements is part of that agenda if those trade agreements are the right kinds of trade agreements; if they make sure that they’re growing our businesses, and helping American workers by selling goods Made in America across the rest of the world.

And I’ve been talking a lot about this lately, because I view smart trade agreements as a vital piece of middle-class economics.  Not a contradiction to middle-class economics, it’s a part and parcel of it.

I believe that our country does best when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, everybody plays by the same set of rules.  And that means making sure everybody has got a good education.  It means making sure that women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work.  (Applause.)  It means making sure that folks have to have sick leave and family leave and that they can balance work and family in a fair way.  It means, working to increase the minimum wage all across this country — because folks who have some of the toughest jobs oftentimes get the lowest pay.

That’s all part of middle-class economics, but, you know what, so is trade.  We strive to make sure our own economy lives up to high standards, but in a lot of parts of the world, the rules are unfair.  The playing field is uneven.  That puts American businesses and American workers at a disadvantage.  So the question is, what should we do about it?

Some folks think we should just withdraw and not even try to engage in trade with these countries.  I disagree.  We have to make sure America writes the rules of the global economy.  And we should do it today, while our economy is in the position of global strength.  (Applause.)  Because if we don’t write the rules for trade around the world — guess what — China will.  And they’ll write those rules in a way that gives Chinese workers and Chinese businesses the upper hand, and locks American-made goods out.

That’s the choice we face.  We’re not going to be able to isolate ourselves from world markets.  We got to be in there and compete.  And the question is, are we going to make sure that the rules are fair so that our businesses and our workers are on a level playing field.  Because when they are, we win every time.  When the rules are fair, we win every time.  (Applause.)

So this is why I’m such a strong supporter of new trade agreements.  They’re going to help our workers compete and our businesses compete.  This is not a left issue or a right issue, or a business or a labor issue.  It is about fairness and equity and access.  And like other issues that we’ve waged slow, steady fights on over the last seven years, this is also a question of the past versus the future.

So the Trans-Pacific Partnership that we’re working on, it’s the biggest trade deal that we’re working on right now — has to do with the Asia Pacific region.  And it reflects our values in ways that, frankly, some previous trade agreements did not.  It’s the highest-standard, most progressive trade deal in history.  It’s got strong, enforceable provisions for workers, preventing things like child labor.  It’s got strong, enforceable provisions on the environment, helping us to do things that haven’t been done before, to prevent wildlife trafficking, or deforestation, or dealing with our oceans.   And these are enforceable in the agreement.

And Nike operates in the Pacific region, so they understand the competitive pressures they’re under.  Nike has factories all around the world.  And let’s face it, Mark I think doesn’t mind me saying it that some of these countries, they don’t have the standards for wages and labor conditions that we have here.

So when you look at a country like Vietnam, under this agreement, Vietnam would actually, for the first time, have to raise its labor standards.  It would have to set a minimum wage. It would have to pass safe workplace laws to protect its workers. It would even have to protect workers’ freedom to form unions — for the very first time.  That would make a difference.  That helps to level the playing field — (applause) — and it would be good for the workers in Vietnam, even as it helps make sure that they’re not undercutting competition here in the United States.

So that’s progress.  It doesn’t mean that suddenly working conditions in Vietnam will be like they are here at Nike.  (Laughter.)  Or here in Portland right away.  But it moves us in the right direction.

And if Vietnam, or any of the other countries in this trade agreement don’t meet these requirements, they’ll face meaningful consequences.  If you’re a country that wants in to this agreement, you have to meet higher standards.  If you don’t, you’re out.  If you break the rules, there are actual repercussions.  And that’s good for American businesses and American workers, because we already meet higher standards than most of the rest of the world, and that helps level the playing field.

And this deal would strengthen our hand overseas by giving us the tools to open other markets to our goods and services and make sure they play by the fair rules we help write.  The truth is, we have one of the most open markets in the world.  Folks are already selling stuff here.  We got to be able to sell there.  That requires us to enter into trade agreements to open up their markets.

I hear Oregon wine is actually pretty good.  (Applause.)  Somebody told me that the pinot noir in Oregon is top-notch, right?  I’ve got some winemakers right here.  (Applause.)  Well, I want to make sure Japanese wine consumers have the opportunity to partake — (laughter) — in our excellent Oregon wine.

We got some Oregon beef producers and ranchers around here. (Applause.)  Beef is really expensive in Japan.  Let’s make sure they try some Oregon steaks.  (Applause.)  It’s good stuff.

And that’s one of the best things that can happen for our businesses and our workers — opening up markets that have previously been closed, particularly markets where they’re already selling stuff here.  There’s a lack of reciprocity.  It’s not a fair deal right now.  We want to make it fair.

Now, I want to acknowledge — because this looks like a very well-read and informed crowd — (laughter) — that there have been a bunch of critics about trade deals generally and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  And what’s interesting is typically they’re my friends, coming from my party, and they’re my fellow travelers on minimum wage and on job training and on clean energy.  On every progressive issue, they’re right there with me. And then on this one, they’re like whooping on me.  (Laughter.)

But I tell you what.  I’ve run my last election, and the only reason I do something is because I think it’s good for American workers and the American people and the American economy.  (Applause.)  I don’t have any other rationale for doing what I do than I think it’s the best thing for the American people.  And on this issue, on trade, I actually think some of my dearest friends are wrong.  They’re just wrong.  And here’s why.

First of all, they say that this trade agreement will cost American jobs.  And they’re really basing this on some past experience, looking at what happened in the ‘90s, over the last 20 years, as there was a lot of outsourcing going on.  And you know what, past trade agreements, it’s true, didn’t always reflect our values or didn’t always do enough to protect American workers.  But that’s why we’re designing a different kind of trade deal

And the truth is that companies that only care about low wages, they’ve already moved.  They don’t need new trade deals to move.  They’ve already outsourced.  They’ve already located in search of low wages.

What this trade agreement would do is open the doors to the higher-skill, higher-wage jobs of the future — jobs that we excel at.  It would make sure our manufacturers who are operating at the higher end of the value chain are able to access these growing markets.  And the fact is, over the past few years, our manufacturers have been steadily creating jobs for the first time since the 1990s — under my administration.  After more than a decade away from the top spot, business leaders around the world have declared the United States is the world’s number one place to invest for a third year in a row.  (Applause.)  Third year in a row.

So the point is, outsourcing is already giving way to insourcing.  Companies are starting to move back here to do more advanced manufacturing, and this is a trend we expect to continue.  This trade deal would help that.

Just this morning, as Mark may have mentioned, Nike announced that, with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it will make new investments in advanced manufacturing — not overseas, but right here in the United States.  And far more Nike products would be made in the U.S.A.  (Applause.)  And that means thousands of new jobs in manufacturing and engineering and design at Nike facilities across the country, and potentially tens of thousands of new jobs along Nike’s supply chain here at home.  That’s what trade can do.  (Applause.)

Look, I’ve spent six and a half years trying to rescue this economy — six and a half years of trying to revitalize American manufacturing, including rescuing an American auto industry that was on its back and is now fully recovered.  So I would not risk any of that if I thought the trade deals were going to undermine it.  The reason I’m for this is because I think it will enhance it and advance it.  So that’s point number one.

Point number two — when you ask folks specifically, what do you oppose about this trade deal, they just say “NAFTA.”  NAFTA was passed 20 years ago.  That was a different agreement.  And in fact, this agreement fixes some of what was wrong with NAFTA by making labor and environmental provisions actually enforceable.  (Applause.)  I was just getting out of law school when NAFTA got passed.  (Laughter.)

Number three — you’ve got some critics saying that any deal would be rushed through; it’s a secret deal, people don’t know what’s in it.  This is not true.  Any agreement that we finalize with the other 11 countries will have to be posted online for at least 60 days before I even sign it.  Then it would go to Congress — and you know they’re not going to do anything fast.  (Laughter.)  So there will be months of review.  Every T crossed, every I dotted.  Everybody is going to be able to see exactly what’s in it.

There’s nothing fast-track about this.  This is a very deliberate track — (laughter) — which will be fully subject to scrutiny.  And I’m confident when people read the agreement for themselves, they’ll see that this is the most progressive trade deal in history.

Number four — critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation — food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations.  They’re making this stuff up.  (Applause.)  This is just not true.  No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.  This agreement would make sure our companies aren’t discriminated against in other countries.

We already treat companies from other countries fairly here. But our companies don’t always get treated fairly there.  So sometimes they need to have some way to settle disputes where it’s not subject to the whims of some government bureaucrat in that country.  That’s important.  We want our businesses to succeed in selling over there because that’s how our workers will get more jobs here in the United States.

And then finally, some critics talk about currency manipulation.  Now, this has been a problem in the past.  Some countries, they try to lower their currency so that it makes their goods cheaper, makes our more expensive.  There was a time when China was pretty egregious about this.  When I came into office, I started pounding on them.  Every time I meet with them, I’d be talking about currency.  And we pushed back hard, and China moved.  In real terms, their currency has appreciated about 30 percent since I came into office.  And we’re going to keep on going after it.  But that’s not an argument against this trade agreement.  If we give up the chance to help our businesses sell their stuff in the world’s fastest-growing markets, that doesn’t do anything to stop currency manipulation.

So the fact is, some folks are just opposed to trade deals out of principle, a reflexive principle.  And what I tell them is, you know what, if you’re opposed to these smart, progressive trade deals, then that means you must be satisfied with the status quo.  And the status quo hasn’t been working for our workers.  It hasn’t been working for our businesses.  And there are people here who will tell you why.

I’m going to just give you a couple of examples of small businesses who I had a chance to meet with today.  Egg Press is a Portland-based greeting card company.  (Applause.)  Really nice. They sell their cards in Australia, which is a member of this Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.  Their CEO, Tess Darrow — where’s Tess?  Raise your hand.  I saw her.  There she is.  (Applause.)  So Tess says that if they could more easily reach customers in Japan, as well, they’d sell half the volume that they do here in America.  That’s a lot.

Right now, the logistics of exporting to Japan are too complicated.  Products end up being held up for months at the border.  This agreement would help solve some of those problems so Tess can sell more greeting cards in Japan — presumably in Japanese.  (Laughter.)  Is there going to be — there will be a translation process, I assume.  Yes, absolutely.  I’m teasing.  (Laughter.)

So the trade deal would help eliminate barriers, and simplify customs, and hold countries accountable for getting products delivered swiftly.  The more Tess sells, the more she can grow, the more she can hire here in Oregon, here in the United States.

Oregon Fruit Products — makes canned fruits, berries, other products — depends on exports for 20 percent of its annual sales.  Right now, it exports to four members of this partnership that we’re putting together:  Japan, Australia, Singapore, and Canada.  Unfortunately, selling in these countries right now can mean dealing with unfair rules designed to prevent our products from being offered in their markets.  Under this agreement, that would change.  Exporting becomes simpler, more consistent.  That means more people around the world eating Oregon berries all year long.  Berry tasty.  (Applause.)

Sokol Blosser Winery — (applause) — we got a lot of drinkers here.  (Laughter.)  It’s a winery, family-run in Dayton, Oregon.  One of its top export markets is Japan.  Right now, there are high tariffs on American wine in that country.  Under this trade partnership, those tariffs would be eliminated, and wineries across America could see their sales grow overseas.  The brother–and-sister team that runs this vineyard — wave, guys — (applause) — they say, “If we can make it easier to do business with countries that are already our trading partners, countries that are allies, that’s a good thing.”

They’re right.  This deal would be a good thing.  So let’s “just do it.”  (Laughter and applause.)  It took a while for you to catch that, didn’t it?  (Laughter.)  I thought that was pretty obvious.  (Laughter.)

So, listen, I know a lot of folks who are skeptical about trade.  Past trade deals didn’t always live up to the hype.  Labor and environmental protections weren’t always strong enough. I saw for years, in Chicago and towns across Illinois, manufacturing collapsing, jobs drying up.  Outsourcing is real.  Folks didn’t just make that up.  Some of our manufacturing base shifted over the last 25 years, and it wasn’t good for manufacturing and it wasn’t good for those communities, and it wasn’t good for workers.  That’s the truth.  It had benefits — other jobs were created, we got cheaper goods.  But there was real displacement and real pain.  And so, for many Americans, this is not an abstraction; this is real.

But we’ve got to learn the right lessons from that.  The lesson is not that we pull up the drawbridge and build a moat around ourselves.  The lesson is, is that we’ve got to make sure that the trade deals that we do shape are ones that allow us to compete fairly.

So when I took office, I decided we could rethink the way we do trade in a way that actually works for working Americans.  I didn’t think this was the right thing to do just for companies.  If I didn’t think this was the right thing to do for working families, I would not be fighting for it.  If any agreement undercuts working families, I won’t sign it.  I ran for office to expand opportunity for everybody — the all-American idea that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or how you started out, or who you love, in America you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

So, yes, we should be mindful of the past, but we can’t ignore the realities of the new economy.  We can’t stand on the beaches and stop the global economy at our shores.  We’ve got to harness it on our terms.  This century is built for us.  It’s about innovation.  It’s about dynamism and flexibility and entrepreneurship, and information and knowledge and science and research.  That’s us.  So we can’t be afraid of it; we’ve got to seize it.  We’ve got to give every single American who wakes up, sends their kids to school, rolls up their sleeves, punches in every day the chance to do what they do best:  dream up, innovate, build, sell the best products and ideas in the world to every corner of the world.  (Applause.)

Because, Nike, we do not just have the best athletes in the world.  We also have the best workers in the world.  (Applause.) We also have the best businesses in the world.  And when the playing field is level, nobody beats the United States of America.  (Applause.)  Nobody beats the United States of America.

Just do it, everybody.  Thank you.  God bless you.  Thank you, Oregon.  Thank you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
10:14 A.M. PDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 28, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Baltimore Riots — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Baltimore Riots

Source: WH, 4-28-15

With respect to Baltimore, let me make a couple of points.  First, obviously our thoughts continue to be with the family of Freddie Gray.  Understandably, they want answers.  And DOJ has opened an investigation.  It is working with local law enforcement to find out exactly what happened, and I think there should be full transparency and accountability.

Second, my thoughts are with the police officers who were injured in last night’s disturbances.  It underscores that that’s a tough job and we have to keep that in mind, and my hope is that they can heal and get back to work as soon as possible.

Point number three, there’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday.  It is counterproductive.  When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting, they’re not making a statement — they’re stealing.  When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson.  And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities that rob jobs and opportunity from people in that area.

So it is entirely appropriate that the mayor of Baltimore, who I spoke to yesterday, and the governor, who I spoke to yesterday, work to stop that kind of senseless violence and destruction.  That is not a protest.  That is not a statement.  It’s people — a handful of people taking advantage of a situation for their own purposes, and they need to be treated as criminals.

Point number four, the violence that happened yesterday distracted from the fact that you had seen multiple days of peaceful protests that were focused on entirely legitimate concerns of these communities in Baltimore, led by clergy and community leaders.  And they were constructive and they were thoughtful, and frankly, didn’t get that much attention.  And one burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again, and the thousands of demonstrators who did it the right way I think have been lost in the discussion.

The overwhelming majority of the community in Baltimore I think have handled this appropriately, expressing real concern and outrage over the possibility that our laws were not applied evenly in the case of Mr. Gray, and that accountability needs to exist.  And I think we have to give them credit.  My understanding is, is you’ve got some of the same organizers now going back into these communities to try to clean up in the aftermath of a handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place.  What they were doing, what those community leaders and clergy and others were doing, that is a statement.  That’s the kind of organizing that needs to take place if we’re going to tackle this problem.  And they deserve credit for it, and we should be lifting them up.

Point number five — and I’ve got six, because this is important.  Since Ferguson, and the task force that we put together, we have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals — primarily African American, often poor — in ways that have raised troubling questions.  And it comes up, it seems like, once a week now, or once every couple of weeks.  And so I think it’s pretty understandable why the leaders of civil rights organizations but, more importantly, moms and dads across the country, might start saying this is a crisis.  What I’d say is this has been a slow-rolling crisis.  This has been going on for a long time.  This is not new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.

The good news is, is that perhaps there’s some newfound awareness because of social media and video cameras and so forth that there are problems and challenges when it comes to how policing and our laws are applied in certain communities, and we have to pay attention to it and respond.

What’s also good news is the task force that was made up of law enforcement and community activists that we brought together here in the White House have come up with very constructive concrete proposals that, if adopted by local communities and by states and by counties, by law enforcement generally, would make a difference.  It wouldn’t solve every problem, but would make a concrete difference in rebuilding trust and making sure that the overwhelming majority of effective, honest and fair law enforcement officers, that they’re able to do their job better because it will weed out or retrain or put a stop to those handful who may be not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

Now, the challenge for us as the federal government is, is that we don’t run these police forces.  I can’t federalize every police force in the country and force them to retrain.  But what I can do is to start working with them collaboratively so that they can begin this process of change themselves.

And coming out of the task force that we put together, we’re now working with local communities.  The Department of Justice has just announced a grant program for those jurisdictions that want to purchase body cameras.  We are going to be issuing grants for those jurisdictions that are prepared to start trying to implement some of the new training and data collection and other things that can make a difference.  And we’re going to keep on working with those local jurisdictions so that they can begin to make the changes that are necessary.

I think it’s going to be important for organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police and other police unions and organization to acknowledge that this is not good for police.  We have to own up to the fact that occasionally there are going to be problems here, just as there are in every other occupation.  There are some bad politicians who are corrupt.  There are folks in the business community or on Wall Street who don’t do the right thing.  Well, there’s some police who aren’t doing the right thing.  And rather than close ranks, what we’ve seen is a number of thoughtful police chiefs and commissioners and others recognize they got to get their arms around this thing and work together with the community to solve the problem.  And we’re committed to facilitating that process.

So the heads of our COPS agency that helps with community policing, they’re already out in Baltimore.  Our Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division is already out in Baltimore.  But we’re going to be working systematically with every city and jurisdiction around the country to try to help them implement some solutions that we know work.

And I’ll make my final point — I’m sorry, Mr. Prime Minister, but this is a pretty important issue for us.

We can’t just leave this to the police.  I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching.  I think there are some communities that have to do some soul searching.  But I think we, as a country, have to do some soul searching.  This is not new.  It’s been going on for decades.

And without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, what we also know is that if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty; they’ve got parents — often because of substance-abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves — can’t do right by their kids; if it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead, than they go to college.  In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks — in those environments, if we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem.  And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets, and everybody will feign concern until it goes away, and then we go about our business as usual.

If we are serious about solving this problem, then we’re going to not only have to help the police, we’re going to have to think about what can we do — the rest of us — to make sure that we’re providing early education to these kids; to make sure that we’re reforming our criminal justice system so it’s not just a pipeline from schools to prisons; so that we’re not rendering men in these communities unemployable because of a felony record for a nonviolent drug offense; that we’re making investments so that they can get the training they need to find jobs.  That’s hard.  That requires more than just the occasional news report or task force.  And there’s a bunch of my agenda that would make a difference right now in that.

Now, I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities, and so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training, and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities trying to attract new businesses in.

But if we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could.  It’s just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant — and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped.  We’re paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids, and we think they’re important.  And they shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence.

That’s how I feel.  I think there are a lot of good-meaning people around the country that feel that way.  But that kind of political mobilization I think we haven’t seen in quite some time.  And what I’ve tried to do is to promote those ideas that would make a difference.  But I think we all understand that the politics of that are tough because it’s easy to ignore those problems or to treat them just as a law and order issue, as opposed to a broader social issue.

Political Musings April 26, 2015: Obama’s anger management issues at White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Obama’s anger management issues at White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech

April 26, 2015

President Barack Obama showed that under the cool no drama Obama veneer there are anger issues, simmering beneath the surface in his funny and sometimes-mean White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech. On Saturday evening, April 25, 2015 Obama delivered…

Full Text Obama Presidency April 25, 2015: Transcript of President Obama’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner speech

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Full transcript of President Obama’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner toast

Source: WaPo, 4-25-15

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Good evening, everybody.

Welcome to the White House Correspondents’ dinner. A night when Washington celebrates itself. Somebody’s got to do it. And welcome to the fourth quarter of my presidency. It’s true — that’s Michelle cheering.

The fact is a feel more loose and relaxed than ever. Those Joe Biden shoulder massages they’re like magic. You should try one. Oh, you have.

I am determined to make the most of every moment I have left. After the midterm elections, my advisors asked me “Mr. President, do you have a bucket list?” And I said, ‘Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.”

Take executive action on immigration. Bucket.

New climate regulations. Bucket. It’s the right thing to do.

My new attitude is paying off. Look at my Cuba policy. The Castro brothers are here tonight. Welcome to America, amigos. Que pasa? What? It’s the Castros from Texas. Oh. Hi, Joaquin. Hi, Julian.

Anyway, being president is never easy. I still have to fix a broken immigration system, issue veto threats, negotiate with Iran. All while finding time to pray five times a day. Which is strenuous.

And it is no wonder that that people keep pointing out how the presidency has aged me. I look so old John Boehner’s already invited Min Yo to speak at my funeral.

Meanwhile, Michelle hasn’t aged a day. I ask her what her secret is and she just says “fresh fruits and vegetables.” It’s aggravating.

Fact is though, at this point my legacy is finally beginning to take shape. The economy is getting better. Nine in ten Americans now have health coverage. Today thanks to Obamacare you no longer have to worry about losing your insurance if you lose your job. You’re welcome, senate democrats.

Look, it is true I have not managed to make everybody happy. Six years into my presidency some people still say I’m arrogant, aloof, condescending. Some people are so dumb. No wonder I don’t meet with them. And that’s not all people say about me. A few weeks ago, Dick Cheney says he thinks I’m the worst president of his lifetime. Which is interesting because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime. Quite a coincidence. I mean everybody’s got something to say these days.

Mike Huckabee recently said people shouldn’t join our military until a true conservative is elected president. Think about that. It was so outrageous 47 Ayatollah wrote us a letter trying to explain to Huckabee how our system works.

It gets worse. Just this week, Michele Bachmann actually predicted that I would bring about the biblical end of days. Now, that’s a legacy. That’s big. I mean, Lincoln, Washington, they didn’t do that.

You know, I just have to put this stuff aside. I have to stay focused on my job. Because for many Americans this is still a time of deep uncertainty. For example, I have one friend just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year and she’s now living out of a van in Iowa.

Meanwhile, back here in our nation’s capitol we’re always dealing with new challenges.

I’m happy to report that the Secret Service — thanks to some excellent reporting by white house correspondents — they are focusing on some of the issues that have come up. And, they have finally figured out a full proof way to keep people off my lawn. [image of John McCain] It works. It’s not just fence jumpers. Some of you know, a few months ago, a drone crashed landed out back. That was pretty serious, but don’t worry, we installed a new state-of-the-art security system.[image of Joe Biden] You know, let me set the record straight. I tease Joe Biden, but you know he has been in my side for seven years. I love that man. [applause] He’s not just a great Vice President, he is a great friend. We’ve gotten so close in some places in Indiana, they won’t serve us pizza anymore. [laughter] [applause]

I want to thank our host for the evening, a Chicago girl, the incredibly talented Cecily Strong. [applause] On Saturday Night Live, Cecily impersonates CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin, which is surprising, because usually the only people impersonating journalists on CNN are journalists on CNN. [laughter]

ABC is here with some of the stars from their big new comedy “black-ish.” It’s a great show, but I have to give ABC fair warning, being black-ish only makes you popular for so long. Trust me. There is a shelf life to that thing.

As always, the reporters here had a lot to cover over the last year here on the East Coast. One big story was the brutal winner. The polar vortex caused so many record lows, they renamed it MSNBC.

But, of course, let’s face it, one reporter on everybody’s minds, and that is 2016. Already, we’ve seen some missteps.

It turns out Jeb Bush identified himself as Hispanic back in 2009, which, you know what, I — look, I understand. It’s an innocent mistake. It reminds me of when I identified myself as American back in 1961.

[LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE]

Ted Cruz said that denying the existence of climate change made him like Galileo. Now that’s not really an apt comparison. Galileo believed the Earth revolves around the sun. Ted Cruz believes the Earth revolves around Ted Cruz.

And just as an aside, I want to point out, when a guy who has his face on a Hope poster calls you self-centered, you know you’ve got a problem. The narcissism index is creeping up a little too high.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum announced that he would not attend the same-sex wedding of a friend or loved one, to which gays and lesbians across the country responded, that’s not going to be a problem. Don’t sweat that one. [LAUGHTER]

And Donald Trump is here. Still.

[LAUGHTER]

Anyway, it’s amazing how time flies. Soon, the first presidential contest will take place, and I for one cannot wait to see who the Koch brothers pick. It’s exciting.

Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, who will finally get that red rose?

[LAUGHTER]

The winner gets a billion dollar war chest. The runner-up gets to be the bachelor on the next season of “The Bachelor.”

I mean seriously, a billion dollars from just two guys. Is it just me, or does that feel a little excessive?

I mean, it’s almost insulting to the candidates. The Koch brothers think they think to spend a billion dollars to get folks to like one of these people. It’s got to hurt their feelings a little bit.

And I know I’ve raised a lot of money too, but in all fairness, my middle name is Hussein. What’s their excuse?

[LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE]

The trail hasn’t been easy for my fellow Democrats either. As we all know Hillary’s private e-mails got her in trouble. Frankly, I thought it was going to be her private Instagram account that was going to cause her bigger problems.

[LAUGHTER]

Hillary kicked things off by going completely unrecognized at a Chipotle. Not to be outdone, Martin O’Malley went completely unrecognized as a Martin O’Malley campaign event. And Bernie Sanders might run. I like Bernie. Bernie’s an interesting guy. Apparently, some folks want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House. We could get a third Obama term after all.[LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] It could happen.

Anyway, as always, I want to close on a more serious note. You know, I often joke about tensions between me and the press, but honestly, what they say doesn’t bother me. I understand we’ve got an adversarial system. I’m a mellow sort of guy. And that’s why I invited Luther, my anger translator, to join me here tonight.

[APPLAUSE: Keegan-Michael Key joins on stage.]

LUTHER: Hold on to your lily white butts!

OBAMA: In our fast-changing world, traditions like the White House correspondents dinner are important.

LUTHER: I mean, really! What is this dinner? And why am I required to come to it?

Jeb Bush, do you really want to do this!

OBAMA: Because despite our differences, we count on the press to shed light on the most important issues of the day.

LUTHER: And we can count on FOX News to terrify old white people with some non-sense!

LUTHER: (INAUDIBLE)

It’s ridiculous.

OBAMA: We won’t always see eye to eye.

LUTHER: And, CNN, thank you so much for the wall-to-wall Ebola coverage. For two full weeks, we were one step away from “The Walking Dead”. Then y’all got up and just moved on to the next thing. That was awesome.

Oh, and by the way, if you haven’t noticed, you don’t have Ebola!

OBAMA: But I still deeply appreciate the work that you do.

LUTHER: Y’all remember when I had that big old hole in the bottom of the gulf of Mexico, and then I plugged it? Remember that? Which Obama’s Katrina was that one? Was that 19 or was it 20, because I can’t remember.

OBAMA: Protecting our democracy is more important than ever. For example, the Supreme Court ruled that the donor who gave Ted Cruz $6 million was just exercising free speech.

LUTHER: Yes, it’s the kind of speech like this, I just wasted $6 million.

OBAMA: And it’s not just Republicans. Hillary will have to raise huge sums of money too.

LUTHER: Aw yeah, she’s going to get that money! She’s going to get all the money! Khaleesi is coming to Westeros! Watch out! Woo!

OBAMA: The non-stop focus on billionaire donors creates real problems for our democracy.

LUTHER: And that’s why we’re running for our third term!

OBAMA: No, we’re not.

LUTHER: We’re not?

OBAMA: No.

LUTHER: Who the hell said that!

OBAMA: But we need to focus on big challenges like climate changes.

LUTHER: Hey, folks, if you haven’t noticed, California is bone dry. It looks like a trailer for the new “Mad Max” movie up in there. Y’all think that Bradley Cooper came here because he wants to talk to Chuck Todd? He needed a glass of water!

OBAMA: The science is clear, the science is clear. Nine out of the 10 hottest years ever came in the last decade.

LUTHER: Now I’m not a scientist, but I do know how to count to ten.

OBAMA: Rising seas, more violent storms.

LUTHER: You got mosquitoes, sweaty people on the trains stinking it up. It’s just nasty!

OBAMA: I mean, look at what’s happening right now. Every serious scientist says we need to act. The Pentagon says it’s a national security risk. Miami floods on a sunny day and instead of doing anything about it, we’ve got elected officials throwing snowballs in the Senate.

LUTHER: OK, I think they got it.

OBAMA: It is crazy! What about our kids? What kind of stupid, short-sided irresponsible bull —

LUTHER: Whoa, whoa whoa, whoa!

OBAMA: What?

LUTHER: Hey!

OBAMA: What!

LUTHER: All due respect, sir, you don’t need anger translator. You need counseling.

LUTHER: And I’m out of here, man. I ain’t trying to get into all this.

OBAMA: Go.

LUTHER: He crazy.

OBAMA: Luther, my anger translator, ladies and gentlemen.

(APPLAUSE)

Now that I got that off my chest — you know, investigative journalism, explanatory journalism, journalism that exposes corruption and justice gives voice to the different and the marginalized, the voiceless — that’s power. It’s a privilege. It’s as important to America’s trajectory, to our values, our ideals, to anything we could do in elected office.

We remember journalists we lost over the past year. Journalists like Steven Sotloff, and James Foley, murdered for nothing more than trying to shine a light into some of the world’s darkest corners.

We remember the journalists unjustly imprisoned around the world, including our own Jason Rezaian. For nine months, Jason has been imprisoned in Tehran for nothing more than writing about the hopes and the fears of the Iranian people, carrying their stories to the readers of “The Washington Post,” in an effort to bridge our common humanity. As was already mentioned, Jason’s brother Ali is here tonight and I have told him personally, we will not rest until we bring him home to his family safe and sound.

[APPLAUSE]

These journalists and so many others view their work as just a profession, but as a public good, an indispensable pillar of our society, so I want to give a toast to them.

I raise a glass to them and all of you, with the words of the American foreign correspondent Dorothy Thompson.

It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which liberty is exercised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives.

Thank you for your devotion to exercising our liberty and to telling our American story. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

 

 

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