Politics July 19, 2016: Melania Trump’s political plagiarism scandal is not the first, and not the last

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Melania Trump’s political plagiarism scandal is not the first, and not the last


Did Melania Trump really plagiarize Michelle Obamas 2008 Democratic convention speech?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

It was supposed to be presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump’s wife, Melania’s big campaign debut, instead, it descended into controversy, as does everything in the Trump campaign. On Monday evening, July 18, 2016, Melania Trump gave the keynote address on the first night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Introduced by her husband, Melania’s job was to humanize Trump, who has been caricatured for much of his career and the campaign. Instead, her big moment was overshadowed by the similarities of two paragraphs with First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic Convention speech and accusations of plagiarism.

Both Melania and Michelle’s passages in their speeches emphasized family values imbued by their parents and passing them to the next generation. The themes were similar and also common for the type of convention speech. Although the words were similar, the sentences were for the most part different with some similar points, and certain keywords, possibly invoking the paraphrasing or copying for verbatim debate. Only one phrase was copied verbatim, “your dreams and your willingness to work for them.” Plagiarism is described as “The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.”

According to Harvard University‘s Faculty of Arts and Science “In academic writing, it is considered plagiarism to draw any idea or any language from someone else without adequately crediting that source in your paper. It doesn’t matter whether the source is a published author, another student, a Web site without clear authorship, a Web site that sells academic papers, or any other person: Taking credit for anyone else’s work is stealing, and it is unacceptable in all academic situations, whether you do it intentionally or by accident.” Harvard also lists different types of plagiarism, which include” “verbatim, mosaic, inadequate paraphrasing, uncited paraphrase, uncited quotations.” The only exception according to Harvard is “common knowledge.”

Melania’s speech excerpt read:

“My parents impressed on me the values: that you work hard for what you want in life. That your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise. That you treat people with respect. They taught me to show the values and morals in my daily life. That is the lesson that I continue to pass along to our son. And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

To compare here is Michelle’s speech from 2008:

“And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them. And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

Almost immediately, after Melania delivered her speech, a journalist specializing in interior design and not politics, Jarrett Hill called Melania out on Twitter accusing her of plagiarism. In his tweet, Hill wrote, “Melania must’ve liked Michelle Obama’s 2008 Convention speech since she plagiarized it.” Hill, who is African-American, has a history of Trump bashing and is a fan of the Obamas, already, had a biased view of the situation. Still, the news media picked up on the story, and it swept through a media who already negatively bashes Trump and his rhetoric and policy positions. Melania’s similar words just was another chance for criticism.

Just as quickly Trump’s campaign denied the accusation. Senior communications adviser Jason Miller issued a statement after the accusations, which read, “In writing her beautiful speech, Melania’s team of writers took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking. Melania’s immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success.”

According to the campaign, chairman Paul Manafort appearing on CNN’s “New Day” telling Chris Cuomo that the allegation is “just really absurd.” Manafort dismissed the claims, saying, “To think that she would do something like that knowing how scrutinized her speech was going to be last night is just really absurd.” Continuing Manafort explained, “There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech. These were common words and values. She cares about her family. To think that she’d be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy.”

Manafort then, in turn, blamed presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Trump campaign manager made his accusation, saying, “This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, she seeks out to demean her and take her down. It’s not going to work.”

According to a Republican close to the situation, recounted the process involved in crafting Melania’s speech. According to the “operative”, several aides edited the speech and gave suggestions to Melania. Manafort approved the speech in the end. The recount contradicts the account from Trump’s wife who claims to have a written the speech herself. Melania revealed to to NBC‘s Matt Lauer, “I read once over it, that’s all, because I wrote it … with (as) little help as possible.” Melania is not facing the brunt of the backlash but rather Trump’s speechwriters and even Manafort, although no one has been fired for the error.

President Obama’s former speechwriter, Jon Favreau, who was partly responsible for Michelle Obama’s speech, did not seem offended or upset by the possibility of plagiarism. After the accusations had started flying, Favreau tweeted and joked, “(To be honest), I was more offended by just about every other speech than Melania’s plagiarized paragraphs.”

The problem is writers, and academics and even students get away with plagiarism all the time. With the vast amount of information on the internet, many believe that it is fair game, especially if it is a blog or non-traditional source. Academics who plagiarize believe they will not be caught because they are taking ideas from someone they deem less educated and less well known. More often than not if someone does not bring the plagiarized passages up the one, who plagiarizes usually gets away with it.

As a writer, I have experienced being plagiarized, from a woman posting an entire article of mine that was an excerpt from my thesis taken verbatim without any credit, with listing it as her own. To a former professor who for years continually liberally borrows my ideas, themes from my articles for his, even phrases but manages to get away with it because they have the doctorate and the professorship although according to Harvard’s definitions what they have done is considered plagiarism.

Just last week in the UK’s the Guardian Higher Education section a writer on the Academic Anonymous blog recounted finding a creative writing Ph.D. dissertation with 100 passages plagiarized verbatim. When the academic discovered the plagiarism reported it to the dissertation advisor at the British university, the professor protected their student by ensuring copies of the dissertation were removed from the university’s library and made unavailable in any other form to the public. Only a year later was the thesis put back on the shelves, but the Ph.D. graduate was never stripped of their degree or even reprimanded for the extensive and blatant plagiarism, in the most important capstone project of their university education.

Melania Trump’s plagiarism case is hardly the first involving politicians that rocked the political world. The most famous case is Vice President Joe Biden who in 1987, had to withdraw from the 1988 Democratic presidential race after it was discovered that he plagiarized a speech with passages from former Democratic candidates Hubert Humphrey, Robert Kennedy, and former President John F. Kennedy. Other notable political plagiarism scandals include Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Montana Senator John Walsh, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, and even President Barack Obama.

In 2007, then Democratic candidate Obama lifted some passages from then-Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s lines from a 2006 speech when he delivered a speech at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Wisconsin. Rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign revealed what Obama did. Obama dismissed it all as nothing much saying, “Deval and I do trade ideas all the time, and you know he’s occasionally used lines of mine. I would add I’ve noticed on occasion Sen. Clinton has used words of mine as well. As I said before, I really don’t think this is too big of a deal.”

Donald McCabe, a retired business professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, conducted a survey in 2010 and determined a prevalence of cheating and plagiarism among college undergraduate and graduate students.

The following are the results of his survey:

  • 36% of undergraduates and 24% of graduate students admit to “paraphrasing/copying few sentences from Internet source without footnoting it.”
  • 38% of undergraduates and 25% of graduate students admit to “paraphrasing/copying few sentences from written source without footnoting it.”
  • 14% of undergraduates and 7% of graduate students admit to “fabricating/falsifying a bibliography.”
  • 7% of undergraduates 4% of graduate students and admit to copying materials “almost word for word from a written source without citation.”
  • 7% of undergraduates and 3% of graduate students admit to “turning in work done by another.” Finally, 3% of undergraduates and 2% of graduate students admit to “obtaining a paper from term paper mill.”

Another survey conducted in 2011 by the Pew Research Center and The Chronicle of Higher Education asked college presidents about plagiarism and cheating at their respective colleges among students. Of the 1,055 presidents asked, 55 percent said that there had been an increase in plagiarism in the ten preceding years, and they predominately, 89 percent, blamed the internet for rampant cheating.

In this case, Melania or most precisely her speechwriters used a common theme for conventions and wives’ of the running mates but made the mistake of staying too closely to a recent and famous speech from a beloved first lady. Viewed by millions, with enough people opposed to Trump, Melania’s first major foray was bound to be scrutinized.

The moment caught the press the Trump campaign wanted but not for the reasons they wanted. Trump, however, will survive the plagiarism scandal as the world can be forgiving just ask historian Doris Goodwin Kearns and even Joe Biden and Barack Obama, who plagiarized speeches once and still ended becoming a popular vice president and president.

Full Text Political Transcripts July 12, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Memorial Service for Fallen Dallas Police Officers

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Memorial Service for Fallen Dallas Police Officers

Source: WH, 7-12-16

Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center
Dallas, Texas

1:46 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. President and Mrs. Bush; my friend, the Vice President, and Dr. Biden; Mayor Rawlings; Chief Spiller; clergy; members of Congress; Chief Brown — I’m so glad I met Michelle first, because she loves Stevie Wonder — (laughter and applause) — but most of all, to the families and friends and colleagues and fellow officers:

Scripture tells us that in our sufferings there is glory, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Sometimes the truths of these words are hard to see.  Right now, those words test us.  Because the people of Dallas, people across the country, are suffering.

We’re here to honor the memory, and mourn the loss, of five fellow Americans — to grieve with their loved ones, to support this community, to pray for the wounded, and to try and find some meaning amidst our sorrow.

For the men and women who protect and serve the people of Dallas, last Thursday began like any other day.  Like most Americans each day, you get up, probably have too quick a breakfast, kiss your family goodbye, and you head to work.  But your work, and the work of police officers across the country, is like no other.  For the moment you put on that uniform, you have answered a call that at any moment, even in the briefest interaction, may put your life in harm’s way.

Lorne Ahrens, he answered that call.  So did his wife, Katrina — not only because she was the spouse of a police officer, but because she’s a detective on the force.  They have two kids.  And Lorne took them fishing, and used to proudly go to their school in uniform.  And the night before he died, he bought dinner for a homeless man.  And the next night, Katrina had to tell their children that their dad was gone.  “They don’t get it yet,” their grandma said. “They don’t know what to do quite yet.”

Michael Krol answered that call.  His mother said, “He knew the dangers of the job, but he never shied away from his duty.”  He came a thousand miles from his home state of Michigan to be a cop in Dallas, telling his family, “This is something I wanted to do.”  Last year, he brought his girlfriend back to Detroit for Thanksgiving, and it was the last time he’d see his family.

Michael Smith answered that call — in the Army, and over almost 30 years working for the Dallas Police Association, which gave him the appropriately named “Cops Cop” award.  A man of deep faith, when he was off duty, he could be found at church or playing softball with his two girls.  Today, his girls have lost their dad, for God has called Michael home.

Patrick Zamarripa, he answered that call.  Just 32, a former altar boy who served in the Navy and dreamed of being a cop.  He liked to post videos of himself and his kids on social media.  And on Thursday night, while Patrick went to work, his partner Kristy posted a photo of her and their daughter at a Texas Rangers game, and tagged her partner so that he could see it while on duty.

Brent Thompson answered that call.  He served his country as a Marine.  And years later, as a contractor, he spent time in some of the most dangerous parts of Iraq and Afghanistan.  And then a few years ago, he settled down here in Dallas for a new life of service as a transit cop.  And just about two weeks ago, he married a fellow officer, their whole life together waiting before them.

Like police officers across the country, these men and their families shared a commitment to something larger than themselves.  They weren’t looking for their names to be up in lights.  They’d tell you the pay was decent but wouldn’t make you rich.  They could have told you about the stress and long shifts, and they’d probably agree with Chief Brown when he said that cops don’t expect to hear the words “thank you” very often, especially from those who need them the most.

No, the reward comes in knowing that our entire way of life in America depends on the rule of law; that the maintenance of that law is a hard and daily labor; that in this country, we don’t have soldiers in the streets or militias setting the rules.  Instead, we have public servants — police officers — like the men who were taken away from us.

And that’s what these five were doing last Thursday when they were assigned to protect and keep orderly a peaceful protest in response to the killing of Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge and Philando Castile of Minnesota.  They were upholding the constitutional rights of this country.

For a while, the protest went on without incident.  And despite the fact that police conduct was the subject of the protest, despite the fact that there must have been signs or slogans or chants with which they profoundly disagreed, these men and this department did their jobs like the professionals that they were.  In fact, the police had been part of the protest’s planning.  Dallas PD even posted photos on their Twitter feeds of their own officers standing among the protesters.  Two officers, black and white, smiled next to a man with a sign that read, “No Justice, No Peace.”

And then, around nine o’clock, the gunfire came.  Another community torn apart.  More hearts broken.  More questions about what caused, and what might prevent, another such tragedy.

I know that Americans are struggling right now with what we’ve witnessed over the past week.  First, the shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, and the protests, then the targeting of police by the shooter here — an act not just of demented violence but of racial hatred.  All of it has left us wounded, and angry, and hurt.  It’s as if the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, perhaps even widened.  And although we know that such divisions are not new — though they have surely been worse in even the recent past — that offers us little comfort.

Faced with this violence, we wonder if the divides of race in America can ever be bridged.  We wonder if an African-American community that feels unfairly targeted by police, and police departments that feel unfairly maligned for doing their jobs, can ever understand each other’s experience.  We turn on the TV or surf the Internet, and we can watch positions harden and lines drawn, and people retreat to their respective corners, and politicians calculate how to grab attention or avoid the fallout.  We see all this, and it’s hard not to think sometimes that the center won’t hold and that things might get worse.

I understand.  I understand how Americans are feeling.  But, Dallas, I’m here to say we must reject such despair.  I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem.  And I know that because I know America.  I know how far we’ve come against impossible odds.  (Applause.)  I know we’ll make it because of what I’ve experienced in my own life, what I’ve seen of this country and its people — their goodness and decency –as President of the United States.  And I know it because of what we’ve seen here in Dallas — how all of you, out of great suffering, have shown us the meaning of perseverance and character, and hope.

When the bullets started flying, the men and women of the Dallas police, they did not flinch and they did not react recklessly.  They showed incredible restraint.  Helped in some cases by protesters, they evacuated the injured, isolated the shooter, and saved more lives than we will ever know.  (Applause.)  We mourn fewer people today because of your brave actions.  (Applause.)  “Everyone was helping each other,” one witness said.  “It wasn’t about black or white.  Everyone was picking each other up and moving them away.”  See, that’s the America I know.

The police helped Shetamia Taylor as she was shot trying to shield her four sons.  She said she wanted her boys to join her to protest the incidents of black men being killed.  She also said to the Dallas PD, “Thank you for being heroes.”  And today, her 12-year old son wants to be a cop when he grows up.  That’s the America I know.  (Applause.)

In the aftermath of the shooting, we’ve seen Mayor Rawlings and Chief Brown, a white man and a black man with different backgrounds, working not just to restore order and support a shaken city, a shaken department, but working together to unify a city with strength and grace and wisdom.  (Applause.)  And in the process, we’ve been reminded that the Dallas Police Department has been at the forefront of improving relations between police and the community.  (Applause.)  The murder rate here has fallen.  Complaints of excessive force have been cut by 64 percent.  The Dallas Police Department has been doing it the right way.  (Applause.)  And so, Mayor Rawlings and Chief Brown, on behalf of the American people, thank you for your steady leadership, thank you for your powerful example.  We could not be prouder of you.  (Applause.)

These men, this department — this is the America I know.  And today, in this audience, I see people who have protested on behalf of criminal justice reform grieving alongside police officers.  I see people who mourn for the five officers we lost but also weep for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  In this audience, I see what’s possible — (applause) — I see what’s possible when we recognize that we are one American family, all deserving of equal treatment, all deserving of equal respect, all children of God.  That’s the America that I know.

Now, I’m not naïve.  I have spoken at too many memorials during the course of this presidency.  I’ve hugged too many families who have lost a loved one to senseless violence.  And I’ve seen how a spirit of unity, born of tragedy, can gradually dissipate, overtaken by the return to business as usual, by inertia and old habits and expediency.  I see how easily we slip back into our old notions, because they’re comfortable, we’re used to them.  I’ve seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change.  I’ve seen how inadequate my own words have been.  And so I’m reminded of a passage in *John’s Gospel [First John]:  Let us love not with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.  If we’re to sustain the unity we need to get through these difficult times, if we are to honor these five outstanding officers who we’ve lost, then we will need to act on the truths that we know.  And that’s not easy.  It makes us uncomfortable.  But we’re going to have to be honest with each other and ourselves.

We know that the overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally.  They are deserving of our respect and not our scorn.  (Applause.)  And when anyone, no matter how good their intentions may be, paints all police as biased or bigoted, we undermine those officers we depend on for our safety.  And as for those who use rhetoric suggesting harm to police, even if they don’t act on it themselves — well, they not only make the jobs of police officers even more dangerous, but they do a disservice to the very cause of justice that they claim to promote.  (Applause.)

We also know that centuries of racial discrimination — of slavery, and subjugation, and Jim Crow — they didn’t simply vanish with the end of lawful segregation.  They didn’t just stop when Dr. King made a speech, or the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act were signed.  Race relations have improved dramatically in my lifetime.  Those who deny it are dishonoring the struggles that helped us achieve that progress.  (Applause.)

But we know — but, America, we know that bias remains.  We know it.  Whether you are black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or of Middle Eastern descent, we have all seen this bigotry in our own lives at some point.  We’ve heard it at times in our own homes.  If we’re honest, perhaps we’ve heard prejudice in our own heads and felt it in our own hearts.  We know that.  And while some suffer far more under racism’s burden, some feel to a far greater extent discrimination’s sting.  Although most of us do our best to guard against it and teach our children better, none of us is entirely innocent.  No institution is entirely immune.  And that includes our police departments.  We know this.

And so when African Americans from all walks of life, from different communities across the country, voice a growing despair over what they perceive to be unequal treatment; when study after study shows that whites and people of color experience the criminal justice system differently, so that if you’re black you’re more likely to be pulled over or searched or arrested, more likely to get longer sentences, more likely to get the death penalty for the same crime; when mothers and fathers raise their kids right and have “the talk” about how to respond if stopped by a police officer — “yes, sir,” “no, sir” — but still fear that something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door, still fear that kids being stupid and not quite doing things right might end in tragedy — when all this takes place more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protest as troublemakers or paranoid.  (Applause.)  We can’t simply dismiss it as a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism.  To have your experience denied like that, dismissed by those in authority, dismissed perhaps even by your white friends and coworkers and fellow church members again and again and again — it hurts.  Surely we can see that, all of us.

We also know what Chief Brown has said is true:  That so much of the tensions between police departments and minority communities that they serve is because we ask the police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves.  (Applause.)  As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools.  We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment.  (Applause.)  We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs.  (Applause.)  We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book — (applause) — and then we tell the police “you’re a social worker, you’re the parent, you’re the teacher, you’re the drug counselor.”  We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs, and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience.  Don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind.  And then we feign surprise when, periodically, the tensions boil over.

We know these things to be true.  They’ve been true for a long time.  We know it.  Police, you know it.  Protestors, you know it.  You know how dangerous some of the communities where these police officers serve are, and you pretend as if there’s no context.  These things we know to be true.  And if we cannot even talk about these things — if we cannot talk honestly and openly not just in the comfort of our own circles, but with those who look different than us or bring a different perspective, then we will never break this dangerous cycle.

In the end, it’s not about finding policies that work; it’s about forging consensus, and fighting cynicism, and finding the will to make change.

Can we do this?  Can we find the character, as Americans, to open our hearts to each other?  Can we see in each other a common humanity and a shared dignity, and recognize how our different experiences have shaped us?  And it doesn’t make anybody perfectly good or perfectly bad, it just makes us human.  I don’t know.  I confess that sometimes I, too, experience doubt.  I’ve been to too many of these things.  I’ve seen too many families go through this.  But then I am reminded of what the Lord tells Ezekiel:  I will give you a new heart, the Lord says, and put a new spirit in you.  I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

That’s what we must pray for, each of us:  a new heart.  Not a heart of stone, but a heart open to the fears and hopes and challenges of our fellow citizens.  That’s what we’ve seen in Dallas these past few days.  That’s what we must sustain.

Because with an open heart, we can learn to stand in each other’s shoes and look at the world through each other’s eyes, so that maybe the police officer sees his own son in that teenager with a hoodie who’s kind of goofing off but not dangerous — (applause) — and the teenager — maybe the teenager will see in the police officer the same words and values and authority of his parents.  (Applause.)

With an open heart, we can abandon the overheated rhetoric and the oversimplification that reduces whole categories of our fellow Americans not just to opponents, but to enemies.

With an open heart, those protesting for change will guard against reckless language going forward, look at the model set by the five officers we mourn today, acknowledge the progress brought about by the sincere efforts of police departments like this one in Dallas, and embark on the hard but necessary work of negotiation, the pursuit of reconciliation.

With an open heart, police departments will acknowledge that, just like the rest of us, they are not perfect; that insisting we do better to root out racial bias is not an attack on cops, but an effort to live up to our highest ideals.  (Applause.)  And I understand these protests — I see them, they can be messy.  Sometimes they can be hijacked by an irresponsible few.  Police can get hurt.  Protestors can get hurt.  They can be frustrating.

But even those who dislike the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” surely we should be able to hear the pain of Alton Sterling’s family.  (Applause.)  We should — when we hear a friend describe him by saying that “Whatever he cooked, he cooked enough for everybody,” that should sound familiar to us, that maybe he wasn’t so different than us, so that we can, yes, insist that his life matters.  Just as we should hear the students and coworkers describe their affection for Philando Castile as a gentle soul — “Mr. Rogers with dreadlocks,” they called him — and know that his life mattered to a whole lot of people of all races, of all ages, and that we have to do what we can, without putting officers’ lives at risk, but do better to prevent another life like his from being lost.

With an open heart, we can worry less about which side has been wronged, and worry more about joining sides to do right.  (Applause.)  Because the vicious killer of these police officers, they won’t be the last person who tries to make us turn on one other.  The killer in Orlando wasn’t, nor was the killer in Charleston.  We know there is evil in this world.  That’s why we need police departments.  (Applause.)  But as Americans, we can decide that people like this killer will ultimately fail.  They will not drive us apart.  We can decide to come together and make our country reflect the good inside us, the hopes and simple dreams we share.

“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

For all of us, life presents challenges and suffering — accidents, illnesses, the loss of loved ones.  There are times when we are overwhelmed by sudden calamity, natural or manmade.  All of us, we make mistakes.  And at times we are lost.  And as we get older, we learn we don’t always have control of things — not even a President does.  But we do have control over how we respond to the world.  We do have control over how we treat one another.

 

America does not ask us to be perfect.  Precisely because of our individual imperfections, our founders gave us institutions to guard against tyranny and ensure no one is above the law; a democracy that gives us the space to work through our differences and debate them peacefully, to make things better, even if it doesn’t always happen as fast as we’d like.  America gives us the capacity to change.

But as the men we mourn today — these five heroes — knew better than most, we cannot take the blessings of this nation for granted.  Only by working together can we preserve those institutions of family and community, rights and responsibilities, law and self-government that is the hallmark of this nation.  For, it turns out, we do not persevere alone.  Our character is not found in isolation.  Hope does not arise by putting our fellow man down; it is found by lifting others up.  (Applause.)

And that’s what I take away from the lives of these outstanding men.  The pain we feel may not soon pass, but my faith tells me that they did not die in vain.  I believe our sorrow can make us a better country.  I believe our righteous anger can be transformed into more justice and more peace.  Weeping may endure for a night, but I’m convinced joy comes in the morning.  (Applause.)  We cannot match the sacrifices made by Officers Zamarripa and Ahrens, Krol, Smith, and Thompson, but surely we can try to match their sense of service.  We cannot match their courage, but we can strive to match their devotion.

May God bless their memory.  May God bless this country that we love.  (Applause.)

END
2:26 P.M. CDT

Politics July 8, 2016: Obama to return early from Europe to visit Dallas after police shooting

HEADLINE NEWS

Headline_News

POLITICS

Obama to return early from Europe to visit Dallas after police shooting

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama is cutting his trip to Europe short after the worst attack on police since 9/11. President Obama made a statement about the shooting in Dallas on Friday, July 8, 2016, from the NATO conference in Poland, calling it “a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement.” On Thursday evening, July 7, a sniper purposely opened fire on police officers at a Black Lives Matter protest where 11 police officers were shot and five killed.

The White House announced the president’s intended visit to Dallas early next week late Friday afternoon. Earlier in the day, President Obama ordered the flags to fly at half-staff and made a statement condemning the attack.

Speaking from Poland, Obama said, “I believe I speak for every single American when I say we are horrified over these events, and we stand united with the people and the police department in Dallas. There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement. Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done.”

The statement was Obama’s second in two days after police officers shot and killed African-American men in Louisiana and Minnesota. Police killed Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and the incidents were recorded and posted online. The shootings sparked the protest in Dallas.

The sniper Micah Xavier Johnson, 25 was former Army reservist, acted alone and specifically targeted white police officers. Police took out the shooter. Dallas Police Chief David Brown told the public that Johnson was “upset about Black Lives Matter, he said he was upset about the recent police shootings.”

Both presumptive nominees, Republican Donald Trump, and Democrat Hillary Clinton, responded to the attack in the morning and canceled their campaign events on Friday. Trump issued a statement and video condemning the shooting as an “an attack on our country” and a “coordinated, premeditated assault on the men and women who keep us safe.”

Clinton’s first response was on Twitter where she wrote, “I mourn for the officers shot while doing their sacred duty to protect peaceful protesters, for their families & all who serve with them. -H.” Clinton later spoke at the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s conference in Philadelphia.

Full Text Political Transcripts June 29, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Address to the Parliament of Canada

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama in Address to the Parliament of Canada

Source: WH, 6-29-16

House of Commons Chamber
Parliament of Canada
Ottawa, Canada

6:03 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Please, everyone have a seat.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.

Good evening.  Bonjour.  Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker,  members of the House, members of the Senate, distinguished guests, people of Canada — thank you for this extraordinary welcome, which temps me to just shut up and leave.  (Laughter.)  Because it can’t get any better than this.  (Laughter.)  Obviously I’m grateful for the warm welcome.  I’m extraordinarily grateful for the close working relationship and friendship with your outstanding Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and his extraordinary wife, Sophie.

But I think it’s fair to say that much of this greeting is simply a reflection of the extraordinary alliance and deep friendship between Canadians and Americans.

Justin, thank you for your very kind words, and for the new energy and hope that your leadership has brought to your nation as well as to the alliance.  My time in office may be nearing an end, but I know that Canada — and the world — will benefit from your leadership for years to come.  (Applause.)

So Canada was the very first country that I visited as President.  It was in February.  (Laughter.)  It was colder.  (Laughter.)  I was younger.  (Laughter.)  Michelle now refers to my hair as the Great White North.  (Laughter.)  And on that visit, I strolled around the ByWard Market, tried a “beaver tail” — (laughter) — which is better than it sounds.  (Laughter.)  And I was struck then, as I am again today, by the warmth of the Canadians.  I could not be more honored to be joining you in this historic hall — this cathedral of freedom.  And we Americans can never say it enough — we could not ask for a better friend or ally than Canada.  (Applause.)  We could not.  It’s true.  It is true.  And we do not take it for granted.

That does not mean we don’t have our differences.  As I understand it, one of the reasons the Queen chose this site for Parliament was that it was a safe distance from America’s border. (Laughter.)   And I admit, in the War of 1812, American troops did some damage to Toronto.  I suspect that there were some people up here who didn’t mind when the British returned the favor and burned down the White House.  (Laughter.)

In more recent times, however, the only forces crossing our borders are the armies of tourists and businesspeople and families who are shopping and doing business and visiting loved ones.  Our only battles take place inside the hockey rink.  Even there, there’s an uneasy peace that is maintained.  As Americans, we, too, celebrate the life of Mr. Hockey himself, the late, great Gordie Howe.  (Applause.)  Just as Canadians can salute American teams for winning more Stanley Cups in the NHL.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE:  Ooooh —

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I told you I should have stopped after the applause.  (Laughter.)

But in a world where too many borders are a source of conflict, our two countries are joined by the longest border of peace on Earth.  (Applause.)  And what makes our relationship so unique is not just proximity.  It’s our enduring commitment to a set of values — a spirit, alluded to by Justin, that says no matter who we are, where we come from, what our last names are, what faith we practice, here we can make of our lives what we will.

It was the grit of pioneers and prospectors who pushed West across a forbidding frontier.  The dreams of generations — immigrants, refugees — that we’ve welcomed to these shores.  The hope of run-away slaves who went north on an underground railroad.  “Deep in our history of struggle,” said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Canada was the north star… The freedom road links us together.”

We’re bound as well by the service of those who’ve defended us — at Flanders Field, the beaches of Normandy, in the skies of the Balkans, and more recently, in the mountains of Afghanistan, and training bases in Iraq.  Their sacrifice is reflected in the silent rows of Arlington and in the Peace Tower above us.  Today we honor those who gave their lives for all of us.  (Applause.)
We’re linked together, as well, by the institutions that we’ve built to keep the peace:  A United Nations to advance our collective aspirations.  A NATO alliance to ensure our security. NORAD, where Americans and Canadians stand watch side by side — and track Santa on Christmas Eve.  (Laughter.)

We’re linked by a vast web of commerce that carries goods from one end of this continent to another.  And we’re linked by the ties of friendship and family — in my case, an outstanding brother-in-law in Burlington.  (Applause.)  Had to give Burlington a shout out.  (Applause.)  Our relationship is so remarkable precisely because it seems so unremarkable — which is why Americans often are surprised when our favorite American actor or singer turns out to be Canadian!  (Applause.)  The point is we see ourselves in each other, and our lives are richer for it.

As President, I’ve deepened the ties between our countries. And because of the progress we’ve made in recent years, I can stand before you and say that the enduring partnership between Canada and the United States is as strong as it has ever been, and we are more closely aligned than ever before.  (Applause.)

And yet, we meet at a pivotal moment for our nations and for the globe.  From this vibrant capital, we can look upon a world that has benefited enormously from the international order that we helped to build together’ but we can see that same order increasingly strained by the accelerating forces of change.  The world is by most every measure less violent than ever before; but it remains riven by old divisions and fresh hatreds.  The world is more connected than ever before; but even as it spreads knowledge and the possibility of greater understanding between peoples, it also empowers terrorists who spread hatred and death — most recently in Orlando and Istanbul.

The world is more prosperous than ever before, but alongside globalization and technological wonders we also see a rise in inequality and wage stagnation across the advanced economies, leaving too many workers and communities fearful of diminishing prospects, not just for themselves, but more importantly, for their children.

And in the face of such rising uncertainty, it is not enough to look at aggregate growth rates, or stock prices, or the pace of digital innovation.  If the benefits of globalization accrue only to those at the very top, if our democracies seem incapable of assuring broad-based growth and opportunity for everyone, then people will push back, out of anger or out of fear.  And politicians — some sincere, and some entirely cynical — will tap that anger and fear, harkening back to bygone days of order and predictability and national glory, arguing that we must rebuild walls and disengage from a chaotic world, or rid ourselves of the supposed ills brought on by immigrants — all in order to regain control of our lives.

We saw some of these currents at work this past week in the United Kingdom’s referendum to leave the European Union.  Despite some of the initial reactions, I am confident that the process can be managed in a prudent, orderly way.  I expect that our friends on both sides of the Channel will develop a workable plan for how to move forward.  And I’m equally confident that the Transatlantic values that we all share as liberal, market-based democracies are deeper and stronger than any single event.

But while the circumstances of Brexit may be unique to the United Kingdom, the frustrations people felt are not.  The short-term fallout of Brexit can be sensibly managed, but the long-term trends of inequality and dislocation and the resulting social division — those can’t be ignored.  How we respond to the forces of globalization and technological change will determine the durability of an international order that ensures security and prosperity for future generations.

And fortunately, the partnership between the United States and Canada shows the path we need to travel.  For our history and our work together speak to a common set of values to build on –proven values, values that your Prime Minister spoke of in his introduction — values of pluralism and tolerance, rule of law, openness; global engagement and commerce and cooperation, coupled with equal opportunity and an investment in our people at home.  As Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once said, “A country, after all, is not something you build as the pharaohs build the pyramids, and then leave standing there to defy eternity.  A country is something that is built every day out of certain basic shared values.”  What is true of countries is true of the world. And that’s what I want to talk about today — how to strengthen our institutions to advance these commitments in a rapidly changing world.

Let me start with our shared economic vision.  In all we do, our commitment to opportunity for all of our people has to be at the centerpiece of our work.  We are so fortunate because both of our countries are so well-positioned to succeed in the 21st century.  Our two nations know firsthand the awesome power of free markets and innovation.  Canadians help run some of Silicon Valley’s most innovative companies.  Our students study at each other’s world-class universities.  We invest in research and development, and make decisions based on science and evidence.  And it works.  It’s what’s created these extraordinary economies of ours.

But if the financial crisis and recent recession taught us anything, it’s that economies do better when everyone has a chance to succeed.  For a long time, it was thought that countries had to choose between economic growth or economic inclusion.  But it turns out that’s a false choice.  If a CEO makes more in a day than a typical employee makes in a year, that kind of inequality is not just bad for morale in the company, it turns out it’s bad for the economy — that worker is not a very good customer for business.  (Applause.)

If a young man in Ohio can’t pay his student loans, or a young woman in Ontario can’t pay her bills, that has ramifications for our economy.  It tamps down the possibilities of growth.  So we need growth that is broad and that lifts everybody up — including tax policies that do right by working families, and robust safety nets for those who fall on hard times.  As John Kenneth Galbraith once said, “the common denominator of progress” is our people.  It’s not numbers, it’s not abstractions, it’s how are our people doing.

Of course, many who share this progressive, inclusive vision can be heard now arguing that investments in our people, protection for our workers, fair tax policies, these things are not enough.  For them, globalization is inherently rigged towards the top one percent, and therefore, what’s needed is an end to trade agreements and various international institutions and arrangements that integrate national economies.

And I understand that vision.  I know why it’s tempting.  It seems as if we draw a line around our borders that it will give us more control, particularly when the benefits of trade and economic integration are sometimes hard to see or easy to take for granted, and very specific dislocations are obvious and real.

There’s just one problem:  Restricting trade or giving in to protectionism in this 21st century economy will not work.  (Applause.)  It will not work.  Even if we wanted to, we can’t seal ourselves off from the rest of the world.  The day after Brexit, people looked around and said, oh!  (Laughter.)  How is this going to work?  The drag that economic weakness in Europe and China and other countries is having on our own economies right now speaks to the degree to which we depend — our economies depend, our jobs, our businesses depend — on selling goods and services around the world.

Very few of our domestic industries can sever what is now truly a global supply chain.  And so, for those of us who truly believe that our economies have to work for everybody, the answer is not to try and pull back from our interconnected world; it is rather to engage with the rest of the world, to shape the rules so they’re good for our workers and good for our businesses.

And the experience between our two nations points the way.  The United States and Canada have the largest bilateral trade and investment relationship in the world — and we are stronger for it.  (Applause.)  It means a company in Quebec can create jobs in North Carolina.  And a start-up in Toronto can attract investment from Texas.  Now, the problem is that some economies in many of the fastest-growing regions of the world — particularly the Asia Pacific region — don’t always abide by the same rules.  They impose unfair tariffs; or they suppress workers’ rights; or they maintain low environmental standards that make it hard for our businesses to compete fairly.

With the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we have the ability to not only open up these markets to U.S. and Canadian products and eliminate thousands of these unfair tariffs — which, by the way, we need to do because they’re already selling here under existing rules, but we’re not selling as much as we should over there — but it also affords us the opportunity to increase protections for workers and the environment, and promote human rights, including strong prohibitions against human trafficking and child labor.  And that way our workers are competing on a level playing field, and our businesses are less prone to pursue a race to the bottom.  And when combined with increased investments in our own people’s education, and skills and training, and infrastructure and research and development and connectivity, then we can spur the kind of sustained growth that makes all of us better off.  (Applause.)  All of us.

The point is we need to look forward, not look backward.  And more trade and more people-to-people ties can also help break down old divides.  I thank Canada for its indispensable role in hosting our negotiations with the Cuban government, and supporting our efforts to set aside half a century of failed policies to begin a new chapter with the Cuban people.  (Applause.)  I know a lot of Canadians like going to Cuba — (laughter) — maybe because there haven’t been Americans crowding the streets and the beaches.  But that’s changing.  (Laughter.)  And as more Americans engage with the Cuban people, it will mean more economic opportunity and more hope for ordinary Cubans.

We also agree, us Americans and Canadians, that wealthy countries like ours cannot reach our full potential while others remain mired in poverty.  That, too, is not going to change in this interconnected world; that if there is poverty and disease and conflict in other parts of the world, it spills over, as much as we’d like to pretend that we can block it out.

So, with our commitment to new Sustainable Development Goals, we have the chance to end the outrage of extreme poverty. (Applause.)  We can bring more electricity to Africa, so that students can study at night and businesses can stay open.  We can banish the scourge of malaria and Zika.  We can realize our goal of the first AIDS-free generation.  (Applause.)  We can do that. It’s within our grasp.  And we can help those who are working to replace corruption with transparent, accountable institutions that serve their people.

As leaders in global development, the United States and Canada understand that development is not charity — it’s an investment in our future prosperity.  (Applause.)  Because not only do such investments and policies help poor countries, they’re going to create billions of customers for U.S. and Canadian products, and they’ll make less likely the spread of deadly epidemics to our shores, and they’ll stabilize parts of the word that threaten the security of our people.

In fact, both the United States and Canada believe our own security — and not just prosperity — is enhanced when we stand up for the rights of all nations and peoples to live in security and peace.  (Applause.)  and even as there are times when unilateral action is necessary to defend our people, we believe that in a world where wars between great powers are far less likely but transnational threats like terrorism know no boundaries, our security is best advanced when nations work together.  We believe that disputes that do arise between nations should be, wherever possible, resolved peacefully, with diplomacy; that international organizations should be supported; that multilateralism is not a dirty word.  (Applause.)

And certainly, we’re more secure when we stand united against terrorist networks and ideologies that have reached to the very doorstep of this hall.  We honor all those taken from us by violent extremists, including Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall.  (Applause.)  With Canada’s additional contributions, including training Iraqi forces, our coalition is on the offensive across Iraq, across Syria.  And we will destroy the terrorist group ISIL.  (Applause.)  We will destroy them.

We’ll continue helping local forces and sharing intelligence, from Afghanistan to the Philippines, so that we’re pushing back comprehensively against terrorist networks.  And in contrast to the hatred and the nihilism of terrorists, we’ll work with partners around the world, including, particularly, Muslim communities, to offer a better vision and a path of development, and opportunity, and tolerance.  (Applause.)  Because they are, and must be, our partners in this effort.  (Applause.)

Meanwhile, when nations violate international rules and norms — such as Russia’s aggression against Ukraine — the United States and Canada stand united, along with our allies, in defense of our collective security.  (Applause.)  Doing so requires a range of tools, like economic sanctions, but it also requires that we keep our forces ready for 21st century missions, and invest in new capabilities.  As your ally and as your friend, let me say that we’ll be more secure when every NATO member, including Canada, contributes its full share to our common security.  (Applause.)  Because the Canadian armed forces are really good — (applause) — and if I can borrow a phrase, the world needs more Canada.  NATO needs more Canada.  (Applause.)  We need you.  We need you.

Just as we join together in our common defense, so must we work together diplomatically, particularly to avert war.  Diplomacy results are rarely quick, but it turns out even the most intractable conflicts can be resolved.  Here in our own hemisphere, just in the last few weeks, after half a century of war, Colombia is poised to achieve an historic peace.  (Applause.)  And the nations of North America will be an important partner to Colombia going forward, including working to remove landmines.

Around the world, Canadian and American diplomats working together can make a difference.  Even in Syria, where the agony and the suffering of the Syrian people tears at our hearts, our two nations continue to be leaders in humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.  And although a true resolution of this conflict so far has eluded us, we know that the only solution to this civil war is a political solution, so that the Syrian people can reclaim their country and live in peace.  And Canadians and Americans are going to work as hard as we can to make that happen.  (Applause.)  I should add that here in the nation of Lester Pearson, we reaffirm our commitment to keep strengthening the peacekeeping that saves lives around the world.

There is one threat, however, that we cannot solve militarily, nor can we solve alone — and that is the threat of climate change.  Now, climate change is no longer an abstraction. It’s not an issue we can put off for the future.  It is happening now.  It is happening here, in our own countries.  The United States and Canada are both Arctic nations, and last year, when I became the first U.S. President to visit the Arctic, I could see the effects myself.  Glaciers — like Canada’s Athabasca Glacier — are melting at alarming rates.  Tundra is burning.  Permafrost is thawing.  This is not a conspiracy.  It’s happening.  Within a generation, Arctic sea ice may all but disappear in the summer.

And so skeptics and cynics can insist on denying what’s right in front of our eyes.  But the Alaska Natives that I met, whose ancestral villages are sliding into the sea — they don’t have that luxury.  They know climate change is real.  They know it is not a hoax.  And from Bangladesh to the Pacific islands, rising seas are swallowing land and forcing people from their homes.  Around the world, stronger storms and more intense droughts will create humanitarian crises and risk more conflict. This is not just a moral issue, not just a economic issue, it is also an urgent matter of our national security.

And for too long, we’ve heard that confronting climate change means destroying our own economies.  But let me just say, carbon emissions in the United States are back to where they were two decades ago, even as we’ve grown our economy dramatically over the same period.  Alberta, the oil country of Canada, is working hard to reduce emissions while still promoting growth.  (Applause.)

So if Canada can do it, and the United States can do it, the whole world can unleash economic growth and protect our planet.  We can do this.  (Applause.)  We can do it.  We can do this.  We can help lead the world to meet this threat.

Already, together in Paris, we achieved the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change.  Now let’s bring it into force this year.  (Applause.)  With our agreement with Mexico that we announced today, let’s generate half the electricity on this continent from clean energy sources within a decade.  That’s achievable.  (Applause.)  Let’s partner in the Arctic to help give its people the opportunity they deserve, while conserving the only home they know.  And building on the idea that began in Montreal three decades ago, let’s finally phase down dangerous HFC greenhouse gases.  This is the only planet we’ve got.  And this may be the last shot we’ve got to save it.  And America and Canada are going to need to lead the way.  (Applause.)  We’re going to have to lead the way.

Just as we are joined in our commitment to protecting the planet, we are also joined in our commitment to the dignity of every human being.  We believe in the right of all people to participate in society.  We believe in the right of all people to be treated equally, to have an equal shot at success.  That is in our DNA, the basic premise of our democracies.

I think we can all agree that our democracies are far from perfect.  They can be messy, and they can be slow, and they can leave all sides of a debate unsatisfied.  Justin is just getting started.  (Laughter.)  So in case you hadn’t figured that out, that’s where this gray hair comes from.  (Laughter.)  But more than any other system of government, democracy allows our most precious rights to find their fullest expression, enabling us, through the hard, painstaking work of citizenship, to continually make our countries better.  To solve new challenges.  To right past wrongs.

And, Prime Minister, what a powerful message of reconciliation it was — here and around the world — when your government pledged a new relationship with Canada’s First Nations.  (Applause.)

Democracy is not easy.  It’s hard.  Living up to our ideals can be difficult even in the best of times.  And it can be harder when the future seems uncertain, or when, in response to legitimate fears and frustrations, there are those who offer a politics of “us” versus “them,” a politics that scapegoats others — the immigrant, the refugee, someone who seems different than us.  We have to call this mentality what it is — a threat to the values that we profess, the values we seek to defend.

It’s because we respect all people that the world looks to us as an example.  The colors of the rainbow flag have flown on Parliament Hill.  They have lit up the White House.  That is a testament to our progress, but also the work that remains to ensure true equality for our fellow citizens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  (Applause.)

Our Muslim friends and neighbors who run businesses, and serve in our governments and in our armed forces, and are friends with our children, play on our sports teams — we’ve got to stand up against the slander and the hate leveled against those who look or worship differently.  That’s our obligation.  That’s who we are.  That’s what makes America special.  That’s what makes Canada special.  (Applause.)  Here.  Here in Canada.  (Applause.)
Here in Canada, a woman has already risen to the highest office in the land.  In America, for the first time, a woman is the presumptive nominee of a major party and perhaps President.  (Applause.)  I have a bias on these issues — (laughter) — but our work won’t be finished until all women in our country are truly equal — paid equally, treated equally, given the same opportunities as men, when our girls have the same opportunities as our boys.  (Applause.)  That’s who we need to be.  (Applause.)
And let me say this — because I don’t feel particularly politically correct on this issue — I don’t believe that these are American values or Canadian values or Western values.  I believe, and Justin believes, and I hope all of you believe, these are universal values.  And we must be bold in their defense, at home and around the world.  (Applause.)  And not shy away from speaking up on behalf of these values of pluralism and tolerance and equality.  (Applause.)

I fear sometimes that we are timid in defense of these values.  That’s why I will continue to stand up for those inalienable rights, here in our own hemisphere — in places like Cuba and Venezuela — but also in more distant lands.  For the rights of citizens in civil society to speak their mind and work for change.  For the right of journalists to report the truth.  For the right of people of all faiths to practice their religion freely.  Those things are hard, but they’re right.  They’re not always convenient, but they’re true.

In the end, it is this respect for the dignity of all people, especially the most vulnerable among us, that perhaps more than anything else binds our two countries together.  Being Canadian, being American is not about what we look like or where our families came from.  It is about our commitment to a common creed.  And that’s why, together, we must not waver in embracing our values, our best selves.  And that includes our history as a nation of immigrants, and we must continue to welcome people from around the world.  (Applause.)

The vibrancy of our economies are enhanced by the addition of new, striving immigrants.  But this is not just a matter of economics.  When refugees escape barrel bombs and torture, and migrants cross deserts and seas seeking a better life, we cannot simply look the other way.  We certainly can’t label as possible terrorists vulnerable people who are fleeing terrorists.  (Applause.)

We can insist that the process is orderly.  We can insist that our security is preserved.  Borders mean something.  But in moments like this, we are called upon to see ourselves in others, because we were all once strangers.  If you weren’t a stranger, your grandparents were strangers.  Your great-grandparents were strangers.  They didn’t all have their papers ready.  They fumbled with language faced discrimination, had cultural norms that didn’t fit.  At some point, somewhere, your family was an outsider.  So the mothers, the fathers, the children we see today — they’re us.  We can’t forsake them.

So, as Americans and Canadians, we will continue to welcome refugees, and we can ensure that we’re doing so in a way that maintains our security.  We can and we will do both.  (Applause.) We can and we will do both.

We’re increasing our support to Central America, so that fewer families and children attempt the dangerous journey north. This fall at the United Nations, we’ll host a global summit on refugees, because in the face of this crisis, more nations need to step up and meet our basic obligations to our fellow human beings.  And it will be difficult, and budgets are tight, and there are legitimate issues and not everybody is going to be helped.  But we can try.  People of goodwill and compassion show us the way.

Greek islanders pulling families to shore.  And Germans handing out sweets to migrants at railway stations.  A synagogue in Virginia inviting Syrian refugees to dinner.  And here, in Canada, the world has been inspired as Canadians across this country have opened up their hearts and their homes.  And we’ve watched citizens knitting tuques to keep refugees warm in the winter.  (Laughter.)  And we’ve seen your Prime Minister welcome new arrivals at the airport, and extend the hand of friendship and say, “You’re safe at home now.”

And we see the refugees who feel that they have a special duty to give back, and seize the opportunities of a new life.  Like the girl who fled Afghanistan by donkey and camel and jet plane, and who remembers being greeted in this country by helping hands and the sound of robins singing.  And today, she serves in this chamber, and in the cabinet, because Canada is her home.  (Applause.)

A country “is not something you build as the pharaohs built the pyramids…a country is something that is built every day out of certain basic shared values.”  How true that is.  How blessed we are to have had people before us, day by day, brick by brick, build these extraordinary countries of ours.  How fortunate, how privileged we are to have the opportunity to now, ourselves, build this world anew.  What a blessing.  And as we go forward together, on that freedom road, let’s stay true to the values that make us who we are — Canadians and Americans, allies and friends, now and forever.

Thank you very much.  Merci beaucoup.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END
6:52 P.M. EDT

President Barack Obama’s Statement on the UK Decision to Leave the European Union

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS

President Obama on the UK Decision to Leave the European Union

Source: WH, 6-24-16

“The people of the United Kingdom have spoken, and we respect their decision. The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is enduring, and the United Kingdom’s membership in NATO remains a vital cornerstone of U.S. foreign, security, and economic policy. So too is our relationship with the European Union, which has done so much to promote stability, stimulate economic growth, and foster the spread of democratic values and ideals across the continent and beyond. The United Kingdom and the European Union will remain indispensable partners of the United States even as they begin negotiating their ongoing relationship to ensure continued stability, security, and prosperity for Europe, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the world.”

 

Full Text Political Transcripts June 23, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Supreme Court Upholding Affirmative Action in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Supreme Court Decision on U.S. Versus Texas

Source: WH,  6-23-16

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

11:53 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  I wanted to say a few words on two of the cases the Supreme Court spoke on today.

First, in the affirmative action case, I’m pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the basic notion that diversity is an important value in our society, and that this country should provide a high-quality education to all our young people, regardless of their background.  We are not a country that guarantees equal outcomes, but we do strive to provide an equal shot to everybody.  And that’s what was upheld today.

Second, one of the reasons why America is such a diverse and inclusive nation is because we’re a nation of immigrants.  Our Founders conceived of this country as a refuge for the world.  And for more than two centuries, welcoming wave after wave of immigrants has kept us youthful and dynamic and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character, and it has made us stronger.

But for more than two decades now, our immigration system, everybody acknowledges, has been broken.  And the fact that the Supreme Court wasn’t able to issue a decision today doesn’t just set the system back even further, it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be.

Just to lay out some basic facts that sometimes get lost in what can be an emotional debate.  Since I took office, we’ve deployed more border agents and technology to our southern border than ever before.  That has helped cut illegal border crossings to their lowest levels since the 1970s.  It should have paved the way for comprehensive immigration reform.  And, in fact, as many of you know, it almost did.  Nearly 70 Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together to pass a smart, common-sense bill that would have doubled the border patrol, and offered undocumented immigrants a pathway to earn citizenship if they paid a fine, paid their taxes, and played by the rules.

Unfortunately, Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to allow a simple yes or no vote on that bill.  So I was left with little choice but to take steps within my existing authority to make our immigration system smarter, fairer, and more just.

Four years ago, we announced that those who are our lowest priorities for enforcement — diligent, patriotic young DREAMers who grew up pledging allegiance to our flag — should be able to apply to work here and study here and pay their taxes here.  More than 730,000 lives have been changed as a result.  These are students, they’re teachers, they’re doctors, they’re lawyers.  They’re Americans in every way but on paper.  And fortunately, today’s decision does not affect this policy.  It does not affect the existing DREAMers.

Two years ago, we announced a similar, expanded approach for others who are also low priorities for enforcement.  We said that if you’ve been in America for more than five years, with children who are American citizens or legal residents, then you, too, can come forward, get right with the law, and work in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation.

Both were the kinds of actions taken by Republican and Democratic Presidents over the past half-century.  Neither granted anybody a free pass.  All they did was focus our enforcement resources — which are necessarily limited — on the highest priorities:  convicted criminals, recent border crossers, and threats to our national security.

Now, as disappointing as it was to be challenged for taking the kind of actions that other administrations have taken, the country was looking to the Supreme Court to resolve the important legal questions raised in this case.  Today, the Supreme Court was unable to reach a decision.  This is part of the consequence of the Republican failure so far to give a fair hearing to Mr. Merrick Garland, my nominee to the Supreme Court.  It means that the expanded set of common-sense deferred action policies — the ones that I announced two years ago — can’t go forward at this stage, until there is a ninth justice on the Court to break the tie.

I know a lot of people are going to be disappointed today, but it is important to understand what today means.  The deferred action policy that has been in place for the last four years is not affected by this ruling.  Enforcement priorities developed by my administration are not affected by this ruling.  This means that the people who might have benefitted from the expanded deferred action policies — long-term residents raising children who are Americans or legal residents — they will remain low priorities for enforcement.  As long as you have not committed a crime, our limited immigration enforcement resources are not focused on you.

But today’s decision is frustrating to those who seek to grow our economy and bring a rationality to our immigration system, and to allow people to come out of the shadows and lift this perpetual cloud on them.  I think it is heartbreaking for the millions of immigrants who’ve made their lives here, who’ve raised families here, who hoped for the opportunity to work, pay taxes, serve in our military, and more fully contribute to this country we all love in an open way.

So where do we go from here?

Most Americans — including business leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement, Democrats and Republicans and independents
— still agree that the single best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass common-sense, bipartisan immigration reform.

That is obviously not going to happen during the remainder of this Congress.  We don’t have is a Congress that agrees with us on this.  Nor do we have a Congress that’s willing to do even its most basic of jobs under the Constitution, which is to consider nominations.  Republicans in Congress currently are willfully preventing the Supreme Court from being fully staffed and functioning as our Founders intended.  And today’s situation underscores the degree to which the Court is not able to function the way it’s supposed to.

The Court’s inability to reach a decision in this case is a very clear reminder of why it’s so important for the Supreme Court to have a full bench.  For more than 40 years, there’s been an average of just over two months between a nomination and a hearing.  I nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court more than three months ago.  But most Republicans so far refuse to even meet with him.  They are allowing partisan politics to jeopardize something as fundamental as the impartiality and integrity of our justice system.  And America should not let it stand.

This is an election year.  And during election years, politicians tend to use the immigration issue to scare people with words like “amnesty” in hopes that it will whip up votes.  Keep in mind that millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking effort to become citizens.  And we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. But here’s the thing.  Millions of people who have come forward and worked to get right with the law under this policy, they’ve  been living here for years, too — in some cases, even decades.  So leaving the broken system the way it is, that’s not a solution.  In fact, that’s the real amnesty.  Pretending we can deport 11 million people, or build a wall without spending tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money is abetting what is really just factually incorrect.  It’s not going to work.  It’s not good for this country.  It’s a fantasy that offers nothing to help the middle class, and demeans our tradition of being both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

In the end, it is my firm belief that immigration is not something to fear.  We don’t have to wall ourselves off from those who may not look like us right now, or pray like we do, or have a different last name.  Because being an American is about something more than that.  What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal that all of us are created equal, all of us have a chance to make of our lives what we will.  And every study shows that whether it was the Irish or the Poles, or the Germans, or the Italians, or the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the Mexicans, or the Kenyans — whoever showed up, over time, by a second generation, third generation, those kids are Americans.  They do look like us — because we don’t look one way.  We don’t all have the same last names, but we all share a creed and we all share a commitment to the values that founded this nation.  That’s who we are.  And that is what I believe most Americans recognize.

So here’s the bottom line.  We’ve got a very real choice that America faces right now.  We will continue to implement the existing programs that are already in place.  We’re not going to be able to move forward with the expanded programs that we wanted to move forward on because the Supreme Court was not able to issue a ruling at this stage.  And now we’ve got a choice about who we’re going to be as a country, what we want to teach our kids, and how we want to be represented in Congress and in the White House.

We’re going to have to make a decision about whether we are a people who tolerate the hypocrisy of a system where the workers who pick our fruit or make our beds never have the chance to get right with the law — or whether we’re going to give them a chance, just like our forebears had a chance, to take responsibility and give their kids a better future.

We’re going to have to decide whether we’re a people who accept the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms
— or whether we actually value families, and keep them together for the sake of all of our communities.

We’re going to have to decide whether we’re a people who continue to educate the world’s brightest students in our high schools and universities, only to then send them away to compete against us — or whether we encourage them to stay and create new jobs and new businesses right here in the United States.

These are all the questions that voters now are going to have to ask themselves, and are going to have to answer in November.  These are the issues that are going to be debated by candidates across the country — both congressional candidates as well as the presidential candidates.  And in November, Americans are going to have to make a decision about what we care about and who we are.

I promise you this, though — sooner or later, immigration reform will get done.  Congress is not going to be able to ignore America forever.  It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. And I can say that with confidence because we’ve seen our history.  We get these spasms of politics around immigration and fear-mongering, and then our traditions and our history and our better impulses kick in.  That’s how we all ended up here.  Because I guarantee you, at some point, every one of us has somebody in our background who people didn’t want coming here, and yet here we are.

And that’s what’s going to happen this time.  The question is, do we do it in a smart, rational, sensible way — or we just keep on kicking the can down the road.  I believe that this country deserves an immigration policy that reflects the goodness of the American people.  And I think we’re going to get that.  Hopefully, we’re going to get that in November.

All right.  I’ll take two questions.  Two questions.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll take two questions.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Realistically, what do you see is the risk of deportation for these more than 4 million people?  I mean, you say we can’t deport 11 million.  This is 4 million, and there’s a chunk of time here before something else —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me just be very clear.  What was unaffected by today’s ruling — or lack of a ruling — is the enforcement priorities that we’ve put in place.  And our enforcement priorities that have been laid out by Secretary Jeh Johnson at the Department of Homeland Security are pretty clear: We prioritize criminals.  We prioritize gangbangers.  We prioritize folks who have just come in.  What we don’t do is to prioritize people who’ve been here a long time, who are otherwise law-abiding, who have roots and connections in their communities.
And so those enforcement priorities will continue.

The work that we’ve done with the DREAM Act kids, those policies remain in place.  So what this has prevented us from doing is expanding the scope of what we’ve done with the DREAM Act kids.  Keep in mind, though, that even that was just a temporary measure.  All it was doing was basically saying to these kids, you can have confidence that you are not going to be deported, but it does not resolve your ultimate status.  That is going to require congressional action.

So, although I’m disappointed by the lack of a decision today by the Supreme Court, a deadlock, this does not substantially change the status quo, and it doesn’t negate what has always been the case, which is if we’re really going to solve this problem effectively, we’ve got to have Congress pass a law.

I have pushed to the limits of my executive authority.  We now have to have Congress act.  And hopefully, we’re going to have a vigorous debate during this election — this is how democracy is supposed to work — and there will be a determination as to which direction we go in.

As I said, over the long term, I’m very confident about the direction this country will go in because we’ve seen this in the past.  If we hadn’t seen it in the past, America would look very different than it looks today.  But whether we’re going to get this done now, soon, so that this does not continue to be this divisive force in our politics, and we can get down to the business of all pulling together to create jobs, and educate our kids, and protect ourselves from external threats, and do the things that we need to do to ensure a better future for the next generation, that’s going to be determined in part by how voters turn out and who they vote for in November.

All right.  One more question.  Go ahead.

Q    Two practical, going-forward questions.  Number one, is this going to — are you going to be able to do anything more at all for immigrants going forward in terms of executive action before the election of the next president?  And number two, do you in any way take this as some Republicans have presented this, as a slap at your use of executive authority, this tie vote?  And will this in any way circumscribe how aggressively or forcefully you use executive authority for the remainder of your time in office?

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  On the specifics of immigration, I don’t anticipate that there are additional executive actions that we can take.  We can implement what we’ve already put in place that is not affected by this decision.  But we have to follow, now, what has been ruled on in the Fifth Circuit because the Supreme Court could not resolve the issue.

And we’re going to have to abide by that ruling until an election and a confirmation of a ninth justice of the Supreme Court so that they can break this tie.  Because we’ve always said that we are going to do what we can lawfully through executive action, but we can’t go beyond that.  And we’ve butted up about as far as we can on this particular topic.

It does not have any impact on, from our perspective, on the host of other issues that we’re working on, because each one of these issues has a different analysis and is based on different statutes or different interpretations of our authority.

So, for example, on climate change, that’s based on the Clean Air Act and the EPA and previous Supreme Court rulings, as opposed to a theory of prosecutorial discretion that, in the past, has — every other President has exercised.  And the Supreme Court wasn’t definitive one way or the other on this.  I mean, the problem is they don’t have a ninth justice.  So that will continue to be a problem.

With respect to the Republicans, I think what it tells you is, is that if you keep on blocking judges from getting on the bench, then courts can’t issue decisions.  And what that means is then you’re going to have the status quo frozen, and we’re not going to be able to make progress on some very important issues.

Now, that may have been their strategy from the start.  But it’s not a sustainable strategy.  And it’s certainly a strategy that will be broken by this election — unless their basic theory is, is that we will never confirm judges again.  Hopefully, that’s not their theory, because that’s not how a democracy is designed.

Q    You reject their portrayal of this as a chastisement of you for your use of executive authority?

THE PRESIDENT:  It was a one-word opinion that said, we can’t come up with a decision.  I think that would be a little bit of a stretch, yes.  Maybe the next time they can — if we have a full Court issuing a full opinion on anything, then we take it seriously.  This we have to abide by, but it wasn’t any kind of value statement or a decision on the merits of these issues.

All right?  Thank you, guys.

END
12:02 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts June 23, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Immigration Orders

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS

President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Immigration

Source: WH, 6-23-16

 

Full Text Political Transcripts June 23, 2016: Supreme Court reject President Barack Obama’s Immigration Executive Orders in United States v. Texas Opinion

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

United States v. Texas

Monday, April 18

15-674 United States v. Texas Transcript Audio

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES No. 15–674 UNITED STATES, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. TEXAS, ET AL. ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT [June 23, 2016] PER CURIAM. The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.

Full Text Political Transcripts June 16, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Statement to the Press after Meeting with the Families of the Orlando Shooting Victims

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in a Statement to the Press

Source: WH, 6-16-16

Dr. P. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Orlando, Florida

3:40 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Four days ago, this community was shaken by an evil and hateful act.  Today, we are reminded of what is good. That there is compassion, empathy and decency, and most of all, there is love.  That’s the Orlando that we’ve seen in recent days.  And that is the America that we have seen.

This afternoon, the Vice President and I had the opportunity to meet with many of the families here.  As you might imagine, their grief is beyond description.  Through their pain and through their tears, they told us about the joy that their loved ones had brought to their lives.  They talked about their sons or their daughters — so many young people, in their 20s and 30s; so many students who were focused on the future.  One young woman was just 18 years old.  Another, said her father, was a happy girl with so many dreams.

There were siblings there talking about their brothers and their sisters and how they were role models that they looked up to.  There were husbands and wives who had taken a solemn vow; fathers and mothers who gave their full hearts to their children. These families could be our families.  In fact, they are our family — they’re part of the American family.  Today, the Vice President and I told them, on behalf of the American people, that our hearts are broken, too, but we stand with you and that we are here for you, and that we are remembering those who you loved so deeply.

As a nation, we’ve also been inspired by the courage of those who risked their lives and cared for others.  Partners whose last moments were spent shielding each other.  The mother who gave her life to save her son.  The former Marine whose quick thinking saved dozens of lives.

Joe and I had the chance to thank Mayor Dyer, Chief Mina, Sheriff Demings, all who responded in heroic ways; the outstanding police and first responders who were able to, through their professionalism and quick response, rescue so many people. We also owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all the doctors, all the nurses who have worked day and night to treat the injured, save lives and prevent even more anguish.  As one of the doctors here said, “after the worst of humanity reared its ugly head…the best of humanity came roaring back.”  Let me get that quote more precisely — “after the worst of humanity reared its evil head…the best of humanity came roaring back.”

Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, if, in fact, we want to show the best of our humanity, then we’re all going to have to work together at every level of government, across political lines, to do more to stop killers who want to terrorize us.  We will continue to be relentless against terrorist groups like ISIL and al Qaeda.  We are going to destroy them.  We are going to disrupt their networks, and their financing, and the flow of fighters in and out of war theaters.  We’re going to disrupt their propaganda that poisons so many minds around the world.

We’re going to do all that.  Our resolve is clear.  But given the fact that the last two terrorist attacks on our soil — Orlando and San Bernardino — were homegrown, carried out it appears not by external plotters, not by vast networks or sophisticated cells, but by deranged individuals warped by the hateful propaganda that they had seen over the Internet, then we’re going to have to do more to prevent these kinds of events from occurring.  It’s going to take more than just our military. It’s going to require more than just our intelligence teams.  As good as they are, as dedicated as they are, as focused as they are, if you have lone wolf attacks like this, hatched in the minds of a disturbed person, then we’re going to have to take different kinds of steps in order to prevent something like this from happening.

Those who were killed and injured here were gunned down by a single killer with a powerful assault weapon.  The motives of this killer may have been different than the mass shooters in Aurora or Newtown, but the instruments of death were so similar. And now, another 49 innocent people are dead.  Another 53 are injured.  Some are still fighting for their lives.  Some will have wounds that will last a lifetime.  We can’t anticipate or catch every single deranged person that may wish to do harm to his neighbors, or his friends, or his coworkers, or strangers.  But we can do something about the amount of damage that they do. Unfortunately, our politics have conspired to make it as easy as possible for a terrorist or just a disturbed individual like those in Aurora and Newtown to buy extraordinarily powerful weapons — and they can do so legally.

Today, once again, as has been true too many times before, I held and hugged grieving family members and parents, and they asked, why does this keep happening?  And they pleaded that we do more to stop the carnage.  They don’t care about the politics. Neither do I.  Neither does Joe.  And neither should any parent out there who’s thinking about their kids being not in the wrong place, but in places where kids are supposed to be.

This debate needs to change.  It’s outgrown the old political stalemates.  The notion that the answer to this tragedy would be to make sure that more people in a nightclub are similarly armed to the killer defies common sense.  Those who defend the easy accessibility of assault weapons should meet these families and explain why that makes sense.  They should meet with the Newtown families — some of whom Joe saw yesterday — whose children would now be finishing fifth grade — on why it is that we think our liberty requires these repeated tragedies.  That’s not the meaning of liberty.

I’m pleased to hear that the Senate will hold votes on preventing individuals with possible terrorist ties from buying guns, including assault weapons.  I truly hope that senators rise to the moment and do the right thing.  I hope that senators who voted no on background checks after Newtown have a change of heart.  And then I hope the House does the right thing, and helps end the plague of violence that these weapons of war inflict on so many young lives.

I’ve said this before — we will not be able to stop every tragedy.  We can’t wipe away hatred and evil from every heart in this world.  But we can stop some tragedies.  We can save some lives.  We can reduce the impact of a terrorist attack if we’re smart.  And if we don’t act, we will keep seeing more massacres like this — because we’ll be choosing to allow them to happen.  We will have said, we don’t care enough to do something about it.

Here in Orlando, we are reminded not only of our obligations as a country to be resolute against terrorists, we are reminded not only of the need for us to implement smarter policies to prevent mass shootings, we’re also reminded of what unites us as Americans, and that what unites us is far stronger than the hate and the terror of those who target us.

For so many people here who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, the Pulse Nightclub has always been a safe haven, a place to sing and dance, and most importantly, to be who you truly are — including for so many people whose families are originally from Puerto Rico.  Sunday morning, that sanctuary was violated in the worst way imaginable.  So whatever the motivations of the killer, whatever influences led him down the path of violence and terror, whatever propaganda he was consuming from ISIL and al Qaeda, this was an act of terrorism but it was also an act of hate.  This was an attack on the LGBT community.  Americans were targeted because we’re a country that has learned to welcome everyone, no matter who you are or who you love.  And hatred towards people because of sexual orientation, regardless of where it comes from, is a betrayal of what’s best in us.

Joe and I were talking on the way over here — you can’t make up the world into “us” and “them,” and denigrate and express hatred towards groups because of the color of their skin, or their faith, or their sexual orientation, and not feed something very dangerous in this world.

So if there was ever a moment for all of us to reflect and reaffirm our most basic beliefs that everybody counts and everybody has dignity, now is the time.  It’s a good time for all of us to reflect on how we treat each other, and to insist on respect and equality for every human being.

We have to end discrimination and violence against our brothers and sisters who are in the LGBT community — here at home and around the world, especially in countries where they are routinely persecuted.  We have to challenge the oppression of women, wherever it occurs — here or overseas.  There’s only “us” — Americans.

Here in Orlando, in the men and women taken from us, those who loved them, we see some of the true character of this country — the best of humanity coming roaring back; the love and the compassion and the fierce resolve that will carry us through not just through this atrocity, but through whatever difficult times may confront us.

It’s our pluralism and our respect for each other — including a young man who said to a friend, he was “super proud” to be Latino.  It’s our love of country — the patriotism of an Army reservist who was known as “an amazing officer.”  It’s our unity — the outpouring of love that so many across our country have shown to our fellow Americans who are LGBT, a display of solidarity that might have been unimaginable even a few years ago.

Out of this darkest of moments, that gives us hope — seeing people reflect, seeing people’s best instincts come out, maybe in some cases, minds and hearts change.  It is our strength and our resilience — the same determination of a man who died here who traveled the world, mindful of the risks as a gay man, but who spoke for us all when he said, “we cannot be afraid…we are not going to be afraid.”

May we all find that same strength in our own lives.  May we all find that same wisdom in how we treat one another.  May God bless all who we lost here in Orlando.  May He comfort their families.  May He heal the wounded.  May He bring some solace to those whose hearts have been broken.  May He give us resolve to do what’s necessary to reduce the hatred of this world, curb the violence.  And may He watch over this country that we call home.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END                3:58 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts June 12, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Mass Shooting and Terrorism at LGBT Nightclub in Orlando

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

Remarks by the President on Mass Shooting in Orlando

Source: WH, 6-12-16

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:59 P.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Today, as Americans, we grieve the brutal murder — a horrific massacre — of dozens of innocent people.  We pray for their families, who are grasping for answers with broken hearts.  We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city.  Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate.  And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.

I just finished a meeting with FBI Director Comey and my homeland security and national security advisors.  The FBI is on the scene and leading the investigation, in partnership with local law enforcement.  I’ve directed that the full resources of the federal government be made available for this investigation.

We are still learning all the facts.  This is an open investigation.  We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer.  The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism.  And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what — if any — inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups.  What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred.  Over the coming days, we’ll uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us.

This morning I spoke with my good friend, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and I conveyed the condolences of the entire American people.  This could have been any one of our communities.  So I told Mayor Dyer that whatever help he and the people of Orlando need — they are going to get it.  As a country, we will be there for the people of Orlando today, tomorrow and for all the days to come.

We also express our profound gratitude to all the police and first responders who rushed into harm’s way.  Their courage and professionalism saved lives, and kept the carnage from being even worse.  It’s the kind of sacrifice that our law enforcement professionals make every single day for all of us, and we can never thank them enough.

This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends — our fellow Americans — who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live.  The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub — it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.

So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.  And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.

Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history.  The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle.  This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub.  And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be.  And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.

In the coming hours and days, we’ll learn about the victims of this tragedy.  Their names.  Their faces.  Who they were.  The joy that they brought to families and to friends, and the difference that they made in this world.  Say a prayer for them and say a prayer for their families — that God give them the strength to bear the unbearable.  And that He give us all the strength to be there for them, and the strength and courage to change.  We need to demonstrate that we are defined more — as a country — by the way they lived their lives than by the hate of the man who took them from us.

As we go together, we will draw inspiration from heroic and selfless acts — friends who helped friends, took care of each other and saved lives.  In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another.  We will not give in to fear or turn against each other.  Instead, we will stand united, as Americans, to protect our people, and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us.

May God bless the Americans we lost this morning.  May He comfort their families.  May God continue to watch over this country that we love.  Thank you.

 

END                                                          2:04 P.M. EDT

Statement from Press Secretary Josh Earnest:

The President was briefed this morning by Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, on the tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims. The President asked to receive regular updates as the FBI, and other federal officials, work with the Orlando Police to gather more information, and directed that the federal government provide any assistance necessary to pursue the investigation and support the community.

 

Statement from Vice President Joe Biden’s spokesperson:

The Vice President was briefed this morning by his national security advisor on the heinous attack that took place overnight at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Vice President Biden offered his prayers for all those killed and injured in the shooting and sends his condolences to all the families and loved ones of the victims.  He is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to receive regular updates as we know more.

Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 June 9, 2016: President Barack Obama endorses Hillary Clinton for president

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

President Barack Obama endorses Hillary Clinton for president

Source: Hillary Clinton, 6-9-16

Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 June 9, 2016: Bernie Sanders White House Press Conference After Meeting President Obama

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

Bernie Sanders White House Press Conference

Source: Bernie Sanders Speeches and Events, 6-9-16

 

Full Text Political Transcripts June 1, 2016: President Barack Obama’s remarks on the Economy in Elkhart, Indiana

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy

Source:  WH, 6-1-16 

Concord Community High School
Elkhart, Indiana

3:30 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Hello, hello!  (Applause.)  Can everybody please give Kelly a round of applause for the great introduction?  (Applause.)

It is good to be back in Elkhart.  (Applause.)  Great to be back at Concord High School.  (Applause.)  Go Minutemen!  I brought a couple friends of with me — your Senator, Joe Donnelly, is here.  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Tim Neese, is here.  (Applause.)  I wanted to congratulate everyone graduating tomorrow.  (Applause.)  I just met a couple of the valedictorians, who seem like outstanding young ladies.  My older daughter, Malia, graduates next week.  (Applause.)  So if there are any parents here, I hope you can give me some pointers on how not to cry too much at the ceremony and embarrass her.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Carry some tissues!

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s what I’m going to do!  (Applause.)  If you’ve got a chair, sit down.  Relax.  I’m going to — I’ve got some stuff to say here.  (Applause.)

So I’m not going to talk about the fact that my daughter leaving me is just breaking my heart.  I’m not here to talk about that.  I’m here to talk about the economy.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this is an election year.  (Laughter.)  And it’s a more colorful election season than most.  It’s been a little unusual.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  One more term!

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I can’t do that.  (Laughter.)  The Constitution prohibits it, but, more importantly, Michelle prohibits it.  (Laughter.)

Now, one of the reasons we’re told this has been an unusual election year is because people are anxious and uncertain about the economy.  And our politics are a natural place to channel that frustration.  So I wanted to come to the heartland, to the Midwest, back to close to my hometown to talk about that anxiety, that economic anxiety, and what I think it means.  And what I’ve got to say really boils down to two points — although I’m going to take a long time making these two points.  (Laughter.)

Number one:  America’s economy is not just better than it was eight years ago — it is the strongest, most durable economy in the world.  That’s point number one.  (Applause.)

Point number two:  We can make it even stronger, and expand opportunity for even more people.  But to do that, we have to be honest about what our real challenges are, and we’ve got to make some smart decisions going forward.

Now, Elkhart is a good place to have this conversation, because some of you remember this was the first city I visited as President.  (Applause.)  I had been in office just three weeks when I came here.  We were just a few months into what turned out to be the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes.  Our businesses were losing 800,000 jobs a month.  Our auto industry was about to go under.  Our families were losing their savings and their health insurance, and, as Kelly pointed out, they were in danger of losing their homes.  And Elkhart was hit harder than most.  Unemployment here would peak at 19.6 percent.  That means nearly one in five people here were out of work.  And I told you then that I was going to have your back, and we were going to work hard to bring this economy back.  (Applause.)

So what’s happened since then?  Unemployment in Elkhart has fallen to around 4 percent.  (Applause.)  At the peak of the crisis, nearly one in 10 homeowners in the state of Indiana were either behind on their mortgages or in foreclosure; today, it’s one in 30.  Back then, only 75 percent of your kids graduated from high school; tomorrow, 90 percent of them will.  (Applause.)  The auto industry just had its best year ever.  And the “RV Capital of the World” is doing its part — the industry is set to ship nearly 400,000 RVs this year, which will be an all-time record.  (Applause.)

So that’s progress.  And it’s thanks to you — to the hard work you put in and the sacrifices you made for your families, and the way that you looked out for each other.  But we also wouldn’t have come this far — Elkhart would not have come this far — if we hadn’t made a series of smart decisions, my administration, a cooperative Congress — decisions we made together early on in my administration.

We decided to help the auto industry restructure, and we helped families refinance their homes.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Yes, you did!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  We decided to invest in job training so that folks who lost their jobs could retool.  We decided to invest in things like high-tech manufacturing and clean energy and infrastructure, so that entrepreneurs wouldn’t just bring back the jobs that we had lost, but create new and better jobs, and folks who had lost work from the construction industry because the housing market had collapsed could go back to work rebuilding America.

And we can see the results not just here in Elkhart, but across the nation.  By almost every economic measure, America is better off than when I came here at the beginning of my presidency.  That’s the truth.  That’s true.  (Applause.)  It’s true.  (Applause.)  Over the past six years, our businesses have created more than 14 million new jobs — that’s the longest stretch of consecutive private sector job growth in our history.  We’ve seen the first sustained manufacturing growth since the 1990s.  We cut unemployment in half, years before a lot of economists thought we would.  We’ve cut the oil that we buy from foreign countries by more than half, doubled the clean energy that we produce.  For the first time ever, more than 90 percent of the country has health insurance.  (Applause.)

In fact, a poll that was out just last week says that two out of three Americans think their own family’s financial situation is in pretty good shape.  But we know a lot of people are still feeling stressed about their economic future.  The pundits, they say one of the reasons the Republican Party has picked the candidate that it has —

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  No booing.  We’re voting, we’re not booing.
(Applause.)  But if you watch the talking heads on TV, they all say, the reason that folks are angry is because nobody has paid enough attention to the plight of working Americans in communities like these.  That’s what they say.

Now, look, I’m the first to admit my presidency hasn’t fixed everything.  We’ve had setbacks.  We’ve had false starts.  We’ve, frankly, been stuck with a Congress recently that’s opposed pretty much everything that we’ve tried to do.  But I also know that I’ve spent every single day of my presidency focused on what I can do to grow the middle class and increase jobs, and boost wages, and make sure every kid in America gets the same kind of opportunities Michelle and I did.  (Applause.)  I know that.  I know that communities like Elkhart haven’t been forgotten in my White House.  And the results prove that our focus has paid off.  Elkhart proves it.

Now, where we haven’t finished the job, where folks have good reason to feel anxious, is addressing some of the longer-term trends in the economy — that started long before I was elected — that make working families feel less secure.  These are trends that have been happening for decades now and that we’ve got to do more to reverse.  Let me be clear about what those are.

Despite the drop in unemployment, wages are still growing too slowly, and that makes it harder to pay for college or save for retirement.  (Applause.)  Inequality is still too high.  The gap between rich and poor is bigger now than it’s been just about any time since the 1920s.  The rise of global competition and automation of more and more jobs; the race of technology — all these trends have left many workers behind, and they’ve let a few at the top collect extraordinary wealth and influence like never before.  And that kind of changes our politics.  So all these trends make it easy for people to feel that somehow the system is rigged and that the American Dream is increasingly hard to reach for ordinary folks.  And there are plenty of politicians that are preying on that frustration for headlines and for votes.

Now, I am a politician for another six months or so — (applause) — but I’m not running again.

AUDIENCE:  Aww —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  (Laughter.)  Besides, while I may have won the state of Indiana just barely in 2008 — (applause) — I know I lost the vote in Elkhart.  (Laughter.)  I definitely got whooped here in 2012.  I know I don’t poll all that well in this county.  So I’m not here looking for votes.

I am here because I care deeply, as a citizen, about making sure we sustain and build on all the work that communities like yours have done to bring America back over these last seven and a half years.  And I came here precisely because this county votes Republican.  That’s one of the reasons I came here.  Because if the economy is really what’s driving this election, then it’s going to be voters like you that have to decide between two very different visions of what’s going to help strengthen our middle class.  (Applause.)  And you’re going to have to make that decision.

So let me be as straight as I can be about the choice of economic policies that you are going to face.  And I’m going to start with the story that not every Republican but most Republican candidates up and down the ticket are telling.  And it goes something like this — and I think this is pretty fair, and if you don’t, then you can look it up.  So their basic story is:  America’s working class, America’s middle class — families like yours — have been victimized by a big, bloated federal government run by a bunch of left-wing elitists like me.  And the government is taking your hard-earned tax dollars and it’s giving them to freeloaders and welfare cheats.  And we’re strangling business with endless regulations.  And this federal government is letting immigrants and foreigners steal whatever jobs Obamacare hasn’t killed yet.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, look, I’m being serious here.  I mean, that’s the story that’s been told.  And I haven’t turned on Fox News or listened to conservative talk radio yet today, but I’ve turned them on enough over these past seven and a half years to know I’m not exaggerating in terms of their story. That’s the story they tell.  You can hear it from just about every member of Congress on the other side of the aisle.  And instead of telling you what they’re for, they’ve defined their economic agenda by what they’re against — and that’s mainly being against me.  And their basic message is anti-government, anti-immigrant, anti-trade, and, let’s face it, it’s anti-change.

And look, a lot of people believe it.  And if what they were saying were true, I suppose it would make sense to run on a platform of just rolling back everything we’ve done over these past seven and a half years, and happy days would be here again.  If what they were saying was true, then just being against whatever it is that we’ve done might make sense.  But what they’re saying isn’t true.  And if we’re going to fix what’s really wrong with the economy, we’ve got to understand that.

So let me just do some quick myth-busting.  And I’m going to start with the biggest myth, which is that the federal government keeps growing and growing and growing, and wasting your money and giving your tax dollars to people who don’t deserve it.

Now, here’s the truth — you can look it up.  These journalists here, they can do some fact-checking.  As a share of the economy, we spend less on domestic priorities outside of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — we spend less than we did when Ronald Reagan was President.  (Applause.)  When President Reagan or George W. Bush held this job, our deficits got bigger.  When Bill Clinton and I have held this job, deficits have gotten smaller.  (Applause.)  Our deficits have not grown these past seven and a half years; we’ve actually cut the deficit by almost 75 percent.  (Applause.)

Moreover, there are fewer families on welfare than in the 1990s.  Funding has been frozen for two decades.  There’s not a whole bunch of giveaways going on right now.  Aside from our obligation to care for the elderly and Americans with disabilities, the vast majority of people who get help from the federal government are families of all backgrounds who are working, striving to get back on their feet, striving to get back into the middle class.  And sometimes, yes, their kids need temporary help from food stamps when mom and dad are between jobs.  But look, these kids didn’t cause the financial crisis.  These kids aren’t spending us into bankruptcy.  They’re not what’s holding back the middle class.  And, by the way, neither is Obamacare.  (Applause.)

Let’s look at the numbers.  Again, I just want to — I’m just giving facts here.  I will have some opinions later, but right now I’m just giving facts.  I signed the Affordable Care Act into law over six years ago.  Since then, our businesses have created jobs every single month.  We did this while covering 20 million Americans who didn’t have health insurance; ending discrimination against preexisting conditions for everybody, including those who had health insurance — (applause) — and dramatically slowing the rate in which health care costs were going up.

In the decade before Obamacare, employer-based premiums grew by an average of 8 percent a year.  That meant you were paying that much more every year for health insurance.  Last year, they grew by 4 percent — half as fast as they were growing.  That doesn’t mean you’re happy about the 4 percent, but it wasn’t 8.  Today, the average family’s health insurance premium is $2,600 less than it would have been if premiums had kept on going up at the pace before Obamacare.  (Applause.)  And, by the way, just for folks here in Indiana, last year, most Hoosiers who shopped around for Obamacare on HealthCare.gov found plans that cost 75 bucks a month or less.  For the millions of Americans who buy on HealthCare.gov, they get tax credits to help them pay for it.  The average price increase this year has been four bucks a month.  There hasn’t been a double-digit percentage hike — four bucks a month.

But my bigger point is to bust this myth of crazy liberal government spending.  Government spending is not what is squeezing the middle class.

Myth number two is the notion that my administration has killed jobs through overregulation.  Back in the ‘60s and the ‘70s, government was adding all kinds of regulations — rules protecting workers’ rights, rules protecting the environment.  And these regulations to improve public health and safety, they didn’t crush economic growth that took place back in the ‘60s and the ‘70s, and they’re not crushing economic growth now.

I’ve issued fewer regulations than my predecessor.  I’ve issued fewer executive orders than any two-term President since Ulysses S. Grant — that’s a long time ago.  (Applause.)  The regulations that we have issued — rules to protect our air and our water, rules to keep families from getting cheated when buying a house or investing their savings — those rules have benefited our economy a lot more than they’ve cost.  They’ve helped families, they’ve helped the middle class — they haven’t hurt them.

Here’s myth number three:  Other countries are killing us on trade.  Now, it is true that a lot of supporters of trade deals in the past sometimes oversold all the good that it was going to do for the economy.  The truth is, the benefits of trade are usually widely spread — it’s one of the reasons why you can buy that big, flat-screen TV for a couple hundred bucks, and why the cost of a lot of basic necessities have gone down.  Some parts of the economy, like the agricultural sector or the tech sector have really done well with trade.  Some sectors and communities have been hurt by foreign competition.

And what’s also true is sometimes the pain of a plant closing here in America is magnified when you know that other countries are cheating.  They’re keeping American goods out of their markets, they’re unfairly subsidizing their businesses to undercut our businesses.  And a lot of the worst violators, they don’t even have trade deals with us at all.

So here’s what we’ve done.  Over the past seven years, we’ve brought more trade cases against other countries for cheating than anybody else.  Every case that’s been decided, America has won.  That’s what we’ve done.  (Applause.)  Making sure that we’ve got a level playing field.

But the truth is, trade has helped our country a lot more than it’s hurt us.  Exports helped lead us out of the recession.  Companies that export pay workers higher wages than folks who don’t export.  And anybody who says that somehow shutting ourselves off from trade is going to bring jobs back, they’re just not telling the truth.

In fact, most of the manufacturing jobs that we lost over the past decade, they weren’t the result of trade deals — they were the result of technology and automation that lets businesses make more stuff with fewer workers.  If you go into an auto plant these days — used to need several thousand workers, now they need a thousand workers to produce the same number of cars just because there are robots and there are machines that have replaced a lot of the work.  That’s true in offices, too, by the way — think about bank tellers, the last time you dealt with one of those, because now you’ve got ATM machines.

So we can’t put technology back in a box any more than we can cut ourselves off from the global supply chain.  All the RVs that are manufactured right here, I guarantee you, some of those parts came from someplace else.  And then we sell them back to other parts of the world.

And no matter how many tariffs we’re threatening to slap on other countries’ goods, no matter how many trade wars we start saying we’re going to put in place, that’s not going to help middle-class families here.  In fact, independent economists say a trade war would trigger another recession and cost millions of jobs.  So when you hear somebody threatening to cut off trade and saying that that’s standing up for American workers, that’s just not true.

Here’s the fourth myth:  That immigrants are taking all of our jobs.  Now I want to look — let’s look at the numbers.  Right now, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is near its lowest level in 40 years.  (Applause.)  It’s near its lowest level in 40 years.  It’s lower than when it was before I came into office, it’s lower than during Ronald Reagan’s time.  It’s true that new immigrants sometimes compete for service and construction jobs.  But they also start about 30 percent of all new businesses in America.  (Applause.)  Everybody thinks that immigrants come here and then they’re getting all this stuff from the government.  Immigrants pay a lot more in taxes than they receive in services.  (Applause.)

But most important, immigrants are not the main reason wages haven’t gone up for middle-class families.  Those decisions are made in the boardrooms of companies where top CEOs are getting paid more than 300 times the income of the average worker.  (Applause.)  So deporting 11 million immigrants — not only is that a fantasy that would cost taxpayers billions of dollars and tear families apart and just, logistically, would be impossible.  Even if it were possible, it wouldn’t do anything to seriously help the middle class.  Now, what would help is if we fixed our immigration system the way I’ve proposed, so that everybody plays by the rules, so that we’ve got strong border security.  But we also are making sure that families who have been here, like, 10 years, 20 years, that they’re out of the shadows, they’re paying taxes, they’re going through a background check.  That would grow our economy faster.  That would shrink our deficits further.  We just need a Congress that’s willing to make it happen.  We need a Congress that’s willing to make it happen.

So, look, here’s my main point:  The primary story that Republicans have been telling about the economy is not supported by the facts.  It’s just not.  They repeat it a lot — (laughter) — but it’s not supported by the facts.  But they say it anyway.  Now, why is that?  It’s because it has worked to get them votes, at least at the congressional level.

Because — and here, look, I’m just being blunt with you — by telling hardworking, middle-class families that the reason they’re getting squeezed is because of some moochers at the bottom of the income ladder, because of minorities, or because of immigrants, or because of public employees, or because of feminists — (laughter) — because of poor folks who aren’t willing to work, they’ve been able to promote policies that protect powerful special interests and those who are at the very top of the economic pyramid.  That’s just the truth.  (Applause.)

I hope you don’t mind me being blunt about this, but I’ve been listening to this stuff for a while now.  (Laughter.)  And I’m concerned when I watch the direction of our politics.  I mean, we have been hearing this story for decades.  Tales about welfare queens, talking about takers, talking about the “47 percent.”  It’s the story that is broadcast every day on some cable news stations, on right-wing radio, it’s pumped into cars, and bars, and VFW halls all across America, and right here in Elkhart.

And if you’re hearing that story all the time, you start believing it.  It’s no wonder people think big government is the problem.  No wonder public support for unions is so low.  (Applause.)  No wonder that people think that the deficit has gone up under my presidency when it’s actually gone down.  (Applause.)  No wonder that — they did a survey, a lot of white Americans think reverse discrimination is as big a problem as discrimination against minorities, even though black unemployment is twice as high as white unemployment.  And the typical Hispanic woman makes 55 cents for every dollar a white man earns, and there are only a handful of women running Fortune 500 companies.

But that’s the story that’s been told.  And I’m here to say, Elkhart, seven and a half years since I first came here, we’ve got to challenge the assumptions behind this economic story.  (Applause.)  And the reason is it has ended up dividing Americans who actually have common economic interests and should be working together for a better deal from the people who serve them.  And it’s made people cynical about government, and it’s kept working families from pushing our political system to actually address our economic challenges in a realistic way.  Families of all races, and all backgrounds, deserve higher wages.  Families of all races, and all backgrounds, deserve quality health care and decent retirement savings.  (Applause.)  Every child in this country deserves an education that lets them dream bigger than the circumstances in which they’re born.  (Applause.)

You know, look, in today’s economy, we can’t put up walls around America.  We’re not going to round up 11 million people.  We’re not going to put technology back in the box.  We’re not going to rip away hard-earned rights of women and minorities and Americans with disabilities so that they’re able to more fairly and fully participate in the workplace.  These are permanent fixtures in our economy.  And rolling them back will not help folks in Elkhart or anyplace else.

And if we’re going to transform our politics so that they’re actually responsive to working families and are actually growing the middle class, then we’ve got to stop pitting working Americans against one another.  We’re going to have to come together and choose a vision of America where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules.  (Applause.)  And that’s the vision that made progress possible over these last seven years.  And that’s what’s going to lead us forward now.

Now, this isn’t a State of the Union Address — I already gave my last one.  (Laughter.)  But in the time remaining, I do want to offer some suggestions that I think would actually help give everybody who works hard a fair shot at opportunity and security in today’s economy.  And you’ve heard some of these things before, but it’s worth repeating because they’re true.

Number one:  Let’s get wages rising faster.  (Applause.)  Now, here’s the good news:  Wages are actually growing at a rate of about 3 percent so far this year.  That’s the good news.  Working Americans are finally getting a little bigger piece of the pie.  But we’ve got to accelerate that.  That’s why, for example, my administration recently took new action to help millions of workers finally collect the overtime pay that they have earned.  That’s going to help.  (Applause.)  But we should also raise the minimum wage high enough so that if somebody is working full time, they’re not living in poverty.  (Applause.)   Some states, some cities have done it, but we need a national law.  We should make sure women get equal pay for equal work.  That’s something we should all agree on.  (Applause.)  That shouldn’t be a partisan issue.  Republicans have got daughters too.  They shouldn’t want them to get paid less than somebody’s boy for doing the same job.  If you care about working families getting a bigger paycheck, then that’s a clear choice for you right there.

We also need to give workers a bigger voice in the economy.  Now, one of the reasons that wages have not grown faster over the last couple of decades is because some politicians, some businesses, some laws have undermined the ability of workers to bargain for a better deal, and that needs to change.  (Applause.)  We always talk about — folks taking about the good old days.  Well, let me tell you something, in the good old days, 50 years ago, more than one in four American workers belonged to a union — one in four.  (Applause.)

The reason all those manufacturing jobs that everybody wants to get back, the reason they paid well was because folks were unionized in those plants.  (Applause.)  And they not only negotiated for good wages, but also good benefits, and they had a pension plan that they could count on.  So it used to be one in four were members of unions; today it’s about one in 10.  And it’s not a coincidence that as union membership shrank, inequality grew and wages stagnated, and workers got a smaller share of the economic pie.

So I just want everybody to remember this — a lot of those good jobs people miss, a lot of those good manufacturing jobs that everybody is always talking about, those were union jobs.  (Applause.)  And when I — it’s great to get all riled up about low wages and lousy workers standards in other countries, but let’s get riled up about that stuff here, too.  (Applause.)  America should not be changing our laws to make it harder for workers to organize, we should be changing our laws to make it easier and encourage new forms of worker organizations that can give them more of a voice and more of a say in the economy.

And by the way, I want to be clear:  There are a lot of terrific business leaders who have figured out that doing right by their workers isn’t just good for their workers, it’s good for their bottom line, because that means they’ve got more customers.  It means their communities are doing better.  (Applause.)  There are plenty of business owners right here in Elkhart who exhibited that spirit throughout the recession.  So we should lift up good corporate citizens like that so that more businesses across America follow their lead.  But that’s priority number one — getting wages to grow faster.

Priority number two:  We need to better prepare our children and our workers for the high-tech, high-wage jobs of tomorrow.  (Applause.)  Now, we actually know what works here, we just don’t do it.  We know early childhood education works.  (Applause.)  And we should invest in smart ways of doing it across the country, especially because child care costs take up a huge share of a family budget.  We know that we have to make college more affordable and job training more available.  (Applause.)  And one way to do that is to provide two years of community college for free for every responsible student.  (Applause.)  There are mayors and there are governors who are already doing good work on these issues across party lines.  They’ve shown the way.  Now we need Congress to do the same.

Number three:  One of the reasons wages grew so quickly in the ‘50s and the ‘60s and the ‘70s is because we had a government that put people to work building highways, and building bridges, and building airports, and exploring new frontiers in space and science, and investing in research and development.  And it led to countless new discoveries and innovations, and it educated a new generation of workers with public colleges where tuition was low, and a GI Bill.

And I just have to say, too often, Republicans in Congress are blocking investments like these for no other reason than this cult of small government that they keep repeating.  But you know what, it’s been a drag on the economy.  It made us recover slower than we should have.  It’s been a drag on jobs.  It’s been a drag on wages.  And it’s pennywise and pound foolish because if the economy is growing slower, you take in less tax dollars.  You’d be better off putting people back to work — then they’re paying taxes, the economy is getting stronger, and deficits can actually go down.  We should be making smart investments that help us all succeed.  (Applause.)

Fourth, in the new economy, we’ve got to make it easier for working Americans to save for retirement or bounce back from a lost job.  Because let’s be honest — most Americans don’t have the same benefits package or job security as their member of Congress.  I’m just saying.  They’ve got a pretty good deal.

That was part of what Obamacare is all about, right?  What it did was fill in the gaps so that if you lost your job, or you went back to school, or you decided to start a new business, you could go and compare and buy quality, affordable coverage and get a tax credit for it.  And despite the predictions, it’s working.  And, by the way, it would work ever better if we had more governors and legislators willing to do what Mike Pence did, to his credit, and expand Medicaid.  That was a decision that helped more than 300,000 Hoosiers.  (Applause.)

So we need fewer folks in Congress who side with the special interests.  We need more who are willing to work with us to lower health care costs, give us the funding we need to fight public health challenges like Zika and the opioid epidemic — Joe Donnelly is working on that diligently.  (Applause.)  So those are things we could get done that would relieve a lot of worry for a lot of families.

And then we have to tackle retirement security.  That’s something that keeps a lot of people up at night.  That’s why we’ve taken actions already to make it easier for more workers to save through their jobs, to make sure that when you do save, you’re getting advice that’s not in Wall Street’s best interest, but in your best interest.

But look, let’s face it — a lot of Americans don’t have retirement savings.  Even if they’ve got an account set up, they just don’t have enough money at the end of the month to save as much as they’d like because they’re just barely paying the bills.  Fewer and fewer people have pensions they can really count on, which is why Social Security is more important than ever.  (Applause.)  We can’t afford to weaken Social Security.  We should be strengthening Social Security.  And not only do we need to strengthen its long-term health, it’s time we finally made Social Security more generous, and increased its benefits so that today’s retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they’ve earned.  (Applause.)  And we could start paying for it by asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more.  They can afford it.  I can afford it.  (Applause.)

A fifth way to make the new economy work for everybody is actually to make sure trade works for us and not against us.  Again, walling ourselves off from other countries, that’s not going to do it.  A lot of tough talk that doesn’t mean anything is not going to do it.  Here’s what will make a difference:  Making sure other countries raise their labor standards, raise their environmental standards to levels that we set.  And that’s what we did with this trade deal we call Trans-Pacific Partnership.  We negotiated with 11 other countries.  If you don’t like NAFTA, this TPP trade deal overhauls NAFTA with enforceable, much stronger labor and environmental standards, which means that they won’t undercut us as easily.

If you don’t want China to set the rules for the 21st century — and they’re trying — then TPP makes sure that we set the rules.  So the choice is simple:  If you want to help China, then you shouldn’t pass this trade deal that we negotiated.  If you want to help America, you need to pass it.  Because it’s going to cut taxes that other countries put on our products.  It raises other countries’ standards to ours.  That’s how we’re going to help middle-class families.  That’s how we secure better wages for our workers.  And that’s how we compete on a level playing field, and when we’re on a level playing field, America wins every time — every time.  (Applause.)

One last suggestion, and that is making sure the economy works for everybody by strengthening, and not weakening, the rules that keep Wall Street in check and goes after folks who avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  (Applause.)

After the financial crisis, we passed the toughest Wall Street reforms in history.  We passed the toughest Wall Street reforms in history, and by the way, the bank bailout that everybody was mad about?  They had to pay back every dime, and they did — with interest.  (Applause.)  And then we passed laws to make sure we didn’t have something like that happen again.  And they’re making a difference.  The biggest banks have to carry twice the amount of capital that they did before the crisis — that makes another crisis less likely.   We’ve got new tools to guard against another “too big to fail” situation.  We’ve put in place a new consumer watchdog that has already secured more than $10 billion for families who were cheated by irresponsible lending or irresponsible credit card practices.

And guess what?  Ever since we passed this thing, the big banks — working with a lot of members of Congress on the other side of the aisle — they have teamed up to try to roll back these rules every single year.  Every year, they’ve been trying to roll them back.  And the Republican nominee for President has already said he’d dismantle all these rules that we passed.  That is crazy.  (Applause.)  Have we — no, look, I mean, sometimes — I’ll be honest with you.  Sometimes I just don’t get it.  (Laughter.)  How it is that somebody could propose that we weaken regulations on Wall Street?  Have we really forgotten what just happened eight years ago?  (Applause.)  It hasn’t been that long ago.  And because of their reckless behavior, you got hurt.  And the notion that you would vote for anybody who would now allow them to go back to doing the same stuff that almost broke our economy’s back makes no sense.  (Applause.)

I don’t care whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or an independent — why would you do that?  (Applause.)  Less oversight on Wall Street would only make another crisis more likely.  Letting credit card companies write their own rules — that’s only going to hurt working families.  It sure as heck wouldn’t make the middle class more secure.  How can you say you’re for the middle class and then you want to tear down these rules?

We’ve also been cracking down on tax loopholes, like the ones that allow corporations to change their addresses — they say they’re an overseas company, even though they’re all located here, so that they don’t have to pay taxes in America.  We’ve cracked down on tax cheats who are trying to hide their wealth in offshore accounts.  You don’t get to avoid paying your taxes.  Why should they?  (Applause.)

But I’ve got to say, the folks on the other side of the aisle have opposed our efforts to close these loopholes.  How do they explain it?  When big corporations and wealthy individuals don’t pay their fair share of taxes — and by the way, a lot of people do, so I’m not painting with a broad brush here, but there are a lot of folks who don’t — when they don’t pay their fair share of taxes, it means either you’re paying more or it means we don’t have enough revenue to support things like rebuilding our roads or funding our public universities, which means tuition goes up and then you’re trying to figure out how to pay for your kid’s college education.

We should have closed these loopholes a long time ago, and Lord knows I have tried every year in my budget.  We should have used some of the savings that we get from them paying their fair share to give tax breaks that would actually help working families pay for child care, or would help you send your kids to college, or would help you save for retirement.

The point is, if we want a strong middle class, our tax code should reflect that.  My first term, we cut taxes by $3,600 for the typical middle-class family.  Middle-class families have paid lower federal income tax rates during my presidency than during any other time since the 1950s — that’s this big-spending, liberal, tax-and-spend Democrat.  That’s the truth.  Look it up.  (Applause.)

But the wealthiest Americans are still paying far lower rates than they used to.  When I ran for office, I said we’d reverse the tax cuts that had been put in place by the previous President and Congress for wealthy individuals, and we did that.  We asked them to pay the top rate they did under Bill Clinton, when the economy, by the way, was booming and we ran a surplus.  They all said, this is going to be a disaster and we’re going to go into a recession, and we didn’t.

But today, even as the top 1 percent is doing better than ever for all the reasons I talked about earlier, the Republican nominee for President’s tax plan would give the top one-tenth of 1 percent — not the top 1 percent, the top one-tenth of 1 percent — a bigger tax cut than the 120 million American households at the bottom.  It would explode our deficits by nearly $10 trillion.  I’m not making this up.  (Laughter.)  You can look at the math.  (Applause.)  That will not bring jobs back.  That is not fighting for the American middle class.  That will not help us win.  That is not going to make your lives better.  That will help people like him.  That’s the truth.  (Applause.)

So you have a choice to make, Elkhart.  You do — between more or less inequality.  Between stacking the deck for the folks who are already doing great or making sure everybody has a chance to succeed.  That’s the economic choice you face.  That’s what’s at stake in this election — two very different vision for our economy.  I hope I’ve broken it down for you.

Now, let me say this:  I understand that not everybody votes based on their economic interests.  Not everybody votes just based on the economy.  We’re more than just a matter of dollars and cents.  Some folks care deeply about our Second Amendment rights.  Some folks care about marriage equality.  Some folks care about abortion.  Some folks are going to vote based on national security, or their worries about terrorism.  They may think that we haven’t done the right thing on any of those issues, and that the Republicans have a better answer.  We can have that debate.  That’s fine.  Those are all issues very worthy of debate.

But if what you care about in this election is your pocketbook, if what you’re concerned about is who will look out for the interests of working people and grow the middle class, if that’s what you’re concerned about, then the debate — then if that’s that you’re concerned about — the economy — the debate is not even close.  One path would lead to lower wages.  It would eliminate worker protections.  It would cut investments in things like education.  It would weaken the safety net.  It would kick people off health insurance.  It would let China write the rules for the global economy.  It would let Big Oil weaken rules that protect our air and water.  It would let big banks weaken rules that protect families from getting cheated.  It would cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans to historic lows.  Those are the facts.

And I know it sounds like a strange agenda for politicians who are claiming to care about you and working families.  But those are their plans.  You can find it on their websites.  And when I hear working families thinking about voting for those plans, then I want to have an intervention.  (Laughter and applause.)  I want you to just take a look at what you’re talking about here.  (Applause.)

And if you tell me, you know what, Mr. President, you may be right, but I just disapprove of what Democrats stand for on gay rights, or on going after ISIL — then I’m fine.  Okay, I hear you.  The economy is not everything.  If you tell me, you know what, you may be right, but I just believe as a matter of principle that government should be small and the wealthy, they work harder than everybody else and they should be able to keep what they got — all right, well, you’re making a philosophical argument.  I got you.

But don’t think that actually — that this agenda is going to help you.  It’s not designed to help you.  And the evidence of the last 30 years, not to mention common sense, should tell you that their answers to our challenges are no answers at all.  (Applause.)

Fortunately, there’s another path that leads to more jobs, and higher wages, and better benefits, and a stronger safety net, and a fairer tax code, and a bigger voice for workers, and trade on our terms.  And it will make a real difference for the prospects of working families.  And we’ll grow the middle class.

So that’s the choice you face, Elkhart.  The ideas I’ve laid out today, I want to be clear:  They’re not going to solve every problem.  They’re not going to make everybody financially secure overnight.  We’re still going to be facing global competition.  Trying to make sure that all our kids are prepared for the 21st century workforce, that’s a 20-year project, that’s not a two-year project.  We’re still going to have to make sure that we’re paying for Social Security and Medicaid and Medicare as our populations get older.  There are still going to be a bunch of issues out there.

But the agenda I’m putting forward will point us in the right direction.  And the one thing I can promise you is if we turn against each other based on divisions of race or religion, if we fall for a bunch of okie-doke just because it sounds funny or the tweets are provocative, then we’re not going to build on the progress that we’ve started.  If we get cynical and just vote our fears, or if we don’t vote at all, we won’t build on the progress that we started.

We’ve got to come together around our common values — our faith in hard work.  Our faith in responsibility.  Our belief in opportunity for everybody.  We’ve got to assume the best in each other, not the worst.  We’ve got to remember that sometimes, we all fall on hard times, and it’s part of our jobs as a community of Americans to help folks up when they fall.  (Applause.)  Because whatever our differences, we all love this country.  We all care about our children’s futures.  That’s what makes us great.  That’s what makes us progress and become better versions of ourselves — because we believe in each other.  (Applause.)

That’s what’s going to get us through our toughest moments.  That’s how we know something better is around the bend.  There’s going to be some setbacks along the way, but we know that our journey is not finished, and we know that with steady, persistent, collective effort, we’re going to deliver a brighter day for our children and our children’s children.  That’s what you proved, Elkhart, over these last seven years.  That’s what you’ve shown America.  Let’s keep on showing it.

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

END
4:28 P.M. EDT

 

Full Text Political Transcripts May 30, 2016: President Barack Obama Remarks on Memorial Day 2016 at Arlington Cemetery

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Memorial Day, 2016

Source: WH, 5-30-16

Arlington Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:31 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning.

THE PRESIDENT:  Secretary Carter, General Dunford, Mr. Hallinan, Major General Becker, members of our Armed Forces, veterans, and most of all, our Gold Star families:  I’m honored to be with you once again as we pay our respects, as Americans, to those who gave their lives for us all.

Here, at Arlington, the deafening sounds of combat have given way to the silence of these sacred hills.  The chaos and confusion of battle has yielded to perfect, precise rows of peace.  The Americans who rest here, and their families — the best of us, those from whom we asked everything — ask of us today only one thing in return:  that we remember them.

If you look closely at the white markers that grace these hills, one thing you’ll notice is that so many of the years — dates of birth and dates of death — are so close together.  They belong to young Americans; those who never lived to be honored as veterans for their service — men who battled their own brothers in Civil War, those who fought as a band of brothers an ocean away, men and women who redefine heroism for a new generation.  There are generals buried beside privates they led.  Americans known as “Dad” or “Mom.”  Some only known to God.  As Mr. Hallinan, a Marine who then watched over these grounds has said, “everyone here is someone’s hero.”

Those who rest beneath this silence — not only here at Arlington, but at veterans’ cemeteries across our country and around the world, and all who still remain missing — they didn’t speak the loudest about their patriotism.  They let their actions do that.  Whether they stood up in times of war, signed up in times of peace, or were called up by a draft board, they embodied the best of America.

As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than leading our men and women in uniform; I have no more solemn obligation sending them into harm’s way.  I think about this every time I approve an operation as President.  Every time, as a husband and father, that I sign a condolence letter.  Every time Michelle and I sit at the bedside of a wounded warrior or grieve and hug members of a Gold Star Family.

Less than one percent of our nation wears the uniform, and so few Americans sees this patriotism with their own eyes or knows someone who exemplifies it.  But every day, there are American families who pray for the sound of a familiar voice when the phone rings.  For the sound of a loved one’s letter or email arriving.  More than one million times in our history, it didn’t come.  And instead, a car pulled up to the house.  And there was a knock on the front door.  And the sounds of Taps floated through a cemetery’s trees.

For us, the living — those of us who still have a voice — it is our responsibility, our obligation, to fill that silence with our love and our support and our gratitude — and not just with our words, but with our actions.  For truly remembering, and truly honoring these fallen Americans means being there for their parents, and their spouses, and their children — like the boys and girls here today, wearing red shirts and bearing photos of the fallen.  Your moms and dads would be so proud of you.  And we are, too.

Truly remembering means that after our fallen heroes gave everything to get their battle buddies home, we have to make sure our veterans get everything that they have earned, from good health care to a good job.  And we have to do better; our work is never done.  We have to be there not only when we need them, but when they need us.

Thirty days before he would be laid to rest a short walk from here, President Kennedy told us that a nation reveals itself not only by the people it produces, but by those it remembers.  Not everyone will serve.  Not everyone will visit this national sanctuary.  But we remember our best in every corner of our country from which they came.  We remember them by teaching our children at schools with fallen heroes’ names, like Dorie Miller Elementary in San Antonio.  Or being good neighbors in communities named after great generals, like McPherson, Kansas.  Or when we walk down 1st Sgt. Bobby Mendez Way in Brooklyn, or drive across the Hoover Dam on a bridge that bears Pat Tillman’s name.

We reveal ourselves in our words and deeds, but also by the simple act of listening.  My fellow Americans, today and every day, listen to the stories these Gold Star families and veterans have to tell.  Ask about who he or she was, why they volunteered. Hear from those who loved them about what their smile looked like, and their laugh sounded like, and the dreams they had for their lives.

Since we gathered here one year ago, more than 20 brave Americans have given their lives for the security of our people in Afghanistan.  We pray for them all, and for their families.  In Iraq, in our fight against ISIL, three Americans have given their lives in combat on our behalf.  And today, I ask you to remember their stories, as well.

Charles Keating, IV — Charlie, or Chuck, or “C-4” — was born into a family of veterans, All-American athletes and Olympians — even a Gold Medalist.  So, naturally, Charlie, and the love of his life, Brooke, celebrated their anniversary on the Fourth of July.  She called him the “huge goofball” everybody wanted to be friends with — the adventurer who surfed and spearfished and planned to sail around the world.

When the Twin Towers fell, he was in high school, and he decided to enlist — joined the SEALs because, he told his friends, it was the hardest thing to do.  He deployed to Afghanistan and three times to Iraq, earning a Bronze Star for valor.  Earlier this month, while assisting local forces in Iraq who had come under attack, he gave his life.

A few days later, one of his platoon mates sent Charlie’s parents a letter from Iraq.  “Please tell everyone Chuck saved a lot of lives today,” it said.  He left us, “with that big signature smile on his handsome face, as always.  Chuck was full of aloha, but was also a ferocious warrior.”  Today, we honor Chief Special Warfare Officer Charles Keating IV.

Louis Cardin was the sixth of seven children, a Californian with an infectious wit who always had a joke at the ready to help someone get through a tough time.  When his siblings ran around the house as kids, his mom, Pat, would yell after them:  “Watch that baby’s safety margin!”  Today, she realizes that what she was really doing was raising a Marine.  As a teenager, he proudly signed up.  Louie graduated high school on a Friday.  Three days later, on Monday morning, the Marines came to pick him up.  That was 10 years ago.  One morning this March, a Marine knocked on his mother’s door again.  On his fifth tour, at a fire base in Iraq, Louie gave his life while protecting the Marines under his command.

Putting others before himself was what Louie did best.  He chose to live in the barracks with his buddies even when he could have taken a house off base.  He volunteered to babysit for friends who needed a date night.  He’d just earned a promotion to mentor his fellow Marines.  When they brought Louie home, hundreds of strangers lined freeway overpasses and the streets of Southern California to salute him.  And today, we salute Staff Sergeant Louis Cardin.  (Applause.)

Joshua Wheeler’s sister says he was “exactly what was right about this world.  He came from nothing and he really made something of himself.”  As a kid, Josh was the one who made sure his brother and four half-sisters were dressed and fed and off to school.  When there wasn’t food in the cupboard, he grabbed his hunting rifle and came back with a deer for dinner.  When his country needed him, he enlisted in the Army at age 19.

He deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan — 14 times; earned 11 Bronze Stars, four for valor.  Last October, as ISIL terrorists prepared to execute 70 hostages, Josh and his fellow Special Ops went in and rescued them.  Every single one walked free.  “We were already dead,” one of the hostages said, “then God sent us a force from the sky.”  That force was the U.S. Army, including Josh Wheeler.

Josh was the doting dad who wrote notes to his kids in the stacks of books he read.  Flying home last summer to be with his wife, Ashley, who was about to give birth, he scribbled one note in the novel he was reading, just to tell his unborn son he was on his way.  Ashley Wheeler is with us here today, holding their 10-month-old son, David.  (Applause.)  Ashley says Josh’s memory makes her think about how can she be a better citizen.  And she hopes it’s what other people think about, too.  Today, this husband and father rests here, in Arlington, in Section 60.  And as Americans, we resolve to be better — better people, better citizens, because of Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler.

A nation reveals itself not only by the people it produces, but by those it remembers.  We do so not just by hoisting a flag, but by lifting up our neighbors.  Not just by pausing in silence, but by practicing in our own lives the ideals of opportunity and liberty and equality that they fought for.  We can serve others, and contribute to the causes they believed in, and above all, keep their stories alive so that one day, when he grows up and thinks of his dad, an American like David Wheeler can tell them, as well, the stories of the lives that others gave for all of us.

We are so proud of them.  We are so grateful for their sacrifice.  We are so thankful to those families of the fallen.  May God bless our fallen and their families.  May He bless all of you.  And may He forever bless these United States of America.  (Applause.)

END                 11:45 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts May 27, 2016: President Barack Obama’s speech at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Text of Obama’s speech at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Source: WaPo, 5-27-16

Seventy one years ago, on a bright, cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. The flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself

Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.

Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.

It is not the fact of war that sets Hiroshima apart. Artifacts tell us that violent conflict appeared with the very first man. Our early ancestors, having learned to make blades from flint and spears from wood, used these tools not just for hunting but against their own kind.

On every continent, the history of civilization is filled with war, whether driven by scarcity of grain or hunger for gold, compelled by nationalist fervor or religious zeal. Empires have risen and fallen. Peoples have been subjugated and liberated, and at each juncture, innocents have suffered — a countless toll, their names forgotten by time.

The world war that reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations. Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art. Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth.

And yet, the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes. An old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints.

In the span of a few years, some 60 million people would die. Men, women, children — no different than us — shot, beaten, marched, bombed, jailed, starved, gassed to death. There are many sites around the world that chronicle this war, memorials that tell stories courage and heroism, graves and empty camps, the echo of unspeakable depravity.

Yet in the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction: how the very spark that marks us a species — our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our tool-making, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will — those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction.

How often does material advancement or social innovation blind us to this truth? How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause.

Every great religion promises a pathway to love and peace and righteousness. And yet no religion has been spared from believers who have claimed their faith as a license to kill.

Nations arise telling a story that binds people together in sacrifice and cooperation, allowing for remarkable feats. But those same stories have so often been used to oppress and dehumanize those who are different.

Science allows us to communicate across the seas and fly above the clouds, to cure disease and understand the cosmos. But those same discoveries can be turned into ever more efficient killing machines.

The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.

That is why we come to this place.

We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war, and the wars that came before, and the wars that would follow.

Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering, but we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.

Someday the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness. But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change. And since that fateful day, we have made choices that give us hope. The United States and Japan forged not only an alliance but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war.

The nations of Europe built a union that replaced battlefields with bonds of commerce and democracy. Oppressed peoples and nations won liberation. An international community established institutions and treaties that worked to avoid war and aspired to restrict and roll back and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.

Still, every act of aggression between nations, every act of terror and corruption and cruelty and oppression that we see around the world, shows our work is never done. We may not be able to eliminate man’s capacity to do evil. So nations and the alliances that we form must possess the means to defend ourselves. But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.

We may not realize this goal in my lifetime, but persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe. We can chart a course that leads to the destruction of these stockpiles. We can stop the spread to new nations and secure deadly material from fanatics.

And yet, that is not enough. For we see around the world today how even the crudest rifles and barrel bombs can serve up violence on a terrible scale.

We must change our mindset about war itself to prevent conflict through diplomacy and strive to end conflicts after they’ve begun. To see our growing interdependence as a cause for peaceful cooperation and not violent competition. To define our nations not by our capacity to destroy, but by what we build. And perhaps above all, we must reimagine our connection to one another as members of one human race.

For this, too, is what makes our species unique. We are not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story — one that describes a common humanity, one that makes war less likely and cruelty less easily accepted.

We see these stories in the hibakusha: the woman who forgave a pilot who flew the plane that dropped the atomic bomb because she recognized that what she really hated was war itself. The man who sought out families of Americans killed here because he believed their loss was equal to his own.

My own nation’s story began with simple words. All men are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Realizing that ideal has never been easy, even within our own borders, even among our own citizens.

But staying true to that story is worth the effort. It is an ideal to be strived for, an ideal that extends across continents and across oceans. The irreducible worth of every person. The insistence that every life is precious. The radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family.

 

That is the story that we all must tell. That is why we come to Hiroshima: so that we might think of people we love. The first smile from our children in the morning. The gentle touch from a spouse over the kitchen table. The comforting embrace of a parent. We can think of those things and know that those same precious moments took place here 71 years ago.

Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations — when the choices made by leaders — reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.

The world was forever changed here. But today, the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child.

That is a future we can choose: a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare, but as the start of our own moral awakening.

 

 

Full Text Political Transcripts May 24, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Speech in Address to the People of Vietnam

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama in Address to the People of Vietnam

Source: WH, 5-24-16

National Convention Center
Hanoi, Vietnam

12:11 P.M. ICT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Xin chào!  (Applause.)  Xin chào Vietnam!  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  To the government and the people of Vietnam, thank you for this very warm welcome and the hospitality that you have shown to me on this visit.  And thank all of you for being here today.  (Applause.)   We have Vietnamese from across this great country, including so many young people who represent the dynamism, and the talent and the hope of Vietnam.

On this visit, my heart has been touched by the kindness for which the Vietnamese people are known.  In the many people who have been lining the streets, smiling and waving, I feel the friendship between our peoples.  Last night, I visited the Old Quarter here in Hanoi and enjoyed some outstanding Vietnamese food.  I tried some Bún Chả.  (Applause.)  Drank some bia Ha Noi.  But I have to say, the busy streets of this city, I’ve never seen so many motorbikes in my life.  (Laughter.)  So I haven’t had to try to cross the street so far, but maybe when I come back and visit you can tell me how.

I am not the first American President to come to Vietnam in recent times.  But I am the first, like so many of you, who came of age after the war between our countries.  When the last U.S. forces left Vietnam, I was just 13 years old.  So my first exposure to Vietnam and the Vietnamese people came when I was growing up in Hawaii, with its proud Vietnamese American community there.

At the same time, many people in this country are much younger than me.  Like my two daughters, many of you have lived your whole lives knowing only one thing — and that is peace and normalized relations between Vietnam and the United States.  So I come here mindful of the past, mindful of our difficult history, but focused on the future — the prosperity, security and human dignity that we can advance together.

I also come here with a deep respect for Vietnam’s ancient heritage.  For millennia, farmers have tended these lands — a history revealed in the Dong Son drums.  At this bend in the river, Hanoi has endured for more than a thousand years.  The world came to treasure Vietnamese silks and paintings, and a great Temple of Literature stands as a testament to your pursuit of knowledge.  And yet, over the centuries, your fate was too often dictated by others.  Your beloved land was not always your own.  But like bamboo, the unbroken spirit of the Vietnamese people was captured by Ly Thuong Kiet — “the Southern emperor rules the Southern land.  Our destiny is writ in Heaven’s Book.”

Today, we also remember the longer history between Vietnamese and Americans that is too often overlooked.  More than 200 years ago, when our Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, sought rice for his farm, he looked to the rice of Vietnam, which he said had “the reputation of being whitest to the eye, best flavored to the taste, and most productive.”  Soon after, American trade ships arrived in your ports seeking commerce.

 

During the Second World War, Americans came here to support your struggle against occupation.  When American pilots were shot down, the Vietnamese people helped rescue them.  And on the day that Vietnam declared its independence, crowds took to the streets of this city, and Ho Chi Minh evoked the American Declaration of Independence.  He said, “All people are created equal.  The Creator has endowed them with inviolable rights.  Among these rights are the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to the pursuit of happiness.”

In another time, the profession of these shared ideals and our common story of throwing off colonialism might have brought us closer together sooner.  But instead, Cold War rivalries and fears of communism pulled us into conflict.  Like other conflicts throughout human history, we learned once more a bitter truth — that war, no matter what our intentions may be, brings suffering and tragedy.

At your war memorial not far from here, and with family altars across this country, you remember some 3 million Vietnamese, soldiers and civilians, on both sides, who lost their lives.  At our memorial wall in Washington, we can touch the names of 58,315 Americans who gave their lives in the conflict.  In both our countries, our veterans and families of the fallen still ache for the friends and loved ones that they lost.  Just as we learned in America that, even if we disagree about a war, we must always honor those who serve and welcome them home with the respect they deserve, we can join together today, Vietnamese and Americans, and acknowledge the pain and the sacrifices on both sides.

More recently, over the past two decades, Vietnam has achieved enormous progress, and today the world can see the strides that you have made.  With economic reforms and trade agreements, including with the United States, you have entered the global economy, selling your goods around the world.  More foreign investment is coming in.  And with one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, Vietnam has moved up to become a middle-income nation.

We see Vietnam’s progress in the skyscrapers and high-rises of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and new shopping malls and urban centers.  We see it in the satellites Vietnam puts into space and a new generation that is online, launching startups and running new ventures.  We see it in the tens of millions of Vietnamese connected on Facebook and Instagram.  And you’re not just posting selfies — although I hear you do that a lot — (laughter) — and so far, there have been a number of people who have already asked me for selfies.  You’re also raising your voices for causes that you care about, like saving the old trees of Hanoi.

So all this dynamism has delivered real progress in people’s lives.  Here in Vietnam, you’ve dramatically reduced extreme poverty, you’ve boosted family incomes and lifted millions into a fast-growing middle class.  Hunger, disease, child and maternal mortality are all down.  The number of people with clean drinking water and electricity, the number of boys and girls in school, and your literacy rate — these are all up.  This is extraordinary progress.  This is what you have been able to achieve in a very short time.

And as Vietnam has transformed, so has the relationship between our two nations.  We learned a lesson taught by the venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, who said, “In true dialogue, both sides are willing to change.”  In this way, the very war that had divided us became a source for healing.  It allowed us to account for the missing and finally bring them home.  It allowed us to help remove landmines and unexploded bombs, because no child should ever lose a leg just playing outside.  Even as we continue to assist Vietnamese with disabilities, including children, we are also continuing to help remove Agent Orange — dioxin — so that Vietnam can reclaim more of your land.  We’re proud of our work together in Danang, and we look forward to supporting your efforts in Bien Hoa.

Let’s also not forget that the reconciliation between our countries was led by our veterans who once faced each other in battle.  Think of Senator John McCain, who was held for years here as a prisoner of war, meeting General Giap, who said our countries should not be enemies but friends.  Think of all the veterans, Vietnamese and American, who have helped us heal and build new ties.  Few have done more in this regard over the years than former Navy lieutenant, and now Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, who is here today.  And on behalf of all of us, John, we thank you for your extraordinary effort.  (Applause.)

Because our veterans showed us the way, because warriors had the courage to pursue peace, our peoples are now closer than ever before.  Our trade has surged.  Our students and scholars learn together.  We welcome more Vietnamese students to America than from any other country in Southeast Asia.  And every year, you welcome more and more American tourists, including young Americans with their backpacks, to Hanoi’s 36 Streets and the shops of Hoi An, and the imperial city of Hue.  As Vietnamese and Americans, we can all relate to those words written by Van Cao — “From now, we know each other’s homeland; from now, we learn to feel for each other.”

 

As President, I’ve built on this progress.  With our new Comprehensive Partnership, our governments are working more closely together than ever before.  And with this visit, we’ve put our relationship on a firmer footing for decades to come.  In a sense, the long story between our two nations that began with Thomas Jefferson more than two centuries ago has now come full circle.  It has taken many years and required great effort.  But now we can say something that was once unimaginable:  Today, Vietnam and the United States are partners.

And I believe our experience holds lessons for the world.  At a time when many conflicts seem intractable, seem as if they will never end, we have shown that hearts can change and that a different future is possible when we refuse to be prisoners of the past.  We’ve shown how peace can be better than war.  We’ve shown that progress and human dignity is best advanced by cooperation and not conflict.  That’s what Vietnam and America can show the world.

Now, America’s new partnership with Vietnam is rooted in some basic truths.  Vietnam is an independent, sovereign nation, and no other nation can impose its will on you or decide your destiny.  (Applause.)  Now, the United States has an interest here.  We have an interest in Vietnam’s success.  But our Comprehensive Partnership is still in its early stages.  And with the time I have left, I want to share with you the vision that I believe can guide us in the decades ahead.

First, let’s work together to create real opportunity and prosperity for all of our people.  We know the ingredients for economic success in the 21st century.  In our global economy, investment and trade flows to wherever there is rule of law, because no one wants to pay a bribe to start a business.  Nobody wants to sell their goods or go to school if they don’t know how they’re going to be treated.  In knowledge-based economies, jobs go to where people have the freedom to think for themselves and exchange ideas and to innovate.  And real economic partnerships are not just about one country extracting resources from another.  They’re about investing in our greatest resource, which is our people and their skills and their talents, whether you live in a big city or a rural village.  And that’s the kind of partnership that America offers.

As I announced yesterday, the Peace Corps will come to Vietnam for the first time, with a focus on teaching English.  A generation after young Americans came here to fight, a new generation of Americans are going to come here to teach and build and deepen the friendship between us.  (Applause.)  Some of America’s leading technology companies and academic institutions are joining Vietnamese universities to strengthen training in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine.  Because even as we keep welcoming more Vietnamese students to America, we also believe that young people deserve a world-class education right here in Vietnam.

It’s one of the reasons why we’re very excited that this fall, the new Fulbright University Vietnam will open in Ho Chi Minh City — this nation’s first independent, non-profit university — where there will be full academic freedom and scholarships for those in need.  (Applause.)  Students, scholars, researchers will focus on public policy and management and business; on engineering and computer science; and liberal arts — everything from the poetry of Nguyen Du, to the philosophy of Phan Chu Trinh, to the mathematics of Ngo Bao Chau.

And we’re going to keep partnering with young people and entrepreneurs, because we believe that if you can just access the skills and technology and capital you need, then nothing can stand in your way — and that includes, by the way, the talented women of Vietnam.  (Applause.)  We think gender equality is an important principle.  From the Trung Sisters to today, strong, confident women have always helped move Vietnam forward.  The evidence is clear — I say this wherever I go around the world — families, communities and countries are more prosperous when girls and women have an equal opportunity to succeed in school and at work and in government.  That’s true everywhere, and it’s true here in Vietnam.  (Applause.)

We’ll keep working to unleash the full potential of your economy with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Here in Vietnam, TPP will let you sell more of your products to the world and it will attract new investment.  TPP will require reforms to protect workers and rule of law and intellectual property.  And the United States is ready to assist Vietnam as it works to fully implement its commitments.  I want you to know that, as President of the United States, I strongly support TPP because you’ll also be able to buy more of our goods, “Made in America.”

Moreover, I support TPP because of its important strategic benefits.  Vietnam will be less dependent on any one trading partner and enjoy broader ties with more partners, including the United States.  (Applause.)  And TPP will reinforce regional cooperation.  It will help address economic inequality and will advance human rights, with higher wages and safer working conditions.  For the first time here in Vietnam, the right to form independent labor unions and prohibitions against forced labor and child labor.  And it has the strongest environmental protections and the strongest anti-corruption standards of any trade agreement in history.  That’s the future TPP offers for all of us, because all of us — the United States, Vietnam, and the other signatories — will have to abide by these rules that we have shaped together.  That’s the future that is available to all of us.  So we now have to get it done — for the sake of our economic prosperity and our national security.

This brings me to the second area where we can work together, and that is ensuring our mutual security.  With this visit, we have agreed to elevate our security cooperation and build more trust between our men and women in uniform.  We’ll continue to offer training and equipment to your Coast Guard to enhance Vietnam’s maritime capabilities.  We will partner to deliver humanitarian aid in times of disaster.  With the announcement I made yesterday to fully lift the ban on defense sales, Vietnam will have greater access to the military equipment you need to ensure your security.  And the United States is demonstrating our commitment to fully normalize our relationship with Vietnam.  (Applause.)

More broadly, the 20th century has taught all of us — including the United States and Vietnam — that the international order upon which our mutual security depends is rooted in certain rules and norms.  Nations are sovereign, and no matter how large or small a nation may be, its sovereignty should be respected, and it territory should not be violated.  Big nations should not bully smaller ones.  Disputes should be resolved peacefully.  (Applause.)  And regional institutions, like ASEAN and the East Asia Summit, should continue to be strengthened.  That’s what I believe.  That’s what the United States believes.  That’s the kind of partnership America offers this region.  I look forward to advancing this spirit of respect and reconciliation later this year when I become the first U.S. President to visit Laos.

In the South China Sea, the United States is not a claimant in current disputes.  But we will stand with partners in upholding core principles, like freedom of navigation and overflight, and lawful commerce that is not impeded, and the peaceful resolution of disputes, through legal means, in accordance with international law.  As we go forward, the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and we will support the right of all countries to do the same.  (Applause.)

Even as we cooperate more closely in the areas I’ve described, our partnership includes a third element — addressing areas where our governments disagree, including on human rights.  I say this not to single out Vietnam.  No nation is perfect.  Two centuries on, the United States is still striving to live up to our founding ideals.  We still deal with our shortcomings — too much money in our politics, and rising economic inequality, racial bias in our criminal justice system, women still not being paid as much as men doing the same job.  We still have problems.  And we’re not immune from criticism, I promise you.  I hear it every day.  But that scrutiny, that open debate, confronting our imperfections, and allowing everybody to have their say has helped us grow stronger and more prosperous and more just.

I’ve said this before — the United States does not seek to impose our form of government on Vietnam.  The rights I speak of I believe are not American values; I think they’re universal values written into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  They’re written into the Vietnamese constitution, which states that “citizens have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and have the right of access to information, the right to assembly, the right to association, and the right to demonstrate.”  That’s in the Vietnamese constitution.  (Applause.)  So really, this is an issue about all of us, each country, trying to consistently apply these principles, making sure that we — those of us in government — are being true to these ideals.

In recent years, Vietnam has made some progress.  Vietnam has committed to bringing its laws in line with its new constitution and with international norms.  Under recently passed laws, the government will disclose more of its budget and the public will have the right to access more information.  And, as I said, Vietnam has committed to economic and labor reforms under the TPP.   So these are all positive steps.  And ultimately, the future of Vietnam will be decided by the people of Vietnam.  Every country will chart its own path, and our two nations have different traditions and different political systems and different cultures.  But as a friend of Vietnam, allow me to share my view — why I believe nations are more successful when universal rights are upheld.

When there is freedom of expression and freedom of speech, and when people can share ideas and access the Internet and social media without restriction, that fuels the innovation economies need to thrive.  That’s where new ideas happen.  That’s how a Facebook starts.  That’s how some of our greatest companies began — because somebody had a new idea.  It was different.  And they were able to share it.  When there’s freedom of the press — when journalists and bloggers are able to shine a light on injustice or abuse — that holds officials accountable and builds public confidence that the system works.  When candidates can run for office and campaign freely, and voters can choose their own leaders in free and fair elections, it makes the countries more stable, because citizens know that their voices count and that peaceful change is possible.  And it brings new people into the system.

When there is freedom of religion, it not only allows people to fully express the love and compassion that are at the heart of all great religions, but it allows faith groups to serve their communities through schools and hospitals, and care for the poor and the vulnerable.  And when there is freedom of assembly — when citizens are free to organize in civil society — then countries can better address challenges that government sometimes cannot solve by itself.  So it is my view that upholding these rights is not a threat to stability, but actually reinforces stability and is the foundation of progress.

After all, it was a yearning for these rights that inspired people around the world, including Vietnam, to throw off colonialism.  And I believe that upholding these rights is the fullest expression of the independence that so many cherish, including here, in a nation that proclaims itself to be “of the People, by the People and for the People.”

Vietnam will do it differently than the United States does.  And each of us will do it differently from many other countries around the world.  But there are these basic principles that I think we all have to try to work on and improve.  And I said this as somebody who’s about to leave office, so I have the benefit of almost eight years now of reflecting on how our system has worked and interacting with countries around the world who are constantly trying to improve their systems, as well.

Finally, our partnership I think can meet global challenges that no nation can solve by itself.  If we’re going to ensure the health of our people and the beauty of our planet, then development has to be sustainable.  Natural wonders like Ha Long Bay and Son Doong Cave have to be preserved for our children and our grandchildren.  Rising seas threaten the coasts and waterways on which so many Vietnamese depend.  And so as partners in the fight against climate change, we need to fulfill the commitments we made in Paris, we need to help farmers and villages and people who depend on fishing to adapt and to bring more clean energy to places like the Mekong Delta — a rice bowl of the world that we need to feed future generations.

And we can save lives beyond our borders.  By helping other countries strengthen, for example, their health systems, we can prevent outbreaks of disease from becoming epidemics that threaten all of us.  And as Vietnam deepens its commitment to U.N. peacekeeping, the United States is proud to help train your peacekeepers.  And what a truly remarkable thing that is — our two nations that once fought each other now standing together and helping others achieve peace, as well.  So in addition to our bilateral relationship, our partnership also allows us to help shape the international environment in ways that are positive.

Now, fully realizing the vision that I’ve described today is not going to happen overnight, and it is not inevitable.  There may be stumbles and setbacks along the way.  There are going to be times where there are misunderstandings.  It will take sustained effort and true dialogue where both sides continue to change.  But considering all the history and hurdles that we’ve already overcome, I stand before you today very optimistic about our future together.  (Applause.)  And my confidence is rooted, as always, in the friendship and shared aspirations of our peoples.

I think of all the Americans and Vietnamese who have crossed a wide ocean — some reuniting with families for the first time in decades — and who, like Trinh Cong Son said in his song, have joined hands, and opening their hearts and seeing our common humanity in each other.  (Applause.)

I think of all the Vietnamese Americans who have succeeded in every walk of life — doctors, journalists, judges, public servants.  One of them, who was born here, wrote me a letter and said, by “God’s grace, I have been able to live the American Dream…I’m very proud to be an American but also very proud to be Vietnamese.”  (Applause.)  And today he’s here, back in the country of his birth, because, he said, his “personal passion” is “improving the life of every Vietnamese person.”

I think of a new generation of Vietnamese — so many of you, so many of the young people who are here — who are ready to make your mark on the world.  And I want to say to all the young people listening:  Your talent, your drive, your dreams — in those things, Vietnam has everything it needs to thrive.  Your destiny is in your hands.  This is your moment.  And as you pursue the future that you want, I want you to know that the United States of America will be right there with you as your partner and as your friend.  (Applause.)

And many years from now, when even more Vietnamese and Americans are studying with each other; innovating and doing business with each other; standing up for our security, and promoting human rights and protecting our planet with each other — I hope you think back to this moment and draw hope from the vision that I’ve offered today.  Or, if I can say it another way — in words that you know well from the Tale of Kieu — “Please take from me this token of trust, so we can embark upon our 100-year journey together.”  (Applause.)

Cam on cac ban.  Thank you very much.  Thank you, Vietnam.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
12:43 P.M. ICT

Full Text Political Transcripts May 16, 2016: President barack Obama’s Remarks at Presentation of the Medal of Valor

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Presentation of the Medal of Valor

Source: WH, 5-16-16

East Room

11:30 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  And good morning.  Welcome to the White House.  Thank you, Attorney General Lynch, for your words and your leadership.  We’ve got a couple members of Congress here — Frederica Wilson and Chris Collins we want to acknowledge.  And I also want to recognize Director Comey, members of the Fraternal Order of Police, and all the outstanding law enforcement officials who are here from around the country.  I’m proud to stand with you as we celebrate Police Week.  And most of all, I’m proud to be with the heroes on the front row, and with the families who have supported them — and the family of one who made the ultimate sacrifice.

It’s been said that perfect valor is doing without witnesses what you would do if the whole world were watching.  The public safety officers we recognize today with the Medal of Valor found courage not in search of recognition, they did it instinctively. This is an award that none of them sought.  And if they could go back in time, I suspect they’d prefer none of this had happened.

As one of today’s honorees said about his actions, “I could have very well gone my whole career and not dealt with this situation and been very happy with that.”  If they had their way, none of them would have to be here, and so we’re grateful that they are and our entire nation expresses its profound gratitude. More important, we’re so grateful that they were there — some on duty, others off duty, all rising above and beyond the call of duty.  All saving the lives of people they didn’t know.

That distinction — that these 13 officers of valor saved the lives of strangers — is the first of several qualities that they share.  But their bravery, if it had not been for their bravery, we likely would have lost a lot of people — mothers,  fathers, sons, daughters, friends and loved ones.  Thankfully, they are still with their families today because these officers were where they needed to be most, at a critical time:  At a gas station during a routine patrol.  In the middle of a busy hospital.  In a grocery store.  On the campus of a community college.  Near an elementary school where a sheriff’s deputy’s own children were students and his wife taught.  In all of these places, in each of these moments, these officers were true to their oaths.

To a person, each of these honorees acted without regard for their own safety.  They stood up to dangerous individuals brandishing assault rifles, handguns, and knives.  One officer sustained multiple stab wounds while fighting off an assailant.  Another endured first-degree burns to his arms and face while pulling an unconscious driver from a burning car on a freeway.

Each of them will tell you, very humbly, the same thing — they were just doing their jobs.  They were doing what they had to do, what they were trained to do, like on any other day.  The officer who suffered those terrible burns — he left urgent care and went straight to work.  He had to finish his shift.  That sense of duty and purpose is what these Americans embody.

The truth is, it’s because of your courage, sometimes seen, but sometimes unseen, that the rest of us can go about living our lives like it’s any other day.  Going to work, going to school, spending time with our families, getting home safely.  We so appreciate our public safety officers around the country, from our rookie cadets to our role model of an Attorney General.  Not everyone will wear the medal that we give today, but every day, so many of our public safety officers wear a badge of honor.

The men and women who run toward danger remind us with your courage and humility what the highest form of citizenship looks like.  When you see students and commuters and shoppers at risk, you don’t see these civilians as strangers.  You see them as part of your own family, your own community.  The Scripture teaches us, you love your neighbor as yourself.  And you put others’ safety before your own.  In your proud example of public service, you remind us that loving our country means loving one another.

Today, we also want to acknowledge the profound sacrifices made by your families.  And I had the chance to meet some of them and they were all clearly so proud of you, but we’re very proud of them.  We know that you wait up late, and you’re worried and you’re counting down the minutes until your loved one walks through the door, safe, after a long shift.  We know it never gets easier, and we thank you for that.  And of course, we honor those who didn’t come home, including one hero we honor posthumously today — Sergeant Robert Wilson III.

He gave his life when two men opened fire at a video game store where Sergeant Wilson was buying a son a birthday present. To his family who’s here — his grandmother, Constance, his brother and sister — please know how deeply sorry we are for your loss, how grateful we are for Sergeant Wilson’s service.

We also honor the more than 35 who’ve given their lives in the line of duty so far this year.  One of them, an officer in Virginia named Ashley Marie Guindon, was taken from us on her very first shift.

I’ve seen this sacrifice when I’ve joined some of you at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial not far from here.  We read the names carved on these walls, and we grieve with the families who carry the fallen in their hearts forever.  We’ve been moved, deeply, by their anguish — but also by their pride in the lives their loved ones lived.  And in those moments, we’re reminded of our enduring obligation as citizens — that they sacrificed so much for — that we do right by them and their families.

And medals and ceremonies like today are important, but these aren’t enough to convey the true depth of our gratitude.  Our words will be hollow if they’re not matched by deeds.  So our nation has a responsibility to support those who serve and protect us and keep our streets safe.  We can show our respect by listening to you, learning from you, giving you the resources that you need to do the jobs.  That’s the mission of our police task force, which brought together local law enforcement, civil rights and faith leaders, and community members to open dialogue and build trust and find concrete solutions that make your jobs safer.  Our country needs that right now.

We’re going to keep pushing Congress to move forward [in] a bipartisan way to make our criminal justice system fairer and smarter and more cost-effective, and enhance public safety and ensure the men and women in this room have the ability to enforce the law and keep their communities safe.

A few minutes ago, I signed into law a package of bills to protect and honor our law enforcement officers, including one that will help state and local departments buy more bulletproof vests.

Emerson once said, “there is always safety in valor.”  The public safety officers we honor today give those words new meaning, for it’s your courage and quick thinking that gave us our safety.

So we want to thank you for your service.  We want to thank your families for your sacrifice.  I had a chance before I came out here to meet with the recipients, and I told them that, although this particular moment for which you are being honored is remarkable, we also know that every day you go out there you’ve got a tough job.  And we could not be prouder of not only moments like the ones we recognize here today, but just the day-to-day grind — you’re doing your jobs professionally; you’re doing your jobs with character.  We want you to know we could not be prouder of you, and we couldn’t be prouder of your families for all the contributions that you make.

So may God bless you and your families.  May God bless our fallen heroes.  <ay God bless the United States of America.

And it’s now my honor to award these medals as the citations are read.

MILITARY AIDE:  Officer Mario Gutierrez.  Medal of Valor presented to Officer Mario Gutierrez, Miami-Dade Police Department, Florida, for bravery and composure while enduring a violent attack.  Officer Gutierrez sustained multiple stab wounds while subduing a knife-wielding assailant who attempted to set off a massive gas explosion that could have resulted in multiple fatalities.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Patrolman Lewis Cioci.  Medal of Valor presented to Patrolmen Lewis Ciochi, Johnson City Police Department, New York, for courageously resolving a volatile encounter with a gunman.  After witnessing the murder of his fellow officer, Patrolman Cioci pursued and apprehended the gunman at a crowded hospital, thereby saving the lives of employees, patients, and visitors.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Officer Jason Salas, Officer Robert Sparks, and Captain Raymond Bottenfield.  Medal of Valor presented to Officer Jason Salas, Officer Robert Sparks, and Captain Raymond Bottenfield, Santa Monica Police Department, California, for courage and composure in ending a deadly rampage.  Officer Salas, Officer Sparks, and Captain Bottenfield placed themselves in mortal danger to save the lives of students and staff during a school shooting on the busy campus of Santa Monica College.

(The medals are awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Major David Huff.  Medal of Valor presented to Major David Huff, Midwest City Police Department, Oklahoma, for uncommon poise in resolving a dangerous hostage situation.  Major Huff saved the life of a two-year-old girl after negotiations deteriorated with a man holding the child captive at knifepoint.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Officer Donald Thompson.  Medal of Valor presented to Officer Donald Thompson, Los Angeles Police Department, California, for courageous action to save an accident victim.  While off duty, Officer Thompson traversed two freeway dividers and endured first- and second-degree burns while pulling an unconscious man to safety from a car moments before it became engulfed in flames.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Officer Coral Walker.  Medal of Valor presented to Officer Coral Walker, Omaha Police Department, Nebraska, for taking brave and decisive action to subdue an active shooter.  After exchanging gunfire, Officer Walker singlehandedly incapacitated a man who had killed an injured multiple victims on a shooting spree.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Officer Gregory Stevens.  Medal of Valor presented to Officer Gregory Stevens, Garland Police Department, Texas, for demonstrating extraordinary courage to save lives.  Officer Stevens exchanged gunfire at close range and subdued two heavily armed assailants, preventing a deadly act of terrorism.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Mrs. Constance Wilson, accepting on behalf of Sergeant Wilson, III.  Medal of Valor presented to fallen Sergeant Robert Wilson, III, Philadelphia Police Department, Pennsylvania, for giving his life to protect innocent civilians. Sergeant Wilson put himself in harm’s way during an armed robbery, drawing fire from the assailants and suffering a mortal wound as he kept store employees and customers safe.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Officer Niel Johnson.  Medal of Valor presented to Officer Niel Johnson, North Miami Police Department, Florida, for swift and valorous action to end a violent crime spree.  Officer Johnson pursued a man who had shot a Miami police officer and two other innocent bystanders, withstanding fire from an assault weapon and apprehended the assailant.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Special Agent Tyler Call.  Medal of Valor presented to Special Agent Tyler Call, Federal Bureau of Investigation, for his heroic actions to save a hostage.  Special Agent Cull, who was off duty with his family, helped rescue a woman from her ex-husband, who had violated a restraining order and held the victim at gunpoint.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Deputy Joey Tortorella.  Medal of Valor presented to Deputy Joey Tortorella, Niagara County, Sheriff’s Office, New York, for placing himself in grave danger to protect his community.  Deputy Tortorella confronted and subdued a violent gunman who had shot and wounded his parents inside their home, and by doing so, prevented the gunmen from threatening the safety of students at a nearby elementary school.

(The medal is awarded.)  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Let’s give one last big round of applause to the recipients of the Medal of Valor.  (Applause.)

Thank you all.  Thank you for your dedication.  Thanks for your service.  You are continuously in our thoughts and prayers, and we are continuously giving thanks for all that you and your families do.

Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
11:57 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts May 7, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Howard University Commencement Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Howard University Commencement Ceremony

Source: WH, 5-7-16

Howard University
Washington, D.C.

11:47 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  Hello, Howard!  (Applause.)  H-U!

AUDIENCE:  You know!

THE PRESIDENT:  H-U!

AUDIENCE:  You know!

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughter.)  Thank you so much, everybody.  Please, please, have a seat.  Oh, I feel important now.  Got a degree from Howard.  Cicely Tyson said something nice about me.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you, President!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.

To President Frederick, the Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, fellow recipients of honorary degrees, thank you for the honor of spending this day with you.  And congratulations to the Class of 2016!  (Applause.)  Four years ago, back when you were just freshmen, I understand many of you came by my house the night I was reelected.  (Laughter.)  So I decided to return the favor and come by yours.

To the parents, the grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, all the family and friends who stood by this class, cheered them on, helped them get here today — this is your day, as well.  Let’s give them a big round of applause, as well.  (Applause.)

I’m not trying to stir up any rivalries here; I just want to see who’s in the house.  We got Quad?  (Applause.)  Annex.  (Applause.)  Drew.  Carver.  Slow.  Towers.  And Meridian.  (Applause.)  Rest in peace, Meridian.  (Laughter.)  Rest in peace.

I know you’re all excited today.  You might be a little tired, as well.  Some of you were up all night making sure your credits were in order.  (Laughter.)  Some of you stayed up too late, ended up at HoChi at 2:00 a.m.  (Laughter.)  Got some mambo sauce on your fingers.  (Laughter.)

But you got here.  And you’ve all worked hard to reach this day.  You’ve shuttled between challenging classes and Greek life.  You’ve led clubs, played an instrument or a sport.  You volunteered, you interned.  You held down one, two, maybe three jobs.  You’ve made lifelong friends and discovered exactly what you’re made of.  The “Howard Hustle” has strengthened your sense of purpose and ambition.

Which means you’re part of a long line of Howard graduates.  Some are on this stage today.  Some are in the audience.  That spirit of achievement and special responsibility has defined this campus ever since the Freedman’s Bureau established Howard just four years after the Emancipation Proclamation; just two years after the Civil War came to an end.  They created this university with a vision — a vision of uplift; a vision for an America where our fates would be determined not by our race, gender, religion or creed, but where we would be free — in every sense — to pursue our individual and collective dreams.

It is that spirit that’s made Howard a centerpiece of African-American intellectual life and a central part of our larger American story.  This institution has been the home of many firsts:  The first black Nobel Peace Prize winner.  The first black Supreme Court justice.  But its mission has been to ensure those firsts were not the last.  Countless scholars, professionals, artists, and leaders from every field received their training here.  The generations of men and women who walked through this yard helped reform our government, cure disease, grow a black middle class, advance civil rights, shape our culture.  The seeds of change — for all Americans — were sown here.  And that’s what I want to talk about today.

As I was preparing these remarks, I realized that when I was first elected President, most of you — the Class of 2016 — were just starting high school.  Today, you’re graduating college.  I used to joke about being old.  Now I realize I’m old.  (Laughter.)  It’s not a joke anymore.  (Laughter.)

But seeing all of you here gives me some perspective.  It makes me reflect on the changes that I’ve seen over my own lifetime.  So let me begin with what may sound like a controversial statement — a hot take.

Given the current state of our political rhetoric and debate, let me say something that may be controversial, and that is this:  America is a better place today than it was when I graduated from college.  (Applause.)  Let me repeat:  America is by almost every measure better than it was when I graduated from college.  It also happens to be better off than when I took office — (laughter) — but that’s a longer story.  (Applause.)  That’s a different discussion for another speech.

But think about it.  I graduated in 1983.  New York City, America’s largest city, where I lived at the time, had endured a decade marked by crime and deterioration and near bankruptcy.  And many cities were in similar shape.  Our nation had gone through years of economic stagnation, the stranglehold of foreign oil, a recession where unemployment nearly scraped 11 percent.  The auto industry was getting its clock cleaned by foreign competition.  And don’t even get me started on the clothes and the hairstyles.  I’ve tried to eliminate all photos of me from this period.  I thought I looked good.  (Laughter.)  I was wrong.

Since that year — since the year I graduated — the poverty rate is down.  Americans with college degrees, that rate is up.  Crime rates are down.  America’s cities have undergone a renaissance.  There are more women in the workforce.  They’re earning more money.  We’ve cut teen pregnancy in half.  We’ve slashed the African American dropout rate by almost 60 percent, and all of you have a computer in your pocket that gives you the world at the touch of a button.  In 1983, I was part of fewer than 10 percent of African Americans who graduated with a bachelor’s degree.  Today, you’re part of the more than 20 percent who will.  And more than half of blacks say we’re better off than our parents were at our age — and that our kids will be better off, too.

So America is better.  And the world is better, too.  A wall came down in Berlin.  An Iron Curtain was torn asunder.  The obscenity of apartheid came to an end.  A young generation in Belfast and London have grown up without ever having to think about IRA bombings.  In just the past 16 years, we’ve come from a world without marriage equality to one where it’s a reality in nearly two dozen countries.  Around the world, more people live in democracies.  We’ve lifted more than 1 billion people from extreme poverty.  We’ve cut the child mortality rate worldwide by more than half.

America is better.  The world is better.  And stay with me now — race relations are better since I graduated.  That’s the truth.  No, my election did not create a post-racial society.  I don’t know who was propagating that notion.  That was not mine.    But the election itself — and the subsequent one — because the first one, folks might have made a mistake.  (Laughter.)  The second one, they knew what they were getting.  The election itself was just one indicator of how attitudes had changed.

In my inaugural address, I remarked that just 60 years earlier, my father might not have been served in a D.C. restaurant — at least not certain of them.  There were no black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.  Very few black judges.  Shoot, as Larry Wilmore pointed out last week, a lot of folks didn’t even think blacks had the tools to be a quarterback.  Today, former Bull Michael Jordan isn’t just the greatest basketball player of all time — he owns the team.  (Laughter.)  When I was graduating, the main black hero on TV was Mr. T.  (Laughter.)  Rap and hip hop were counterculture, underground.  Now, Shonda Rhimes owns Thursday night, and Beyoncé runs the world.  (Laughter.)  We’re no longer only entertainers, we’re producers, studio executives.  No longer small business owners — we’re CEOs, we’re mayors, representatives, Presidents of the United States.  (Applause.)

I am not saying gaps do not persist.  Obviously, they do.  Racism persists.  Inequality persists.  Don’t worry — I’m going to get to that.  But I wanted to start, Class of 2016, by opening your eyes to the moment that you are in.  If you had to choose one moment in history in which you could be born, and you didn’t know ahead of time who you were going to be — what nationality, what gender, what race, whether you’d be rich or poor, gay or straight, what faith you’d be born into — you wouldn’t choose 100 years ago.  You wouldn’t choose the fifties, or the sixties, or the seventies.  You’d choose right now.  If you had to choose a time to be, in the words of Lorraine Hansberry, “young, gifted, and black” in America, you would choose right now.  (Applause.)

I tell you all this because it’s important to note progress.  Because to deny how far we’ve come would do a disservice to the cause of justice, to the legions of foot soldiers; to not only the incredibly accomplished individuals who have already been mentioned, but your mothers and your dads, and grandparents and great grandparents, who marched and toiled and suffered and overcame to make this day possible.  I tell you this not to lull you into complacency, but to spur you into action — because there’s still so much more work to do, so many more miles to travel.  And America needs you to gladly, happily take up that work.  You all have some work to do.  So enjoy the party, because you’re going to be busy.  (Laughter.)

Yes, our economy has recovered from crisis stronger than almost any other in the world.  But there are folks of all races who are still hurting — who still can’t find work that pays enough to keep the lights on, who still can’t save for retirement.  We’ve still got a big racial gap in economic opportunity.  The overall unemployment rate is 5 percent, but the black unemployment rate is almost nine.  We’ve still got an achievement gap when black boys and girls graduate high school and college at lower rates than white boys and white girls.  Harriet Tubman may be going on the twenty, but we’ve still got a gender gap when a black woman working full-time still earns just 66 percent of what a white man gets paid.  (Applause.)

We’ve got a justice gap when too many black boys and girls pass through a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails.  This is one area where things have gotten worse.  When I was in college, about half a million people in America were behind bars.  Today, there are about 2.2 million.  Black men are about six times likelier to be in prison right now than white men.

Around the world, we’ve still got challenges to solve that threaten everybody in the 21st century — old scourges like disease and conflict, but also new challenges, from terrorism and climate change.

So make no mistake, Class of 2016 — you’ve got plenty of work to do.  But as complicated and sometimes intractable as these challenges may seem, the truth is that your generation is better positioned than any before you to meet those challenges, to flip the script.

Now, how you do that, how you meet these challenges, how you bring about change will ultimately be up to you.  My generation, like all generations, is too confined by our own experience, too invested in our own biases, too stuck in our ways to provide much of the new thinking that will be required.  But us old-heads have learned a few things that might be useful in your journey.  So with the rest of my time, I’d like to offer some suggestions for how young leaders like you can fulfill your destiny and shape our collective future — bend it in the direction of justice and equality and freedom.

First of all — and this should not be a problem for this group — be confident in your heritage.  (Applause.)  Be confident in your blackness.  One of the great changes that’s occurred in our country since I was your age is the realization there’s no one way to be black.  Take it from somebody who’s seen both sides of debate about whether I’m black enough.  (Laughter.)  In the past couple months, I’ve had lunch with the Queen of England and hosted Kendrick Lamar in the Oval Office.  There’s no straitjacket, there’s no constraints, there’s no litmus test for authenticity.

Look at Howard.  One thing most folks don’t know about Howard is how diverse it is.  When you arrived here, some of you were like, oh, they’ve got black people in Iowa?  (Laughter.)  But it’s true — this class comes from big cities and rural communities, and some of you crossed oceans to study here.  You shatter stereotypes.  Some of you come from a long line of Bison.  Some of you are the first in your family to graduate from college.  (Applause.)  You all talk different, you all dress different.  You’re Lakers fans, Celtics fans, maybe even some hockey fans.  (Laughter.)

And because of those who’ve come before you, you have models to follow.  You can work for a company, or start your own.  You can go into politics, or run an organization that holds politicians accountable.  You can write a book that wins the National Book Award, or you can write the new run of “Black Panther.”  Or, like one of your alumni, Ta-Nehisi Coates, you can go ahead and just do both.  You can create your own style, set your own standard of beauty, embrace your own sexuality.  Think about an icon we just lost — Prince.  He blew up categories.  People didn’t know what Prince was doing.  (Laughter.)  And folks loved him for it.

You need to have the same confidence.  Or as my daughters tell me all the time, “You be you, Daddy.”  (Laughter.)  Sometimes Sasha puts a variation on it — “You do you, Daddy.”  (Laughter.)  And because you’re a black person doing whatever it is that you’re doing, that makes it a black thing.  Feel confident.

Second, even as we each embrace our own beautiful, unique, and valid versions of our blackness, remember the tie that does bind us as African Americans — and that is our particular awareness of injustice and unfairness and struggle.  That means we cannot sleepwalk through life.  We cannot be ignorant of history.  (Applause.)  We can’t meet the world with a sense of entitlement.  We can’t walk by a homeless man without asking why a society as wealthy as ours allows that state of affairs to occur.   We can’t just lock up a low-level dealer without asking why this boy, barely out of childhood, felt he had no other options.  We have cousins and uncles and brothers and sisters who we remember were just as smart and just as talented as we were, but somehow got ground down by structures that are unfair and unjust.

And that means we have to not only question the world as it is, and stand up for those African Americans who haven’t been so lucky — because, yes, you’ve worked hard, but you’ve also been lucky.  That’s a pet peeve of mine:  People who have been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky.  That God may have blessed them; it wasn’t nothing you did.  So don’t have an attitude.  But we must expand our moral imaginations to understand and empathize with all people who are struggling, not just black folks who are struggling — the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender person, and yes, the middle-aged white guy who you may think has all the advantages, but over the last several decades has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change, and feels powerless to stop it.  You got to get in his head, too.

Number three:  You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy.  I’ll repeat that.  I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy.  Not just awareness, but action.  Not just hashtags, but votes.

You see, change requires more than righteous anger.  It requires a program, and it requires organizing.  At the 1964 Democratic Convention, Fannie Lou Hamer — all five-feet-four-inches tall — gave a fiery speech on the national stage.  But then she went back home to Mississippi and organized cotton pickers.  And she didn’t have the tools and technology where you can whip up a movement in minutes.  She had to go door to door.  And I’m so proud of the new guard of black civil rights leaders who understand this.  It’s thanks in large part to the activism of young people like many of you, from Black Twitter to Black Lives Matter, that America’s eyes have been opened — white, black, Democrat, Republican — to the real problems, for example, in our criminal justice system.

But to bring about structural change, lasting change, awareness is not enough.  It requires changes in law, changes in custom.  If you care about mass incarceration, let me ask you:  How are you pressuring members of Congress to pass the criminal justice reform bill now pending before them?  (Applause.)  If you care about better policing, do you know who your district attorney is?  Do you know who your state’s attorney general is?  Do you know the difference?  Do you know who appoints the police chief and who writes the police training manual?  Find out who they are, what their responsibilities are.  Mobilize the community, present them with a plan, work with them to bring about change, hold them accountable if they do not deliver.  Passion is vital, but you’ve got to have a strategy.

And your plan better include voting — not just some of the time, but all the time.  (Applause.)  It is absolutely true that 50 years after the Voting Rights Act, there are still too many barriers in this country to vote.  There are too many people trying to erect new barriers to voting.  This is the only advanced democracy on Earth that goes out of its way to make it difficult for people to vote.  And there’s a reason for that.  There’s a legacy to that.

But let me say this:  Even if we dismantled every barrier to voting, that alone would not change the fact that America has some of the lowest voting rates in the free world.  In 2014, only 36 percent of Americans turned out to vote in the midterms — the secondlowest participation rate on record.  Youth turnout — that would be you — was less than 20 percent.  Less than 20 percent.  Four out of five did not vote.  In 2012, nearly two in three African Americans turned out.  And then, in 2014, only two in five turned out.  You don’t think that made a difference in terms of the Congress I’ve got to deal with?  And then people are wondering, well, how come Obama hasn’t gotten this done?  How come he didn’t get that done?  You don’t think that made a difference?  What would have happened if you had turned out at 50, 60, 70 percent, all across this country?  People try to make this political thing really complicated.  Like, what kind of reforms do we need?  And how do we need to do that?  You know what, just vote.  It’s math.  If you have more votes than the other guy, you get to do what you want.  (Laughter.)  It’s not that complicated.

And you don’t have excuses.   You don’t have to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap to register to vote.  You don’t have to risk your life to cast a ballot.  Other people already did that for you.  (Applause.) Your grandparents, your great grandparents might be here today if they were working on it.  What’s your excuse?  When we don’t vote, we give away our power, disenfranchise ourselves — right when we need to use the power that we have; right when we need your power to stop others from taking away the vote and rights of those more vulnerable than you are — the elderly and the poor, the formerly incarcerated trying to earn their second chance.

So you got to vote all the time, not just when it’s cool, not just when it’s time to elect a President, not just when you’re inspired.  It’s your duty.  When it’s time to elect a member of Congress or a city councilman, or a school board member, or a sheriff.  That’s how we change our politics — by electing people at every level who are representative of and accountable to us.  It is not that complicated.  Don’t make it complicated.

And finally, change requires more than just speaking out — it requires listening, as well.  In particular, it requires listening to those with whom you disagree, and being prepared to compromise.  When I was a state senator, I helped pass Illinois’s first racial profiling law, and one of the first laws in the nation requiring the videotaping of confessions in capital cases.  And we were successful because, early on, I engaged law enforcement.  I didn’t say to them, oh, you guys are so racist, you need to do something.  I understood, as many of you do, that the overwhelming majority of police officers are good, and honest, and courageous, and fair, and love the communities they serve.

And we knew there were some bad apples, and that even the good cops with the best of intentions — including, by the way, African American police officers — might have unconscious biases, as we all do.  So we engaged and we listened, and we kept working until we built consensus.  And because we took the time to listen, we crafted legislation that was good for the police — because it improved the trust and cooperation of the community — and it was good for the communities, who were less likely to be treated unfairly.  And I can say this unequivocally:  Without at least the acceptance of the police organizations in Illinois, I could never have gotten those bills passed.  Very simple.  They would have blocked them.

The point is, you need allies in a democracy.  That’s just the way it is.  It can be frustrating and it can be slow.  But history teaches us that the alternative to democracy is always worse.  That’s not just true in this country.  It’s not a black or white thing.  Go to any country where the give and take of democracy has been repealed by one-party rule, and I will show you a country that does not work.

And democracy requires compromise, even when you are 100 percent right.  This is hard to explain sometimes.  You can be completely right, and you still are going to have to engage folks who disagree with you.  If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want.  And if you don’t get what you want long enough, you will eventually think the whole system is rigged.  And that will lead to more cynicism, and less participation, and a downward spiral of more injustice and more anger and more despair.  And that’s never been the source of our progress.  That’s how we cheat ourselves of progress.

We remember Dr. King’s soaring oratory, the power of his letter from a Birmingham jail, the marches he led.  But he also sat down with President Johnson in the Oval Office to try and get a Civil Rights Act and a Voting Rights Act passed.  And those two seminal bills were not perfect — just like the Emancipation Proclamation was a war document as much as it was some clarion call for freedom.  Those mileposts of our progress were not perfect.  They did not make up for centuries of slavery or Jim Crow or eliminate racism or provide for 40 acres and a mule.  But they made things better.  And you know what, I will take better every time.  I always tell my staff — better is good, because you consolidate your gains and then you move on to the next fight from a stronger position.

Brittany Packnett, a member of the Black Lives Matter movement and Campaign Zero, one of the Ferguson protest organizers, she joined our Task Force on 21st Century Policing.  Some of her fellow activists questioned whether she should participate.  She rolled up her sleeves and sat at the same table with big city police chiefs and prosecutors.  And because she did, she ended up shaping many of the recommendations of that task force.  And those recommendations are now being adopted across the country — changes that many of the protesters called for.  If young activists like Brittany had refused to participate out of some sense of ideological purity, then those great ideas would have just remained ideas.  But she did participate.  And that’s how change happens.

America is big and it is boisterous and it is more diverse than ever.  The president told me that we’ve got a significant Nepalese contingent here at Howard.  I would not have guessed that.  Right on.  But it just tells you how interconnected we’re becoming.  And with so many folks from so many places, converging, we are not always going to agree with each other.

Another Howard alum, Zora Neale Hurston, once said — this is a good quote here:  “Nothing that God ever made is the same thing to more than one person.”  Think about that.  That’s why our democracy gives us a process designed for us to settle our disputes with argument and ideas and votes instead of violence and simple majority rule.

So don’t try to shut folks out, don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them.  There’s been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view, or disrupt a politician’s rally.  Don’t do that — no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths.  Because as my grandmother used to tell me, every time a fool speaks, they are just advertising their own ignorance.  Let them talk.  Let them talk.  If you don’t, you just make them a victim, and then they can avoid accountability.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge them.  Have the confidence to challenge them, the confidence in the rightness of your position.  There will be times when you shouldn’t compromise your core values, your integrity, and you will have the responsibility to speak up in the face of injustice.  But listen.  Engage.  If the other side has a point, learn from them.  If they’re wrong, rebut them.  Teach them.  Beat them on the battlefield of ideas.  And you might as well start practicing now, because one thing I can guarantee you — you will have to deal with ignorance, hatred, racism, foolishness, trifling folks.  (Laughter.)  I promise you, you will have to deal with all that at every stage of your life.  That may not seem fair, but life has never been completely fair.  Nobody promised you a crystal stair.  And if you want to make life fair, then you’ve got to start with the world as it is.

So that’s my advice.  That’s how you change things.  Change isn’t something that happens every four years or eight years; change is not placing your faith in any particular politician and then just putting your feet up and saying, okay, go.  Change is the effort of committed citizens who hitch their wagons to something bigger than themselves and fight for it every single day.

That’s what Thurgood Marshall understood — a man who once walked this year, graduated from Howard Law; went home to Baltimore, started his own law practice.  He and his mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston, rolled up their sleeves and they set out to overturn segregation.  They worked through the NAACP.  Filed dozens of lawsuits, fought dozens of cases.  And after nearly 20 years of effort — 20 years — Thurgood Marshall ultimately succeeded in bringing his righteous cause before the Supreme Court, and securing the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that separate could never be equal.  (Applause.)  Twenty years.

Marshall, Houston — they knew it would not be easy.  They knew it would not be quick.  They knew all sorts of obstacles would stand in their way.  They knew that even if they won, that would just be the beginning of a longer march to equality.  But they had discipline.  They had persistence.  They had faith — and a sense of humor.  And they made life better for all Americans.

And I know you graduates share those qualities.  I know it because I’ve learned about some of the young people graduating here today.  There’s a young woman named Ciearra Jefferson, who’s graduating with you.  And I’m just going to use her as an example.  I hope you don’t mind, Ciearra.  Ciearra grew up in Detroit and was raised by a poor single mom who worked seven days a week in an auto plant.  And for a time, her family found themselves without a place to call home.  They bounced around between friends and family who might take them in.  By her senior year, Ciearra was up at 5:00 am every day, juggling homework, extracurricular activities, volunteering, all while taking care of her little sister.  But she knew that education was her ticket to a better life.  So she never gave up.  Pushed herself to excel.  This daughter of a single mom who works on the assembly line turned down a full scholarship to Harvard to come to Howard.  (Applause.)

And today, like many of you, Ciearra is the first in her family to graduate from college.  And then, she says, she’s going to go back to her hometown, just like Thurgood Marshall did, to make sure all the working folks she grew up with have access to the health care they need and deserve.  As she puts it, she’s going to be a “change agent.”  She’s going to reach back and help folks like her succeed.

And people like Ciearra are why I remain optimistic about America.  (Applause.)  Young people like you are why I never give in to despair.

James Baldwin once wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Graduates, each of us is only here because someone else faced down challenges for us.  We are only who we are because someone else struggled and sacrificed for us.  That’s not just Thurgood Marshall’s story, or Ciearra’s story, or my story, or your story — that is the story of America.  A story whispered by slaves in the cotton fields, the song of marchers in Selma, the dream of a King in the shadow of Lincoln.  The prayer of immigrants who set out for a new world.  The roar of women demanding the vote.  The rallying cry of workers who built America.  And the GIs who bled overseas for our freedom.

Now it’s your turn.  And the good news is, you’re ready.  And when your journey seems too hard, and when you run into a chorus of cynics who tell you that you’re being foolish to keep believing or that you can’t do something, or that you should just give up, or you should just settle — you might say to yourself a little phrase that I’ve found handy these last eight years:  Yes, we can.

Congratulations, Class of 2016!  (Applause.)  Good luck!  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  I’m proud of you.

END
12:33 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts April 30, 2016: President Obama’s 2016 White House correspondents’ dinner speech

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

The complete transcript of President Obama’s 2016 White House correspondents’ dinner speech

Source: Washington Post, 4-30-16

[“Cups” playing as Obama walks up. Audience can hear “You’re going to miss me when I’m gone…”]

You can’t say it, but you know it is true.

Good evening everybody. It is an honor to be here at my last, and perhaps the last White House correspondents’ dinner. You all look great. The end of the Republic has never looked better.

I do apologize. I know I was a little late tonight. I was running on CPT, which stands for jokes that white people should not make. That’s a tip for you, Jeff.

Anyway, here we are, my eighth and final appearance at this unique event. And I am excited. If this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans. That’s right. That’s right.

My brilliant and beautiful wife Michelle is here tonight. She looks so happy to be here. It’s called practice. It’s like learning to do three-minute planks. She makes it look easy now. But…

[For Obama’s final correspondents’ dinner, the obvious targets: Trump, Cruz and himself]

Next year at this time, someone else will be standing here in this very spot and it’s anyone guess who she will be. But standing here I can’t help but be reflective and a little sentimental.

Eight years ago I said it was time to change the tone of our politics. In hindsight, I clearly should have been more specific. Eight years ago, I was a young man full of idealism and vigor. And look at me now, I am gray, grizzled and just counting down the days to my death panel.

Hillary once questioned whether I would be up ready for a 3 a.m .phone call. Now, I’m awake anyway because I have to go to the bathroom. I’m up.

In fact somebody recently said to me, ‘Mr. President, you are so yesterday. Justin Trudeau has completely replaced you. He is so handsome and he’s so charming. He’s the future.’ And I said ‘Justin, just give it a rest.’ I resented that.

Meanwhile, Michelle has not aged a day. The only way you can date her in photos is by looking at me. Take a look. [Show photos over the years] Here we are in 2008. Here we are a few years later. And this one is from two weeks ago. [skelton photo from Canada dinner] So time passes.

In just six short months, I will be officially a lame duck, which means Congress now will flat out reject my authority, and Republican leaders won’t take my phone calls. And this is going to take some getting use to. It’s really gonna… It’s a curve ball. I don’t know what to do with it. Of course, in fact, for four months now congressional Republicans have been saying there are things I cannot do in my final year. Unfortunately, this dinner was not one of them.

But on everything else, it’s another story. And you know who you are, Republicans. In fact, I think we’ve got Republican senators Tim Scott and Cory Gardner. They are in the house, which reminds me … security bar the doors. Judge Merrick Garland come on out. We are going to do this right here. Right now.

It’s like the red wedding.

But it’s not just Congress. Even some foreign leaders, they’ve been looking ahead, anticipating my departure. Last week, Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bathrobe. That was a slap in the face. A clear breach of protocol.

Although, while in England I did have lunch with her Majesty the Queen, took in a performance of Shakespeare, hit the links with David Cameron. Just in case anyone was debating whether I am black enough, I think that settles the debate.

I won’t lie, look, this is a tough transition. It’s hard. Key staff are now starting to leave the White House. Even reporters have left me. Savannah Guthrie, she has left the White House press corps to host the “Today” show. Norah O’Donnell left the briefing room to host ‘CBS This Morning.’ Jake Tapper left journalism to join CNN.

But the prospect of leaving the White House is a mixed bag. You might have heard that someone jumped the White House fence last week, but I have to give the Secret Service credit. They found Michelle and brought her back. She’s safe back at home now. It’s only nine more months, baby. Settle down.

And yet somehow, despite all this, despite the churn, in my final year my approval ratings keep going up. The last time I was this high I was trying to decide on my major.

And here’s the thing, I haven’t really done anything differently. So it’s odd. Even my age can’t explain the rising poll numbers. What has changed nobody can figure it out. [Image of Cruz and Trump]. Puzzling.

Anyway. In this last year, I do have more appreciation for those who have been with me on this amazing ride. Like one of our finest public servants, Joe Biden. God bless him. I love that guy. I love Joe Biden. I really do. And I want to thank him for his friendship, for his counsel, for always giving it to me straight, for not shooting anybody in the face. Thank you, Joe.

Also, I would be remiss. Let’s give it up for our host, Larry Wilmore. Also known as one of the two black guys who’s not Jon Stewart. You’re the South African guy, right? I love Larry. And his parents are here, who are from Evanston, which is great town. I also would like to acknowledge some of the award winning reporters that we have with us here tonight. Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber. Thank you all for everything you have done. I’m just joking. As you know, “Spotlight” is a film, a movie about investigative journalists with the resources and the autonomy to chase down the truth and hold the powerful accountable. Best fantasy film since “Star Wars.”

Look. That was maybe a cheap shot. I understand the news business is tough these days. It keeps changing all the time. Every year at this dinner somebody makes a joke about Buzzfeed, for example, changing the media landscape. And every year The Washington Post laughs a little bit less hard. Kind of a silence there. Especially at the Washington Post table.

GOP chairman Reince Priebus is here as well. Glad to see that you feel you have earned a night off. Congratulations on all your success, the republican party, the nomination process. It’s all going great. Keep it up.

Kendall Jenner is also here. And we had a chance to meet her backstage. She seems like a very nice, young woman. I’m not exactly sure what she does, but I’m told that my twitter mentions are about to go through the roof.

Helen Mirren is here tonight. I don’t even have a joke here, I just think Helen Mirren is awesome. She’s awesome.

Sitting at the same table I see Mike Bloomberg. Mike, a combative, controversial New York billionaire is leading the GOP primary and it is not you. That has to sting a little bit. Although it’s not an entirely fair comparison between you and the Donald. After all Mike was a big city mayor. He knows policy in depth. And he’s actually worth the amount of money that he says he is.

What an election season. For example, we’ve got the bright new face of the Democratic party here tonight, Mr. Bernie Sanders. Bernie, you look like a million bucks. Or, to put in terms you’ll understand, you look like 37,000 donations of $27 each.

A lot of folks have been surprised by the Bernie phenomenon, especially his appeal to young people. But not me. I get it. Just recently a young person came up to me and said she was sick of politicians standing in the way of her dreams. As if we were actually going to let Malia go to Burning Man this year. Was not going to happen. Bernie might have let her go. Not us.

I am hurt though, Bernie, that you have been distancing yourself little from me. I mean that’s just not something that you do to your comrade.

Bernie’s slogan has helped his campaign catch fire among young people. ‘Feel the Bern.’ ‘Feel the Bern.’ That’s a good slogan. Hillary’s slogan has not had the same effect. Let’s see this. [image of a boulder on a hill with the slogan “Trudge up the Hill”]

Look, I’ve said how much I admire Hillary’s toughness, her smarts, her policy chops, her experience. You’ve got admit it though, Hillary trying appeal to young voters is a little bit like your relative who just signed up for Facebook. ‘Dear America, did you get my poke? Is it appearing on your wall? I’m not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hillary.’ It’s not entirely persuasive.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, things are a little more, how shall we say this, a little more loose. Just look at the confusion over the invitations to tonight’s dinner. Guests were asked to check whether they wanted steak or fish. But instead, a whole bunch of you wrote in Paul Ryan. That’s not an option people. Steak or fish. You may not like steak or fish, but that’s your choice.

Meanwhile, some candidates aren’t polling high enough to qualify for their own joke tonight. [image of Kasich eating]. The rules were well established ahead of time.

And then there’s Ted Cruz. Ted had a tough week. He went to Indiana. Hoosier country. Stood on a basketball court and called the hoop a basketball ring. What else is in his lexicon. Baseball sticks. Football hats. But sure, I’m the foreign one.

Well let me conclude tonight on a more serious note. I want thank the Washington press corps. I want to thank Carol for all that you do. The free press is central to our democracy and, nah, I’m just kidding! You know I’m going to talk about Trump. Come on. We weren’t just going to stop there. Come on.

Although I am a little hurt that he’s not here tonight. We had so much fun that last time, And it is surprising. You’ve got a room full of reporters, celebrities, cameras. And he says no. Is this dinner too tacky for the Donald? What could he possibly be doing instead? Is he at home eating a Trump steak, tweeting out insults to Angela Merkel? What’s he doin’?

The republican establishment is incredulous that he is their most likely nominee. Incredulous. Shocking. They say Donald lacks the foreign policy experience to be president. But in fairness, he has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world: Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan.

And there is one area where Donald’s experience could be invaluable and that’s closing Guantanamo because Trump knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground. Alright, that is probably enough. I mean I’ve got more material. No, no, no.

I don’t want to spend too much time on The Donald. Following your lead, I want to show some restraint. Because I think we can all agree that from the start he’s gotten the appropriate amount of coverage befitting the seriousness of his candidacy. Ha. I hope you all are proud of yourselves. The guy wanted to give his hotel business a boost and now we are praying that Cleveland makes it through July. Mmm mmm mmn. Hmmm.

As for me and Michelle, we’ve decided to stay in D.C. for a couple more years. Thank you. This way our youngest daughter can finish up high school. Michelle can stay closer to her plot of carrots. She’s already making plans to see them every day. Take a look [image of Michelle].

But our decision has actually presented a bit of a dilemma because traditionally presidents don’t stick around after they’re done. And it’s something that I’ve been brooding about a little bit. Take a look…

There you go. I am still waiting for all of you to respond to my invitation to connect to LinkedIn. But I know you have jobs to do which is what really brings us here tonight.

I know that there are times that we’ve had differences and that’s inherent in our institutional roles. That is true of every president and his press corps. But we’ve always shared the same goal to root our public discourse in the truth. To open the doors of this democracy. To do whatever we can to make our country and our world more free and more just.

And I’ve always appreciated the role that you have all played as equal partners in reaching these goals. Our free press is why we once again recognize the real journalists who uncover the horrifying scandal and brought some measure of justice for thousands of victims around the world. They are here with us tonight: Sacha Pfeiffer, Mike Rezendes, Walter Robinson, Matt Caroll and Ben Bradlee Jr. Please give them a big round of applause.

A free press is why, once again, we honor Jason Rezaian, as Carol noted. Last time this year we spoke of Jason’s courage as he endured the isolation of an Iranian prison. This year we see that courage in the flesh, and it’s a living testament to the very idea of a free press and a reminder of the rising level of danger and political intimidation and the physical threats faced by reporters overseas.

And I can make this commitment that as long as I hold this office my administration will continue to fight for the release of American journalists held against their will. And we will not stop until they see the same freedom as Jason had.

 

At home and abroad journalists like all of you engage in the dogged pursuit of informing citizens and holding leaders accountable, and making our government of the people possible. And it’s an enormous responsibility. And I realize it’s an enormous challenge at a time when the economics of the business sometimes incentivizes speed over depth, and when controversy and conflict are what most immediately attract readers and viewers. The good news is there are so many of you that are pushing against those trends and as a citizen of this great democracy, I am grateful for that.

For this is also a time around the world when some of the fundamental ideals of liberal democracies are under attack and when notions of objectively and of a free press and of facts and of evidence are trying to be undermined or in some cases ignored entirely. And in such a climate it’s not enough just to give people a megaphone. And that’s why your power and your responsibility to dig and to question and to counter distortions and untruths is more important than even ever.

Taking a stand on behalf of what is true does not require you shedding your objectivity. In fact, it is the essence of good journalism. It affirms the idea that the only way we can build consensus, the only way that we can move forward as a country, the only way we can help the world mend itself is by agreeing on a baseline of facts when it comes to the challenges that confront us all. So this night is a testament to all of you who have devoted your lives to that idea, who push to shine a light on the truth every single day. So, I want to close my final White House correspondents’ dinner by just saying thank you. I’m very proud of what you’ve done. It has been an honor and a privilege to work side by side with you to strengthen our democracy. With that I just have two more words to say: Obama out. [Drops mic].
OBAMAOUT

Full Text Political Transcripts April 5, 2016: President Barack Obama Remarks at Press Briefing on Economy, Tax Inversion, Mocks Trump and Cruz Immigration Plans

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy

Source: WH, 4-5-16

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I’m horning in on Josh’s time just for a hot second.  As we learned last week, America’s economy added 215,000 jobs in March.  That means that our businesses extended the longest streak of private sector job creation on record — 73 straight months, 14.4 million new jobs,  unemployment about half of what it was six years ago.

This progress is due directly to the grit and determination and hard work and the fundamental optimism of the American people.  As I travel around the country, what always stands out is the fact that the overwhelming majority of folks work hard and they play by the rules, and they deserve to see their hard work rewarded.  They also deserve to know that big corporations aren’t playing by a different set of rules; that the wealthiest among us aren’t able to game the system.

That’s why I’ve been pushing for years to eliminate some of the injustices in our tax system.  So I am very pleased that the Treasury Department has taken new action to prevent more corporations from taking advantage of one of the most insidious tax loopholes out there, and fleeing the country just to get out of paying their taxes.  This got some attention in the business press yesterday, but I wanted to make sure that we highlighted the importance of Treasury’s action and why it did what it did.

This directly goes at what’s called corporate inversions.  They are not new.  Simply put, in layman’s terms, it’s when big corporations acquire small companies, and then change their address to another country on paper in order to get out of paying their fair share of taxes here at home.  As a practical matter, they keep most of their actual business here in the United States because they benefit from American infrastructure and technology and rule of law.  They benefit from our research and our development and our patents.  They benefit from American workers, who are the best in the world.  But they effectively renounce their citizenship.  They declare that they’re based somewhere else, thereby getting all the rewards of being an American company without fulfilling the responsibilities to pay their taxes the way everybody else is supposed to pay them.

When companies exploit loopholes like this, it makes it harder to invest in the things that are going to keep America’s economy going strong for future generations.  It sticks the rest of us with the tab.  And it makes hardworking Americans feel like the deck is stacked against them.

So this is something that I’ve been pushing for a long time.  Since I became President, we’ve made our tax code fairer, and we’ve taken steps to make sure our tax laws are actually enforced, including leading efforts to crack down on offshore evasion.  I will say that it gets tougher sometimes when the IRS is starved for resources and squeezed by the congressional appropriation process so that there are not enough people to actually pay attention to what all the lawyers and accountants are doing all the time.  But we have continued to emphasize the importance of basic tax enforcement.

In the news over the last couple of days, we’ve had another reminder in this big dump of data coming out of Panama that tax avoidance is a big, global problem.  It’s not unique to other countries because, frankly, there are folks here in America who are taking advantage of the same stuff.  A lot of it is legal, but that’s exactly the problem.  It’s not that they’re breaking the laws, it’s that the laws are so poorly designed that they allow people, if they’ve got enough lawyers and enough accountants, to wiggle out of responsibilities that ordinary citizens are having to abide by.

Here in the United States, there are loopholes that only wealthy individuals and powerful corporations have access to.  They have access to offshore accounts, and they are gaming the system.  Middle-class families are not in the same position to do this.  In fact, a lot of these loopholes come at the expense of middle-class families, because that lost revenue has to be made up somewhere.  Alternatively, it means that we’re not investing as much as we should in schools, in making college more affordable, in putting people back to work rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our infrastructure, creating more opportunities for our children.

So this is important stuff.  And these new actions by the Treasury Department build on steps that we’ve already taken to make the system fairer.  But I want to be clear:  While the Treasury Department actions will make it more difficult and less lucrative for companies to exploit this particular corporate inversions loophole, only Congress can close it for good, and only Congress can make sure that all the other loopholes that are being taken advantage of are closed.

I’ve often said the best way to end this kind of irresponsible behavior is with tax reform that lowers the corporate tax rate, closes wasteful loopholes, simplifies the tax code for everybody.  And in recent years, I’ve put forward plans — repeatedly — that would make our tax system more competitive for all businesses, including small businesses.  So far, Republicans in Congress have yet to act.

My hope is that they start getting serious about it.  When politicians perpetuate a system that favors the wealthy at the expense of the middle class, it’s not surprising that people feel like they can’t get ahead.  It’s not surprising that oftentimes it may produce a politics that is directed at that frustration.  Rather than doubling down on policies that let a few big corporations or the wealthiest among us play by their own rules, we should keep building an economy where everybody has a fair shot and everybody plays by the same rules.

Rather than protect wasteful tax loopholes for the few at the top, we should be investing more in things like education and job creation and job training that we know grow the economy for everybody.  And rather than lock in tax breaks for millionaires, or make it harder to actually enforce existing laws, let’s give tax breaks to help working families pay for child care or for college.  And let’s stop rewarding companies that are shipping jobs overseas and profit overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here at home and are good corporate citizens.

That’s how we’re going to build America together.  That’s how we battled back from this Great Recession.  That’s the story of these past seven years.  That can be the story for the next several decades if we make the right decisions right now.  And so I hope this topic ends up being introduced into the broader political debate that we’re going to be having leading up to election season.

And with that, I turn it over to Mr. Josh Earnest.

Q    A question about the Panama Papers, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    Given the release of these millions of pages of financial information, are you concerned that that reflects on the ability of the Treasury Department to sort of be able to see all the financial transactions across the globe — they clearly didn’t see these — and whether that suggests that the sanctions regime that you’ve put in place in a bunch of places around the world might not be as strong as you think it is?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we know the sanctions regime is strong because Iran wouldn’t have, for example, cut a deal to end their nuclear program in the absence of strong sanctions enforcement.

But there is no doubt that the problem of global tax avoidance, generally, is a huge problem.  It’s been brought up in G7 meetings.  It’s been brought up in G20 meetings.  There has been some progress made in coordinating between tax authorities of different countries so that we can make sure that we’re catching some of the most egregious examples.

But as I said before, one of the big problems that we have, Michael, is that a lot of this stuff is legal — not illegal.  And unless the United States and other countries lead by example in closing some of these loopholes and provisions, then in many cases you can trace what’s taking place, but you can’t stop it.  And there is always going to be some illicit movement of funds around the world.  But we shouldn’t make it easy.  We shouldn’t make it legal to engage in transactions just to avoid taxes.

And that’s why I think it is important that the Treasury acted on something that’s different from what happened in Panama.  The corporate inversions issue is a financial transaction that is brokered among major Fortune 500 companies to avoid paying taxes.  But the basic principle of us making sure that everybody is paying their fair share, and that we don’t just have a few people who are able to take advantage of tax provisions, that’s something that we really have to pay attention to.

Because as I said, this is all net outflows of money that could be spent on the pressing needs here in the United States.  And the volume that you start seeing when you combine legal tax avoidance with illicit tax avoidance, or some of the activities that we’re seeing, this is not just billions of dollars.  It’s not even just hundreds of billions of dollars.  Estimates are this may be trillions of dollars worldwide, and it could make a big difference in terms of what we can do here.

I’m going to take one more question and then I’m going to turn it over to Josh.  One last one, go ahead.

Q    Mr. President, the Republican frontrunner today outlined his plan to —

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, no.  (Laughter.)

Q    — pay for a wall along the border —

Q    Climate change?

Q    — barring undocumented immigrants in the U.S. from sending money back home.  What would be the real implication of this plan?  And are his foreign policy proposals already doing damage to U.S. relations abroad?

THE PRESIDENT:  The answer to the latter question is yes.  I think that I’ve been very clear earlier that I am getting questions constantly from foreign leaders about some of the wackier suggestions that are being made.  I do have to emphasize that it’s not just Mr. Trump’s proposals.  You’re also hearing concerns about Mr. Cruz’s proposals, which in some ways are just as draconian when it comes to immigration, for example.

The implications with respect to ending remittances — many of which, by the way, are from legal immigrants and from individuals who are sending money back to their families — are enormous.  First of all, they’re impractical.  We just talked about the difficulties of trying to enforce huge outflows of capital.  The notion that we’re going to track every Western Union bit of money that’s being sent to Mexico, good luck with that.

Then we’ve got the issue of the implications for the Mexican economy, which in turn, if it’s collapsing, actually sends more immigrants north because they can’t find jobs back in Mexico.  But this is just one more example of something that is not thought through and is primarily put forward for political consumption.

And as I’ve tried to emphasize throughout, we’ve got serious problems here.  We’ve got big issues around the world.  People expect the President of the United States and the elected officials in this country to treat these problems seriously, to put forward policies that have been examined, analyzed, are effective, where unintended consequences are taken into account.  They don’t expect half-baked notions coming out of the White House.  We can’t afford that.

All right?  I’m turning it over to Josh.  Thank you, guys.

END
12:29 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts March 28, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Politics and Journalism at the 2016 Toner Prize Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the 2016 Toner Prize Ceremony

Source: WH, 3-28-16

Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium
Washington, D.C.

7:49 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.  And thank you, Chancellor Syverud for those wonderful remarks and reminding me of how badly my bracket is doing.  (Laughter.)  Congratulations, Syracuse.  You guys are doing great.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Robin’s wonderful husband, Peter, and their incredible kids, Jake and Nora, for organizing this annual tribute to her memory.  And I want to thank all of you for having me here this evening.

A Washington press dinner usually means ill-fitting tuxes, celebrity sightings, and bad jokes.  So this is refreshing.

And it is a great honor to be here to celebrate the 2015 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.  In this political season, it is worth reflecting on the kind of journalism Robin practiced — and the kind of journalism this prize rewards.

A reporter’s reporter — that was Robin.  From her first job at the Charleston Daily Mail to her tenure as the New York Times’ national political correspondent — the first woman to hold that position — she always saw herself as being a servant for the American public.  She had a sense of mission and purpose in her work.  For Robin, politics was not a horserace, or a circus, or a tally of who scored more political points than whom, but rather was fundamentally about issues and how they affected the lives of real people.

She treated the public with respect — didn’t just skim the surface.  Few reporters understood the intricacies of health care policy better.  Few could cut to the heart of a tax reform plan more deeply — and analyze how it would affect everybody, from a struggling worker to a hedge fund manager.  Few could explain complicated, esoteric political issues in a way that Americans could digest and use to make informed choices at the ballot box.

Robin’s work was meticulous.  No detail was too small to confirm, and no task too minor to complete.  And that, too, she saw as her responsibility — the responsibility of journalism.  She famously developed her own fact-checking system, cleaning up every name and date and figure in her piece — something most reporters relied on others to do.  And it’s no wonder then that of her almost 2,000 articles, only six required published corrections.  And knowing Robin, that was probably six too many for her taste.

And this speaks to more than just her thoroughness or some obsessive compulsiveness when it came to typos.  It was about Robin’s commitment to seeking out and telling the truth.  She would not stand for any stray mark that might mar an otherwise flawless piece — because she knew the public relied on her to give them the truth as best as she could find it.

Of course, these were qualities were harder to appreciate when her lens was focused on you.  She held politicians’ feet to the fire, including occasionally my own.  And in her quiet, dogged way, she demanded that we be accountable to the public for the things that we said and for the promises that we made. We should be held accountable.

That’s the kind of journalism that Robin practiced.  That’s the kind of journalism this prize honors.  It’s the kind of journalism that’s never been more important.  It’s the kind of journalism that recognizes its fundamental role in promoting citizenship, and hence undergirds our democracy.

As I’ve said in recent weeks, I know I’m not the only one who may be more than a little dismayed about what’s happening on the campaign trail right now.  The divisive and often vulgar rhetoric that’s aimed at everybody, but often is focused on the vulnerable or women or minorities.   The sometimes well-intentioned but I think misguided attempts to shut down that speech.  The violent reaction that we see, as well as the deafening silence from too many of our leaders in the coarsening of the debate.  The sense that facts don’t matter, that they’re not relevant.  That what matters is how much attention you can generate.  A sense that this is a game as opposed to the most precious gift our Founders gave us — this collective enterprise of self-government.

And so it’s worth asking ourselves what each of us — as politicians or journalists, but most of all, as citizens — may have done to contribute to this atmosphere in our politics.  I was going to call is “carnival atmosphere,” but that implies fun.  And I think it’s the kind of question Robin would have asked all of us.  As I said a few weeks ago, some may be more to blame than others for the current climate, but all of us are responsible for reversing it.

I say this not because of some vague notion of “political correctness,” which seems to be increasingly an excuse to just say offensive things or lie out loud.  I say this not out of nostalgia, because politics in America has always been tough.  Anybody who doubts that should take a look at what Adams and Jefferson and some of our other Founders said about each other.  I say this because what we’re seeing right now does corrode our democracy and our society.  And I’m not one who’s faint of heart.  I come from Chicago. Harold Washington once explained that “politics ain’t beanbag.”  It’s always been rough and tumble.

But when our elected officials and our political campaign become entirely untethered to reason and facts and analysis, when it doesn’t matter what’s true and what’s not, that makes it all but impossible for us to make good decisions on behalf of future generations.  It threatens the values of respect and tolerance that we teach our children and that are the source of America’s strength.  It frays the habits of the heart that underpin any civilized society — because how we operate is not just based on laws, it’s based on habits and customs and restraint and respect.  It creates this vacuum where baseless assertions go unchallenged, and evidence is optional.  And as we’re seeing, it allows hostility in one corner of our politics to infect our broader society.  And that, in turn, tarnishes the American brand.

The number one question I am getting as I travel around the world or talk to world leaders right now is, what is happening in America — about our politics.  And it’s not because around the world people have not seen crazy politics; it is that they understand America is the place where you can’t afford completely crazy politics.  For some countries where this kind of rhetoric may not have the same ramifications, people expect, they understand, they care about America, the most powerful nation on Earth, functioning effectively, and its government being able to make sound decisions.

So we are all invested in making this system work.  We are all responsible for its success.  And it’s not just for the United States that this matters.  It matters for the planet.

Whether it was exposing the horrors of lynching, to busting the oil trusts, to uncovering Watergate, your work has always been essential to that endeavor, and that work has never been easy.  And let’s face it, in today’s unprecedented change in your industry, the job has gotten tougher.  Even as the appetite for information and data flowing through the Internet is voracious, we’ve seen newsrooms closed.  The bottom line has shrunk.  The news cycle has, as well.  And too often, there is enormous pressure on journalists to fill the void and feed the beast with instant commentary and Twitter rumors, and celebrity gossip, and softer stories.  And then we fail to understand our world or understand one another as well as we should.  That has consequences for our lives and for the life of our country.

Part of the independence of the Fourth Estate is that it is not government-controlled, and media companies thereby have an obligation to pursue profits on behalf of their shareholders, their owners, and also has an obligation to invest a good chunk of that profit back into news and back into public affairs, and to maintain certain standards and to not dumb down the news, and to have higher aspirations for what effective news can do.  Because a well-informed electorate depends on you.  And our democracy depends on a well-informed electorate.

So the choice between what cuts into your bottom lines and what harms us as a society is an important one.  We have to choose which price is higher to pay; which cost is harder to bear.

Good reporters like the ones in this room all too frequently find yourselves caught between competing forces, I’m aware of that.  You believe in the importance of a well-informed electorate.  You’ve staked your careers on it.  Our democracy needs you more than ever.  You’re under significant financial pressures, as well.

So I believe the electorate would be better served if your networks and your producers would give you the room, the capacity to follow your best instincts and dig deeper into the things that might not always be flashy, but need attention.

And Robin proves that just because something is substantive doesn’t mean it’s not interesting.  I think the electorate would be better served if we spent less time focused on the he said/she said back-and-forth of our politics.  Because while fairness is the hallmark of good journalism, false equivalency all too often these days can be a fatal flaw.  If I say that the world is round and someone else says it’s flat, that’s worth reporting, but you might also want to report on a bunch of scientific evidence that seems to support the notion that the world is round.  And that shouldn’t be buried in paragraph five or six of the article.  (Applause.)

A job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone.  It is to probe and to question, and to dig deeper, and to demand more.  The electorate would be better served if that happened.  It would be better served if billions of dollars in free media came with serious accountability, especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can’t keep.  (Applause.)  And there are reporters here who know they can’t keep them.  I know that’s a shocking concept that politicians would do that.  But without a press that asks tough questions, voters take them at their word.  When people put their faith in someone who can’t possibly deliver on his or her promises, that only breeds more cynicism.

It’s interesting — this is a little going off script.  But we still have our house in Chicago, and because Michelle, me and the kids had to leave so quickly, it’s a little bit like a time capsule, especially my desk — which wasn’t always very neat.  So I’ve got old phone bills that I think I paid — (laughter) — but they’re still sitting there.  And for a long time, I had my old laptop with the AOL connection.  But there’s also these big stacks of newspapers from right before the election.  And every time I go back, I have occasion to look back and read what I said at the time.  And Lord knows I’ve made mistakes in this job, and there are areas where I’ve fallen short, but something I’m really proud of is the fact that, if you go back and see what I said in 2007 and you see what I did, they match up.  (Applause.)

Now, part of the reason they match up is because in 2008, during the campaign, people asked me really tough questions about whether they’d match up.  And we had to spend a lot of time worrying about whether what I said I could deliver on, and whether we believed it was true.  And there was a price if you said one thing and then did something completely different.  And the question is, in the current media environment, is that still true?  Does that still hold?

I think Robin understood this because she asked those questions.  She asked me some of those questions.

One of the reasons I ran for this office was to try and change the tone of our politics in Washington.  And I remember back in early 2008 — eight years ago this month — Robin wrote a story wondering whether I could; whether it was even possible.  At the time, I probably thought the piece was fairly cynical.  And while I still believe Americans are hungry for a better politics, as I’ve said several times now, one of my great regrets is that the tone of our politics has gotten worse.  And I won’t take all the responsibility for it, but I’ll take some.  We all own some of it.  I’ll take my share.  But Robin asked that question.  She cast a critical eye from the very beginning.  And that was useful.  Still is.

As I believe that that for all the sideshows of the political season, Americans are still hungry for truth, it’s just hard to find.  It’s hard to wade through.  The curating function has diminished in this smartphone age.  But people still want to know what’s true.

Think about it.  Hollywood released films about getting stuck on Mars, and demolition derbies in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and you even had Leo DiCaprio battling a grizzly bear.  And yet it was a movie about journalists spending months meticulously calling sources from landlines, and poring over documents with highlighters and microfiche, chasing the truth even when it was hard, even when it was dangerous.  And that was the movie that captured the Oscar for Best Picture.

I’m not suggesting all of you are going to win Oscars.  But I am saying it’s worth striving to win a Toner.  (Applause.)

So, look, ultimately I recognize that the news industry is an industry — it’s a business.  There’s no escaping the pressures of the industry and all its attendant constraints.    But I also know that journalism at its best is indispensable — not in some abstract sense of nobility, but in the very concrete sense that real people depend on you to uncover the truth.  Real people depend on getting information they can trust because they are giving over decision-making that has a profound effect on their lives to a bunch of people who are pretty remote and very rarely will they ever have the chance to ask that person a direct question, or be able to sort through the intricacies of the policies that will determine their wages or their ability to retire, or their ability to send their kid to college, or the possibility that their child will be sent to war.

These are folks who trust you when you tell them that there’s a problem in their schools, or that their water has been poisoned, or that their political candidates are promoting plans that don’t add up.

That’s why the deep reporting, the informed questioning, the in-depth stories — the kind of journalism that we honor today — matters more than ever and, by the way, lasts longer than some slapdash Tweet that slips off our screens in the blink of an eye, that may get more hits todays, but won’t stand up to the test of time.  (Applause.)  That’s the only way that our democracy can work.

And as I go into my last year, I spend a lot of time reflecting on how this system, how this crazy notion of self-government works; how can we make it work.  And this is as important to making it work as anything — people getting information that they can trust, and that has substance and evidence and facts and truth behind it.  In an era in which attention spans are short, it is going to be hard because you’re going to have to figure out ways to make it more entertaining, and you’re going to have to be more creative, not less.  Because if you just do great reporting and nobody reads it, that doesn’t do anybody any good, either.

But 10, 20, 50 years from now, no one seeking to understand our age is going to be searching the Tweets that got the most retweets, or the post that got the most likes.  They’ll look for the kind of reporting, the smartest investigative journalism that told our story and lifted up the contradictions in our societies, and asked the hard questions and forced people to see the truth even when it was uncomfortable.

Many of you are already doing that, doing incredible work.  And in some ways, the new technologies are helping you do that work.  Journalists are using new data techniques to analyze economics and the environment, and to analyze candidates’ proposals.  Anchors are asking candidates exactly how they’re going to accomplish their promises, pressing them so they don’t evade the question.  Some reporters recently watched almost five hours of a certain candidate’s remarks to count the number of times he said something that wasn’t true.  It turned out to be quite a large number.  So talk about taking one for the team.  That was a significant sacrifice they made.

This is journalism worth honoring and worth emulating.  And to the young aspiring journalist that I had a chance to meet before I came on stage, those are the models you want to follow.

As all of you know, I just came back from Cuba, where I held a press conference with President Castro that was broadcast all over the country.  So in a country without a free press, this was big news.  And it was a remarkable thing that the Cuban people were able to watch two leaders — their own, and the leader of a country that they’d grown up understanding as their archenemy — answer tough questions and be held accountable.  And I don’t know exactly what it will mean for Cuba’s future.  I think it made a big difference to the Cuban people.  And I can’t think of a better example of why a free press is so vital to freedom.  (Applause.)

In any country, including our own, there will be an inherent tension between the President and the press.  It’s supposed to be that way.  I may not always agree with everything you report or write.  In fact, it’s fair to say I do not.  (Laughter.)  But if I did, that would be an indication that you weren’t doing your job.

I’ll tell you — I probably maybe shouldn’t do this, but what the heck, I’m in my last year.  (Laughter.)  I had an in-depth conversation with President Putin a while back about Syria and Ukraine.  And he had read an article in The Atlantic that Jeff Goldberg had done about my foreign policy doctrine.  And he said, well, I disagree with some of the things that you said in there.  And Jeff is a remarkable journalist who I admire greatly, and all the quotes that were directly attributed to me in there I completely agreed with.  I said, well, but some of the things that were shaped may not fully reflect all the nuance of my thoughts on the particular topic that President Putin was mentioning.  But I pointed out to him, of course, that unlike you, Vladimir, I don’t get to edit the piece before it’s published.  (Laughter and applause.)

So you are supposed to push those in power for more evidence and more access.  You’re supposed to challenge our assumptions.  Sometimes I will find this frustrating.  Sometimes I may not be able to share with you all of the context of decisions that I make.  But I never doubt how much — how critical it is to our democracy for you to do that; how much I value great journalism.  And you should not underestimate the number of times that I have read something that you did, and I have called somebody up and said, what’s going on here?  Because as Bob Gates told me when I first came in — I think it was my first or second week — I said, well, what advice do you have, Bob?  You’ve been around seven presidents.  You’ve served in Washington, in the administration.  He said, Mr. President, the only thing I can tell you for sure is that you’ve got about two million employees, and at any given moment in any given day, somebody, somewhere, is screwing up.  (Laughter.)

So you help me do my job better, and I’m grateful for that.  Because the point of politics, as Robin understood it — certainly as I’ve tried to understand it throughout my tenure in this job — the point of politics is not simply the amassing of power.  It’s about what you do with that power that has been lent to you through a compact, with a citizenry, who give you their proxy and say “I’m counting on you” to not just make my life better, but more importantly, to make my kids’ lives better, and my grandkids’ lives better.  Who will we help?  How will we help them?  What kind of country do we leave to the next generation?

My hope is, is that you continue to ask us questions that keep us honest and elevate our democracy.  I ask that you continue to understand your role as a partner in this process.  I say this often when I speak to Democratic partisan crowds:  I never said, “Yes, I can.”  I said, “Yes, we can.”  And that means all of us.  (Applause.)  If we can keep supporting the kind of work that Robin championed, if we cultivate the next generation of smart, tough, fair-minded journalists, if we can all, every single one of us, carry on her legacy of public service and her faith in citizenry — because you have to have a certain faith to be a really good journalist; you have to believe that me getting it right matters, that it’s not just sending something into the void, but that there’s somebody on the other end who’s receiving it, and that matters — if you continue to believe that, if you have faith, I have no doubt that America’s best days are ahead.

So thank you to Robin’s family.  Congratulations to this year’s winner.  And thank all of you.  God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

Full Text Political Transcripts March 28, 2016: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at the 2016 Easter Egg Roll

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and First Lady at the 2016 Easter Egg Roll

Source: WH, 3-28-16

 

South Lawn

10:41 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  How’s everybody doing today?  (Applause.)  Happy Easter!  You guys brought the sun out, so we appreciate that so much.  This is always one of our favorite events of the year.  It’s so much fun.  And I don’t want to talk too long, but I do want to make sure that everybody thanks our outstanding Marine band, who does such a great job.  (Applause.)  I want to thank all the volunteers who have helped to make this day possible.  Give them a huge round of applause.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama!  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Yay!  Thank you, honey.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

MRS. OBAMA:  Here, you take Sunny.  Hi, everybody!  (Applause.)  Happy Easter Egg Roll Day!  Are you all having a good time?

AUDIENCE:  Yeah!

MRS. OBAMA:  It is going to be perfect weather.  The sun is coming out, which is always a great omen for the day.  We’re just thrilled to have you all here.  Today is a little bit bittersweet for us, because this is the Obama administration’s last Easter Egg Roll.

AUDIENCE:  Aww —

MRS. OBAMA:  Yes.  And if we think about what we’ve accomplished over these past seven years, it’s pretty incredible.  Because when Barack and I first got here, one of the goals that we had was to open up the White House to as many people from as many backgrounds as possible.  So open it up to our kids, to our musicians, to explore our culture, to expose families to healthy living, and to just have a lot of fun.

THE PRESIDENT:  And our military families.

MRS. OBAMA:  And also to our military families.  I’ve got the peanut crew back here reminding me of stuff.  But we can’t forget all of our military families, who we love, honor and respect, for their service and sacrifice.  (Applause.)

And since we started having Easter Egg Rolls, we’ve had more than 250,000 people come to this lawn every year.  It’s been amazing.  Today we’re going to have 35,000 people who will come in and out of the South Lawn over the course of the day.  And we couldn’t be more excited for this last Easter Egg Roll.  We have danced.  We have done yoga.  We’ve got our Soul Cyclers here.  We’ve got some tremendous athletes and entertainers and artists who are going to read and play games with you all.  We’ve got a little “whip” and a little “nae nae” — or however you do it.  (Laughter.)  Something like that.

So we just want you to have fun.  And the theme this year in our final year is pretty simple.  It’s:  Let’s celebrate.  Let’s celebrate all the good work that we’ve done, all the great messaging we’ve had.  All the amazing change that we’ve seen in this country.  And we want to celebrate our families.  We want to celebrate our nation — everything that makes us strong.  It’s our diversity, it’s our values.  That’s what makes us strong.

And me and this President, we have been honored to be here as your President and First Lady to be able to host you in our backyard every single year.  So I hope you guys have a terrific time.  We’re going to be out there doing a little egg-rolling.  We’re going to have a fun-run today.  I’m going to be running around the White House with a bunch of kids — and any adults who feel like they can hang.  (Laughter.)  You guys can run along with me.  Don’t feel shy.

So just have a good time.  And just know that we love you.  We love you all, and we’re grateful for the love and support that you’ve shown us all these years.  So thank you all.

THE PRESIDENT:  Happy Easter, everybody!

MRS. OBAMA:  Happy Easter!  (Applause.)  Let’s celebrate!

END
10:45 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts March 22, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the People of Cuba

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama to the People of Cuba

Source: WH, 3-22-16

Gran Teatro de la Habana
Havana, Cuba

10:10 A.M. CST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Muchas gracias.  Thank you so much.  Thank you very much.

President Castro, the people of Cuba, thank you so much for the warm welcome that I have received, that my family have received, and that our delegation has received.  It is an extraordinary honor to be here today.

Before I begin, please indulge me.  I want to comment on the terrorist attacks that have taken place in Brussels.  The thoughts and the prayers of the American people are with the people of Belgium.  We stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people.  We will do whatever is necessary to support our friend and ally, Belgium, in bringing to justice those who are responsible.  And this is yet another reminder that the world must unite, we must be together, regardless of nationality, or race, or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism.  We can — and will — defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world.

To the government and the people of Cuba, I want to thank you for the kindness that you’ve shown to me and Michelle, Malia, Sasha, my mother-in-law, Marian.

“Cultivo una rosa blanca.”  (Applause.)  In his most famous poem, Jose Marti made this offering of friendship and peace to both his friend and his enemy.  Today, as the President of the United States of America, I offer the Cuban people el saludo de paz.  (Applause.)

Havana is only 90 miles from Florida, but to get here we had to travel a great distance — over barriers of history and ideology; barriers of pain and separation.  The blue waters beneath Air Force One once carried American battleships to this island — to liberate, but also to exert control over Cuba.  Those waters also carried generations of Cuban revolutionaries to the United States, where they built support for their cause.  And that short distance has been crossed by hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles — on planes and makeshift rafts — who came to America in pursuit of freedom and opportunity, sometimes leaving behind everything they owned and every person that they loved.

Like so many people in both of our countries, my lifetime has spanned a time of isolation between us.  The Cuban Revolution took place the same year that my father came to the United States from Kenya.  The Bay of Pigs took place the year that I was born. The next year, the entire world held its breath, watching our two countries, as humanity came as close as we ever have to the horror of nuclear war.  As the decades rolled by, our governments settled into a seemingly endless confrontation, fighting battles through proxies.  In a world that remade itself time and again, one constant was the conflict between the United States and Cuba.

I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.  (Applause.)  I have come here to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people.  (Applause.)

I want to be clear:  The differences between our governments over these many years are real and they are important.  I’m sure President Castro would say the same thing — I know, because I’ve heard him address those differences at length.  But before I discuss those issues, we also need to recognize how much we share.  Because in many ways, the United States and Cuba are like two brothers who’ve been estranged for many years, even as we share the same blood.

We both live in a new world, colonized by Europeans.  Cuba, like the United States, was built in part by slaves brought here from Africa.  Like the United States, the Cuban people can trace their heritage to both slaves and slave-owners.  We’ve welcomed both immigrants who came a great distance to start new lives in the Americas.

Over the years, our cultures have blended together.       Dr. Carlos Finlay’s work in Cuba paved the way for generations of doctors, including Walter Reed, who drew on Dr. Finlay’s work to help combat Yellow Fever.  Just as Marti wrote some of his most famous words in New York, Ernest Hemingway made a home in Cuba, and found inspiration in the waters of these shores.  We share a national past-time — La Pelota — and later today our players will compete on the same Havana field that Jackie Robinson played on before he made his Major League debut.  (Applause.)  And it’s said that our greatest boxer, Muhammad Ali, once paid tribute to a Cuban that he could never fight — saying that he would only be able to reach a draw with the great Cuban, Teofilo Stevenson.  (Applause.)

So even as our governments became adversaries, our people continued to share these common passions, particularly as so many Cubans came to America.  In Miami or Havana, you can find places to dance the Cha-Cha-Cha or the Salsa, and eat ropa vieja.  People in both of our countries have sung along with Celia Cruz or Gloria Estefan, and now listen to reggaeton or Pitbull.  (Laughter.)  Millions of our people share a common religion — a faith that I paid tribute to at the Shrine of our Lady of Charity in Miami, a peace that Cubans find in La Cachita.

For all of our differences, the Cuban and American people share common values in their own lives.  A sense of patriotism and a sense of pride — a lot of pride.  A profound love of family.  A passion for our children, a commitment to their education.  And that’s why I believe our grandchildren will look back on this period of isolation as an aberration, as just one chapter in a longer story of family and of friendship.

But we cannot, and should not, ignore the very real differences that we have — about how we organize our governments, our economies, and our societies.  Cuba has a one-party system; the United States is a multi-party democracy.  Cuba has a socialist economic model; the United States is an open market.  Cuba has emphasized the role and rights of the state; the United States is founded upon the rights of the individual.

Despite these differences, on December 17th 2014, President Castro and I announced that the United States and Cuba would begin a process to normalize relations between our countries.  (Applause.)  Since then, we have established diplomatic relations and opened embassies.  We’ve begun initiatives to cooperate on health and agriculture, education and law enforcement.  We’ve reached agreements to restore direct flights and mail service.  We’ve expanded commercial ties, and increased the capacity of Americans to travel and do business in Cuba.

And these changes have been welcomed, even though there are still opponents to these policies.  But still, many people on both sides of this debate have asked:  Why now?  Why now?

There is one simple answer:  What the United States was doing was not working.  We have to have the courage to acknowledge that truth.  A policy of isolation designed for the Cold War made little sense in the 21st century.  The embargo was only hurting the Cuban people instead of helping them.  And I’ve always believed in what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the fierce urgency of now” — we should not fear change, we should embrace it.  (Applause.)

That leads me to a bigger and more important reason for these changes:  Creo en el pueblo Cubano.  I believe in the Cuban people.  (Applause.)  This is not just a policy of normalizing relations with the Cuban government.  The United States of America is normalizing relations with the Cuban people.  (Applause.)

And today, I want to share with you my vision of what our future can be.  I want the Cuban people — especially the young people — to understand why I believe that you should look to the future with hope; not the false promise which insists that things are better than they really are, or the blind optimism that says all your problems can go away tomorrow.  Hope that is rooted in the future that you can choose and that you can shape, and that you can build for your country.

I’m hopeful because I believe that the Cuban people are as innovative as any people in the world.

In a global economy, powered by ideas and information, a country’s greatest asset is its people.  In the United States, we have a clear monument to what the Cuban people can build: it’s called Miami.  Here in Havana, we see that same talent in cuentapropistas, cooperatives and old cars that still run.  El Cubano inventa del aire.  (Applause.)

Cuba has an extraordinary resource — a system of education which values every boy and every girl.  (Applause.)  And in recent years, the Cuban government has begun to open up to the world, and to open up more space for that talent to thrive.  In just a few years, we’ve seen how cuentapropistas can succeed while sustaining a distinctly Cuban spirit.  Being self-employed is not about becoming more like America, it’s about being yourself.

Look at Sandra Lidice Aldama, who chose to start a small business.  Cubans, she said, can “innovate and adapt without losing our identity…our secret is in not copying or imitating but simply being ourselves.”

Look at Papito Valladeres, a barber, whose success allowed him to improve conditions in his neighborhood.  “I realize I’m not going to solve all of the world’s problems,” he said.  “But if I can solve problems in the little piece of the world where I live, it can ripple across Havana.”

That’s where hope begins — with the ability to earn your own living, and to build something you can be proud of.  That’s why our policies focus on supporting Cubans, instead of hurting them.  That’s why we got rid of limits on remittances — so ordinary Cubans have more resources.  That’s why we’re encouraging travel — which will build bridges between our people, and bring more revenue to those Cuban small businesses. That’s why we’ve opened up space for commerce and exchanges — so that Americans and Cubans can work together to find cures for diseases, and create jobs, and open the door to more opportunity for the Cuban people.

As President of the United States, I’ve called on our Congress to lift the embargo.  (Applause.)  It is an outdated burden on the Cuban people.  It’s a burden on the Americans who want to work and do business or invest here in Cuba.  It’s time to lift the embargo.  But even if we lifted the embargo tomorrow, Cubans would not realize their potential without continued change here in Cuba.  (Applause.)  It should be easier to open a business here in Cuba.  A worker should be able to get a job directly with companies who invest here in Cuba.  Two currencies shouldn’t separate the type of salaries that Cubans can earn.  The Internet should be available across the island, so that Cubans can connect to the wider world — (applause) — and to one of the greatest engines of growth in human history.

There’s no limitation from the United States on the ability of Cuba to take these steps.  It’s up to you.  And I can tell you as a friend that sustainable prosperity in the 21st century depends upon education, health care, and environmental protection.  But it also depends on the free and open exchange of ideas.  If you can’t access information online, if you cannot be exposed to different points of view, you will not reach your full potential.  And over time, the youth will lose hope.

I know these issues are sensitive, especially coming from an American President.  Before 1959, some Americans saw Cuba as something to exploit, ignored poverty, enabled corruption.  And since 1959, we’ve been shadow-boxers in this battle of geopolitics and personalities.  I know the history, but I refuse to be trapped by it.  (Applause.)

I’ve made it clear that the United States has neither the capacity, nor the intention to impose change on Cuba.  What changes come will depend upon the Cuban people.  We will not impose our political or economic system on you.  We recognize that every country, every people, must chart its own course and shape its own model.  But having removed the shadow of history from our relationship, I must speak honestly about the things that I believe — the things that we, as Americans, believe.  As Marti said, “Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy.”

So let me tell you what I believe.  I can’t force you to agree, but you should know what I think.  I believe that every person should be equal under the law. (Applause.)  Every child deserves the dignity that comes with education, and health care and food on the table and a roof over their heads.  (Applause.)  I believe citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear — (applause) — to organize, and to criticize their government, and to protest peacefully, and that the rule of law should not include arbitrary detentions of people who exercise those rights.  (Applause.)  I believe that every person should have the freedom to practice their faith peacefully and publicly. (Applause.)  And, yes, I believe voters should be able to choose their governments in free and democratic elections.  (Applause.)

Not everybody agrees with me on this.  Not everybody agrees with the American people on this.  But I believe those human rights are universal.  (Applause.)  I believe they are the rights of the American people, the Cuban people, and people around the world.

Now, there’s no secret that our governments disagree on many of these issues.  I’ve had frank conversations with President Castro.  For many years, he has pointed out the flaws in the American system — economic inequality; the death penalty; racial discrimination; wars abroad.  That’s just a sample.  He has a much longer list.  (Laughter.)  But here’s what the Cuban people need to understand:  I welcome this open debate and dialogue. It’s good.  It’s healthy.  I’m not afraid of it.

We do have too much money in American politics.  But, in America, it’s still possible for somebody like me — a child who was raised by a single mom, a child of mixed race who did not have a lot of money — to pursue and achieve the highest office in the land.  That’s what’s possible in America.  (Applause.)

We do have challenges with racial bias — in our communities, in our criminal justice system, in our society — the legacy of slavery and segregation.  But the fact that we have open debates within America’s own democracy is what allows us to get better.  In 1959, the year that my father moved to America, it was illegal for him to marry my mother, who was white, in many American states.  When I first started school, we were still struggling to desegregate schools across the American South.  But people organized; they protested; they debated these issues; they challenged government officials.  And because of those protests, and because of those debates, and because of popular mobilization, I’m able to stand here today as an African-American and as President of the United States.  That was because of the freedoms that were afforded in the United States that we were able to bring about change.

I’m not saying this is easy.  There’s still enormous problems in our society.  But democracy is the way that we solve them.  That’s how we got health care for more of our people.  That’s how we made enormous gains in women’s rights and gay rights.  That’s how we address the inequality that concentrates so much wealth at the top of our society.  Because workers can organize and ordinary people have a voice, American democracy has given our people the opportunity to pursue their dreams and enjoy a high standard of living.  (Applause.)

Now, there are still some tough fights.  It isn’t always pretty, the process of democracy.   It’s often frustrating.  You can see that in the election going on back home.  But just stop and consider this fact about the American campaign that’s taking place right now.  You had two Cuban Americans in the Republican Party, running against the legacy of a black man who is President, while arguing that they’re the best person to beat the Democratic nominee who will either be a woman or a Democratic Socialist.  (Laughter and applause.)  Who would have believed that back in 1959?  That’s a measure of our progress as a democracy.  (Applause.)

So here’s my message to the Cuban government and the Cuban people:  The ideals that are the starting point for every revolution — America’s revolution, Cuba’s revolution, the liberation movements around the world — those ideals find their truest expression, I believe, in democracy.  Not because American democracy is perfect, but precisely because we’re not.  And we — like every country — need the space that democracy gives us to change.  It gives individuals the capacity to be catalysts to think in new ways, and to reimagine how our society should be, and to make them better.

There’s already an evolution taking place inside of Cuba, a generational change.  Many suggested that I come here and ask the people of Cuba to tear something down — but I’m appealing to the young people of Cuba who will lift something up, build something new.  (Applause.)  El futuro  de Cuba tiene que estar en las manos del pueblo Cubano.  (Applause.)

And to President Castro — who I appreciate being here today — I want you to know, I believe my visit here demonstrates you do not need to fear a threat from the United States.  And given your commitment to Cuba’s sovereignty and self-determination, I am also confident that you need not fear the different voices of the Cuban people — and their capacity to speak, and assemble, and vote for their leaders.  In fact, I’m hopeful for the future because I trust that the Cuban people will make the right decisions.

And as you do, I’m also confident that Cuba can continue to play an important role in the hemisphere and around the globe — and my hope is, is that you can do so as a partner with the United States.

We’ve played very different roles in the world.  But no one should deny the service that thousands of Cuban doctors have delivered for the poor and suffering.  (Applause.)  Last year, American health care workers — and the U.S. military — worked side-by-side with Cubans to save lives and stamp out Ebola in West Africa.  I believe that we should continue that kind of cooperation in other countries.

We’ve been on the different side of so many conflicts in the Americas.  But today, Americans and Cubans are sitting together at the negotiating table, and we are helping the Colombian people resolve a civil war that’s dragged on for decades.  (Applause.)  That kind of cooperation is good for everybody.  It gives everyone in this hemisphere hope.

We took different journeys to our support for the people of South Africa in ending apartheid.  But President Castro and I could both be there in Johannesburg to pay tribute to the legacy of the great Nelson Mandela.  (Applause.)  And in examining his life and his words, I’m sure we both realize we have more work to do to promote equality in our own countries — to reduce discrimination based on race in our own countries.  And in Cuba, we want our engagement to help lift up the Cubans who are of African descent — (applause) — who’ve proven that there’s nothing they cannot achieve when given the chance.

We’ve been a part of different blocs of nations in the hemisphere, and we will continue to have profound differences about how to promote peace, security, opportunity, and human rights.  But as we normalize our relations, I believe it can help foster a greater sense of unity in the Americas — todos somos Americanos.  (Applause.)

From the beginning of my time in office, I’ve urged the people of the Americas to leave behind the ideological battles of the past.  We are in a new era.  I know that many of the issues that I’ve talked about lack the drama of the past.  And I know that part of Cuba’s identity is its pride in being a small island nation that could stand up for its rights, and shake the world. But I also know that Cuba will always stand out because of the talent, hard work, and pride of the Cuban people.  That’s your strength.  (Applause.)  Cuba doesn’t have to be defined by being against the United States, any more than the United States should be defined by being against Cuba.  I’m hopeful for the future because of the reconciliation that’s taking place among the Cuban people.

I know that for some Cubans on the island, there may be a sense that those who left somehow supported the old order in Cuba.  I’m sure there’s a narrative that lingers here which suggests that Cuban exiles ignored the problems of pre-Revolutionary Cuba, and rejected the struggle to build a new future.  But I can tell you today that so many Cuban exiles carry a memory of painful — and sometimes violent — separation.  They love Cuba.  A part of them still considers this their true home. That’s why their passion is so strong.  That’s why their heartache is so great.  And for the Cuban American community that I’ve come to know and respect, this is not just about politics. This is about family — the memory of a home that was lost; the desire to rebuild a broken bond; the hope for a better future the hope for return and reconciliation.

For all of the politics, people are people, and Cubans are Cubans.  And I’ve come here — I’ve traveled this distance — on a bridge that was built by Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits.  I first got to know the talent and passion of the Cuban people in America.  And I know how they have suffered more than the pain of exile — they also know what it’s like to be an outsider, and to struggle, and to work harder to make sure their children can reach higher in America.

So the reconciliation of the Cuban people — the children and grandchildren of revolution, and the children and grandchildren of exile — that is fundamental to Cuba’s future.  (Applause.)

You see it in Gloria Gonzalez, who traveled here in 2013 for the first time after 61 years of separation, and was met by her sister, Llorca.  “You recognized me, but I didn’t recognize you,” Gloria said after she embraced her sibling.  Imagine that, after 61 years.

You see it in Melinda Lopez, who came to her family’s old home.  And as she was walking the streets, an elderly woman recognized her as her mother’s daughter, and began to cry.  She took her into her home and showed her a pile of photos that included Melinda’s baby picture, which her mother had sent 50 years ago.  Melinda later said, “So many of us are now getting so much back.”

You see it in Cristian Miguel Soler, a young man who became the first of his family to travel here after 50 years.  And meeting relatives for the first time, he said, “I realized that family is family no matter the distance between us.”

Sometimes the most important changes start in small places. The tides of history can leave people in conflict and exile and poverty.  It takes time for those circumstances to change.  But the recognition of a common humanity, the reconciliation of people bound by blood and a belief in one another — that’s where progress begins.  Understanding, and listening, and forgiveness. And if the Cuban people face the future together, it will be more likely that the young people of today will be able to live with dignity and achieve their dreams right here in Cuba.

The history of the United States and Cuba encompass revolution and conflict; struggle and sacrifice; retribution and, now, reconciliation.  It is time, now, for us to leave the past behind.  It is time for us to look forward to the future together — un future de esperanza.  And it won’t be easy, and there will be setbacks.  It will take time.  But my time here in Cuba renews my hope and my confidence in what the Cuban people will do.  We can make this journey as friends, and as neighbors, and as family — together.  Si se puede.  Muchas gracias.  (Applause.)

END
10:48 A.M. CST

Full Text Political Transcripts March 21, 2016: President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro’s Remarks in a Joint Press Conference

Remarks by President Obama and President Raul Castro of Cuba in a Joint Press Conference

Source: WH, 3-21-16

Palace of the Revolution
Havana, Cuba

2:18 P.M. CST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Buenas tardes.  President Castro, to you, the Cuban government and the Cuban people, thank you for the welcome that you have extended to me, to my family, and to my delegation.  For more than half a century, the sight of a U.S. President here in Havana would have been unimaginable.  But this is a new day — es un nuevo día — between our two countries.

With your indulgence, Mr. President, I want to go just briefly off topic because during this weekend, I received news that one of our outstanding United States Armed Service members, Marine Staff Sergeant Louis F. Cardin of Temecula, California, was killed in northern Iraq as we assisted the Iraqi government in dealing with ISIL, the terrorist organization there.  And I just wanted to give my thoughts and prayers to the family there and those who have been injured.  It’s a reminder that even as we embark on this historic visit, there are U.S. Armed Service members who are sacrificing each and every day on behalf of our freedom and our safety.  So I’m grateful to them.

My wife, Michelle, and I brought our daughters — and by the way, they don’t always want to go with us; they’re teenagers now.  They have friends at home and they have things to do — but they wanted to come to Cuba because they understood, and we wanted to show them, the beauty of Cuba and its people.  We were moved by the Cubans who received us yesterday, smiling and waving, as we drove in from the airport.  We were grateful for the opportunity to experience Old Havana — had some excellent Cuban food.  Our visit to the Cathedral was a reminder of the values that we share, of the deep faith that sustains so many Cubans and Americans.  And it also gave me an opportunity to express my gratitude to Cardinal Ortega, who, along with His Holiness Pope Francis, did so much to support the improved relations between our governments.  This morning, I was honored to pay tribute to José Martí — not only his role in Cuban independence, but the profound words that he wrote and spoke in support of liberty and freedom everywhere.

I bring with me the greetings and the friendship of the American people.  In fact, I’m joined on this trip by nearly 40 members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans.  This is the largest such delegation of my presidency, and it indicates the excitement and interest in America about the process that we’ve undertaken.  These members of Congress recognize that our new relationship with the Cuban people is in the interest of both nations.  I’m also joined by some of America’s top business leaders and entrepreneurs because we’re ready to pursue more commercial ties, which create jobs and opportunity for Cubans and Americans alike.

And I’m especially pleased that I’m joined on this trip by so many Cuban Americans.  For them, and for the more than two million proud Cuban Americans across the United States, this is a moment filled with great emotion.  Ever since we made it easier to travel between our countries, more Cuban Americans are coming home.  For many, this is a time of new hope for the future.

So, President Castro, I want to thank you for the courtesy and the spirit of openness that you’ve shown during our talks.  At our meeting in Panama last year, you said that we’re willing to discuss every issue, and everything is on the table.  So with your understanding, my statement will be a little longer than usual.

President Castro always jokes with me about how long Castro brothers’ speeches can be.  But I’m going to actually go a little longer than you probably today, with your indulgence.  We have a half a century of work to catch up on.

Our growing engagement with Cuba is guided by one overarching goal — advancing the mutual interests of our two countries, including improving the lives of our people, both Cubans and Americans.  That’s why I’m here.  I’ve said consistently, after more than five very difficult decades, the relationship between our governments will not be transformed overnight.  We continue, as President Castro indicated, to have some very serious differences, including on democracy and human rights.  And President Castro and I have had very frank and candid conversations on these subjects.

The United States recognizes progress that Cuba has made as a nation, its enormous achievements in education and in health care.  And perhaps most importantly, I affirmed that Cuba’s destiny will not be decided by the United States or any other nation.  Cuba is sovereign and, rightly, has great pride.  And the future of Cuba will be decided by Cubans, not by anybody else.

At the same time, as we do wherever we go around the world, I made it clear that the United States will continue to speak up on behalf of democracy, including the right of the Cuban people to decide their own future.  We’ll speak out on behalf of universal human rights, including freedom of speech, and assembly, and religion.  Indeed, I look forward to meeting with and hearing from Cuban civil society leaders tomorrow.

But as you heard, President Castro has also addressed what he views as shortcomings in the United States around basic needs for people, and poverty and inequality and race relations.  And we welcome that constructive dialogue as well — because we believe that when we share our deepest beliefs and ideas with an attitude of mutual respect, that we can both learn and make the lives of our people better.

Part of normalizing relations means that we discuss our differences directly.  So I’m very pleased that we’ve agreed to hold our next U.S.-Cuba human rights dialogue here in Havana later this year.  And both of our countries will welcome visits by independent United Nations experts as we combat human trafficking, which we agree is a profound violation of human rights.

Even as we discuss these differences, we share a belief that we can continue to make progress in those areas that we have in common.  President Castro, you said in Panama that “we might disagree on something today on which we would agree tomorrow.”  And that’s certainly been the case over the past 15 months and the days leading up to this visit.  And today, I can report that we continue to move forward on many fronts when it comes to normalizing relations.

We’re moving ahead with more opportunities for Americans to travel to Cuba and interact with the Cuban people.  Over the past year, the number of Americans coming here has surged.  Last week, we gave approval for individual Americans to come here for educational travel.  U.S. airlines will begin direct commercial flights this year.  With last week’s port security announcement, we’ve removed the last major hurdle to resuming cruises and ferry service.  All of which will mean even more Americans visiting Cuba in the years ahead and appreciating the incredible history and culture of the Cuban people.

We’re moving ahead with more trade.  With only 90 miles between us, we’re natural trading partners.  Other steps we took last week — allowing the U.S. dollar to be used more widely with Cuba, giving Cubans more access to the dollar in international transactions, and allowing Cubans in the U.S. to earn salaries –- these things will do more to create opportunities for trade and joint ventures.  We welcome Cuba’s important announcement that it plans to end the 10 percent penalty on dollar conversions here, which will open the door to more travel and more commerce.  And these steps show that we’re opening up to one another.

With this visit, we’ve agreed to deepen our cooperation on agriculture to support our farmers and our ranchers.  This afternoon, I’ll highlight some of the new commercial deals being announced by major U.S. companies.  And just as I continue to call on Congress to lift the trade embargo, I discussed with President Castro the steps we urge Cuba to take to show that it’s ready to do more business, which includes allowing more joint ventures and allowing foreign companies to hire Cubans directly.

We’re moving ahead with our efforts to help connect more Cubans to the Internet and the global economy.  Under President Castro, Cuba has set a goal of bringing Cubans online.  And we want to help.  At this afternoon’s entrepreneurship event, I’ll discuss additional steps we’re taking to help more Cubans learn, innovate, and do business online — because in the 21st century, countries cannot be successful unless their citizens have access to the Internet.

We’re moving ahead with more educational exchanges.  Thanks to the generous support of the Cuban-American community, I can announce that my 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative will offer new opportunities for university students to study abroad — more Americans at Cuban schools and more Cubans at U.S. schools.  And going forward, educational grants and scholarships will be available to Cuban students.  And in partnership with the Cuban government, we’ll offer more English language training for Cuban teachers, both in Cuba and online.

Even as Cubans prepare for the arrival of the Rolling Stones, we’re moving ahead with more events and exchanges that bring Cubans and Americans together as well.  We all look forward to tomorrow’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team.

More broadly, we’re moving ahead with partnerships in health, science, and the environment.  Just as Cubans and American medical teams have worked together in Haiti against cholera, and in West Africa against Ebola — and I want to give a special commendation to Cuban doctors who volunteered and took on some very tough assignments to save lives in West Africa in partnership with us and other nations.  We very much appreciate the work that they did.  Our medical professionals will now collaborate in new areas, preventing the spread of viruses like Zika and leading new research into cancer vaccines.  Our governments will also work to protect the beautiful waters of this region that we share.

And as two countries threatened by climate change, I believe we can work together to protect communities and our low-lying coasts.  And we’re inviting Cuba to join us and our Caribbean and Central American partners at this spring’s regional energy summit in Washington.

And finally, we’re moving ahead with our closer cooperation on regional security.  We’re working to deepen our law enforcement coordination, especially against narco-traffickers that threaten both of our peoples.  I want to thank President Castro and the Cuban government for hosting peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC.  And we remain optimistic that Colombians can achieve a lasting and just peace.  And although we did not have an extensive discussion of Venezuela, we did touch on the subject.  And I believe that the whole region has an interest in a country that is addressing its economic challenges, is responsive to the aspirations of its people, and is a source of stability in the region.  That is, I believe, an interest that we should all share.

So again, President Castro, I want to thank you for welcoming me.  I think it’s fair to say that the United States and Cuba are now engaged across more areas than any time during my lifetime.  With every passing day, more Americans are coming to Cuba, more U.S. businesses and schools and faith groups are working to forge new partnerships with the Cuban people.  More Cubans are benefitting from the opportunities that this travel and trade bring.

As you indicated, the road ahead will not be easy.  Fortunately, we don’t have to swim with sharks in order to achieve the goals that you and I have set forth.  As you say here in Cuba, “echar para adelante.”  Despite the difficulties, we will continue to move forward.  We’re focused on the future.

And I’m absolutely confident that if we stay on this course, we can deliver a better and brighter future for both the Cuban people and the American people.

Muchas gracias.  Thank you very much.

First question, Jim Acosta.

Q    (As interpreted.)  Thank you, President Castro, for your hospitality in Havana.  And thank you, Mr. President.

(In English.)  In your meeting with President Castro, what words did you use to urge him to pursue democratic reforms and expand human rights here in Cuba?  Will you invite President Castro to the White House?  We know he’s been to New York.  And why did you not meet with Fidel Castro?

And, President Castro, my father is Cuban.  He left for the United States when he was young.  Do you see a new and democratic direction for your country?  And why you have Cuban political prisoners?  And why don’t you release them?  And one more question, who do you prefer — Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, as I think we both indicated, we had a very fruitful conversation around issues of democracy and human rights.  Our starting point is that we have two different systems — two different systems of government, two different economies.  And we have decades of profound differences, both bilaterally and internationally.

What I have said to President Castro is that we are moving forward and not looking backwards; that we don’t view Cuba as a threat to the United States.  I hope that my visit here indicates the degree to which we’re setting a new chapter in Cuban-American relations.

But as is true with countries around the world where we have normalized relations, we will continue to stand up for basic principles that we believe in.  America believes in democracy.  We believe that freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and freedom of religion are not just American values, but are universal values.  They may not express themselves exactly in the same way in every country, they may not be enshrined in the founding documents or constitutions of every country the same way, or protected legally in exactly the same ways, but the impulse — the human impulse towards freedom, the freedom that José Martí talked about, we think is a universal longing.

President Castro I think has pointed out that, in his view, making sure that everybody is getting a decent education or health care, has basic security in old age — that those things are human rights, as well.  I personally would not disagree with him.

But it doesn’t detract from some of these other concerns.  And the goal of the human rights dialogue is not for the United States to dictate to Cuba how they should govern themselves, but to make sure that we are having a frank and candid conversation around this issue and hopefully that we can learn from each other.

It does not mean that it has to be the only issue we talk about.  Economics, health, scientific exchanges, international cooperation on issues of regional as well as global import are also important.  But this is something that we are going to stay on.  And I actually welcome President Castro commenting on some of the areas where he feels that we’re falling short because I think we should not be immune or afraid of criticism or discussion, as well.

Here’s the one thing I do know is that when I talk to Cuban Americans — and, Jim, you’re second generation, and so I think I speak not for you directly, but for many that I talk to around the United States — I think there is enormous hope that there can be reconciliation.  And the bridge that President Castro discussed can be built between the Cuban American community and Cubans here.  There are family ties and cultural ties that are so strong.  And I think everyone would benefit from those ties being reestablished.

One of the impediments to strengthening those ties is these disagreements around human rights and democracy.  And to the extent that we can have a good conversation about that and to actually make progress, that, I think, will allow us to see the full flowering of a relationship that is possible.  In the absence of that, I think it will continue to be a very powerful irritant.  And this is not unique to U.S.-Cuban relations.  It’s one that, as you know, I have conversations with when we go to bilateral meetings with some of our very close allies, as well as countries that we don’t have as close of a relationship to.  But I think it is something that matters.  And I’ve met with people who have been subject to arbitrary detention, and that’s something that I generally have to speak out on because I hear from them directly and I know what it means for them.

Excuse me.

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  (As interpreted.)  I was asking if his question was directed to me or to President Obama.  You talked about political prisoners.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I think the second one was addressed to you.  Trump and Hillary.

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  (As interpreted.)  For him or for me?

Q    (As interpreted.)  For you, Mr. President.

 

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  What did you say about the political prisoners?  Can you repeat that question about political prisoners?  Did you ask if we had political prisoners?

Q    I wanted to know if you have Cuban political prisoners and why you don’t release them.

 

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  Give me the list of political prisoners and I will release them immediately.  Just mention a list.  What political prisoners?  Give me a name or names.  After this meeting is over, you can give me a list of political prisoners.  And if we have those political prisoners, they will be released before tonight ends.

Q    And Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, President Castro?

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  (As interpreted.)  Well, I cannot vote in the United States.

Q    (As interpreted.)  My question is for President Raul Castro.  I’m from Cuban TV.  President Raul Castro, you have repeatedly stated, and today once again, that we must learn to coexist in a civilized manner with our differences.  Could you broaden this concept?  This is a historical moment that we are living.

And then I have a brief question for President Obama.  President Obama, could U.S. government give more space to eliminate U.S. blockade during your mandate so that another generation of Cubans would not have to suffer this economic and commercial blockade against Cuba?

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  (As interpreted.)  The first question was for me.  Please repeat your question, because I couldn’t hear well.

Q    (As interpreted.)  You have said repeatedly that we must learn to coexist in a civilized manner with our differences.

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  Well, President Obama himself has referred to that.  We have given the first steps –- many for being the first steps.  And we must continue giving these steps.  And I’m sure that we will be able to coexist peacefully in an environment of mutual cooperation as we are doing already in many fields for the benefit of both countries and with the benefit of other countries as we have already done — in Haiti, with the cholera and in Africa with the Ebola.  That is the future of mankind if we want to save the humans species.  The level of water grows and the island may become smaller.

You are asking too many questions to me.  I think questions should be directed to President Obama.

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  So we have administratively already made a number of modifications on the embargo.  I referred to a number of them in my opening statement.  And we’ve actually been fairly aggressive in exercising as much flexibility as we can, given that the law putting the embargo in place has not been repealed by Congress.  There may be some technical aspects of the embargo that we can still make adjustments on, depending on problems as they arise.

So, for example, the issue around the dollar and the need to make modifications in terms of how the embargo was implemented to encourage, rather than discourage reforms that the Cuban government itself is willing to engage in and to facilitate greater trade and commerce, that is something that grew out of the dialogue between our governments, and we have made appropriate adjustments to it.  It will take some time for commercial banks to understand the new rules, but we actually think that this is an area where we can improve current circumstances.

But I’ll be honest with you that the list of things that we can do administratively is growing shorter, and the bulk of changes that have to be made with respect to the embargo are now going to rely on Congress making changes.

I’ve been very clear about the interests in getting that done before I leave.  Frankly, Congress is not as productive as I would like during a presidential election year.  But the fact that we have such a large congressional delegation with Democrats and Republicans with us is an indication that there is growing interest inside of Congress for lifting the embargo.

As I just indicated in my earlier answer, how quickly that happens will, in part, depend on whether we can bridge some of our differences around human rights issues.  And that’s why the dialogue I think is so important.  It sends a signal that at least there’s engagement between the two countries on these matters.

Now, I promised the President I would take one more question.  Andrea Mitchell of NBC.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Do you feel, after your meeting today, that you have made enough progress to even accelerate the pace and that the Cuban government is able to move quickly enough so that the changes that you have made through these technical adjustments to the embargo will be permanent, cannot be reversed by the next President?  And what advice have you given to President Castro about the ability of having the blockade, the embargo lifted?  Because he has said again today this is a continuous issue which is blocking progress, from their standpoint.

And you said the conversations about human rights were frank and candid and that you want to move forward.  But even as you were arriving, there were dramatic arrests of peaceful protests — the Ladies in White.  What signal does that send?  Can you have civilized coexistence at the same time you have such profound disagreements about the very definitions of what human rights means, as President Castro expressed today?

And for President Castro, for many of us, it’s remarkable to hear you speak about all these subjects.  Can you tell us what you see in the future?  President Obama has nine months remaining.  You have said you would be stepping down in 2018.  What is the future of our two countries, given the different definitions and the different interpretations of profound issues like democracy and human rights?

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, Andrea, the embargo is going to end.  When, I can’t be entirely sure, but I believe it will end.  And the path that we’re on will continue beyond my administration.  The reason is logic.  The reason is that what we did for 50 years did not serve our interests or the interests of the Cuban people. And as I said when we made the announcement about normalization of relations, if you keep on doing something over and over again for 50 years and it doesn’t work, it might make sense to try something new.

And that’s what we’ve done.  And the fact that there has been strong support not just inside of Congress, not just among the American people, but also among the Cuban people indicates that this is a process that should and will continue.

Having said that, lifting the embargo requires the votes of a majority in Congress, and maybe even more than a majority in the Senate.  And as I indicated to President Castro, two things I think will help accelerate the pace of bringing the embargo to an end.  The first is to the degree that we can take advantage of the existing changes that we’ve already made and we see progress, that will help to validate this change in policy.

So, for example, we have said that it is no longer a restriction on U.S. companies to invest in helping to build Internet and broadband infrastructure inside of Cuba.  It is not against U.S. law, as it’s been interpreted by the administration.  If we start seeing those kinds of commercial deals taking place and Cubans are benefitting from greater access to the Internet — and when I go to the entrepreneurship meeting later this afternoon, I understand that we’re going to meet some young Cubans who are already getting trained and are facile in using the Internet, they’re interested in startups — that builds a constituency for ending the embargo.  If we build on the work that we’re doing in agriculture, and you start seeing more U.S. farmers interacting with Cuban farmers, and there’s more exports and imports — that builds a constituency and the possibility of ending the embargo increases.  So hopefully taking advantage of what we’ve already done will help.

And the second area, which we’ve already discussed extensively, is the issue of human rights.  People are still concerned about that inside of Cuba.

Now, keep in mind I’ve got fierce disagreements with the Chinese around human rights.  I’ll be going to Vietnam later this year — I have deep disagreements with them as well.  When we first visited Burma, people questioned whether we should be traveling there because of longstanding human rights violations in our view.  And the approach that I’ve taken has been that if I engage frankly, clearly, stating what our beliefs are but also being clear that we can’t force change on any particular country — ultimately it has to come from within — then that is going to be a more useful strategy than the same kinds of rigid disengagement that for 50 years did nothing.

I guess ultimately what this comes down to, Andrea, is I have faith in people.  I think that if you meet Cubans here and Cubans meet Americans, and they’re meeting and talking and interacting and doing business together, and going to school together and learning from each other, then they’ll recognize people are people.  And in that context, I believe that change will occur.

Okay, now I’m done, but Señor Presidente, I think Andrea had a question for you just about your vision.  It’s up to you.  He did say he was only going to take one question and I was going to take two.  But I leave it up to you if you want to address that question.

Q    Por favor.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Andrea, she’s one of our most esteemed journalists in America, and I’m sure she’d appreciate just a short, brief answer.

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  Andrea —

Q    Mr. President.

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  (As interpreted.)  There is a program here to be fulfilled.  I know that if I stay here, you will ask 500 questions.  I said that I was going to answer one.  Well, I answered one and a half.  President Obama has already helped me out with the answer here, Andrea.

I was reading something about human rights, but I’m going to make the question to you now.  There are 61 international instruments recognized.  How many countries in the world comply with all the human rights and civil rights that have been included in these 61 instruments?  What country complies with them all?  Do you know how many?  I do.  None.

None, whatsoever.  Some countries comply some rights; others comply others.  And we are among these countries.  Out of these 61 instruments, Cuba has complied with 47 of these human rights instruments.  There are countries that may comply with more, there’s those that comply with less.

I think the human rights issue should not be politicized.  That is not correct.  That is a purpose that will stay the same way.  For example, for Cuba, the desire for all the rights.  Do you think there’s any more sacred right than the right to health, so that billions of children don’t die just for the lack of a vaccine or a drug or a medicament?  Do you agree with the right to free education for all those born anywhere in the world or in any country?  I think many countries don’t think this is a human right.  In Cuba, all children are born in a hospital and they are registered that same day, because when mothers are in advance pregnancy they go to hospitals days before, many days before delivery, so that all children are born in hospitals.  It doesn’t matter if they live in faraway places or in mountains or hills.  We have many other rights — a right to health, the right to education.

And this is my last example that I will mention.  Do you think that for equal work, men get better paid than women just for the fact of being women?  Well, in Cuba, women get the same pay for same work.  I can give you many, many examples.  I don’t think we can use the argument of human rights for political confrontation.  That is not fair.  It’s not correct.

I’m not saying that it’s not honest.  It’s part of confrontations, of course.  But let us work so that we can all comply with all human rights.  It’s like talking about pride — I’m going to end here because it’s a commitment that we should end in time.  It’s not correct to ask me about political prisoners in general.  Please give me the name of a political prisoner.

And I think this is enough.  We have concluded.  Thank you for your participation.

END               2:58 P.M. CST

—–

Political Headlines March 20, 2016: President Barack Obama’s schedule for trip to Havana, Cuba

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

PRESIDENCY, CONGRESS & CAMPAIGNS:

Obama’s schedule for trip to Havana, Cuba

Source: USA Today

SUNDAY

• Arrival at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, 4:50 p.m.
• Meet-and-greet at U.S. Embassy, 5:50 p.m.
• Family sight-seeing in Old Havana, including the Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana, 6:40 p.m.

MONDAY

• Wreath-laying at the José Marti Memorial, morning
• Official welcoming ceremony, Palace of the Revolution, morning
• Meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, morning
• Entrepreneurship summit, afternoon
• State Dinner at the Palace of the Revolution, evening

TUESDAY

• Address to the Cuban people at El Gran Teatro de Havana, morning
• Meeting with dissidents and civil society leaders, morning
• Baseball have between the Tampa Bay Rays at Cuban National Team at Estadio Latinoamericano, 2 p.m.
• Departure from Jose Marti International Airport en route to Buenos Aires, Argentina, afternoon

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