Full Text Political Transcripts May 7, 2017: Former President Barack Obama’s 2017 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Acceptance Speech

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA POST-PRESIDENCY:

Former President Barack Obama’s 2017 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Acceptance Speech

Source: Time, 5-7-17

Hello, everybody. Thank you so much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Please, everybody have a seat. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Well, first of all, thank you so much, Jack, for that really kind introduction. And I like the socks.

I also want to thank you and Rose and Tatiana and your dad for sharing Caroline with us the past few years as America’s ambassador to Japan.

Caroline, you, true to form, did your country proud, and I’m sure your father and mom would have been proudest of all. I sure was proud, and I’m grateful for your friendship.

I want to thank Ken Feinberg for his service as chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation these past 12 years. He also rendered outstanding service to my administration when we were dealing with the BP oil spill, 9/11. He has rendered public service again and again and again. We’re very grateful for him.

It is wonderful — it is wonderful to see Senators Markey and Senator Warren; my dear friend and former governor, Deval Patrick, and his lovely wife Diane; governors and members of Congress; Cardinal O’Malley; one of the finest secretary of states ever to represent America around the world, John Kerry, and Theresa; and the best vice president this country has ever known, Mr. Joe Biden.

I also want to thank Michelle Obama for after the presidency sticking with me because I think she felt an obligation to the country to stay on. But once her official duties were over, it wasn’t clear. I love my wife. And I’m grateful for her. And I do believe that it was America’s great good fortune to have her as first lady.

So I am humbled by this evening and to be honored by a family that has given this country so much, a family that’s challenged us to ask what we can do for our country, to dream and say why not, a secret cause that endures and to sail against the wind in its pursuit.

That’s what this family has done for America. And to all the members of the Kennedy family that are here tonight, thank you.

I could not be more grateful to the Profile in Courage Award Committee for this honor. I’m also grateful that, unlike the Nobel Prize Committee, you waited until I was out of office.

How fitting that we gather here this month, the 100th anniversary of President Kennedy’s birth. I was born the year he took office, which makes me 55 years old. Had he lived to finish two terms, he would have been just 51. And he remarked on that possibility once. “It has been suggested,” he said, “that whether I serve one or two terms in the presidency, I will find myself at the end of that period at what might be called the awkward age, too old to begin a career and too young to write my memoirs.”

Now, I hadn’t seen this quote when I wrote my first memoir at 33. I’m now in the middle of my second. Moreover, I expect to be busy if not with a second career then at least a second act. But it is true that I’m at the age, at that turn in the road, where one looks back as well as forward to remember one — where one has been, so it’s better to chart where one is going.

And one thing I’m certain is that I was lucky to be born into that new frontier, a new world, and a new generation of Americans. My life in many ways would not have been possible without the vision that John F. Kennedy etched into the character and hearts of America.

To those of us of a certain age, the Kennedys symbolized a set of values and attitudes about civic life that made it such an attractive calling. The idea that politics in fact could be a noble and worthwhile pursuit. The notion that our problems, while significant, are never insurmountable.

The belief that America’s promise might embrace those who had once been locked out or left behind and that opportunity and dignity would no longer be restricted to the few but extended to the many.

The responsibility that each of us have to play a part in our nation’s destiny, and by virtue of being Americans, play a part in the destiny of the world.
I can see truthfully that the example of Jack and Bobby Kennedy helped guide me into politics and that the guidance of Teddy Kennedy made me a better public servant once I arrived in Washington.

I have to imagine it would give them great pride to see a new generation of Kennedys, like Joe, carving their own proud paths in public service.

For whatever reasons I receive this award, whatever the scale, the challenges that we overcame, and the scope of progress we made over my presidency, it is worth pointing out that in many ways the times that President Kennedy confronted were far more perilous than the ones that we confront today.

He entered the Oval Office at just 43, only a few years after Khrushchev had threatened to bury America. Wars raged around the world. Large swaths of the country knew poverty far deeper and more widespread than we see today. A young preacher’s cause was just gaining traction against a land segregated not only by custom but by law.

And yet in that volatile tinderbox of a time, President Kennedy led with a steady hand, diffusing the most perilous moment of the cold war without firing a single shot and forcing the rights of young black men and women to study at the university of their choice. Unleashing a corps of young volunteers as ambassadors for peace in distant corners of the globe. Setting America’s sights on the moon precisely because it was hard, unwilling to consider the possibility that we might not win the space race because he had an unwavering faith in the character of the people that he led: resilient, optimistic, innovative, and courageous.

It’s worth remembering this, the times in which President Kennedy led us, because for many Americans I know that this feels like an uncertain and even perilous time. The forces of globalization and technology have upended many of our established assumptions about the economy. It provided a great opportunity and also a great inequality and uncertainty for far too many. Our politics remains filled with division and discord, and everywhere we see the risk of falling into the refuge of tribe and clan and anger at those who don’t look like us or have the same surnames or pray the way we do.

And at such moments, courage is necessary. At such moments, we need courage to stand up to hate not just in others but in ourselves. At such moments, we need the courage to stand up to dogma not just in others but in ourselves. At such moments, we need courage to believe that together we can tackle big challenges like inequality and climate change. At such moments, it’s necessary for us to show courage in challenging the status quo and in fighting the good fight but also show the courage to listen to one another and seek common ground and embrace principled compromise

Courage, President Kennedy knew, requires something more than just the absence of fear. Any fool can be fearless. Courage, true courage, derives from that sense of who we are, what are our best selves, what are our most important commitments, and the belief that we can dig deep and do hard things for the enduring benefit of others.

And that’s why JFK’s first inaugural still rings true. That’s why Bobby’s campaign still means so much. That’s why Teddy’s cause endures and we still love him so much.

Because of the tragedies that befell each of them, sometimes we forget how fundamentally the story they told us about ourselves changed the trajectory of America. And that’s often where courage begins, with the story we tell ourselves about who we are and what’s important and about our own capacity to make a difference.

We live in a time of great cynicism about our institutions. That’s one of the few things that Democrats and Republicans can agree on. It’s a cynicism that’s most corrosive when it comes to our system of self-government, that clouds our history of jagged, sometimes tentative but ultimately forward progress, that impedes our children’s ability to see in the noisy and often too trivial pursuits of politics the possibility of our democracy doing big things.

Of course, disdain for elected officials is not new, as many of you in the room can tell others. 60 years ago President Kennedy quoted a columnist in “Profiles in Courage” who had written, “People don’t give a damn what the average senator or congressman says. The reason they don’t care is that they know what you hear in Congress is 99 percent tripe, ignorance, and demagoguery and not to be relied upon.”

Which is perhaps a little harsh. 99 percent seems high. 85?

But President Kennedy also wrote that “the complication of public business and the competition for the public’s attention have obscured innumerable acts of political courage, large and small, performed almost daily.”

Innumerable acts of political courage large and small performed almost daily. And that is true. I’ve seen it. I’ve witnessed it.

I’ve been thinking on this notion of political courage this weekend, in particular about some of the men and women who were elected to Congress the same year I was elected to the White House. Many of them were new to Washington, their entire careers ahead of them. And in that very first term, they had to take tough vote after tough vote because we were in crisis.

They took votes to save the financial system and the economy, even when it was highly unpopular. They took votes to save the auto industry when even in Michigan people didn’t want to see bailouts. They took votes to crack down on abuses on Wall Street, despite pressure from lobbyists and sometimes their donors.

And they found themselves in the midst of a great debate, a debate that had been going on for decades, a debate that the Kennedy family had participated in and helped lead: a debate about whether a nation as wealthy as the United States of America would finally make healthcare not a privilege but a right for all Americans.

And there was a reason why healthcare reform had not been accomplished before. It was hard. It involved a sixth of the economy and all manner of stakeholders and interests. It was easily subject to misinformation and fearmongering.

And so by the time the vote came up to pass the Affordable Care Act, these freshmen congressmen and women knew that they had to make a choice. That they had a chance to insure millions and prevent untold worry and suffering and bankruptcy, and even death, but that this same vote would likely cost them their new seats, perhaps end their political careers.

And these men and women did the right thing. They did the hard thing. Theirs was a profile in courage. Because of that vote, 20 million people got health insurance who didn’t have it before.

And most of them — and most of them did lose their seats, but they were true to what President Kennedy defined in his book as a congressional profile in courage: the desire to maintain a reputation for integrity that is stronger than the desire to maintain office, the desire to maintain a reputation for integrity that is stronger than a desire to maintain office, a conscience, personal standard of ethics, integrity, morality that is stronger than the pressures of public disapproval or party disapproval, a faith that the right course would ultimately be vindicated, a faith that overcame fear of public reprisal.

It was a personal sacrifice. But I know, because I’ve spoken to many of them, that they thought and still think it was worth it.

As everyone here now knows, this great debate is not settled but continues. And it is my fervent hope and the hope of millions that regardless of party, such courage is still possible, that today’s members of Congress, regardless of party, are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth even when it contradicts party positions.

I hope that current members of Congress recall that it actually doesn’t take a lot of courage to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential. But it does require some courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm, those who often have no access to the corridors of power.

I hope they understand that courage means not simply doing what is politically expedient but doing what they believe deep in their hearts is right. And this kind of courage is required from all of us. Those of us who consider ourselves progressives, those of us who are Democrats, we’ve got some soul-searching to do to see what kind of coverage we show. We have our own dogmas.
Those of us not in elected office have to show some courage. And we’re prone to bestow the mantel of courage too easily on the prominent and the powerful and then too eager to wrap ourselves in cynicism when they let us down because they weren’t perfect.

We lose sight sometimes of our own obligations, each of ours, all the quiet acts of courage that unfold around us every single day, ordinary Americans who give something of themselves not for personal gain but for the enduring benefit of another. The courage of a single mom who is working two jobs to make sure her kid can go to college. The courage of a small business owner who’s keeping folks on the payroll because he knows the family relies on it, even if it’s not always the right thing to do bottom line. The courage of somebody who volunteers to help some kids who need help.

When we recognize these acts of courage, we then necessarily recognize our own responsibility as citizens and as part of the human family to get involved and to get engaged and to take a stand, to vote, to pay attention.

I’m reminded of a story that Teddy once told me about his experiences many years ago when Teddy, Junior, now state Senator Ted Kennedy, Junior, was sleeping after one of his cancer treatments.

And Ted would wander the halls of the hospital and talk with other parents, keeping vigil over their own children. These parents lived in constant fear of what might happen if they couldn’t afford the next treatment. Some calculating in their own minds what they might have to sell or borrow just to make it for a few more months, some bargaining with God for whatever they could get.

And right there in the quiet of night, working people of modest means and one of the most powerful men in America shared the same intimate and immediate sense of helplessness.

And Ted could, of course, afford his son’s treatment. But it was that quiet dignified courage of others to endure the most frightening thing imaginable and to do what it takes on behalf of their loved ones that compelled Teddy to make those parents his cause, not out of self-interest but out of a selfless concern for those who suffer.

That’s what the ordinary courage of everyday people can inspire when you’re paying attention, the quiet sturdy courage of ordinary people doing the right thing day in and day out. They don’t get attention for it. They don’t seek it. They don’t get awards for it. But that’s what’s defined America.

I think of women like my grandmother and so many like her who worked their way up from a secretarial pool to management and in the process pushed the glass ceiling just a little bit higher.

I think about people like Michelle’s dad who, despite MS, got up every single morning. Had to wake up an hour early to button his shirt up and put on his clothes and take those two canes he used and go to work every single day to make sure that he was supporting his family, not missing a dance recital or a basketball game.

I think of the troops and the cops and the first responders that I’ve met who have put themselves at risk for strangers they will never know. And business owners who make every kind of sacrifice they can to make sure that their workers have a shot. And workers who take the risk of starting a new career, retraining at my age. Kids in the Peace Corps working to build bridges of understanding in other nations and spread the same values that helped bring down an iron curtain, banish the scourge of apartheid, expand the boundaries of human freedom.

I think of dreamers who suppress their fears to keep working and striving in the only country they’ve ever called home. And every American who stands up for immigrants because they know that their parents or grandparents or great grandparents were immigrants too, and they know that America is an idea that only grows stronger with each new person who adopts our common creed.

I think of every young activist who answers the injustices still embedded in our criminal justice system not with violence, not with despair, but with peaceful protests and analysis and constructive recommendations for change.

I think of the powerless who crossed a bridge in Selma and discovered they had power. Those who gathered at Stonewall and discovered they had a voice. Those who marched on Washington because they believed that they, without an army, without great wealth, could somehow change the very fabric of the greatest power on earth and kept on until they stretched the lofty ideals of our founding to encircle everyone.

Every citizen inspired by that history who dips their toes in the water of active democracy for the first time and musters up the determination to try and fail and try again, and sometimes fail again and still try again, knowing their efforts aren’t always rewarded right away, because they believe in that upward trajectory of the American story, a story that nobody told better than John F. Kennedy.

That very Kennedyesque idea that America is not the project of any one person and that each of us can make a difference and all of us ought to try. That quiet sturdy citizenship that I see all across the country and that I especially see in young people like Jack and Rose and Tatiana, Malia and Sasha, and your kids.

I don’t know whether President Kennedy’s aide and friend, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., was right when he wrote that history unfolds in cycles, but I do know that it doesn’t move in a straight line.

I know that the values and the progress that we cherish are not inevitable, that they are fragile, in need of constant renewal.

I’ve said before that I believe what
Dr. King said, that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” but I’ve also said it does not bend on its own. It bends because we bend it, because we put our hand on that arch, and we move it in the direction of justice and freedom and equality and kindness and generosity. It doesn’t happen on its own.

And so we are constantly having to make a choice because progress is fragile. And it’s precisely that fragility, that impermanence, that is a precondition of the quality of character that we celebrate tonight.

If the vitality of our democracy, if the gains of our long journey to freedom were assured, none of us would ever have to be courageous. None of us would have to risk anything to protect them. But it’s in its very precariousness that courage becomes possible and absolutely necessary.

John F. Kennedy knew that our best hope and our most powerful answer to our doubts and to our fears lies inside each of us, in our willingness to joyfully embrace our responsibility as citizens, to stay true to our allegiance, to our highest and best ideals, to maintain our regard and concern for the poor and the aging and the marginalized, to put our personal or party interest aside when duty to our country calls or when conscience demands.

That’s the spirit that has brought America so far and that’s the spirit that will always carry us to better days.

And I take this honor that you have bestowed on me here tonight as a reminder that, even out of office, I must do all that I can to advance the spirit of service that John F. Kennedy represents.

Thank you all very much. May God bless you. May he bless these United States of America.

Thank you.

Full Text Political Transcripts April 24 2017: Former President Barack Obama’s First Post-Presidential Speech at the University of Chicago

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA POST-PRESIDENCY:

Former President Barack Obama’s First Post-Presidential Remarks at the University of Chicago

Source: Time, 4-24-17

Thank you. Hey! Thank you. Everybody have a seat. Have a seat. So what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?

It is wonderful to be home. It is wonderful to be at the University of Chicago. It is wonderful to be on the south side of Chicago. And it is wonderful to be with these young people here. And what I want to do is just maybe speak very briefly at the top about why we’re here and then I want to spend most of the time that we’re together hearing from these remarkable young people who are I think representative of some amazing young people who are in the audience as well.

I was telling these guys that it was a little over 30 years ago that I came to Chicago. I was 25 years old. I had gotten out of college filled with idealism and absolutely certain that somehow I was going to change the world. But I had no idea how or where or what I was going to be doing. And so I worked first to pay off some student loans. And then I went to work at the City Colleges of New York on their Harlem campus with some student organizing.

And then there were a group of churches out on the south side who had come together to try to deal with the steel plants that had closed in the area and the economic devastation that had been taking place, but also the racial tensions and turnover that was happening. They formed an organization and hired me as a community organizer. I did not really know what that meant or how to do it. But I accepted the job.

And for the next three years I lived right here in Hyde Park but I worked in communities like Roseland and Pullman. Working class neighborhoods. Many of which had changed rapidly from white to black in the late ’60s, ’70s. And full of wonderful people who were proud of their communities, proud of the steps they had taken to try to move into the middle class, but were also worried about their futures, because in some cases their kids weren’t doing as well as they had. In some cases these communities have been badly neglected for a very long time. The distribution of city services were unequal. Schools were underfunded. There was a lack of opportunity. And for three years I tried to do something about it. And I am the first to acknowledge that I did not set the world on fire. Nor did I transform these communities in any significant way, although we did some good things. But it did change me.

This community gave me a lot more than I was able to give in return, because this community taught me that ordinary people, when working together, can do extraordinary things. This community taught me that everybody has a story to tell. That is important. This experience taught me that beneath the surface differences of people that there were common hopes and common dreams and common aspirations. Common values. That stitched us together as Americans. And so even though I, after three years, left for law school, the lessons that had been taught to me here as an organizer are ones that stayed with me. And effectively gave me the foundation for my subsequent political career and the themes that I would talk about as a state legislator and as a U.S. Senator and ultimately as president of the United States.

Now, I tell you that history because on the back end now of my presidency, now that it’s completed, I’m spending a lot of time thinking about what is the most important thing I can do for my next job? And what I’m convinced of is that although there are all kinds of issues that I care about and all kinds of issues that I intend to work on, the single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world. Because the one thing that I’m absolutely convinced of is that yes, we confront a whole range of challenges from economic inequality and lack of opportunity to a criminal justice system that too often is skewed in ways that are unproductive to climate change to, you know, issues related to violence. All those problems are serious. They’re daunting. But they’re not insolvable.

What is preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and our civic life. It has to do with the fact that because of things like political gerrymandering our parties have moved further and further apart and it’s harder and harder to find common ground. Because of money and politics.

Special interests dominate the debates in Washington in ways that don’t match up with what the broad majority of Americans feel. Because of changes in the media, we now have a situation in which everybody’s listening to people who already agree with them and are further and further reinforcing their own realities to the neglect of a common reality that allows us to have a healthy debate and then try to find common ground and actually move solutions forward.

And so when I said in 2004 that red states or blue states, they’re the United States of America, that was aspirational comment, but I think it’s―and it’s one that I still believe, that when you talk to individuals one-on-one, people, there’s a lot more people that have in common than divides them. But honestly it’s not true when it comes to our politics and civic life.

Maybe more pernicious is people are not involved and they give up. As a consequence, we have some of the lowest voting rates of any democracy and low participation rates than translate into a further gap between who’s governing us and what we believe.

The only folks who are going to be able to solve that problem are going to be young people, the next generation. And I have been encouraged everywhere I go in the United States, but also everywhere around the world to see how sharp and astute and tolerant and thoughtful and entrepreneurial our young people are. A lot more sophisticated than I was at their age. And so the question then becomes what are the ways in which we can create pathways for them to take leadership, for them to get involved? Are there ways in which we can knock down some of the barriers that are discouraging young people about a life of service? And if there are, I want to work with them to knock down those barriers. And to get this next generation and to accelerate their move towards leadership. Because if that happens, I think we’re going to be just fine.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 30, 2017: Former President Barack Obama’s Statement on President Donald Trump’s Immigration Order

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Former President Barack Obama’s Statement on President Donald Trump’s Immigration Order Supporting Protests

President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country. In his final official speech as President, he spoke about the important role of citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy — not just during an election but every day.

Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.

With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 19, 2017: Final West Wing Week 01/19/17 or, “Obama, Farewell”

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

The Obama Administration’s Final — and 388th — episode of West Wing Week

Full Text Political Transcripts January 19, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Departing Letter to the American People

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s Departing Letter to the American People

Thank You

Source: WH, 1-19-17

Summary:
I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th President.

Editor’s note: President Obama sent this final message to the White House email list this morning. 


My fellow Americans,

It’s a long-standing tradition for the sitting president of the United States to leave a parting letter in the Oval Office for the American elected to take his or her place. It’s a letter meant to share what we know, what we’ve learned, and what small wisdom may help our successor bear the great responsibility that comes with the highest office in our land, and the leadership of the free world.

But before I leave my note for our 45th president, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th. Because all that I’ve learned in my time in office, I’ve learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

Throughout these eight years, you have been the source of goodness, resilience, and hope from which I’ve pulled strength. I’ve seen neighbors and communities take care of each other during the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. I have mourned with grieving families searching for answers — and found grace in a Charleston church.

I’ve taken heart from the hope of young graduates and our newest military officers. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and wounded warriors once given up for dead walk again. I’ve seen Americans whose lives have been saved because they finally have access to medical care, and families whose lives have been changed because their marriages are recognized as equal to our own. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees, or work for peace, and, above all, to look out for each other.

I’ve seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humor, and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I’ve seen our future unfolding.

All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work — the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.

I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.

And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We the People.’ ‘We shall overcome.’

Yes, we can.

And if you’d like to stay connected, you can sign up here to keeping getting updates from me.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 18, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at his Final Press Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Final Press Conference

Source: WH, 1-18-17

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:24 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Let me start out by saying that I was sorely tempted to wear a tan suit today — (laughter) — for my last press conference.  But Michelle, whose fashion sense is a little better than mine, tells me that’s not appropriate in January.

I covered a lot of the ground that I would want to cover in my farewell address last week.  So I’m just going to say a couple of quick things before I start taking questions.

First, we have been in touch with the Bush family today, after hearing about President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush being admitted to the hospital this morning.  They have not only dedicated their lives to this country, they have been a constant source of friendship and support and good counsel for Michelle and me over the years.  They are as fine a couple as we know.  And so we want to send our prayers and our love to them.  Really good people.

Second thing I want to do is to thank all of you.  Some of you have been covering me for a long time — folks like Christi and Win.  Some of you I’ve just gotten to know.  We have traveled the world together.  We’ve hit a few singles, a few doubles together.  I’ve offered advice that I thought was pretty sound, like “don’t do stupid…stuff.”  (Laughter.)  And even when you complained about my long answers, I just want you to know that the only reason they were long was because you asked six-part questions.  (Laughter.)

But I have enjoyed working with all of you.  That does not, of course, mean that I’ve enjoyed every story that you have filed.  But that’s the point of this relationship.  You’re not supposed to be sycophants, you’re supposed to be skeptics.  You’re supposed to ask me tough questions.  You’re not supposed to be complimentary, but you’re supposed to cast a critical eye on folks who hold enormous power and make sure that we are accountable to the people who sent us here.

And you have done that.  And you’ve done it, for the most part, in ways that I could appreciate for fairness even if I didn’t always agree with your conclusions.  And having you in this building has made this place work better.  It keeps us honest.  It makes us work harder.  It made us think about how we are doing what we do and whether or not we’re able to deliver on what’s been requested by our constituents.

And for example, every time you’ve asked “why haven’t you cured Ebola yet,” or “why is that still that hole in the Gulf,” it has given me the ability to go back to my team and say, “will you get this solved before the next press conference?”  (Laughter.)

I spent a lot of time in my farewell address talking about the state of our democracy.  It goes without saying that essential to that is a free press.  That is part of how this place, this country, this grand experiment in self-government has to work.  It doesn’t work if we don’t have a well-informed citizenry.  And you are the conduit through which they receive the information about what’s taking place in the halls of power.

So America needs you, and our democracy needs you.  We need you to establish a baseline of facts and evidence that we can use as a starting point for the kind of reasoned and informed debates that ultimately lead to progress.  And so my hope is, is that you will continue with the same tenacity that you showed us to do the hard work of getting to the bottom of stories and getting them right, and to push those of us in power to be the best version of ourselves.  And to push this country to be the best version of itself.

I have no doubt that you will do so.  I’m looking forward to being an active consumer of your work rather than always the subject of it.  I want to thank you all for your extraordinary service to our democracy.

And with that, I will take some questions.  And I will start with Jeff Mason — whose term apparently is not up.  I thought we’d be going out together, brother, but you got to hang around for a while.  (Laughter.)

Q    I’m staying put.

THE PRESIDENT:  Jeff Mason, Reuters.

Q    Thank you, sir.  Are you concerned, Mr. President, that commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence will send a message that leaking classified material will not generate a tough sentence to groups like WikiLeaks?  How do you reconcile that in light of WikiLeaks’ connection to Russia’s hacking in last year’s election?  And related to that, Julian Assange has now offered to come to the United States.  Are you seeking that?  And would he be charged or arrested if he came here?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, let’s be clear, Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence.  So the notion that the average person who was thinking about disclosing vital, classified information would think that it goes unpunished I don’t think would get that impression from the sentence that Chelsea Manning has served.

It has been my view that given she went to trial, that due process was carried out, that she took responsibility for her crime, that the sentence that she received was very disproportional — disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received, and that she had served a significant amount of time, that it made it sense to commute — and not pardon — her sentence.

And I feel very comfortable that justice has been served and that a message has still been sent that when it comes to our national security, that wherever possible, we need folks who may have legitimate concerns about the actions of government or their superiors or the agencies in which they work — that they try to work through the established channels and avail themselves of the whistleblower protections that had been put in place.

I recognize that there’s some folks who think they’re not enough, and I think all of us, when we’re working in big institutions, may find ourselves at times at odds with policies that are set.  But when it comes to national security, we’re often dealing with people in the field whose lives may be put at risk, or the safety and security and the ability of our military or our intelligence teams or embassies to function effectively.  And that has to be kept in mind.

So with respect to WikiLeaks, I don’t see a contradiction.  First of all, I haven’t commented on WikiLeaks, generally.  The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC emails that were leaked.

I don’t pay a lot of attention to Mr. Assange’s tweets, so that wasn’t a consideration in this instance.  And I’d refer you to the Justice Department for any criminal investigations, indictments, extradition issues that may come up with him.

What I can say broadly is that, in this new cyber age, we’re going to have to make sure that we continually work to find the right balance of accountability and openness and transparency that is the hallmark of our democracy, but also recognize that there are adversaries and bad actors out there who want to use that same openness in ways that hurt us — whether that’s in trying to commit financial crimes, or trying to commit acts of terrorism, or folks who want to interfere with our elections.

And we’re going to have to continually build the kind of architecture that makes sure the best of our democracy is preserved; that our national security and intelligence agencies have the ability to carry out policy without advertising to our adversaries what it is that we’re doing, but do so in a way that still keeps citizens up to speed on what their government is doing on their behalf.

But with respect to Chelsea Manning, I looked at the particulars of this case the same way I have for the other commutations and pardons that I’ve done, and I felt that in light of all the circumstances that commuting her sentence was entirely appropriate.

Margaret Brennan.

Q    Mr. President, thank you.  The President-elect has said that he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia if they substantially reduced their nuclear stockpile.  Given your own efforts at arms control, do you think that’s an effective strategy?  Knowing this office and Mr. Trump, how would you advise his advisors to help him be effective when he deals with Vladimir Putin?  And given your actions recently on Russia, do you think those sanctions should be viewed as leverage?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, a couple of things.  Number one, I think it is in America’s interest and the world’s interest that we have a constructive relationship with Russia.  That’s been my approach throughout my presidency.  Where our interests have overlapped, we’ve worked together.  At the beginning of my term, I did what I could to encourage Russia to be a constructive member of the international community, and tried to work with the President and the government of Russia in helping them diversify their economy, improve their economy, use the incredible talents of the Russian people in more constructive ways.

I think it’s fair to say that after President Putin came back into the presidency that an escalating anti-American rhetoric and an approach to global affairs that seemed to be premised on the idea that whatever America is trying to do must be bad for Russia and so we want to try and counteract whatever they do — that return to an adversarial spirit that I think existed during the Cold War has made the relationship more difficult.  And it was hammered home when Russia went into Crimea and portions of Ukraine.

The reason we imposed the sanctions, recall, was not because of nuclear weapons issues.  It was because the independence and sovereignty of a country, Ukraine, had been encroached upon, by force, by Russia.  That wasn’t our judgment; that was the judgment of the entire international community.  And Russia continues to occupy Ukrainian territory and meddle in Ukrainian affairs and support military surrogates who have violated basic international law and international norms.

What I’ve said to the Russians is, as soon as you’ve stop doing that the sanctions will be removed.  And I think it would probably best serve not only American interest but also the interest of preserving international norms if we made sure that we don’t confuse why these sanctions have been imposed with a whole set of other issues.

On nuclear issues, in my first term we negotiated the START II treaty. and that has substantially reduced our nuclear stockpiles, both Russia and the United States.  I was prepared to go further.  I told President Putin I was prepared to go further.  They have been unwilling to negotiate.  If President-elect Trump is able to restart those talks in a serious way, I think there remains a lot of room for our two countries to reduce our stockpiles.  And part of the reason we’ve been successful on our nonproliferation agenda and on our nuclear security agenda is because we were leading by example.

I hope that continues.  But I think it’s important just to remember that the reason sanctions have been put in place against Russia has to do with their actions in Ukraine.  And it is important for the United States to stand up for the basic principle that big countries don’t go around and invade and bully smaller countries.  I’ve said before, I expect Russia and Ukraine to have a strong relationship.  They are, historically, bound together in all sorts of cultural and social ways.  But Ukraine is an independent country.

And this is a good example of the vital role that America has to continue to play around the world in preserving basic norms and values, whether it’s advocating on behalf of human rights, advocating on behalf of women’s rights, advocating on behalf of freedom of the press.

The United States has not always been perfect in this regard.  There are times where we, by necessity, are dealing with allies or friends or partners who, themselves, are not meeting the standards that we would like to see met when it comes to international rules and norms.  But I can tell you that in every multilateral setting — in the United Nations, in the G20, in the G7 — the United States typically has been on the right side of these issues.  And it is important for us to continue to be on the right side of these issues, because if we, the largest, strongest country and democracy in the world, are not willing to stand up on behalf of these values, then certainly China, Russia, and others will not.

Kevin Corke.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You have been a strong supporter of the idea of a peaceful transfer of power, demonstrated not terribly far from the Rose Garden.  And yet, even as you and I speak, there are more than five dozen Democrats that are going to boycott the inauguration of the incoming President.  Do you support that?  And what message would you send to Democrats to better demonstrate the peaceful transfer of power?

And if I could follow, I wanted to ask you about your conversations with the President-elect previously.  And without getting into too much of the personal side of it, I’m just curious, were you able to use that opportunity to convince him to take a fresh look at some of the important ideas that you will leave this office with — maintaining some semblance of the Affordable Care Act, some idea of keeping DREAMers here in the country without fear of deportation.  Were you able to use personal stories to try to convince him?  And how successful were you?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I won’t go into details of my conversations with President-elect Trump.  As I’ve said before, they are cordial.  At times they’ve been fairly lengthy and they’ve been substantive.  I can’t tell you how convincing I’ve been.  I think you’d had to ask him whether I’ve been convincing or not.

I have offered my best advice, counsel about certain issues both foreign and domestic.  And my working assumption is, is that having won an election opposed to a number of my initiatives and certain aspects of my vision for where the country needs to go, it is appropriate for him to go forward with his vision and his values.  And I don’t expect that there’s going to be enormous overlap.

It may be that on certain issues, once he comes into office and he looks at the complexities of how to, in fact, provide health care for everybody — something he says he wants to do — or wants to make sure that he is encouraging job creation and wage growth in this country, that that may lead him to some of the same conclusions that I arrived at once I got here.

But I don’t think we’ll know until he has an actual chance to get sworn in and sit behind that desk.  And I think a lot of his views are going to be shaped by his advisors, the people around him — which is why it’s important to pay attention to these confirmation hearings.

I can tell you that — and this is something I have told him — that this is a job of such magnitude that you can’t do it by yourself.  You are enormously reliant on a team.  Your Cabinet, your senior White House staff, all the way to fairly junior folks in their 20s and 30s, but who are executing on significant responsibilities.

And so how you put a team together to make sure that they’re getting you the best information and they are teeing up the options from which you will ultimately make decisions, that’s probably the most useful advice, the most constructive advice that I’ve been able to give him.  That if you find yourself isolated because the process breaks down, or if you’re only hearing from people who agree with you on everything, or if you haven’t created a process that is fact-checking and probing and asking hard questions about policies or promises that you’ve made, that’s when you start making mistakes.  And as I indicated in some of my previous remarks, reality has a way of biting back if you’re not paying attention to it.

With respect to the inauguration, I’m not going to comment on those issues.  All I know is I’m going to be there.  So is Michelle.  And I have been checking the weather, and I’m heartened by the fact that it won’t be as cold as my first inauguration — (laughter) — because that was cold.

Jen Rodriguez.

Q    Right here, Mr. President.  Thank you very much.  You have said that you would come back to fight for the DREAMers.  You said that a couple of weeks ago.  Are you fearful for the status of those DREAMers, the future of the young immigrants and all immigrants in this country with the new administration?  And what did you mean when you said you would come back?  Would you lobby Congress?  Maybe explore the political arena again?  And if I may ask you a second question — why did you take action on “dry foot, wet foot” a week ago?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me be absolutely clear.  I did not mean that I was going to be running for anything anytime soon.  (Laughter.)  What I meant is that it’s important for me to take some time to process this amazing experience that we’ve gone through; to make sure that my wife, with whom I will be celebrating a 25th anniversary this year, is willing to re-up and put up with me for a little bit longer.  I want to do some writing.  I want to be quiet a little bit and not hear myself talk so darn much.  I want to spend precious time with my girls.

So those are my priorities this year.  But as I said before, I’m still a citizen.  And I think it is important for Democrats or progressives who feel that they came out on the wrong side of this election to be able to distinguish between the normal back-and-forth, ebb and flow of policy — are we going to raise taxes or are we going to lower taxes; are we going to expand this program or eliminate this program; how concerned are we about air pollution or climate change.  Those are all normal parts of the debate.  And as I’ve said before, in a democracy, sometimes you’re going to win on those issues and sometimes you’re going to lose.

I’m confident about the rightness of my positions on a lot of these points, but we got a new President and a Congress that are going to make their same determinations.  And there will be a back-and-forth in Congress around those issues, and you guys will report on all that.

But there’s difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake.  I put in that category, if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion.  I’d put in that category, explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise.  I’d put in that category, institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press.

And for me, at least, I would put in that category, efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them someplace else when they love this country; they are our kids’ friends and their classmates, and are now entering into community colleges or, in some cases, serving in our military.  The notion that we would just arbitrarily, or because of politics, punish those kids when they didn’t do anything wrong themselves I think would be something that would merit me speaking out.  It doesn’t mean that I would get on the ballot anywhere.

With respect to “wet foot, dry foot,” we underwent a monumental shift in our policy towards Cuba.  My view was, after 50 years of a policy not working, it made sense for us to try to reopen diplomatic relations, to engage a Cuban government, to be honest with them about the strong disagreements we have around political repression and treatment of dissenters and freedom of press and freedom of religion, but that to make progress for the Cuban people, our best shot was to suddenly have the Cuban people interacting with Americans, and seeing the incredible success of the Cuban American community, and engaging in commerce and business and trade, and that it was through that process of opening up these bilateral relations that you would see over time serious and significant improvement.

Given that shift in the relationship, the policy that we had in place was “wet foot, dry foot,” which treated Cuban emigres completely different from folks from El Salvador, or Guatemala, or Nicaragua, or any other part of the world, one that made a distinction between whether you got here by land or by foot — that was a carryover of a old way of thinking that didn’t make sense in this day and age, particularly as we’re opening up travel between the two countries.

And so we had very lengthy consultations with the Department of Homeland Security.  We had some tough negotiations with the Cuban government.  But we arrived at a policy which we think is both fair and appropriate to the changing nature of the relationship between the two countries.

Nadia Bilbassy.

Q    Thank you, sir.  I appreciate the opportunity, and I want you and your family best of luck in the future.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Q    Mr. President, you have been criticized and even personally attacked for the U.N. Security Council resolution that considered the Israeli settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace.  Mr. Trump promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem.  He appointed an ambassador that doesn’t believe in the two-state solution.  How worried are you about the U.S. leadership in the Arab world and beyond as an honest broker?  Will this ignite a third intifada?  Will this even protect Israel?  And in retrospect, do you think that you should have held Israel more accountable, like President Bush, Senior, did with the loan guarantees?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I continue to be significantly worried about the Israeli-Palestinian issue.  And I’m worried about it both because I think the status quo is unsustainable, that it is dangerous for Israel, that it is bad for Palestinians, it is bad for the region, and it is bad for America’s national security.

And I came into this office wanting to do everything I could to encourage serious peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.  And we invested a lot of energy, a lot of time, a lot of effort, first year, second year, all the way until last year.  Ultimately, what has always been clear is that we cannot force the parties to arrive at peace.  What we can do is facilitate, provide a platform, encourage.  But we can’t force them to do it.

But in light of shifts in Israeli politics and Palestinian politics; a rightward drift in Israeli politics; a weakening of President Abbas’s ability to move and take risks on behalf of peace in the Palestinian Territories; in light of all the dangers that have emerged in the region and the understandable fears that Israelis may have about the chaos and rise of groups like ISIL and the deterioration of Syria — in light of all those things, what we at least wanted to do, understanding that the two parties wouldn’t actually arrive at a final status agreement, is to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution.  Because we do not see an alternative to it.

And I’ve said this directly to Prime Minister Netanyahu.  I’ve said it inside of Israel.  I’ve said it to Palestinians, as well.  I don’t see how this issues gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy, because if you do not have two states, then in some form or fashion you are extending an occupation, functionally you end up having one state in which millions of people are disenfranchised and operate as second-class occupant — residents.  You can’t even call them citizens, necessarily.

And so the goal of the resolution was to simply say that the settlements — the growth of the settlements are creating a reality on the ground that increasingly will make a two-state solution impossible.  And we believed, consistent with the position that had been taken with previous U.S. administrations for decades now, that it was important for us to send a signal, a wake-up call, that this moment may be passing, and Israeli voters and Palestinians need to understand that this moment may be passing.  And hopefully that, then, creates a debate inside both Israeli and Palestinian communities that won’t result immediately in peace, but at least will lead to a more sober assessment of what the alternatives are.

So the President-elect will have his own policy.  The ambassador — or the candidate for the ambassadorship obviously has very different views than I do.  That is their prerogative. That’s part of what happens after elections.  And I think my views are clear.  We’ll see how their approach plays itself out.

I don’t want to project today what could end up happening, but obviously it’s a volatile environment.  What we’ve seen in the past is, when sudden, unilateral moves are made that speak to some of the core issues and sensitivities of either side, that can be explosive.  And what we’ve tried to do in the transition is just to provide the context in which the President-elect may want to make some of these decisions.

Q    Are you worried that this (inaudible) —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s part of what we’ve tried to indicate to the incoming team in our transition process, is pay attention to this, because this is volatile stuff.  People feel deeply and passionately about this.  And as I’ve said I think many times, the actions that we take have enormous consequences and ramifications.

We’re the biggest kid on the block.  And I think it is right and appropriate for a new President to test old assumptions and reexamine the old ways of doing things.  But if you’re going to make big shifts in policy, just make sure you’ve thought it through, and understand that there are going to be consequences, and actions typically create reactions, and so you want to be intentional about it.  You don’t want to do things off the cuff when it comes to an issue this volatile.

Chris Johnson.

Q    On LGBT rights —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, where is Chris?

Q    I’m right here in the back.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, didn’t see you.

Q    On LGBT rights, we’ve seen a lot of achievements over the past eight years, including signing hate crimes protection legislation, “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, marriage equality nationwide, and ensuring transgender people feel visible and accepted.  How do you think LGBT rights will rank in terms of your accomplishments and your legacy?  And how confident are you that progress will endure or continue under the President-elect?

THE PRESIDENT:  I could not be prouder of the transformation that’s taken place in our society just in the last decade.  And I’ve said before, I think we made some useful contributions to it, but the primary heroes in this stage of our growth as a democracy and a society are all the individual activists, and sons and daughters and couples who courageously said, this is who I am and I’m proud of it.

And that opened people’s minds and opened their hearts.  And, eventually, laws caught up.  But I don’t think any of that would have happened without the activism — in some cases, loud and noisy, but in some cases, just quiet and very personal.

And I think that what we did as an administration was to help the society to move in a better direction, but to do so in a way that didn’t create an enormous backlash, and was systematic and respectful of the fact that, in some cases, these issues were controversial.

I think the way we handled, for example, “don’t ask, don’t tell” — being methodical about it, working with the Joint Chiefs, making sure that we showed this would not have an impact on the effectiveness of the greatest military on Earth — and then to have Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Chairman Mike Mullen and a Joint Chiefs who were open to evidence and ultimately worked with me to do the right thing — I am proud of that.  But, again, none of that would have happened without this incredible transformation that was happening in society out there.

You know, when I gave Ellen the Presidential Medal of Freedom, I meant what I said.  I think somebody that kind and likeable projecting into living rooms around the country — that changed attitudes.  And that wasn’t easy to do for her.  And that’s just one small example of what was happening in countless communities all across the country.

So I’m proud that in certain places we maybe provided a good block downfield to help the movement advance.

I don’t think it is something that will be reversible because American society has changed; the attitudes of young people, in particular, have changed.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be some fights that are important — legal issues, issues surrounding transgender persons — there are still going to be some battles that need to take place.

But if you talk to young people of Malia, Sasha’s generation, even if they’re Republicans, even if they’re conservative, many of them would tell you, I don’t understand how you would discriminate against somebody because of sexual orientation.  That’s just sort of burned into them in pretty powerful ways.

April Ryan.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Long before today you’ve been considered a rights President.  Under your watch, people have said that you have expanded the rubber band of inclusion.  And with the election and the incoming administration, people are saying that rubber band has recoiled and maybe is even broken.  And I’m taking you back to a time on Air Force One going to Selma, Alabama, when you said your job was to close the gaps that remain.  And with that, what gaps still remain when it comes to rights issues on the table?  And also what part will you play in fixing those gaps after — in your new life?

And lastly, you are the first black President.  Do you expect this country to see this again?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ll answer the last question first.  I think we’re going to see people of merit rise up from every race, faith, corner of this country, because that’s America’s strength.  When we have everybody getting a chance and everybody is on the field, we end up being better.

I think I’ve used this analogy before.  We killed it in the Olympics in Brazil.  And Michelle and I, we always have our — the Olympic team here.  And it’s a lot of fun, first of all, just because anytime you’re meeting somebody who is the best at anything, it’s impressive.  And these mostly very young people are all just so healthy-looking, and they just beam and exude fitness and health.  And so we have a great time talking to them.

But they are of all shapes, sizes, colors — the genetic diversity that is on display is remarkable.  And if you look at a Simone Biles, and then you look at a Michael Phelps, they’re completely different.  And it’s precisely because of those differences that we’ve got people here who can excel at any sport.

And, by the way, more than half of our medals came from women.  And the reason is, is because we had the foresight several decades ago, with something called Title 9, to make sure that women got opportunities in sports, which is why our women compete better — because they have more opportunities than folks in other countries.

So I use that as a metaphor.  And if, in fact, we continue to keep opportunity open to everybody, then, yes, we’re going to have a woman President, we’re going to have a Latino President, and we’ll have a Jewish President, a Hindu President.  Who knows who we’re going to have?  I suspect we’ll have a whole bunch of mixed-up Presidents at some point that nobody really knows what to call them.  (Laughter.)  And that’s fine.

But what do I worry about?  I obviously spent a lot of time on this, April, at my farewell address on Tuesday, so I won’t go through the whole list.  I worry about inequality, because I think that if we are not investing in making sure everybody plays a role in this economy, the economy will not grow as fast, and I think it will also lead to further and further separation between us as Americans — not just along racial lines.  There are a whole bunch of folks who voted for the President-elect because they feel forgotten and disenfranchised.  They feel as if they’re being looked down on.  They feel as if their kids aren’t going to have the same opportunities as they did.

And you don’t want to have an America in which a very small sliver of people are doing really well and everybody else is fighting for scraps, as I said last week.  Because that’s oftentimes when racial divisions get magnified, because people think, well, the only way I’m going to get ahead is if I make sure somebody else gets less, somebody who doesn’t look like me or doesn’t worship at the same place I do.  That’s not a good recipe for our democracy.

I worry about, as I said in response to a previous question, making sure that the basic machinery of our democracy works better.  We are the only country in the advanced world that makes it harder to vote rather than easier.  And that dates back — there’s an ugly history to that that we should not be shy about talking about.

Q    Voting rights?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, I’m talking about voting rights.  The reason that we are the only country among advanced democracies that makes it harder to vote is it traces directly back to Jim Crow and the legacy of slavery.  And it became sort of acceptable to restrict the franchise.  And that’s not who we are.  That shouldn’t be who we are.  That’s not when America works best.

So I hope that people pay a lot of attention to making sure that everybody has a chance to vote.  Make it easier, not harder.  This whole notion of election — of voting fraud, this is something that has constantly been disproved.  This is fake news — the notion that there are a whole bunch of people out there who are going out there and are not eligible to vote and want to vote.  We have the opposite problem.  We have a whole bunch of people who are eligible to vote who don’t vote.  And so the idea that we’d put in place a whole bunch of barriers to people voting doesn’t make sense.

And then, as I’ve said before, political gerrymandering that makes your vote matter less because politicians have decided you live in a district where everybody votes the same way you do so that these aren’t competitive races, and we get 90 percent Democratic districts, 90 percent Republican districts — that’s bad for our democracy, too.  I worry about that.

I think it is very important for us to make sure that our criminal justice system is fair and just.  But I also think it’s also very important to make sure that it is not politicized, that it maintains an integrity that is outside of partisan politics at every level.

I think at some point we’re going to have to spend — and this will require some action by the Supreme Court — we have to reexamine just the flood of endless money that goes into our politics, which I think is very unhealthy.

So there are a whole bunch of things I worry about there. And as I said in my speech on Tuesday, we got more work to do on race.  It is not — it is simply not true that things have gotten worse.  They haven’t.  Things are getting better.  And I have more confidence on racial issues in the next generation than I do in our generation or the previous generation.  I think kids are smarter about it.  They’re more tolerant.  They are more inclusive by instinct than we are.  And hopefully my presidency maybe helped that along a little bit.

But, you know, we — when we feel stress, when we feel pressure, when we’re just fed information that encourages some of our worst instincts, we tend to fall back into some of the old racial fears and racial divisions and racial stereotypes. And it’s very hard for us to break out of those, and to listen, and to think about people as people, and to imagine being in that person’s shoes.

And by the way, it’s no longer a black and white issue alone.  You got Hispanic folks, and you got Asian folks, and this is not just the same old battles.  We’ve got this stew that’s bubbling up of people from everywhere.  And we’re going to have to make sure that we, in our own lives, in our own families and workplaces, do a better job of treating everybody with basic respect.  And understanding that not everybody starts off in the same situation, and imagining what would it be like if you were born in an inner city and had no job prospects anywhere within a 20-mile radius, or how does it feel being born in some rural county where there’s no job opportunities in a 20-mile radius — and seeing those two things as connected as opposed to separate.

So we got work to do.  But, overall, I think on this front, the trend lines ultimately, I think, will be good.

Christi Parsons.  And Christi, you are going to get the last question.

Q    Oh, no.  (Laughter and groans.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Christi is — I’ve been knowing her since Springfield, Illinois.  When I was a state senator, she listened to what I had to say.  (Laughter.)  So the least I can do is give her the last question as President of the United States.

Go on.

Q    217 numbers still work.

THE PRESIDENT:  There you go.  Go ahead.

Q    Well, thank you, Mr. President.  It has been an honor.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Q    And I have a personal question for you, because I know how much you like this.  The First Lady puts the stakes of the 2016 election in very personal terms in a speech that resonated across the country, and she really spoke the concerns of a lot of women, LGBT folks, people of color, many others.  And so I wonder now how you and the First Lady are talking to your daughters about the meaning of this election and how you interpret it for yourself and for them.

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, every parent brags on their daughters or their sons.  If your mom and dad don’t brag on you, you know you got problems.  (Laughter.)  But, man, my daughters are something, and they just surprise and enchant and impress me more and more every single day as they grow up.  And so these days, when we talk, we talk as parent to child, but also we learn from them.

And I think it was really interesting to see how Malia and Sasha reacted.  They were disappointed.  They paid attention to what their mom said during the campaign and believed it because it’s consistent with what we’ve tried to teach them in our household, and what I’ve tried to model as a father with their mom, and what we’ve asked them to expect from future boyfriends or spouses.

But what we’ve also tried to teach them is resilience, and we’ve tried to teach them hope, and that the only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world.  And so you get knocked down, you get up, brush yourself off, and you get back to work.  And that tended to be their attitude.

I think neither of them intend to pursue a future of politics — and, in that, too, I think their mother’s influence shows.  (Laughter.)  But both of them have grown up in an environment where I think they could not help but be patriotic, to love this country deeply, to see that it’s flawed but see that they have responsibilities to fix it.  And that they need to be active citizens, and they have to be in a position to talk to their friends and their teachers and their future coworkers in ways that try to shed some light as opposed to just generate a lot of sound and fury.

And I expect that’s what they’re going to do.  They do not — they don’t mope.  And what I really am proud of them — what makes me proudest about them is that they also don’t get cynical about it.  They have not assumed because their side didn’t win, or because some of the values that they care about don’t seem as if they were vindicated, that automatically America has somehow rejected them or rejected their values.  I don’t think they feel that way.

I think that they have, in part through osmosis, in part through dinnertime conversations, appreciated the fact that this is a big, complicated country, and democracy is messy and it doesn’t always work exactly the way you might want, it doesn’t guarantee certain outcomes.  But if you’re engaged and you’re involved, then there are a lot more good people than bad in this country, and there’s a core decency to this country, and that they got to be a part of lifting that up.

And I expect they will be.  And in that sense, they are representative of this generation that makes me really optimistic.

I’ve been asked — I’ve had some off-the-record conversations with some journalists where they said, okay, you seem like you’re okay, but really, really, what are you thinking?  (Laughter.)  And I’ve said, no, what I’m saying really is what I think.  I believe in this country.  I believe in the American people.  I believe that people are more good than bad.  I believe tragic things happen, I think there’s evil in the world, but I think that at the end of the day, if we work hard, and if we’re true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time.

That’s what this presidency has tried to be about.  And I see that in the young people I’ve worked with.  I couldn’t be prouder of them.  And so this is not just a matter of “No Drama Obama” — this is what I really believe.  It is true that behind closed doors I curse more than I do publicly.  (Laughter.)  And sometimes I get mad and frustrated, like everybody else does.   But at my core, I think we’re going to be okay.  We just have to fight for it.  We have to work for it, and not take it for granted.  And I know that you will help us do that.

Thank you very much, press corps.  Good luck.

END
3:23 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts January 17, 2017: President Barack Obama & Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s Remarks at Final Press Briefing

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 1/17/17

Source: WH, 1-17-17

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:15 P.M. EST

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I don’t actually have any announcements at the top, but —

Q    Thank you.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  But because today marks my last briefing, I hope you’ll indulge me a couple of personal thoughts before I go to your questions.

As I prepared to stand here at this podium for the last time, I thought a lot about the first time.  It was 16 years ago this week.  It was January, 2001.  I had just moved to Washington, D.C., and I got on a West Wing tour with a friend of a friend.  We walked through the halls of the West Wing on that tour.  We saw tired White House staffers lugging boxes of their personal belongings out of the building, much the way that people who are on West Wing tours today see.  And on the tour, I smiled for a photo that a friend took of me standing behind this very podium.

I had been in D.C. for a grand total of two weeks.  I had no contacts.  I had no job prospects.  I had no relevant Washington experience.  I was sleeping on the floor of a college buddy’s apartment that had a spare bedroom — and by spare, I don’t just mean it was an extra bedroom; it was an empty bedroom containing only the items that I had managed to load into my car when I moved here from Texas.

So it’s fair to say that there weren’t too many other people on the tour that night who thought I would stand here in front of you as something other than a tourist.  So it’s been an extraordinary journey, and this has been an extraordinary chapter.

This is the 354th White House daily briefing that I have led as the Press Secretary — Mark can check me on that number.  (Laughter.)  Not every briefing started exactly on time.  (Laughter.)  There might have been a briefing or two that went a little longer than you would have preferred.  But you had to admit there was a lot to discuss.  We had plenty of shameless plugs for the Kansas City Royals to squeeze in.  (Laughter.)  There was, of course, the Freedom Caucus’s infamous Tortilla Coast gambit.  There was Congressman Steve Scalise who reportedly compared himself favorably to David Duke.  There was the reintroduction of the word “snafu” into the political lexicon as we were working to pass TPA.

We discussed at length the various ways you can catch Zika, the various ways you can catch Ebola, and the various reasons scientists recommend you vaccinate your kids so that you don’t catch the measles.  Jon Stewart lit me up as I struggled to explain to Jon Karl why a couple of our political ambassadors for some reason had no idea what they were doing.  (Laughter.)  At least the Stewart segment made some of my friends laugh.

President-elect Trump, of course, took advantage of the opportunity to light me up as a “foolish guy” who makes even the good news sound bad.  (Laughter.)  And I have to admit that even that one made me laugh.  (Laughter.)

But it wasn’t always fun and games around here.  There was the time that I tangled with Senator Schumer about DHS funding for New York City, and the time that I tangled with Senator Schumer over the Iran deal — (laughter) — and the time that I tangled with Senator Schumer over the JASTA legislation,  and the time I tangled with Senator Schumer over the wisdom of passing Obamacare, and the time I tangled with Senator Schumer over Trade Promotion Authority legislation.  And to think, we actually spent most of the last two and a half years complaining about how unreasonable Republicans in Congress are.  (Laughter.)

The daily briefing, of course, is the most high-profile part of the press secretary’s job, but it’s not the only part that matters.  The more important part, in many ways, is working with all of you and ensuring the freedom of the press that keeps this democracy vital.

When I first entered this role, I worked closely with the White House Travel Office and the Department of Defense to reform the billing process for your flights on military aircraft, including Air Force One, making those bills more transparent and smaller.  In the last two and a half years, we’ve cajoled governments in China, Ethiopia, and Cuba to host news conferences on their soil, allowing the leaders of those countries and their citizens to see firsthand what it means for independent journalists to hold those in power accountable.

Of course, it was the end-of-the-year news conference that the President convened in this room in 2014 that got as much attention as any other because President Obama called on eight journalists, all women.

And finally, everything about this final week makes me think of all the incredible people whom I’ve been blessed to work with these past eight years.  I only have this opportunity because Robert Gibbs pulled me aside on Election Night 2008 in Chicago as the returns were coming in to tell me that he wanted me to come work with him at the White House.  I’m only here because Jay Carney, Jennifer Palmieri and Dan Pfeiffer supported and encouraged me when I was the deputy, and advocated for me when Jay stepped down.

I’ve also benefitted from a kitchen cabinet of senior White House officials, who’ve got a lot of other important responsibilities that are part of their formal job description, but stepped in to help me out every time I asked for it.  And that’s people like Denis McDonough and Susan Rice and Jennifer Psaki, Liz Allen, Jesse Lee, Cody Keenan, and, of course, Ben Rhodes.  And I’ve only been able to do this job because I have an incredible team around me.

My assistants over the years, Jeff Tiller, Antoinette Rangel, and now Desiree Barnes all patiently supported a guy who, let’s face it, sometimes isn’t so easy to assist.  The White House stenographers — Dominique Dansky Bari, Beck Dorey-Stein, Amy Sands, Mike McCormick, Caitlin Young, and their tireless leader, Peggy Suntum — they work as hard as anybody at the White House and complain about it less than anybody at the White House.  (Applause.)

Applause is appropriate at that point.  (Applause.)  I think the only team that may contend with them might be the research department here at the White House that’s led by Alex Platkin and Kristen Bartoloni.  But I hope you’ll get a chance over the course of the next week to thank the stenographers for their important work, because I know they make your lives a lot easier, too.

The same goes for Peter Velz, Brian Gabriel and Sarah Rutherford, who are stretched as thin, and who are at least as effective as any team of press wranglers we’ve ever had here at the White House.  My colleagues at the NSC, including Ned Price, Emily Horne, Mark Stroh, Carl Woog, and Dew Tiantawach patiently explained to me things that I didn’t know so that I could, in turn, explain them to you.

My team in lower press — Patrick Rodenbush, Katie Hill and Brandi Hoffine — is as talented and as dedicated as any press team in this town.  I begged Brandi to join this team when I first got this job, and her performance has far exceeded the sky-high recommendations I got from people all over town after I interviewed her.  They are all — Katie, Brandi and Patrick — as they say, going places.

Eric Schultz is simply the best deputy that anyone in any field could ask for.  He shows up early, he stays late.  He’s deft — that’s an inside joke.  (Laughter.)  He’s always prepared.  He’s unfailingly loyal.  His judgment is sought after throughout the halls of the White House, not just by me, but by various members of the senior staff and I’m sure will be sought after in his bright post-White House future, too.  Including by me.

When you’re President of the United States and widely regarded as among the most thoughtful and eloquent speakers on the planet, it must be hard to watch someone go on TV and speak for you.  I suspect that’s why, when the President offered me this job, he said he wouldn’t watch my briefings.  (Laughter.) But I know that he saw parts of them on those very rare occasions that he watched cable TV.  And he never second-guessed me.  Not once.  He didn’t just give me the opportunity of a lifetime, he had my back every single day.  And I’m grateful for it.

But there is one person who contributed to my success more than anyone else, and she doesn’t even work at the White House.  My wife, Natalie, was six months pregnant with our first child when I got this job.  She was home with the air-conditioning repairman when the President of the United States called me into the Oval Office to offer me the job.  When I got back to my desk, I saw that I had several missed calls on my cellphone from her.  I quickly called her back.  I told her that I was sorry that I missed her calls, but that I had the best possible excuse for missing them.

Since then she has extended to me more support and understanding than I could ever ask for, even as she was becoming the best mom any two-year-old kid could hope for.  When I missed the mark up here, she didn’t hesitate to tell me about it.  And when I got it right the next day, it was usually because I followed her advice.

So, thank you, sweetheart, for your patience, your loyalty, your counsel, and your love.  Without it, I would not be standing here.  And I will never be able to make it up to you, but I look forward to spending some more time with you and Walker so I can give it a shot.

Serving as the White House Press Secretary under President Obama has been an incredible honor.  I’ve had the opportunity to advocate for his vision of the country, the same vision that deeply resonated with me when I signed up to work for him in Iowa in March 2007.

And while those of us who have been fortunate enough to serve him here will go on to make a difference in new ways, I take heart in knowing that all of you will still be here.  I draw confidence in knowing that you are driven by the same spirit that prompted those young kids that I mentioned at the top of my briefing a couple of weeks ago to move to an Iowa town that they’d never heard of to organize support for the Obama campaign.

You have the same determination as the young people who are moving to Washington, D.C. today, with no job, with no contacts and no prospects, who are hoping to work in the Trump administration.  You’re motivated in the same way as the career civil servants, like the one as the Department of Education, who’s trying to stretch her agency’s budget to ensure as many Hispanic kids as possible can get a decent education.  You have so much in common with these people because each of you and what you do every day is critical to the success of our democracy.

There will be days when you’ll show up to work tired.  I know the same was true of those Obama organizers in Iowa.  There will be days where you will feel disrespected.  And I know many of the young Republican staffers who move to Washington looking for a job will feel that way at times.  It’s hard to pound the pavement in this town when you don’t know anybody.  There will be days where you will wonder if what you’re doing even makes a difference.  And I know that our civil servants sometimes wonder the same thing.

But I assure you, if you — the most talented, experienced, effective press corps in the world — didn’t play your part in our democracy, we would all notice.  Your passion for your work and its centrality to the success of our democracy is a uniquely American feature of our government.  It’s made President Obama a better President and a better public servant.  And it’s because you persevere and you never go easy on us.

So even though it’s my last day, you better not let up now.  So in that spirit, let me say for the last time standing up here — Josh, you want to get us started with questions.

Q    Sure.  Thanks, Josh.  Oh!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m not interrupting because he was saying nice things about you guys — (laughter) — because I largely concur.

When I first met Josh Earnest, he was in Iowa.  I think he was wearing jeans.  He looked even younger than he was.  And since my entire campaign depended on communications in Iowa, I gave him a pretty good once-over.  And there are a couple things I learned about him right away.  Number one, he’s just got that all-American, matinee, good-looking thing going.  (Laughter.)  That’s helpful.  Let’s face it — a face made for television.  Then the guy’s name is Josh Earnest — (laughter) — which if somebody is speaking on your behalf is a pretty good name to have.  (Laughter.)

But what struck me most, in addition to his smarts and his maturity and his actual interest in the issues, was his integrity.  There are people you meet who you have a pretty good inkling right off the bat are straight-shooters and were raised to be fundamentally honest and to treat people with respect.  And there are times when that first impression turns out to be wrong, and you’re a little disappointed.  And you see behind the curtain that there’s spin and some hype and posturing going on.  But then there’s others who, the longer you know them, the better you know them, the more time you spend with them, the more you’re tested under tough situations, the more that initial impression is confirmed.

And I have now known this guy for 10 years, almost, and I’ve watched him grow and I’ve watched him advance, and I’ve watched him marry, and I’ve watched him be a father, and I’ve watched him manage younger people coming up behind him.  And he’s never disappointed.  He has always been the guy you wanted him to be.

And I think that if you’re the President of the United States and you find out that this is the guy who has been voted the most popular Press Secretary ever by the White House Press Corps, that may make you a little nervous, thinking well, maybe the guy’s going — being too solicitous towards the press.  But the fact is, is that he was worthy of that admiration.

He was tough, and he didn’t always give you guys everything you wanted.  But he was always prepared.  He was always courteous.  He always tried to make sure he could share with you as much of our thinking and our policy and our vision as possible, and tried to be as responsive as possible.  And that’s how he trained the rest of his team to be.

So, of the folks that I’ve had the great joy and pleasure of working with over the last 10 years on this incredible journey, this guy ranks as high as just about anybody I’ve worked with.  He is not only a great Press Secretary, but more importantly, he is a really, really good man.  And I’m really, really proud of him.

So, Josh, congratulations.  (Applause.)

And, Natalie and Walker, thanks for putting up with all of this — because they’ve made sacrifices, too.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, sir.

Q    Before you go, respond to Vladimir Putin?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to be here (laughter) —

 

Q    Where are you going on Friday?  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  Well, that was awfully generous.  So the President will be back tomorrow.  He’ll be standing here and he’ll be answering your questions.  Today you’re going to settle for me.

So, Josh, you want to get us started?

Q    Sure.  Thanks, Josh, and I want to thank you and your team for your hard work and service in your roles.  We’ve all tussled aggressively with you over the last many years, but that was as it should be, and you all have continued to always engage with us and we appreciate that.

Following up on the question that was just asked, have the Obamas decided where they will be heading when they board the Presidential aircraft for the final time on Friday?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes.  Josh, I can tell you that the First Family is looking forward to flying to Palms Spring, California on Friday.  The President vowed to take his family to a destination that is warmer than Washington, D.C. on Friday, and Palm Springs fits the bill.  This is a community that the President has visited on a number of occasions as President of the United States.  He and his family have enjoyed the time they have spent there in the past and they’re looking forward to traveling there on Friday.

Q    And President Putin today was accusing the Obama administration of spreading false information about the President-elect in an attempt to delegitimize his presidency and said that those in this administration who did that were worse than prostitutes.  Does the Obama administration have any comment on that?

MR. EARNEST:  That’s an interesting metaphor that he chose there.  Listen, as I’ve said on a number of occasions, the men and women of the United States intelligence community are patriots.  They are experts in their field.  They do their work not because of the glory associated with it — because most of the time they have to keep their names secret.  They don’t do it for the big pay — because in many situations they could make a whole lot more money in the private sector.  They do their important work to keep our country safe because they love this country, and they have served us incredibly well in keeping us safe.

They have served President Obama enormously well.  And this is not the first time that the intelligence community has had some uncomfortable things to say about Russia.  These are the kinds of the things that I’m sure the Russians would rather not hear.  But ultimately — and this is something that the next administration is going to have to decide — there’s a pretty stark divide here.

On one side, you’ve got the men and women of the United States intelligence community.  You’ve got Democrats in Congress — you’ve got Republicans in Congress — who are concerned, deeply, about the way that the Russian apparatus sought to call into question the legitimacy and stability of our democracy.  On the other side, you’ve got Wikileaks and the Russians.  And the incoming administration is going to have to decide which side they’re going to come down on.  And it will be among the very interesting things that all of you will be closely watching in the next week.

Q    I was wondering as you were reflecting over the last eight years whether you can identify the greatest achievement that you felt you were able to accomplish, and also the biggest regret that you have as you’re leaving this part of your life.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think there are two things that come to mind.  The first is that, over the course of the eight years that I’ve worked here in the White House, the President’s communication team walked in this building at a time of dramatic change in the media environment, in the news business, thanks largely to advancements in technology, and updating and modernizing and capitalizing on those new opportunities was an important part of President Obama’s success in the White House.

I cite this example because I think it’s a good one as you all consider the relationship that you’re going to build with the incoming administration.  It’s a good example because some of the things that we’ve heard from the incoming administration has raised some concerns, at least based on what I’ve read publically.

Some of the things that we tried to do — capitalizing on new technology, breaking news on Twitter, having the President film videos that we released on Facebook, having the President engage in conversations that were released to the public with people who aren’t journalists but people who have a strong following nonetheless, whether that’s somebody like Marc Maron or any of the YouTube personalities that President Obama has an opportunity to visit with.  Bear Grylls would fit in this category — all of that was disconcerting to people in this room and was the source of some friction between our operations.  But those changes were beneficial to the American people, and to this President, and to this White House.  Because in a changing environment, we need to capitalize on every available opportunity to make sure that the President’s voice and his message is heard, and those were good opportunities to do that.

So my hope is that, as you all navigate this new relationship, that you’ll protect the things that are worth protecting — protecting this daily briefing, and the regular exchange that senior officials have at the White House with all of you to answer tough questions, to be held accountable, to respond for calls for greater transparency.

It’s uncomfortable to be in a position of authority, certainly a position of responsibility, and to be subjected to those kinds of questions.  That’s true even when you’re doing the right thing for the right reasons.  But it’s a necessary part of our democracy.  And so my hope is that the essence of this relationship between the White House Press Corps and the White House Press Office will be preserved and it will be maintained for future generations to benefit from.

But there also was a good reason not just to — there’s also a good reason to not just raise objections because proposed changes depart from the way we’ve been doing things for a long time.  The fact that we’ve been doing something the same way for a long time is not, in and of itself, a good reason to keep doing things the same way.

So this is going to require a lot of hard work, probably going to require building some trust.  But I’m optimistic that the White House Press Corps and the White House Press Office can continue to adapt to the modern environment even as some of the basics and this important principle continues to be protected.  And I feel like we’ve navigated that pretty well, and that certainly was an important part of my responsibilities here, both in my first five and half years as the Deputy White House Press Secretary and certainly in the last two-and-a-half as the Press Secretary.

And with regard to things that I could have done better, you can probably point to an exchange in every briefing transcript and find a place where I could have said it more cleanly or more effectively or more clearly, so I’m sure there are many of them.

The one example that always comes to mind when I’m asked about this is in early September, the first week in September of 2015, we were in the midst of negotiating — or working with Congress to protect the Iran deal.  You’ll recall that there was an opportunity for Congress to vote to pass a resolution of disapproval of the agreement, and we were working hard to build a veto-proof minority in Congress to protect the President’s veto of that resolution of disapproval.  And quickly, our attention turned to actually building a substantial support in the Senate to allow that agreement to survive a filibuster.

And I inadvertently announced Senator Warner’s support for the Iran deal before he has announced it.  So our leg staff wasn’t too happy with me.  Senator Warner wasn’t too happy with me.  But when I called Senator Warner shortly after the briefing to apologize, I explained to him that it was an honest mistake, and I avoided, with one exception, doing briefings after a red-eye flight, which I suspect contributed to that error back in September of 2015.

But the one thing that I do feel good about, and the thing that I’m proud of, and this is a lot — a lot of credit goes to some of the people that I mentioned at the beginning — I always felt well-prepared when I was standing up here, and I always felt prepared to tell the truth and to give you as clear a sense as possible the President’s thinking on a particular issue.  And in some ways, that’s the most important mandate of the person that’s standing up here.  And I’m proud of the way that we fulfilled that.

Q    Thanks, Josh.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Jeff.

Q    Josh, first of all, on behalf of the White House Correspondents Association, we want to thank you for your commitment to regular briefings with us.  We haven’t always agreed on everything, and there has always been some tension, which is normal between a White House and the press corps that covers it, but we are grateful to you and your team for working with the Correspondents Association and for your commitment to dealing with us on a daily basis.  So, thank you.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Q    That hat off, I would ask you a question today about Iran.

MR. EARNEST:  Okay.

Q    The Iranian President said today that President-elect Trump cannot unilaterally cancel the nuclear deal and has said it was meaningless what the President-elect has said about that.  Has the Obama administration offered any assurances to the Iranian government about that?  And, logistically, is it true, or is it not true, that President-elect Trump could, in fact, nullify the deal?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there are not any — you’ve heard the President say this on a number of occasions — there are not any assurances that this administration has made to foreign leaders about what the incoming administration would do.  The incoming President will determine what he believes is the best course for the country, and he’ll make that decision accordingly.

With regard to the international agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, this is not just an agreement between the United States and Iran.  This is an agreement between Iran and some of our closest allies, and some countries with whom we don’t regularly get along on every issue but serve on the United Nations Security Council, and all of those other countries are committed to this agreement because it does prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

You’ll recall that this was one of the foremost foreign policy challenges facing this President when he took office.  The world was deeply concerned about the rapid progress that Iran was making toward building a nuclear bomb.  And that progress was halted and rolled back because of the tough, principled diplomacy that we initiated and implemented over years to reach this point.

And, in fact, just yesterday, the General Director of the IAEA, Mr. Amano, issued a statement, and I’m just going to read a couple sentences.  “Iran has removed excess centrifuges and infrastructure from the Fordow fuel enrichment plant, in line with its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”  That’s the international agreement.

The JCPOA required Iran, within one year from implementation day, to complete the removal of all excess centrifuges and infrastructure from the Fordow fuel enrichment plant and to transfer them to storage at the Natanz fuel enrichment plant, under continuous Agency monitoring.  That’s a remarkable step.  You will recall the dramatic moment in September of 2009 when President Obama, with other world leaders, announced to the world this secret nuclear facility that Iran had constructed and was using to advance toward a nuclear weapon.

So this is an agreement that’s worked.  It’s an agreement that’s going to require conscientious implementation; it’s going to require continued diplomacy.  We’re going to need to work with the rest of the international community to make sure that Iran is adhering to the commitments that they’ve made.  But after doing that for a year, we’ve gotten proof of concept.  This has worked.

And as the incoming President considers the best path forward, we’re hopeful, and even optimistic, that he’ll consider the success of the last year as he designs a policy for the years ahead.

Q    The President has made a slew of appointments this week in his last few days in office to places like the Kennedy Center Honors — the Kennedy Center Board, and others.  Why is this happening now?  And do you have any ethical concerns about doing this sort of on the way out?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t.  I think the list of people that the President has put forward for these important positions speaks for themselves.  These are outstanding members of the community, some of whom have served this President and this White House, and have done so with extraordinary distinction.  And these are new and different ways for them to serve that appeal to their own personal interests.  So I think this is — I know this is entirely consistent with what previous Presidents have done.  This is entirely consistent with the executive authority that’s vested in the White House.  And President Obama is executing that authority consistent with the best interests of the American people.

Q    Lastly, do you have any reaction to British Prime Minister May’s announcement today that Britain will exit the single market when it leaves the European Union?

MR. EARNEST:  Jeff, what we’ve been saying from the beginning is that the United States was going to be encouraging both the leaders of the EU and the leaders in the UK to work effectively together to design a relationship among these critically important American allies.  And we’ve urged them to engage in that process in a way that is as transparent as possible to prevent any sort of economic disruptions from misunderstandings or from surprises.  And both sides have worked to do that.

But ultimately, it’s going to be up to them to design a relationship that is supported by their constituents.  That certainly is going to make these kinds of conversations more complicated.  But this reflects the will of the people as the British people voted in a referendum last summer.  And there’s a lot of hard work that their elected representatives need to do to design a relationship with the EU that serves them best.  And it’s firmly in the interest of the United States for them to do that effectively, and we certainly have supported them as they’ve done that over the last several months, and I anticipate the incoming administration will do the same.

Olivier.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  Just two for you.  Piggybacking on Jeff’s question, one of the posts you guys announced is an ambassadorial nominee to the Republic of Congo.  I can’t imagine you think that is going to get confirmed.  What’s the rationale behind that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Olivier, I think it’s a couple of things.  The first is, you never know.  Second is — so you’re saying there’s a chance?  (Laughter.)  That’s a fun movie.  I probably should have spent more time quoting from “Dumb and Dumber.”  (Laughter.)  I guess that would have been a regret of my two-and-a-half-year tenure here.

I think the other thing, in some cases, this is also sending a clear signal to Congress about who are people who are qualified for these jobs.  And so this can send a clear signal both in terms of their career trajectory, even if they’re not confirmed for these positions, but that the President has got a lot of confidence in their ability to handle significant responsibilities.  And so even if they are not confirmed for the position that they’ve been nominated for, there may be future opportunities in a similar area where they could continue to serve the United States.

But we’ve obviously talked a lot about how there are many deserving, worthy, talented Americans who have been put forward by this administration and who have been treated in breathtakingly unfair ways by Republicans in Congress.  And that is a source of deep disappointment that we continue to feel even in our last days in office here.

Q    And the second one — on this President’s watch, North Korea has moved ahead with its missile program and its nuclear program.  Does that weigh on the President’s mind?  Has he discussed it with the President-elect?

MR. EARNEST:  I have refrained from getting into the content of the conversations between the two men.  What I can say is I know that the President’s National Security Council and his national security team has been engaged with the incoming President’s team on a range of issues, including on North Korea.  So I am confident that this challenge is on the radar screen of the incoming President and his team.

With regard to President Obama’s work in this area, we have not made as much progress as we would have liked in halting North Korea’s nuclear activities that are in violation of a range of international agreements.  What we have succeeded in doing, however, is building a rock-solid international consensus, including with countries like Russia and China, about the need to apply further pressure to North Korea to refrain from those kinds of destabilizing, provocative actions.  And that’s an important step and will serve the incoming administration well as they work on this challenge.

What President Obama has also done is work closely with the civilian and uniformed leadership at the Department of Defense to ensure that our defense posture in the Asia Pacific is able to protect the American people from this threat.  So that has involved the deployment of additional ships with anti-ballistic missile capabilities.  It has involved the construction of sensitive and sophisticated radar that can be used in conjunction with those systems to protect the American people.  And we’ve worked closely with allies like Japan and South Korea to construct those defenses.

So the American people, because of the decisions that have been made by the Commander-in-Chief, are safe from North Korea’s current capabilities.  But we continue to be concerned about their actions, and we’re going to need to work effectively with the international community to address that situation.

Paul.

Q    Josh, thanks for your efforts these last few years, first of all —

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Q    This is sort of a history question.  When historians look at Presidents, they often cite, well, they did X, Y and Z.  But it’s also fair to look at perhaps mistakes, quagmires that Presidents avoided getting into.  What did the President sort of avoid, in your judgment, that might have done a lot of harm?

MR. EARNEST:  Look, well, certainly, as you know, with regard to our efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, the President has been mindful of the recent lessons of U.S. military entanglements in the Middle East.  And the President does not believe that our interests were advanced by the strategy that was employed by the previous administration, and, in fact, he ran for this job in part on his opposition to some of the strategies that had been put in place before.

And the President does believe that the strategy that we’ve put in place against ISIL is working.  We’ve made important progress in rolling back more than half the territory that ISIL previously controlled in Iraq.  We’ve rolled back a substantial quantity of territory that they previously controlled in Syria.  And we did that without a large-scale offensive ground combat operation involving American troops on the ground.

What we have done is we have — the President has dispatched a much smaller number of U.S. forces, some of whom are in a very — working in a very dangerous situation, to offer advice and assistance to local forces and regional forces that are fighting for their own region, and fighting for their own country.

And that is a strategy that the President believes is much more likely to lead to long-term success.  It’s going to build the capacity of these local forces to police their own country and secure their own country.

Those forces are, of course, augmented by U.S. forces with a range of capabilities — whether that’s U.S. military pilots who can take strikes on ISIL targets or other extremist targets in that region of the world.  There are U.S. forces with remarkable capabilities that can carry out raids against high-value targets and can capitalize on troves of intelligence that they may be able to acquire.  And it also involves U.S. trainers who are building up the capacity of those forces — other forces, local forces — and then supporting them, advising them, and assisting them on the battlefield.

So that’s the strategy that President Obama has put in place.  He believes that has served the country well, both because of how it has been effective in taking the fight to ISIL, and because of the likely long-term success that the President believes that we are on track to enjoy.  And all that was done without the kind of large-scale ground combat operation that characterized previous entanglements in the Middle East.

Q    So the footnotes answer is you avoid a foreign quagmire, is what you’re saying.

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, I think that’s true — even as we engage in a robust defense of the American people.  That’s what has to come first.  And, in fact, the President believes that our national security does benefit from a strategy that avoids quagmires, but does apply intense pressure to those extremist organizations that would do us harm.  That’s the crux of the strategy, and it’s worked.

Q    The second question is, if you look at, say, Gallup polling for every President from Truman up to your boss, he is leaving with actually the fourth highest approval of all of them.  John F. Kennedy is exempted.  Clinton, then Reagan, then Eisenhower with 59 — and then your boss.  And he’s ahead of everybody else.  How does that — does that strike you as about — how do you react to that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, that obviously I think is — I know that President Obama is proud of that and I think it is an indication of — certainly of the success that we’ve had in just the last couple of years.

Q    I mean, his critics say, well, he doesn’t deserve that.  Others say — you know how it is.  People say it’s —

MR. EARNEST:  Look, there will be people on both sides who will do their own analysis of the polls.  Look, it’s not just the Gallup Poll that indicates the uniquely high standing that’s enjoyed by the President right now.  So we’re obviously proud of that.  I do think it’s a testament to a lot of work that we’ve done here over the last 12 to 18 months.  But it’s also a reflection of the kind of early investments that President Obama made in the first couple of years of his presidency that have taken root and are now flowering — at the risk of torturing that analogy.

There are remarkable benefits that — just one example. President Obama, in his first couple of months in office, made a politically unpopular decision to rescue the American auto industry.  That was a decision — a policy decision that did not poll well in the state of Michigan, a state that had more to benefit from that rescue than any other state in the country when it comes to their economy.  But since the President made that important decision, the manufacturing sector has created 800,000 jobs.  And the American auto industry is manufacturing and selling as many cars as they ever have.

So that’s I think a good example of how a tough decision that the President made early on was not one that was going to show immediate benefits, butb looking back, eight years later, it was clearly the right decision.  And the fact that it wasn’t politically popular at the time, I think only gives people more confidence that the President was making the right decisions for the right reasons.

Michelle.

Q    Josh, we’ve heard one member of Congress call Donald Trump not a legitimate President.  Now the number of Democrats who aren’t attending the inauguration is up over 40, and they’re sort of framing this as a boycott.  What do you think of those words and actions?  And is this just contributing to the division right now?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t think it’s contributing to the division, but I do think it’s a reflection of the division in the country right now.

To be clear about the President’s point of view, since the day after the election, some eight hours after the final results were called, President Obama spoke in the Rose Garden and he spoke forcefully, with conviction, about the determination that he and his team would show in trying to facilitate a smooth and effective transition with the incoming team.  And we’ve lived up to that promise that the President made on November 9th.  And in many ways, I think actions speak louder than words, particularly with regard to the way this administration has worked closely with the incoming administration to ensure — or at least give them the best opportunity at a running start.

But all of that was rooted in the institutional responsibilities that the President and his team have to serve the American people, is to make sure that the person that they’ve elected President of the United States has an opportunity to succeed and hit the ground running.  And we have been challenged to do that in spite of our in some cases profound concerns with some of the rhetoric and policy positions that are being articulated by the other side.

So I think most of this, Michelle, is just a function of the different roles.  Members of Congress have a different responsibility.  They are freer to express their opinion in a way that they chose.  They don’t have the same kind of institutional responsibility that the administration has.  And I’m proud of the fact that we’ve fulfilled it.

Q    You’re saying that the administration would say similar things and do similar things if they could?

MR. EARNEST:  I wouldn’t speculate on what people around here would say.  I think I’m just pointing to what we have done.  And that’s a reflection of keeping the President’s promise.

Q    You’ve spoken a lot about the efforts, like the strong efforts that the administration has put out for this smooth transition.  So do you think that these — do you think it’s important what these — some of these Democrats are saying and doing?  Do you think it’s important for that to be said at this point?  Or do you think that what they’re doing is just sort of harming the smooth transition?

MR. EARNEST:  Look, I don’t think that what they’re doing is harming the smooth transition, primarily because when we’re talking about a smooth transition, we’re talking about making sure that the incoming administration is aware of what we’ve been doing over the last eight years and of the looming decisions that they’ll have to make when they enter office.  We want to make sure that they can benefit from all of the lessons that we’ve learned over the last eight years about building and running an effective team that’s in charge of the federal government.

Those are the kinds of things that are critical to a smooth and effective transition, and I don’t think that there’s anything that members of Congress have said that’s going to derail that effort.

Q    Okay.  And there’s been plenty that has been said about certain posts that will possibly be open for a long time, certain structures just not seeming ready at all.  I mean, we hear things on our end about concerns within the administration as to the next administration’s readiness.  So you’ve had a unique look at that smooth transition that you mentioned.  Do you think that there’s readiness there?  I mean, do you feel confident that the next administration is ready to pick up the reins?

MR. EARNEST:  I certainly am not in a position to be able to assess across the board what the level of readiness is of the incoming team.  I’ll let them describe what efforts they have taken to ensure that they’re ready to assume this awesome responsibility.  And we certainly have tried to be there at every turn as they’re making those decisions to support them and to give them the best possible information so that they can make the best possible decision.  But when it comes to assessing where things stand, I’ll leave that to the incoming team.

Q    And do you feel like this is the last briefing of this kind that we might see for a very long time?

MR. EARNEST:  I hope not, but I don’t know.  I’ll let the incoming team speak to that.

Justin.

Q    The President-elect said on Friday that U.S. companies can’t compete because our currency was too strong and that that was “killing us.”  I’m wondering if that’s a concern that the White House shares.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we have, over the last eight years, abided by the longstanding tradition of allowing the United States Secretary of the Treasury to speak about the value of the dollar.  Of course, those policy decisions when it relates to currency are made by the Federal Reserve, so that’s not something I’ve spoken on at great length here.

I did happen to see the President-elect’s comments.  I believe there is one factual point that is worth referencing, which is that we have seen with regard to China’s currency that it is appreciating in value over the last 18 months.  That’s just a fact.  With regard to what sort of policy they’ve implemented to do that or what their aim may be, I’d refer you to the Chinese.  I wouldn’t speculate on that.  But just as a factual matter, the Chinese currency has appreciated over the last year to 18 months.

Q    Are you concerned that an aide to the President-elect reportedly was in discussions about joint investments — (inaudible)

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I haven’t seen those specific reports.  I think what I can say is that given the intelligence community’s conclusion about the efforts of the Russians to intervene in our democracy, questions about the ties between senior government officials and the Russian government are worthy of careful examination.

And that will obviously be the responsibility of Congress, and it may end up being the responsibility of some law enforcement officials if they choose to initiate those kinds of investigations.  If they choose to do that, that would be a decision that they would make entirely on their own based on their own discretion and not something that this administration would try to influence even in our last few days here.

But there are structures in place where people have the authority that they need to conduct those kinds of investigations.  And with regard to Congress, they’ll face a decision about whether or not they choose to exercise that authority.  And with regard to law enforcement officials, they’ll have to decide on their own if this is worthy of an inquiry.

Q    Last one.  Your friend, Senator Schumer — (laughter)  — suggested —

MR. EARNEST:  I’m really hoping that he accepted that opening in the spirit in which it was offered.  We’ll see, I guess.  (Laughter.)

Q    — suggested today that Representative Price might have broken the law on this stock transaction of a medical device — and he later introduced legislation that could have governed.  Acknowledging what you said before that the President-elect should have some flexibility to pick his own team, do you find this report to be disqualifying for the President-elect’s choice as head of HHS?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think this report is indicative of a couple of things.  The first is, given the incoming administration’s priority that is placed on draining the swamp, I think they have the unique obligation to explain exactly what happened.  Because the facts of the report don’t appear to be that complicated — you have a member of Congress buying a stock in a company, and within a week sponsoring legislation that would benefit that company and its stock price, only to see the introduction of that legislation followed shortly thereafter by a political donation from that company to the campaign account of the member of Congress in question.

So this doesn’t seem like a complicated scheme.  It seems like exactly the kind of financial entanglement that’s left a lot of people feeling alienated from Washington, D.C., that’s left a lot of people questioning the motives of members of Congress.  Was he sponsoring that legislation because of his own personal motive — personal financial interest?  Was he sponsoring that legislation because he knew it was likely to lead to a political contribution?  Or was he sponsoring that bill because he thought it was good policy?  It’s hard to know.  It’s an open question.

So this is why Congress has a responsibility to offer advice and consent for the President’s Cabinet nominations.  And I suspect this is going to be an issue that’s going to receive careful scrutiny — hopefully not just on the part of Democrats, but also on the part of Republicans who are interested in making sure that the incoming President’s Cabinet nominees are looking to do the job for the right reasons.

Jon.

Q    So are you suggesting he may have broken the law?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m saying that I don’t know whether or not

— I certainly can’t make a statement that definitive.  If law enforcement officials choose to investigate the situation, that’s something that they will do based on their own knowledge of the law and based on their own discretion.  I think I’m just commenting on the fact that reports do raise a lot of questions. And again, this isn’t some sort of complicated financial scheme. We don’t need to have Michael Lewis explain it to us in a 300-page book.  This one seems pretty concerning just based on a couple paragraphs of a news report from CNN.

Q    Okay.  I’ve got a couple questions.  First, I just want to say thank you, Josh, for being accessible during your time here as Press Secretary and Deputy Press Secretary, and thank you for working as hard as you have to answer our questions, including, but not exclusively, those questions that you didn’t like.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  There were more than a few of those.  (Laughter.)  Thank you for your kind words, Jon.  I appreciate it.

Q    Back to the question Josh asked about Vladimir Putin, putting aside the intelligence community.  Putin made a specific allegation, pretty explosive one, coming from another global leader.  He’s accusing the Obama administration of trying to delegitimize the incoming Trump administration.  What’s your response to Vladimir Putin?

MR. EARNEST:  First of all, it sounds like he got his copy of the talking points.  Second —

Q    From whom?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t know.  But it certainly sounds a lot like what the incoming administration’s team is saying.  But it is not the first time that the Russian President has called into question the veracity of the United States government.  Right?

This is a Russian government that recently said that they were focused entirely on ISIL inside of Syria, and raising questions about what the United States and our allies were doing to fight those extremists.  That wasn’t true.  In fact, what we know is that the one place that Russia can point to where they’ve made progress against ISIL is in Palmyra; ISIL has since taken it back and is now using some of the equipment that the Syrian regime, with the support of the Russians, moved to Palmyra.  And that’s going to put the United States and our coalition partners who are going after ISIL at even greater risk.

So it’s not the first time that the President of Russia has said things about the U.S. government that just don’t withstand any scrutiny.

Q    So it’s not true?

MR. EARNEST:  Of course, it’s not true.  And the suggestion — the reason that I answered Josh’s question the way that I did was that the suggestion all along — and this is a suggestion that was repeated just yesterday by the President-elect — was raising doubts about the integrity and intentions of the men and women of the intelligence community.  And that is deeply misguided, as I’ve said before.

And particularly to call into question the integrity of somebody like John Brennan, somebody who has served at the CIA for three decades, somebody who served this country in dangerous locations around the world to try to keep us safe — I’m offended by it.

Q    Josh, on the question of the next administration and its communication strategy, looking back, was there ever any consideration by anybody in this White House of shutting this briefing room down, of taking reporters and moving them out of the West Wing?

MR. EARNEST:  No, there was not.

Q    What would it say, symbolically and practically — what message would it send to the country if this briefing room, if this workspace were shut down and reporters were banished to another part of the White House grounds?

MR. EARNEST:  I lead this in my long comments at the beginning about how the United States has a rather unique arrangement between our government and the independent media.  The fact that all of you represent independent news organizations and have regular access to the White House, have regular access to workspace where you can do your job, have a venue where you can enter the room — the Briefing Room — at almost any hour, and can hold people in power accountable is really important.

You also have access to senior White House officials right through that door.  Right up the ramp outside that door, you can come into my office at a moment’s notice to ask question and demand answers and demand transparency.  And as I mentioned earlier, sometimes that’s a little inconvenient; sometimes it’s uncomfortable; sometimes it’s frustrating because you’re dissatisfied with the answer that was given, but it’s necessary for the success of our democracy.

And I think there are some people who might say, Jon, that, well, this is — it’s just symbolic that you have the White House Press Corps in the White House.  And I would say it’s a really important symbol.  It’s more than just symbolism.  But even taking that argument at face value, there is something symbolically important about all of you gathering here every single day to hold people in power accountable, to demand answers, to demand transparency, to demand facts.  And your ability to do that is going to be affected if you don’t have regular access to the White House, if you’re not able to do your job from the White House, and if there’s not a natural, readily available venue for you to hold senior officials accountable.

So this is, again, a relationship that President Obama believed was important to invest in.  He made this a priority, and it doesn’t mean because he liked all your coverage.

Q    He could have had more press conferences —

MR. EARNEST:  He probably could have.  And again, I think this is exactly a good illustration — you should be asking for more, and you should say that we appreciate President Obama’s investment, but there is more that he could have done.  That’s the nature of this relationship.  And it means that you’re doing your job, but it also means the President of the United States is doing his job.  And I don’t know if the incoming administration is going to see it that way, but I hope they do.

April.

Q    Josh, one of your, I guess, mentees — mentors, Mike McCurry said the press had a friendly, adversarial relationship with the White House.  And with that, understanding your very interesting position between the press and the President, have you taken any kind of advocacy role positives about what you just said to Sean Spicer, the incoming press secretary, or has anyone in this administration talked to the incoming administration about exactly what you just said?

MR. EARNEST:  What I can tell you is, as you know, my colleague, Jen Psaki and I had an opportunity to visit with Mr. Spicer in what will soon be his new office a couple of weeks ago.  And we had a nice conversation.  And we talked about everything from the rather peculiar logistics of getting things done around the White House, but also the work to prepare for the briefing and to ensure that government agencies are coordinated in their messaging efforts with the White House.  It was a good conversation.  But one of the pieces of advice that I had for him was to engage with the White House Correspondents Association.

I remember vividly when we started here.  I was the deputy press secretary during President Obama’s earliest days in office.  And we worked very closely at the time with Jennifer Loven, who was an AP correspondent and then was president of the White House’s Correspondents Association.  And she did an excellent job of helping to educate us about what your expectations were and she helped us avoid inadvertent conflicts.  There are certainly situations where we might be tempted to do something that we didn’t think was that big of a deal that you all would view with deep suspicion as an effort to make your job harder.

And so what I encouraged Sean to do is to engage with the gentlemen that all of you have elected to represent you as the President of the White House Correspondents Association.  So Jeff is somebody who knows this place well, and Jeff is somebody who can be an honest broker.  And so he’s got a — Jeff and I actually had this conversation before the election about how valuable our relationship with Jennifer Loven was in 2009, and how his relationship with the incoming administration — whether it was the Clinton administration or the Trump administration — was going to be critically important.

And, look, Jeff knows his stuff and he’s got exactly the right temperament for managing these kinds of things.  And I do think that if Jeff, as your elected representative, and Sean, as the person designated as the top spokesperson in the government by the President-elect, can work effectively together, that I think a lot of the concerns that have been expressed in the last couple of weeks can certainly be managed.

And it doesn’t mean that everything he does is going to be satisfying to you; it shouldn’t be that way.  But I am optimistic that because of Sean’s genuine desire to represent his boss well and Jeff’s leadership in representing all of your interests, that these difficult things can get worked out.

Q    Did you specifically say we should stay in this building, stay here?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not going to get into a detailed readout of our conversation.  So I’m going to defer to him and let him announce what they choose to do.

Q    I have a couple of other questions really fast.  Being here all these years and being with the President since Iowa, meeting him since Iowa, what is the biggest takeaway as people are trying to rewrite his history now and trying to look at his legacy when you’re supposed to look, like, 10 years out?  What’s the biggest takeaway that we should know about this administration, and particularly this President?

MR. EARNEST:  I alluded to this at the top, too.  In 2007, when I first heard President Obama speak as a candidate for President of the United States, I actually wasn’t working for him.  I moved to Iowa in December of 2006 to work on Tom Vilsack’s presidential campaign.  And so I joined President Obama’s team, then-Senator Obama’s team, only a month or so after Governor Vilsack dropped out of the race.

And the reason that I was drawn to Senator Obama’s campaign was simply that he was giving voice to a vision of the country that deeply resonated with me.  He was articulating a vision for America that was inclusive, where everybody got a fair shot and a fair shake, and where we tried to transcend a politics that seemed too small, that it was not well-equipped to take on the difficult challenges that our country faced.  And he was willing to articulate that vision and those set of values, and defend them forcefully.

There was a sense among many Democrats, particularly throughout much of the Bush administration, that Democrats were a little on the back foot in trying to make our argument.  And to see this young and young-looking man, a newcomer on the scene, step up to the stage and almost defiantly articulate a vision of the country where everybody has got a shot, regardless of what you look like or where you come from, that there’s a whole lot more that unites us than drives us apart in this country because of our commitment to some of the basic founding principles of our country — that resonated with me.

And so to answer your question, my takeaway is that for all that we’ve been through, for all that we’ve seen over the last decade, President Obama is as optimistic about the country and as committed to that vision as he has ever been.  And he is as resolute in advocating for and defending those values as he’s ever been.  And I find that genuinely inspiring, at the risk of laying it on a little thick.  I genuinely do.

On those days when I thought it was — when I was tired, knowing that I was going to have to get up early in the morning and prepare to come and speak to all of you, I drew a lot of inspiration from knowing what a unique opportunity it was for me to have the opportunity to stand up here and to give voice to those values that I deeply believe in, and to know that my boss would support me in making that argument forcefully, without reservation, with deep conviction.

It’s been an honor to do that.  But mostly I admire and respect the President’s fidelity to those values even through all the twists and turns of the last 10 years.

Q    And lastly, you talk about laying it on thick.  I guess I want to say thank you for making sure that issues that were not necessarily the mainstream issues — urban America, LGBT community, all sorts of communities out there that were not necessarily at the top of the fold or on the A block of the news — for making sure we have answers for that.  How important is that for this White House to make sure those issues were addressed as well as the overarching issues of the day from the first two rows?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, this is actually a principle that the incoming administration has given some voice to — that I know that Mr. Spicer has indicated a desire to be as inclusive as possible and to give as many different kinds of journalists and outlets and commentators the opportunity to participate in this session.  I think that’s a really good thing.  That’s exactly what we have done.  There’s never been a time that we’ve turned anybody away from participating in this briefing.  People who show up here on a regular basis with their hand in the air, regardless of which row they sit in — they get called on.  Not every day — (laughter.)  In part because it’s not unusual for me to get complaints about the length of the briefing.  But it’s fair to say that people who show up here regularly get called on regularly.

That’s a good thing.  And if that’s something that Mr. Spicer is committed to, and he wants to bring even more people into that process, people from the left and the right, we’ve certainly succeeded in doing that, and I hope he does, too.

Anita.

Q    Thank you.  A couple questions about Friday.  So I know a few of the — several — three former Presidents are going to be in town, and Secretary Clinton, obviously.  Is there any opportunity for the President to visit with the former Presidents there or at the Capitol or at the White House, or does that not happen?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of any sort of formal get-together that the President will have with the former Presidents.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an opportunity when they’re at the Capitol for the President to see them, but it would just be pretty informal.  And we’ll do our best to keep you posted about how that shakes out.

Q    — in my colleague’s profile of you, which came out today, that your last day is actually Thursday.  Does that mean most staff — I know some people, it’s staggered that people are leaving, but does most of the staff leave on Thursday if they don’t — aren’t involved in the actual —

MR. EARNEST:  Yes.  The vast majority of the White House staff will have their last day here at the White House on Thursday.  There is a small number of people that will continue to work through noon on Friday for the actual transition.

But it’s a pretty remarkable exercise that we’re undergoing here at the White House, and I give a lot of credit to my colleagues at the GSA and other people who are responsible for ensuring that I have an opportunity to work from my desk until 4 or 5 o’clock at night in the evening on Thursday, and they’re going to have that office up and running and prepared for Sean to sit down behind that desk at noon the next day.  So that’s no small undertaking, but it certainly requires that many of us get out of the way on Thursday afternoon so they can do their important work.

Q    You mentioned the President was going to California after the inauguration — or the family is going.  When they return — so they fly aboard the presidential aircraft, which we don’t call Air Force One then.  Does it wait for them, or are they on their own after that — they can take commercial back?

MR. EARNEST:  They’re on their own after that.  I don’t know what their travel plans are, but that will be the President’s final trip aboard the presidential aircraft, so it will be to —

Q    Do you know how long they’re going to be there?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have any details about their time in Palm Springs and I don’t anticipate that that will be released.

Margaret.

Q    Josh, you said you didn’t think that boycotting the inauguration was really going to harm the peaceful transition, but is the President actively discouraging Democrats from boycotting, or would he discourage Democrats from boycotting the inauguration?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware that he has had a conversation discouraging people from participating in the inauguration.  And I’m not sure what he would say if he was asked if he would encourage people to do that.  Maybe you’ll get a chance to ask him that tomorrow.

Q    On two things actually, related to Russia.  Ambassador Power gave a speech today talking about U.S.-Russia.  She repeatedly used the phrase, “a willingness to lie” on behalf of Russia and that it’s actually a strategic deny-and-lie strategy they have.  Does President Obama feel that Vladimir Putin consistently lied to him?  I mean, is that how the President would characterize his relationship?

MR. EARNEST:  I think what Ambassador Power is making reference to are the public pronouncements that we’ve seen from the Russian government that routinely fly in the face of the facts on the ground.  I laid out the example to John with the situation in Syrian.  The example of Russian activity in Ukraine also applies.  Russia has steadfastly denied the presence of Russians in Ukraine who are actively working with separatists to try to undermine the central government in Ukraine.

So this is a tactic that we have seen form the Russians with regard to their public communications.  When the President has discussed his personal communications with Vladimir Putin, the President has indicated that President Putin is pretty blunt and businesslike.  And I think there’s only one time that I participated in one of those meetings and that was my observation as well.

Q    You agree he was blunt?

MR. EARNEST:  I would.  I would.

Q    But you would not say that he feels that in those conversations Putin has ever lied?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, I don’t think I can account for all of the conversations between President Obama and President Putin.  I would just say that President Obama has often said that public perception about his behind-the-scenes interactions with President Putin aren’t usually correct, that they do have pretty businesslike interactions and President Putin is pretty blunt in those conversations.

And what Ambassador Power was obviously referring were some of the public communications that we’ve seen from the Russians to say things about their activities that just aren’t true.

Q    There have been reports last week about the Israelis, this week about British intelligence, suggesting that their conversations with the CIA asking for reassurance that known assets in Russia would not be shared by the incoming administration with Moscow.  In other words, asking the U.S. to keep its secrets secret.  Is that something that the White House has been aware of?  Are those reports in any way accurate?  And is that kind of request appropriate?

MR. EARNEST:  I can’t speak to any of the conversations that our intelligence community has had with some of our closest allies.  I’ll let them describe those conversations.

The United States has worked hard to deepen our cooperation with the United Kingdom and the rest of our NATO allies for that matter, certainly as it relates to intelligence gathering.  Our ability to collect that intelligence and share it widely among our partners does make our alliance stronger.  And it makes our collective defense more effective.  But I can’t speak to any specific instructions or requests that the British intelligence services may have made to American intelligence services.

Q    And lastly, you said you wouldn’t characterize the readiness of the incoming administration. Secretary Kerry did publicly suggest that he was — the contact had been minimal with at least the incoming Secretary of State, should he be confirmed.  Would you say that the incoming administration has taken up the Obama administration in all of its offering to fully brief and fully read in the nominees?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Margaret, I think the thing that was evident to all of you in the earliest days of the transition is that the Trump administration had a pretty steep hill to climb with regard to their learning curve.  Is some of that related to the fact that they weren’t anticipating winning the election?  Probably.  But I think what we have seen over that time is conscientious, painstaking work on the part of the incoming administration to try to get up to speed.  And there has been substantial improvement in those efforts since the days immediately following the election.

I obviously can’t speak to all of the conversations across the federal government.  But it’s certainly fair for you to conclude that the capacity and capability of the incoming team has improved markedly since the first days after the election.

Jordan.

Q    Thanks, Josh, for the final time.  I wanted to ask you about a report in The Washington Post yesterday that said the President plans to make several hundred commutations before his final day.  Can you confirm that’s the plan?

MR. EARNEST:  I saw that report.  I don’t have any news to announce from here with regard to any commutations.  But if there are any clemency requests that are granted, we’ll make sure you’re among the first to hear about them.

Q    Yet last week you made an interesting argument about the differences between Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.  Can you at this point rule out that the President will give a pardon to Edward Snowden?

MR. EARNEST:  I can’t rule anything in or out.  I think the one thing that the Department of Justice has said — I’m looking at Brandi, and she’s giving me the poker face.  (Laughter.)  I believe what the Department of Justice has said is that — there you go.  What they have said and what Brandi has told me is that — (laughter) — Mr. Snowden has not filed paperwork to seek clemency from the administration.  But I don’t have any specific comments about whether or not that would impact any sort of presidential-level decision.

Sarah.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  On the note of pardons, the administration has been very proud of its ethical record.  And as we’ve seen in the past, some of these last-minute pardons can kind of trip some people up.  And so will — the clemency initiative, there’s sort of a structure for those.  But with the pardons, will the President issue all his pardons at a point where we’re still able to ask for an explanation about them?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I would say is simply that we’re aware of the history that you’ve alluded to.  The President has been judicious about using this authority in a way that he believes is consistent with American interests and the pursuit of justice.  And if we feel it is ever necessary for us to make that case, we’ll want to make sure that we have ample opportunity to make it.

I think I’ll leave it there.

Q    And can you just offer any more details about the President’s last day, his last hours in office?  Will he still get the presidential daily briefing?  Can you tell us who specifically is actually going to be showing up here on the 20th?

MR. EARNEST:  You mean in terms of staff?

Q    Yes.

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have that in front of me, but we will provide you with some contact information for the morning of the 20th should you need it.

Q    I’m just mean in terms of what he’s doing.  Like is Chief of Staff McDonough going to be here?  NSC Advisor?

MR. EARNEST:  We’ll work to see if we can compile some of those details.  I don’t have a lot of detailed information about that right now, but we’ll see if can get you something in advance of Friday.

Kevin.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  And despite our differences, thank you for being fair.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Kevin.  I appreciate that.

Q    And your staff is great, too, as well.

MR. EARNEST:  I appreciate it.

Q    Regardless of the clemency issue, is it fair to say that the process is still ongoing at this stage?  The review, is that still happening even today?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, this is a process that largely lives at the Department of Justice, and they’ve been very focused on this important work.  They’re working closely with the President’s attorneys here in the White House.  And, yes, it is fair to say that that work continues.

Q    I want to ask specifically about Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, in particular.  As it relates to Chelsea Manning, does the White House agree that Manning is being subjected to unfair treatment by the Army amid her daily fight to have her right to be identified as a woman?  Does the White House agree with that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not aware that the Commander-in-Chief has weighed in on this.  This is obviously complicated by the fact that Chelsea Manning is in the military criminal justice process and, of course, the Commander-in-Chief is at the top of the chain of command, which limits our ability to discuss her case in all that much detail.  But I’ll look and see if we have ever weighed on this specific question.  I know that it certainly is a question and a concern that’s been raised by some of Chelsea Manning’s advocates.

Q    And for the record, she was sentenced to 35 years.  Does the White House believe that that was a just sentence?

MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t heard the President weigh in on that either, again for the same kind of chain-of-command reasons that I just cited.

Q    But he may tomorrow?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, if he chooses to — you and Jordan will be among the first to know.  (Laughter.)

Q    Fair enough.  Jordan, I got first dibs.  (Laughter.)  Let me ask you about Edward Snowden.  Does his offer to turn himself in if Manning is, in fact, offered clemency weigh at all in the consideration for how the President might consider a pardon for Manning, or even for Snowden, do you think?

MR. EARNEST:  It does not, primarily because we believe that under any circumstances, Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face the serious crimes with which he’s been charged.  He will, of course, be afforded the kind of due process that’s available to every American citizen who’s going through the criminal justice process.  But the crimes that he’s accused of committing are serious, and we believe that he should return to the United States and face them rather than seeking refuge in the arms of an adversary of the United States that has their own strategic interests in disseminating harmful — or disseminating information in a harmful way.

Q    So for clarity’s sake, it seems apparent that there’s little doubt that Edward Snowden will not be offered a pardon by this President.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s not something that — I can’t rule out any offer of clemency, or rule it in, frankly, from here.

Q    Based on what you just said, though — I mean, the President has been pretty clear, he hasn’t availed himself to even a conversation about prosecution or facing the charges that he may in fact be forced to face were he even here.  So based on that, it seems clear he’s not going to get a pardon, right?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, you’ve heard me note that that is one of the many differences between Mr. Snowden’s case and Chelsea Manning’s case.  But I can’t rule anything in or out at this point.

Q    Last one.  I want to ask you about Julian Assange.  Did the White House ask Britain or even Ecuador, perhaps, to take action against Julian Assange and/or shut down WikiLeaks at any point?  Did that come from this White House?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of any specific request like that that was made.  You know that the U.S. intelligence community, and even the President, have expressed some deep concerns about the ties between Russian intelligence and WikiLeaks and other organizations like it that were created to disseminate either classified information or previously private information.  And we know that much of those efforts to disseminate that information was rooted in a Republican — Russian strategy to undermine confidence in American democracy.

So we have profound concerns about the way that that organization, WikiLeaks, has operated, and we have expressed profound concerns about the way that some of the things that they have done and some of the information that they have released has harmed our national security, has put our military and our intelligence officers in harm’s way and made their dangerous work even more dangerous.  But I can’t speak to any specific requests that may have been made of the Brits or the Ecuadoreans.

Ron.

Q    Just to follow up on this — the appointments of Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice and others to these boards.  Are these appointments that cannot be reversed by the President — the incoming President?  And were they made for that reason or with that in mind?

MR. EARNEST:  They weren’t made with that in mind.  I believe that these are the — that the appointments on these kinds of boards are part of the President’s executive authority and part of his responsibility.  And he chose to fill a couple of those positions with two of his most trusted aides.

Q    So they’re probably — are there terms?  Are there — I guess it would vary depending upon the —

MR. EARNEST:  There are terms, but we can get you the details.

Q    There’s also — there’s an education regulation that’s making its way — I believe it’s before the White House Budget Office.  You’re looking at me like you don’t know what I’m talking about.

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t think I do.

Q    It’s a regulation that would essentially change the funding mechanism within school districts and apportion more money to lower-income areas as compared to higher-income areas.  The question is where is that, is it going to make it, so on and so forth.

MR. EARNEST:  Let me have my colleagues at the Office of Management and Budget circle back with you to give you an update on where that stands.

Q    And just a last thing — can you give us any indication of what the President is really doing and focused on these last number of days?  I know you were asked about staffing and all that, but —

MR. EARNEST:  Other than saying really nice things about me — (laughter) — which I deeply appreciate, by the way?.

Q    It’s a — I mean, I know he’s concerned about national security, I know he’s concerned about the transition.  But just — I just wonder, what do you do when you have, like, a few days left after all this?

MR. EARNEST:  There’s a lot to be done.  Let me tell you at least one thing.  This morning, the President assembled senior members of his counterterrorism and homeland security team to review ongoing security planning for the 58th inauguration.  The President commended the comprehensive preparations across the law enforcement and intelligence community, and directed that all agencies maintain their high state of vigilance to ensure we are best postured to protect the homeland against individuals radicalized to violence.

The President was also briefed on counterterrorism operations in Iraq and Syria that are putting simultaneous pressure on ISIL inside Mosul and around Raqqa.  Over the weekend, as you may know, Iraqi security forces made significant gains in Mosul as ISIL defenses are collapsing in key parts of the city.  And in northern Syria, local partners continue to constrict ISIL’s movement in the vicinity of Raqqa.

The President noted the impact our strategy is having on the ground is the result of a deliberate effort to accelerate our campaign against ISIL, and that the coalition is well-postured to put ISIL on a path to lasting defeat.

I think the fact that the President held this meeting today is an indication that the President continues to be focused first and foremost on the safety and security of the United States and the American people.  And this is consistent with the kind of briefing that he has held with his national security team and with intelligence officials before major events.  The President typically does this before the holidays; he’ll often do this before the Fourth of July.  And obviously, with the upcoming inauguration, we want to make sure — the President wanted to make sure that our security posture was in place to protect the American people.

Q    That’s a Situation Room meeting?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know exactly where this meeting took place, but we can confirm that for you.

Q    Anything else?  Is he — we’ve talked about pardons and commutations, and talked about appointments.  Is there anything else that we can expect over the next number of hours that are work product, if you will, that the President is trying to get done before he leaves?  Even if you can identify some areas.  We know he’s concerned about immigration.  We know he’s concerned about social justice.  We know he’s concerned about a lot of things.

MR. EARNEST:  Right.

Q    Can you point us to anything that he is, in the final hours, really trying to focus on and get done?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t have any announcements to preview, but the President has still got a lot of work to do.  And even in just the last couple of days here, he’s focused on the task at hand, even as he also does some of the other things around the White House, like bidding a fond farewell to members of his staff and other people from across the administration, and also I think spending some time thinking about his own time and his own tenure here.  But stay tuned.  If there’s more, we’ll let you know.

Carol.

Q    Thank you.  I guess I’ll follow on that note.  Can you give us an update on the President’s efforts to close Guantanamo?  And are you prepared at this time to just — say it will remain open Friday afternoon?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I can confirm — and I think this is something that you’ve already reported — that there was a transfer of 10 detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the government of Oman.  With that transfer being completed, there are now 45 detainees at Gitmo.  When President Obama took office, the detainee population was at 242, so since that time, we’ve moved 193 detainees to 42 countries for repatriation, resettlement, or prosecution.

Obviously, that work was a result of the review that President Obama ordered almost exactly eight years ago today to ask the intelligence community and other national security agencies to engage in a case-by-case review of the files of the detainees, and determine if any of them could be transferred to other countries under a set of strict security requirements that would limit their ability to harm the United States.  And so that’s been an effort that has greatly reduced the prison population.

At this point, I don’t anticipate that we will succeed in that goal of closing the prison, but it’s not for a lack of trying — that, I assure you.  And the only reason it didn’t happen is because of the politics that members of Congress in both parties, frankly, played with this issue.  And it has put the United States in a position where, because of the obstacles erected by Congress, terrorist organizations have a powerful recruiting tool, and millions in taxpayer dollars are wasted to operate this large facility for 45 people, potentially less.

That’s not a good use of taxpayer dollars, and it certainly isn’t the most effective way to protect our country.  And that’s not just a conclusion that President Obama has reached, that’s a conclusion that’s been reached by people like President Bush and senior members of his national security team.  So this isn’t a partisan issue, and I think the disappointment at Congress’s action in this area is also bipartisan in nature.

Q    Two follow-ups on that.  At what point did the President make that determination, that he would not succeed? And do you expect any additional transfers this week?

MR. EARNEST:  The possibility of additional transfers remains a possibility.  Look, I think once there was a — once we’d reach the 30-day deadline for notifying Congress in advance of detainee transfers, the likelihood of succeeding in closing the prison was quite remote.

Q    One other quick question.  Chinese President Xi today delivered a speech in Davos where he gave a defense of globalization and warned against a trade war and protectionism, and this is obviously something the President has spoken a lot about, and I’m curious if you have any reaction to the Chinese President’s speech.

MR. EARNEST:  I didn’t read the text of President Xi’s remarks, but certainly based on the news coverage, I think this does surface a central question — for the American people, for policymakers, for economic leaders, and even national security leaders — about what role the United States is going to play in the global economy and what role the United States is going to play in Asia Pacific.  And President Obama put forward his own strategy, one that sought to deepen our alliances with Australia, South Korea, and Japan that has resulted in a beefed-up military presence in the Asia Pacific, to protect our allies, to deepen our coordination and cooperation with them, and to ensure they’re protected from threats that emanate in the region.

The President also felt strongly that that intensified security cooperation should be partnered with greater economic integration in that region of the world.  Southeast Asia in particular is home to some of the most dynamic economies in the world.  These are smaller countries, but they have rapidly growing middle-class populations, and many of the countries who signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement are home to those economies.  And the completion of that agreement and the ratification of that agreement by Congress would have given American businesses a better opportunity to compete in that part of the world.  That would have been good for our economy and good for our businesses and, most importantly, good for our workers.

The agreement would have required other countries to slash 18,000 taxes that they impose on American products.  It would have held those countries accountable for raising labor standards, raising human rights standards, raising environmental standards, the kinds of standards that we already observe here.  And to shut off the U.S. from those kinds of agreements isn’t just a missed opportunity, it actually puts the United States at a greater disadvantage because we’re hearing many of those countries indicate a desire to move forward with that agreement.

So that means that other countries who have signed on are going to be at an advantage over U.S. products, to say nothing of the role of the Chinese.  China would love to come and strike their own agreements with these other countries for the same reasons that we would like to — because these are some of the fastest-growing economies of the world and they have a rapidly growing middle class that could be available to buy Chinese products.  And we know that if the Chinese negotiate a deal, they’re not looking to raise human rights standards; they’re not looking to raise labor standards; they’re not looking to put in place strict, tough intellectual property protections.

So the President is deeply disappointed that Congress hasn’t moved to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership because of the obvious benefits for the American people.  And that’s going to have consequences not just for our economy and the success that our country has in confronting the forces of globalization and looking out for the interests of working people, it’s also going to have an impact on our national security.

So obviously the incoming administration has proposed a different strategy when it comes to countering the forces of globalization.  I believe the President’s economic record speaks for itself.  And all of you will have an opportunity to test just how — well, whether or not the strategy put forward by the incoming administration works and actually serves the interests of the American people, the American economy, and American workers.

Mark.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  Have there ever been days when you’ve dreaded coming out here?  (Laughter.)  Or let me put it another way — have there been days when you didn’t dread coming out here?  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  Let me answer your question this way.  There was — I did the briefing here — well, I did a briefing like this 354 times as Press Secretary —

Q    My count is higher.

MR. EARNEST:  Is it higher?

Q    Yeah.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the stenographers separated out the times that I briefed as the Principal Deputy Press Secretary, so that may account for the difference, but we can look at the numbers.

Q    I also counted gaggles.

MR. EARNEST:  They did, too.  I did almost the same number as both the Press Secretary and as the Deputy.

Q    I trust Mark’s number.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  That’s understandable.  That’s understandable.  In the 354 or so times that I walked into this room, I never took for granted the blessing that was the opportunity to stand here.  And most people don’t have an opportunity to influence the debate in this way.  The arguments that you hear me make, these are President Obama’s arguments.  This is his vision for the country that I’m advocating for.  So I’m not trying to take credit for that.

But these are arguments, and this is a vision for the country, and these are values that I passionately believe in.  And having the opportunity to influence the way that those arguments are made, to look for ways to deliver them in the most persuasive way that I can think of is an extraordinary intellectual challenge, but it also really gives me an opportunity to shape the debate in a way that few other people in this town have.

So there were days when I knew I was going to come out here and get some tough questions, and there were days when I was going to walk back to my office frustrated about how it went, but I never took for granted what an extraordinary opportunity it is to be a part of this process with you and to advocate for a President and a vision that I deeply believe in.  And I’m going to miss it.  It’ll be — at the risk of oversharing, it’ll be hard to — well, let me say it this way — (laughter) — it’ll take some getting used to, to seeing somebody else stand up here doing it.

Q    Or not.

THE PRESIDENT:  Or not. (Laughter.)  And — but that’s —

Q    Are you going to watch?

MR. EARNEST:  I’ll probably watch.  I’m interested in what happens in here, and I think it’s important for the country.  And I’ll be paying attention.

Q    Marlin Fitzwater used to say that after he left that job, he used to love putting his feet up, pouring a glass of wine, and watching someone else face all the questions.  (Laughter.)  Is that how you think you’ll be watching your successor?

MR. EARNEST:  There may be a time or two when schadenfreude creeps in.  But look — again, I’ve got enormous respect for the work that all of you do and for the conventions that we have erected to engage in this discussion, and it’s been an honor to be a part of it.  And yeah, I’m interested in what happens here, and I’ll continue to follow it.  But I will be relieved to not have the burden to follow it as closely as this job has required over the last two-and-a-half years.

Go ahead, JC.

Q    It’s sort of a personal question and it follows up, I hope, on what Mark was saying.  The President alluded earlier that you could possibly have a career on the silver screen.  (Laughter.)  Many of us — I believe that.  Keep smiling — that’s it.  Perfect.  And we know that you’re not going to require your very patient wife, Natalie, and your son, Walker, to pepper you with tough questions every day between 1:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon.  But to follow up, where is your passion going?  What would you like to do?  And where do you want to follow your dream?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’ll tell you that I’ve had this conversation with the President.  And one of the challenges of the job is it is all-consuming.  It’s difficult to remember a day in which the first thing that pops into my head when I open my eyes in the morning — usually in the dark — was to wonder what I needed to get done in order to prepare for this briefing, or to fulfill my responsibilities at the White House.

So I’m looking forward to having a little bit more time and space, both physically and intellectually, to reflect on this experience and to consider what the future might hold.  But I honestly don’t know.

Q    Will you keep us posted?

MR. EARNEST:  Yeah, I’ll keep you posted.

Mark.

Q    Yes, just to clarify two quick things.

MR. EARNEST:  Sure.

Q    The clemency petitions that have come in, you led us to believe last week that there would be a round, some size, of additional clemencies before the President leaves?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes.

Q    That is still the case, correct?  Whatever size they are.

MR. EARNEST:  What I can tell you is that the work on this issue continues, and I certainly wouldn’t rule out additional announcements before noon on Friday.

Q    The President considers this still an important part of his legacy.

MR. EARNEST:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

Q    And the President’s plans on Friday — I know you don’t want to go into detail about it — but we’re right in calling this a vacation, correct?  He’s not planning to go out and do speeches right away and meetings and stuff like that.

MR. EARNEST:  That is correct.  The President will not be working when he arrives in Palm Springs.

Q    Perhaps a fair amount of putting and other things?

MR. EARNEST:  Yeah, and I’m sure that many of you will be disappointed you won’t have the opportunity to tag along.  (Laughter.)

Scott.

Q    Is the First Family going to be staying in rental housing?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know where they’re going to be staying in Palm Springs, and I doubt we’ll announce it in advance.

Q    And you’re leaving your office on Thursday afternoon or evening, but will you and your team will have control of the emails and Twitter and WhiteHouse.gov up until noontime?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, there is a plan in place to effect that transition at noon on Friday.  I’m not sure exactly how they’re going to do that.  But it’s part of — it’s one of the reasons I have so much admiration for my colleagues who are more technologically inclined than I am.

John.

Q    Thanks, a lot, Josh.  Congratulations on your 354th briefing, or whatever that number is.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Q    Given all of your experience in this briefing room, can you talk a little bit from your perspective about the advantages of coming out to the James S. Brady Briefing Room to talk to us on a regular basis?

MR. EARNEST:  This is a place that’s recognized immediately around the world as the place where announcements at the White House are made.  And again, the symbolic value of this podium in this room in front of all of you is powerful.  And it sends a strong message not just to the American people, but to people around the world about what the White House is doing, what the President is focused on, what his priorities are, and how he’s seeking to advance our interests.

So again, I think that there are a lot of common-sense logistical reasons to preserve the kind of access that all of you have to the West Wing.  But I wouldn’t overlook the important, symbolic value that makes the arrangement that we have in the United States rather unique.

Q    As far as statements, which are regularly put out by your office, I didn’t notice a statement in regards to the death of Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon.  Was that an oversight?  Can you talk a little bit about his contribution to our country?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I obviously read some of the news coverage about Mr. Cernan’s death.  And he certainly falls in the category of American hero, somebody who risked his life in the earliest days of the American space program to do remarkable things and inspire the American people to reach for great heights — reach for great heights.  And obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with his family today and those how loved him.

I can’t speak to why there wasn’t a presidential statement.  But certainly the President and First Lady made note of his death and are remembering him along with some of the other Americans who were inspired by his courage.

Richard.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  On behalf of the foreign press, I also want to thank you.  You’ve been helpful but very welcoming.  And all of us, we benefited from your openness so much.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Richard.

Q    You have to know that all this has been very much appreciated.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Q    Knowing that there are also many auto plants in Canada, I would like your reaction to the President-elect’s comment or intention on imposing a 35 percent tax on German cars being built in Mexico and sold in the U.S.

MR. EARNEST:  Richard, I think this is a pertinent question.  The President, on his last trip to Canada over the summer, talked about this very issue.

The U.S. auto industry is part of an integrated global supply chain.  And the presence of a lot of those suppliers for U.S. automakers is actually in Canada, and it speaks to the important ties between our two countries.  And maintaining those robust ties is good for the economy in both our countries; that if you shut down the supply chain or you shut down the trade between the United States and Canada, you’re going to cut off the American auto industry from the global supply chain in a way that’s going to have direct and negative consequences for American businesses and American workers.

That’s a real problem.  And I think it is an illustration of why President Obama has chosen a different strategy that actually seeks to ensure that other countries, including Canada, are living up to the kinds of high standards that are set here in the United States and were codified in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Canada, of course, was part of those negotiations and signed onto the deal.

So the President has spoken out about this at some length.  He certainly does believe that the strategy that he has advocated is the right one, but the incoming President has some different ideas in mind.  And we’ll have an opportunity to assess whether or not his strategy is going to work.

Jean.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  You have worked hard as White House press secretary.  I deeply appreciate you.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Jean, I appreciate that.  That’s very kind.

Q    Can I follow — ask a question.  After you — whatever — you go out the White House, can I also ask on those issues?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m sorry, say one more time?

Q    Can I follow up on the North Korean issues — continue —

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there will be somebody else in the White House who will be setting policy with regard to the United States’ relationship with North Korea.  And I am hopeful there will be somebody else who is here answering your questions, but I certainly have enjoyed the opportunity that you and I have had to discuss this critically important national security priority of the United States.

Q    Thank you very much.  On THAAD missile issues.  Last week, incoming administration (inaudible) and South Korean national security agency director agreed to deploy THAAD missile in South Korea.  On this regard, China continues to threaten retaliation against South Korea for THAAD issues.  What can the United States do about Chinese actions?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the United States has made clear that the deployment of a THAAD battery to South Korea would be focused solely on countering the missile threat that emanates from North Korea.  South Korea is an ally of the United States of America.  We are duty-bound to defend them.  And President Obama has made clear, and I think the tens of thousands of U.S. troops that are on the ground in Korea right now make clear, that we’re going to live up to that promise.  And the deployment of a THAAD battery in South Korea would enhance our ability to do exactly that.

We’ve explained that to the Chinese at the highest levels, and we’ll continue to go to great lengths to help them understand exactly what we are trying to do.  And I know that that is something that is taking place not just at the presidential level, but I know that there have been some conversations through diplomatic channels, military channels to try to ease the concerns of the Chinese that this is an effort that’s focused on North Korea and not on having any impact on China’s capabilities.

Q    And one more thing.  Recently, high-level diplomat — North Korean defector, Thae Yong-ho, from UK — he has testimony, and he said that North Korean Kim Jong-un will (inaudible) nuclear weapons, and that he also said that it is a waste of time for Six-Party talks to (inaudible) the North Korean nuclear weapons.  Do you think we still need Six-Party talks?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I haven’t seen the specific comments of the defector that you cited, but I can tell you it’s the United States’ policy that the United States is prepared to engage with North Korea diplomatically when they make clear a commitment to a set of principles, including denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.  And we’ve made that clear, and that policy hasn’t changed.

Let’s do a couple more here.  John.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  And despite differences on things, thanks for your graciousness to me and always helping me on answers, and especially helping some friends of mine when they wanted some things in the White House.

MR. EARNEST:  You’re welcome, John.  I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work with you, as well.

Q    Thank you.  Questions are twofold.  First, David Horowitz, the author, has come out with a book entitled “Big Agenda,” in which he says that Donald Trump has an agenda to repeal or roll back 90 percent of the executive orders and executive actions that President Obama took in his eight years in office.  Your reaction to that?  And do you think that’s possible to actually do?

MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t heard of the book that you’re referring to.  What I can tell you is that President Obama has often made the argument that there’s a difference between campaigning and governing.  And I know that the incoming President made a lot of promises about all of the executive actions that he was going to repeal, but when he’s responsible for governing the country, he will have to reconcile those promises with the impact — the negative impact that following through on those promises would have on the country.  That may end up altering his decision to follow through, but ultimately those will be decisions for him to make.

And it’s why you heard me on many occasions express a preference for working with Congress to try to institute policy that would be good for the country.  But we ran into a brick wall of opposition when it comes to Republicans when they took power in 2011, and so we didn’t pass as much legislatively as we would have liked to have done.  But the President did use his executive authority to advance our country’s interests and to advance the agenda that he was seeking to implement.  And the incoming President will have to determine how much of that he wants to roll back.

Q    And I’ve been dying to ask this all day — all week, actually.  Two former press secretaries to presidents have gone on to run for elective office after they left the podium up there, both unsuccessful.  Would you ever consider relocating to your home state, the “Show Me” state of Missouri, where they do need some fresh Democrats — I don’t think you’ll argue about it — (laughter) — and run for office yourself?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I can tell you is that I know that there are a lot of talented young Missourians who are Democrats who should not be overlooked.  And I’ve certainly been in touch with some of them, and I think there’s a bright future for Democrats in Missouri, but at this point I’m not planning to be one of them.

Jared.

Q    Josh, over the weekend the President-elect told the Washington Post that he is supporting insurance for everybody, health insurance for everybody.  Is this a plan that the President — said he’ll support something that’s better than Obamacare?  Is that enough to whet his appetite?  Or does he need more information?

MR. EARNEST:  Jared, the President — I can tell you that President Obama looks forward to somebody calling his bluff.  The President spoke on live, national television, in primetime, looked directly into the camera and said that he will advocate for policy, even if it’s put forward by Republicans, if it will cover more people and more effectively lower costs than even Obamacare has.

So the President stands by that promise.  And according to what the President-elect promised to The Washington Post, it sounds like we might get a chance to see whether or not he’s calling that bluff.  The best way to cover everybody, and I think the only way that anybody thinks you can cover everybody, is through a single-payer plan.

So it’s unclear, I think, exactly at this point exactly what the incoming administration’s plans are.  It does not appear that, according to some reporting that I saw, that even their nominee to be HHS secretary is clear exactly what their plans are.

But the President made that commitment, and he’ll stand by it.  And I assure you that there are few things that would make him happier in his post-presidency than to have the incoming administration call his bluff, because this is an issue that he feels strongly about.  And as he himself has said, there’s no pride of authorship here.  If there are improvements that can be made on Obamacare, he won’t hesitate to support them.

Q    And I know that you haven’t given us information about the frequency or duration or readouts of the calls between the President and the President-elect, but I want to ask, looking forward, once he’s on vacation after Inauguration Day, then-former President Obama, what’s the level of his unpluggedness, and will he be available if there’s a call from the Commander-in-Chief?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think what is certainly true of former presidents is they have a unique perspective on the burden and challenges that are assumed by the incoming President.  And as President Obama said the day after the election, he’s rooting for the incoming President to succeed in uniting the country.  And if there’s an opportunity for former-President Obama to assist in that effort, I’m confident that wherever he is, he’ll take the call.

Lalit.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  I join in thanking you on behalf of the foreign press for working with us.

MR. EARNEST:  You’re welcome.

Q    And in fact, the first foreign pool was done when the President invited Indian Prime Minister in November of 2009, and since then we are having (inaudible).  In the first briefing that the President — the press secretary did in 2009, the main foreign policy topic was the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  (Inaudible) was not.  But my question is, there are still 10,000 troops left in Afghanistan.  Does the President regret that he hasn’t recalled all the troops from there?  And had the situation been different, had Pakistan been more helpful in eliminating terrorist safe havens from their territories?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, with regard to Pakistan, obviously, the United States has an extraordinarily complicated relationship, particularly when it comes to national security, with Pakistan.  There are some areas where the United States and Pakistan have been able to effectively cooperate to counter terrorism and to fight extremism, and that’s served the interests of both countries.  And obviously, tragically, Pakistan is a country where many victims of terrorism have been claimed.

And the President certainly is interested and is hopeful that the next administration will be able to deepen that cooperation with Pakistan, because it wouldn’t just enhance security in Pakistan; it actually would make the United States safer, too.

With regard to Afghanistan, I think this will be the kind of issue that historians spend a lot of time looking at when evaluating President Obama’s presidency.  What President Obama promised to do when taking office was to refocus our attention on the threat from al Qaeda that emanates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.  And President Obama put in place a strategy, working closely with his national security team, at the State Department and the intelligence community, and, of course, the Department of Defense.  And over the course of several years, in part relying on some new capabilities, succeeded in decimating core al Qaeda that previously menaced the United States from hideouts in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

That is a major accomplishment, and it’s an accomplishment that has made the American people safer.  But the threat in that region of the world has not been eliminated, and there continue to be a smaller number of U.S. servicemembers keeping us safe, engaging in counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

They’re also working closely with thousands of troops from our NATO partners who are also there doing the same thing.  And I know there has been a question raised about how important a role NATO has played when it comes to counterterrorism.  You have to look no further than Afghanistan to assess just how valuable a contribution that they have made to that effort.

So the situation in Afghanistan continues to be one of concern, and I think the President would acknowledge that this is an area where we’ve made important progress that has made the American people safer, but there’s still important work to be done in this region of the world, and this is a responsibility that the incoming President will assume.

Q    And the President visited India twice; no other President had in the past.  And he has met with Prime Minister Modi both times.  What kind of relationship the President would like the new administration to have with the largest democratic country in the world?

MR. EARNEST:  President Obama did make strengthening our ties with India a genuine priority.  The President believed that that served our economic interest and our national security interest, and that would certainly explain the frequent visits of both Indian Prime Ministers during President Obama’s tenure in office to the White House, and it would explain President Obama’s visits to India as well.  And each of those visits was oriented around a discussion about how to deepen our economic ties in a way that has positive benefits for workers in both our countries, but also to look for ways that we can work more effectively together to fight extremism and to enhance the security of citizens in both our countries.

And President Obama certainly believes that we have made important progress in deepening and strengthening the relationship between two of the world’s largest democracies, and is hopeful that that progress will continue under the next administration.

Francesca, I’m going to give my Kansas City girl the last one.  (Laughter.)

Q    Thank you.  I truthfully was going to ask first, what the heck happened with the Chiefs the other night?  (Laughter.)  I’d like to know the answer to that.

MR. EARNEST:  Unfortunately, it’s just the latest in a long string of heartbreaking playoff defeats for the Kansas City Chiefs.  So there’s always next year.

Q    While endeavoring to keep it light here at the end, I apologize if you said some of this earlier, there was a little bit of a commotion at the beginning of the briefing —

MR. EARNEST:  There was.

Q    Did you say how long the President and First Lady will be staying in Palm Beach?  Is this like a quick trip or —

MR. EARNEST:  Palm Springs.

Q    Sorry, sorry, Palm Springs.  Gosh, not Palm Beach — that’s the other President.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  I did not say how long they’re going to stay.  They will arrive on Friday afternoon in Palm Springs, but I don’t anticipate having any updates on their travel schedule beyond then.

Q    And you said the First Family — so the daughters will also be going on that trip as well?

MR. EARNEST:  That’s my understanding.  And we’ll confirm that for you on Friday.

Q    Is there a possibility that perhaps, immediately after that, they’ll go back to Chicago?  When they were there the other day, they didn’t stay overnight — hadn’t visited the home.  Is that potential in the docket?  Trying to get one last week ahead here out of you.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  Yeah.  I guess this is one of the benefits of ending the presidency on a Friday, is I don’t anticipate that there will be any more weeks-ahead.  The President and the First Lady and their family are looking forward to getting out to Palm Springs and beginning to relax a little bit, but I don’t have any updates on their plans beyond that.

Q    And then one final question.  We always assumed that the book the President was writing was a memoir.  Is it possible that he’s writing the next great American novel?

MR. EARNEST:  If he is, he has not told me that, but I think for a variety of reasons we’re all eagerly anticipating how President Obama chooses to devote his time after leaving the White House.

So, thank you all.  It’s been a genuine pleasure.  (Applause.)

2:15 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts January 16, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Remarks Honoring the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Honoring the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs

Source: WH, 1-16-17

East Room

1:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  They said this day would never come.  (Laughter and applause.)  Here is something none of my predecessors ever got a chance to say:  Welcome to the White House the World Series Champion, Chicago Cubs!  (Applause.)

Now, I know you guys would prefer to stand the whole time, but sit down.

I will say to the Cubs:  It took you long enough.  I mean, I’ve only got four days left.  You’re just making it under the wire.  (Laughter.)

Now, listen, I made a lot of promises in 2008.  We’ve managed to fulfill a large number of them.  But even I was not crazy enough to suggest that during these eight years we would see the Cubs win the World Series.  But I did say that there’s never been anything false about hope.  (Laughter and applause.)  Hope — the audacity of hope.

PARTICIPANT:  Yes, we can!

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, we can.

Now, listen, for those of you from Chicago who have known me a long time, it is no secret that there’s a certain South Side team that has my loyalty.  For me, the drought hasn’t been as long.  We had the ’85 Bears; we had the the Bulls’ run in the ‘90s.  I’ve hosted the Blackhawks a number of times.  The White Sox did win just 11 years ago with Ozzie and Konerko and Buerhle.  So I can’t claim that I have the same visceral joy of some in this White House.  (Laughter.)

But FLOTUS is a lifelong Cubs fan.  (Applause.)  And I will tell you, she had to go to another event, but in eight years that I’ve been here — I told the team this — in the eight years that I’ve been here, we’ve hosted at least 50 teams — football, basketball, baseball, soccer, you name it — Michelle has never come to a single event celebrating a champion until today.  (Applause.)  And she came and shook hands, and met with every one of these members of the Cubs organization, and told a story about what it meant for her to be able to see them win, because she remembers coming home from school and her dad would be watching a Cubs game, and the bond and the family, the meaning that the Cubs had for her in terms of connecting with her father and why it meant so much for her.  And I almost choked up listening to it.  And it spoke, I think, to how people feel about this organization, and that it’s been passed on generation after generation, and it’s more than sports.

And that is not just true for FLOTUS.  My longest-serving aide, Anita, is a Cubs fan.  (Applause.)  “Fan” is not enough.  When they won, the next day she said, this is the best day of my life.  ((Laughter.)  And I said, what about me winning the presidency?  What about your wedding day?  She’s like, “No, this is the best.”  My chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan — (applause) — Cubs fan.  In fact, there were a lot of sick days during the playoffs.  (Laughter.)  One of my staff members was caught being interviewed at a bar outside of Wrigley — (laughter) — and we’re watching him being interviewed.  You remember?  And he’s looking kind of sheepish about it.  It’s like, why aren’t you in the office?  (Laughter.)

But, look, the truth is, there was a reason not just that people felt good about the Cubs winning.  There was something about this particular Cubs team winning that people felt good about.  For example, David Ross and I have something in common — we’ve both been on a “year-long retirement party.”  (Laughter and applause.)  But unlike Grandpa, my team has not yet bought me a scooter with a motorized golf caddy.  But there are four days left — maybe I’ll get that.

The last time the Cubs won the World Series, Teddy Roosevelt was President.  Albert Einstein — or was it Thomas Edison was still alive.  The first Cubs radio broadcast wouldn’t be for almost two decades.  We’ve been through World Wars, a Cold War, a Depression, space race, all manner of social and technological change.  But during that time, those decades were also marked by Phil Cavarretta and Ernie Banks; Billy Williams, who’s here today — (applause) — Ron Santo; Ferg, Ryne Sandberg, Dawson, Maddux, Grace.  Those decades were punctuated by Lee Elia’s rants and Harry Caray’s exuberance; “Hey Hey,” and “Holy Cow,” and capped off by “Go Cubs Go.”

So the first thing that made this championship so special for so many is, is that the Cubs know what it’s like to be loyal, and to persevere and to hope, and to suffer, and then keep on hoping.  And it’s a generational thing.  That’s what you heard Michelle describing.  People all across the city remember the first time a parent took them to Wrigley, where memories of climbing into dad’s lap to watch games on WGN — and that’s part of the reason, by the way, why Michelle had invited — made sure that José Cardenal was here, because that was her favorite player.  (Applause.)  And she was describing — back then he had a big afro, and she was describing how she used to wear her hat over her afro the same way José did.

You could see all that love this season in the fans who traveled to their dads’ gravesites to listen to games on the radio; who wore their moms’ old jerseys to games; who covered the brick walls of Wrigley with love notes in chalk to departed fans whose lifelong faith was finally fulfilled.

None of this, of course, would have happened without the extraordinary contributions of the Ricketts family.  Tom met his wife, Cece, in the bleachers of Wrigley about 30 years ago — which is about 30 years longer than most of relationships that begin there last.  (Laughter and applause.)  Our dear friend Laura Ricketts met her wife, Brooke, in the ballpark, as well.

Brothers and sisters — they turned this team around by hiring what has to be one of the greatest, if not — I mean, he’s still pretty young, so we’ll see how long he keeps on going — the greatest general managers of all time, Theo Epstein — (applause) — and along with Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod.  They did just an unbelievable job.  Theo, as you know — his job is to quench droughts.  86 years in Boston; 108 in Chicago.  He takes the reins of an organization that’s wandering in the wilderness, he delivers them to the Promised Land.  I’ve talked to him about being DNC chair.  (Laughter and applause.)  But he decided wisely to stick to baseball.

That brings me to the other thing that was so special about this championship — and that’s just the guys behind me, the team.  They steamrolled the majors this year with a 103-win record.  All you had to know about this team was encapsulated in that one moment in Game 5, down three games to one, do or die, in front of the home fans when David Ross and Jon Lester turned to each other and said, “I love you, man.”  And he said, “I love you, too.”  It was sort of like an Obama-Biden moment.  (Laughter.)

And then you’ve got the manager, Joe Maddon, who — (applause) — let’s face it, there are not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy.  Look how he looks right now.  (Applause.)  That’s cool.  That’s cool.  He used costume parties and his “Shaggin’ Wagon.”  (Laughter.)  So he’s got — just saying — he’s got a lot of tricks to motivate.  But he’s also a master of tactics, and makes the right move at the right time:  when to pinch hit, when to pinch run, when to make it rain — (laughter) — in Game 7 of the World Series.  It was masterful.  So he set the tone, but also some of the amazing players here set the tone.

My fellow “44” — Anthony Rizzo, the heart of this team.  (Applause.)  Five years ago, he was a part of the squad that lost 101 games.  He stuck at it, and led the National League in All-Star votes this year.

His business partner in the “Bryzzo Souvenir Company,” which delivers baseballs to fans in all parts of the bleachers — Kris Bryant.  (Applause.)  This guy had a good year.  (Laughter.)  You go from Rookie of the Year to being the MVP.  You win the World Series.  And then, like me, he marries up and comes to the White House.  And he did all this just in 10 days — (laughter) — when it took me a long time.  So, congratulations to the newlyweds, Jessica and Kris Bryant.  (Applause.)

And then you got these young guys like Baez and Russell.  (Applause.)   Baez turning tagging into an art form.  Russell becoming the youngest player to hit a World Series Grand Slam since Mickey Mantle.  (Applause.)  And you mix these amazing young talents with somebody like David Ross who, for example, helped Anthony out of his “glass case of emotions” in Game 7.  (Applause.)  But think about what Ross did in his final season:  Caught a no-hitter, surpassed 100 home runs for his career, including one in his last game ever.  If there was ever a way to go out, this was it.

And then you got Ben Zobrist, who didn’t get to come to the White House last year after winning it all with the Royals, but then hits .357 in the World Series, go-ahead RBI in the 10th inning of Game 7, World Series MVP.  I think he’s earned his way here.  (Applause.)  And is apparently a good guy, because I asked his wife — she was in line before he was — and I said, has he gotten a big head since he got the whole MVP thing?  “No, he’s so sweet, he’s so humble.”  You owe her dinner tonight.  (Laughter.)

Extraordinary pitching staff, including Kyle Hendricks, the first Cub to lead the majors in ERA since 1938.  (Applause.)  Kyle, in turn, was the only pitcher this year with a better ERA than Jon Lester, who racked up 19 wins.  (Applause.)  Good job. Jake Arrieta, 2015 Cy Young Award winner, stretched a 20-game win streak featuring two no-hitters across the past two seasons, then hit a home run in the NLDS, and won two games in the World Series.  So, apparently Pilates works.  Michelle says it does.  (Applause.)

And then, finally, the game itself and the Series itself.  To come back from a 3-1 deficit against a great Cleveland Indians team forced what is widely considered the Game 7 of all time.  Dexter Fowler becomes the first player to hit a leadoff home run in Game 7.  (Applause.)  Javy Baez hits another leadoff the fifth.  David Ross becomes the oldest player to knock one out in a Game 7, as well.  Kyle Schwarber, who’s been hurt and hobbled, then suddenly he comes in and gets seven hits in the Series — three in Game 7 alone.  (Applause.)

And then you’ve got the 10th inning, you’ve got the rain.  God finally feeling mercy on Cubs fans.  An entire game, an entire season, an entire century of hope and heartbreak all coming down to a one-inning sprint.  And then Zobrist knocked in one, Montero knocked in another.  Carl Edwards, Jr. and Mike Montgomery teamed up to shut the Indians down.

And then, at 12:47 a.m. Eastern Time, Bryant — it looks like he’s going to slip; everybody is getting a little stressed — tosses a grounder to Rizzo; Rizzo gets the ball, slips it in his back pocket — (laughter) — which shows excellent situational awareness.  (Laughter and applause.)  And suddenly everything is changed.  No more black cats, billy goats, ghosts, flubbed grounders.  The Chicago Cubs are the champs.  And on ESPN, you’ve got Van Pelt saying, “one of the all-time great nights.”  You’ve got Tim Kurkjian calling it “the greatest night of baseball in the history of the game.”  Two days later, millions of people — the largest gathering of Americans that I know of in Chicago.  And for a moment, our hometown becomes the very definition of joy.  So, in Chicago, I think it’s fair to say you guys will be popular for a while.  (Laughter.)

But, in addition, they’re also doing a lot of good work. Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester raised money to help others beat cancer like they did.  (Applause.)  Under the Ricketts Family’s leadership, last year alone, Cubs Charities supported charitable grants and donations of nearly $4 million that reached nearly 120,000 children and young adults across Chicagoland.  (Applause.)  Under their “Let’s Give” initiative, Cubs staff, coaches, players, and spouses donated more than 1,500 hours of service last year to the community.  And after their visit here today, they will head to Walter Reed to visit with some of our brave wounded warriors.  (Applause.)

So just to wrap up, today is, I think, our last official event — isn’t it? — at the White House, under my presidency.  And it also happens to be a day that we celebrate one of the great Americans of all time, Martin Luther King, Jr.  And later, as soon as we’re done here, Michelle and I are going to go over and do a service project, which is what we do every year to honor Dr. King.  And it is worth remembering — because sometimes people wonder, well why are you spending time on sports, there’s other stuff going on — that throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together, even when the country is divided.  Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle but that ultimately made us think differently about ourselves and who we were.  It is a game and it is celebration, but there’s a direct line between Jackie Robinson and me standing here.  There’s a direct line between people loving Ernie Banks, and then the city being able to come together and work together in one spirit.

I was in my hometown of Chicago on Tuesday, for my farewell address, and I said, sometimes it’s not enough just to change the laws, you got to change hearts.  And sports has a way, sometimes, of changing hearts in a way that politics or business doesn’t.  And sometimes it’s just a matter of us being able to escape and relax from the difficulties of our days, but sometimes it also speaks to something better in us.  And when you see this group of folks of different shades and different backgrounds, and coming from different communities and neighborhoods all across the country, and then playing as one team and playing the right way, and celebrating each other and being joyous in that, that tells us a little something about what America is and what America can be.

So it is entirely appropriate that we celebrate the Cubs today, here in this White House, on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday because it helps direct us in terms of what this country has been and what it can be in the future.

With that, one more time, let’s congratulate the 2016 World Champion, Chicago Cubs!  (Applause.)

MR. EPSTEIN:  Talk about a tough act to follow.  Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for inviting us.  We’re all honored to be here today, and we appreciate you taking the time on such an important day, Martin Luther King Day, and during such a historic week, the last week of your distinguished presidency.

As told on my way in here, actually, by our club historian, it’s actually not the first time this franchise has visited the White House.  It was 1888.  (Laughter.)  And we were known as the “Chicago White Stockings,” and we stopped in here to visit President Grover Cleveland.  And apparently, the team demanded for a proclamation to be named the best baseball team in the country.  The President refused, and the team went on their way.  (Laughter.)  Here we are, we’re going to make no such demands today.  (Laughter.)  But we appreciate those kind words.

The President was so kind to recognize our three Hall-of-Famers here with us today who are so synonymous with what it means to be a Cub — Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg.  (Applause.)  And, of course, José Cardenal, who got the longest hug from the First Lady we’ve ever seen — her favorite player of all time, you’re the MVP today.  (Laughter.)

And I want to, one more time, recognize all of the Ricketts family who are here today.  Tom, who’s been such an ideal leader for our organization.  Laura, who’s been such a strong supporter of this President.  And, Todd, who will embark on his journey in public service with a significant role in the new administration next week.  And, Pete, who’s busy governing Nebraska, couldn’t be here, but sends his best.

Finally, we’d like to recognize all of our wives and significant others who do so much to support us behind the scenes, our great “Front Office,” who have worked so hard.  (Applause.)

So, Mr. President, as you alluded to in Cleveland on November 2nd, and into the early morning of November 3rd, this special group of players behind me, in one of the greatest World Series games in history, ended the longest championship drought in American sports.  And when Kris Bryant’s throw settled into Anthony Rizzo’s glove for the final out of Game 7, the victory brought pride, joy, relief and redemption to Cub fans everywhere, including many in the White House.  (Applause.)

So, many of you were there, but the city of Chicago erupted, unified into celebration that continues to this day.  It was a thrilling, emotional time, and we think we even saw some White Sox fans smiling — (laughter) — which, Mr. President, brings us to you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

MR. EPSTEIN:  We know you may have a certain allegiance to another team on the other side of town, but we know you’re a very proud Chicagoan, and we know your better, wiser half, the First Lady — (laughter) — has been a life-long and very loyal Cub fan, which we appreciate very much.  And, of course, we have great faith in your intelligence, your common sense, your pragmatism, your ability to recognize a good thing when you see one.  (Laughter.)

So, Mr. President, with only a few days remaining in your tremendous presidency, we have taken the liberty here today of offering you a midnight pardon — (laughter and applause) — for all your indiscretions as a baseball fan.  And so we welcome you with open arms today into the Cubs family.  (Applause.)

To recognize this terrific conversion and this great day, we have some gifts for you and your family.  First, Anthony Rizzo has graciously agreed to share his number 44 with “The 44.”  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  There we go!

MR. EPSTEIN:  And if you’re still not comfortable putting a Cubs jersey on, this one just says Chicago, so you’re good with that one.  (Applause.)

Second, we have — at historic Wrigley Field, we have a centerfield scoreboard that’s actually a historic landmark, and so we hope the National Park Service won’t mind, but we took down a tile for you, number 44.  (Applause.)  Very few people have one of those.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, that’s very cool.

MR. EPSTEIN:  We also wanted you to know that, as a new fan, you have some catching up to do.  (Laughter.)  And you’ve been busy the last eight years, and your family as well, so Laura Ricketts is here to present you with a lifetime pass to Wrigley Field for you and your family.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I love how it says, “Non-transferrable.”  (Laughter.)

MR. EPSTEIN:  It’s strictly — it’s just an emolument.

THE PRESIDENT:  Can you imagine if somebody walks up and is like — (laughter) —

MS. RICKETTS:  You don’t have to bring it with you.

MR. EPSTEIN:  And finally, every time we win a game in Chicago, we fly the “W” flag, as you know.  So we brought one for you, signed by the entire team, and we’d love for you to fly it at your new library, which we plan to do our very best to support.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  This is nice swag.  Thank you so much.  This is great.

MR. JENKINS:  You got to get him to put the uniform on.  (Laughter.)

MR. EPSTEIN:  It’s just day one.  It’s just day one.

THE PRESIDENT:  Fergie, we’re doing okay so far.  (Laughter.)

MR. EPSTEIN:  So, Mr. President, thank you for the dignity and integrity with which you’ve served this country for the last eight years, for your tremendous service to Chicago and Illinois before that, and for hosting us here today.  We wish you all the best and look forward to seeing you on Wrigley Field.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, everybody, thank you so much.  Let me say, first of all, best swag I’ve gotten as President represented right here.  (Laughter.)  And let me also say on behalf of a lot of folks here in the White House, you brought a lot of joy to a lot of people here, and we’re grateful.  I know my former Chief of Staff, now mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel; folks like Dick Durbin, and we got a whole congressional delegation here; I see Lisa Madigan, my dear friend — just a lot of people have been rooting for you for a long time.

So even though it will be hard for me, Fergie, to wear a jersey, do know that among Sox fans, I’m the Cubs number-one fan.  (Laughter and applause.)

END
2:12 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts January 14, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Final Weekly Address: The Honor of Serving You as President

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: The Honor of Serving You as President

Source: WH, 1-14-17

WASHINGTON, DC — This week, President Obama delivered his final weekly address thanking the American people for making him a better President and a better man. Over the past eight years, we have seen the goodness, resilience, and hope of the American people. We’ve seen what’s possible when we come together in the hard, but vital work of self-government – but we can’t take our democracy for granted. Our success as a Nation depends on our participation. It’s up to all of us to be guardians of our democracy, and to embrace the task of continually trying to improve our Nation. Despite our differences, we all share the same title: Citizen. And that is why President Obama looks forward to working by your side, as a citizen, for all of his remaining days.

MP4MP3

Remarks of President Barack Obama as Delivered
Weekly Address
The White House
January 14, 2017

This week, I traveled to Chicago to deliver my final farewell address to the nation, following in the tradition of Presidents before me.  It was an opportunity to say thank you.  Whether we’ve seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people – in living rooms and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant military outposts – are what have kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going.  Every day, I learned from you.  You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

Over the course of these eight years, I have seen the goodness, the resilience, and the hope of the American people.  I’ve seen neighbors looking out for each other as we rescued our economy from the worst crisis of our lifetimes.  I’ve hugged cancer survivors who finally know the security of affordable health care.  I’ve seen communities like Joplin rebuild from disaster, and cities like Boston show the world that no terrorist will ever break the American spirit.

I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers.  I’ve mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in a Charleston church.  I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and our wounded warriors walk again.  I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks.  I’ve learned from students who are building robots and curing diseases and who will change the world in ways we can’t even imagine.  I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us of our obligations to care for our refugees, to work in peace, and above all to look out for each other.

That’s what’s possible when we come together in the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating, but always vital work of self-government.   But we can’t take our democracy for granted.  All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the work of citizenship.  Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.  If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life.  If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing.  If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, then grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.

Our success depends on our participation, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings.  It falls on each of us to be guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.  Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen.

It has been the honor of my life to serve you as President.  Eight years later, I am even more optimistic about our country’s promise.  And I look forward to working along your side, as a citizen, for all my days that remain.

Thanks, everybody.  God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 12, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Presentation of the Medal of Freedom to Vice President Joe Biden

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and the Vice President in Presentation of the Medal of Freedom to Vice President Joe Biden

Source: WH, 1-12-17

State Dining Room

3:50 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey!  All right, that’s enough.  Don’t want to embarrass the guy.  (Laughter.)

Welcome to the White House, everybody.  As I have already delivered my farewell address, I will try to be relatively brief.  But I just wanted to get some folks together to pay tribute to somebody who has not only been by my side for the duration of this amazing journey, but somebody who has devoted his entire professional life to service to this country, the best Vice President America has ever had, Mr. Joe Biden.  (Applause.)

This also gives the Internet one last chance to talk about our bromance.  (Laughter.)  This has been quite a ride.  It was eight and a half years ago that I chose Joe to be my Vice President.  There has not been a single moment since that time that I’ve doubted the wisdom of that decision.  He was the best possible choice, not just for me, but for the American people.  This is an extraordinary man with an extraordinary career in public service.  This is somebody the people of Delaware sent to the Senate as quickly as they possibly could.  (Laughter.)

Elected at age 29, for more than a dozen years apiece he served as chair or ranking member of the Judiciary and Foreign Relation Committees.  Domestically, he championed landmark legislation to make our communities safer, to protect our women from violence.  Internationally, his wisdom and capacity to build relationships that shaped our nation’s response to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, to counterterrorism, Iraq, Afghanistan.

And for the past eight years, he could not have been a more devoted or effective partner in the progress that we’ve made.  He fought to make college more affordable and revitalize American manufacturing as the head of our Middle Class Task Force.  He suited up for our Cancer Moonshot, giving hope to millions of Americans touched by this disease.

He led our efforts to combat gun violence, and he rooted out any possible misappropriations that might have occurred.  And as a consequence, the Recovery Act worked as well as just about any largescale stimulus project has ever worked in this country.  He visited college after college — and made friends with Lady Gaga (laughter) — for our “It’s On Us” campaign against campus sexual assault.  And when the Pope visited, Joe was even kind enough to let me talk to His Holiness, as well.  (Laughter.)

Behind the scenes, Joe’s candid, honest counsel has made me a better President and a better Commander-in-Chief.  From the Situation Room to our weekly lunches, to our huddles after everybody else has cleared out of the room, he’s been unafraid to give it to me straight, even if we disagree — in fact, especially if we disagree.

And all of this makes him, I believe, the finest Vice President we have ever seen.  And I also think he has been a lion of American history.  The best part is he’s nowhere close to finished.  In the years ahead, as a citizen, he will continue to build on that legacy, internationally and domestically.  He’s got a voice of vision and reason and optimism, and a love for people.  And we’re going to need that spirit and that vision as we continue to try to make our world safer and to make sure that everybody has got a fair shot in this country.

So, all told, that’s a pretty remarkable legacy.  An amazing career in public service.  It is, as Joe once said, a big deal. (Laughter and applause.)  It is.

But we all know that, on its own, his work — this list of accomplishments, the amazing résumé — does not capture the full measure of Joe Biden.  I have not mentioned Amtrak yet or aviators.  (Laughter.)  Literally.  (Laughter.)

Folks don’t just feel like they know Joe the politician, they feel like they know the person — what makes him laugh, what he believes, what he cares about, and where he came from.  Pretty much every time he speaks, he treats us to some wisdom from the nuns who taught him in grade school — (laughter) — or from an old Senate colleague.

But, of course, more frequently cited — Catherine and Joseph, Sr., his mom and dad:  “No one’s better than you, but you’re better than nobody.” (Laughter.)  “Bravery resides in every heart, and yours is fierce and clear.”  “And when you get knocked down, Joey, get up — get up.”  (Laughter.)  “Get up.”  (Applause.)

That’s where he got those broad shoulders.  That’s where he got that Biden heart.  And through his life, through trial after trial, he has never once forgotten the values and the moral fiber that made him who he is.  That’s what steels his faith in God, and in America, and in his friends, and in all of us.

When Joe talks to autoworkers whose livelihoods he helped save, we hear the son of a man who once knew the pain of having to tell his kids that he had lost his job.

When Joe talks about hope and opportunity for our children, we hear the father who rode the rails home every night so that he could be there to tuck his kids into bed.

When Joe sticks up for the little guy, we hear the young boy who used to stand in front of the mirror, reciting Yeats or Emerson, studying the muscles in his face, determined to vanquish a debilitating stutter.

And when Joe talks to Gold Star families who have lost a hero, we hear a kindred spirit; another father of an American veteran; somebody whose faith has been tested, and who has been forced to wander through the darkness himself, and who knows who to lean on to find the light.

So that’s Joe Biden — a resilient, and loyal, and humble servant, and a patriot.  But most of all, a family man.  Starts with Jill, “Captain of the Vice Squad.”  (Laughter.)  Only the Second Lady in our history to keep her regular day job.  (Applause.)  Jill says, teaching isn’t what she does, it’s who she is.  A few days after Joe and I were inaugurated in 2009, she was back in the classroom teaching.  That’s why when our administration worked to strengthen community colleges, we looked to Jill to lead the way.

She’s also traveled the world to boost education and empowerment for women.  And as a Blue Star mom, her work with Michelle to honor our military families will go down in history as one of the most lasting and powerful efforts of this administration.

Of course, like Joe, Jill’s work is only part of the story.  She just seems to walk this Earth so lightly, spreads her joy so freely.  And she reminds us that although we’re in a serious business, we don’t have to take ourselves too seriously.  She’s quick with a laugh or a practical joke, disguising herself as a server at a party she once hosted — (laughter) –to liven the mood.  She once hid in the overhead compartment of Air Force 2 to scare the senior staff.  (Laughter.)  Because why not?  She seems to have a sixth sense of when to send a note of encouragement to a friend or a staffer, a simple thank you or a box of macaroons.
She is one of the best, most genuine people that I’ve met not just in politics, but in my entire life.  She is grounded, and caring, and generous, and funny, and that’s why Joe is proud to introduce himself as “Jill Biden’s husband.”  (Laughter.)

And to see them together is to see what real love looks like — through thick and thin, good times and bad.  It’s an all-American love story.  Jill once surprised Joe by painting hearts on his office windows for Valentine’s Day.

And then there are these Biden kids and grandkids.  They’re everywhere.  (Laughter.)  They’re all good-looking.  (Laughter.)  Hunter and Ashley, who lived out that family creed of raising good families and looking out for the least of our brothers and sisters.  Beau, who is watching over us with those broad shoulders and mighty heart himself — a man who left a beautiful legacy and inspired an entire nation.  Naomi, and Finn, and Maisy, and Natalie, and little Hunter — grandchildren who are the light of Joe’s eyes, and gives him an excuse to bust out the squirt gun around the pool.  (Laughter.)  This is the kind of family that built this country.

That’s why my family is so proud to call ourselves honorary Bidens.  (Laughter.)  As Yeats put it — because I had to quote an Irish poet, and Seamus Heaney was taken — (laughter) — “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”

Away from the camera, Jill and Michelle have each other’s backs just as much as when they’re out championing our troops.  Our girls are close, best friends at school, inviting each other for vacations and sleepovers.  Even though our terms are nearly over, one of the greatest gifts of these past eight years is that we’re forever bonded as a family.

But, of course, I know that the Obamas are not the only ones who feel like they’re part of the Biden clan because Joe’s heart has radiated around this room.  You see it in the enduring friendships he’s forged with folks of every stripe and background up on Capitol Hill.  You see it in the way that his eyes light up when he finds somebody in a rope line from Scranton.  (Laughter.)  Or just the tiniest towns in Delaware.  (Laughter.)  You see it in the incredible loyalty of his staff, the team who knows that family always comes before work because Joe tells them so every day, the team that reflects their boss’s humble service.  Here in this building where there have been no turf wars between our staffs because everybody here has understood that we were all on the same mission and shared the same values, there has just been cooperation and camaraderie.  And that is rare.  It’s a testament to Joe and the tone that he’s set.

And finally, you see Joe’s heart in the way he consoles families, dealing with cancer, backstage after an event; when he meets kids fighting through a stutter of their own, he gives them his private phone number and keeps in touch with them long after.  To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretense, service without self-regard, and to live life fully.

As one of his long-time colleagues in the Senate, who happened to be a Republican, once said, “If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, you got a problem.  He’s as good a man as God ever created.”

So, Joe, for your faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country, and for your lifetime of service that will endure through the generations, I’d like to ask the military aide to join us on stage.

For the final time as President, I am pleased to award our nation’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.   (Applause.)

And for the first and only time in my presidency, I will bestow this medal with an additional level of veneration, an honor my three most recent successors reserved for only three others:  Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, and General Colin Powell.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction to my brother, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.

Will the aide please read the citation.

MILITARY AIDE:  Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.  In a career of public service spanning nearly half a century, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., has left his mark on almost every part of our nation, fighting for a stronger middle class, a fairer judicial system and a smarter foreign policy; providing unyielding support for our troops; combatting crime and violence against women; leading our quest to cure cancer; and safeguarding the landmark American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from corruption.

With his charm, candor, unabashed optimism, and deep and abiding patriotism, Joe Biden has garnered the respect and esteem of colleagues of both parties, and the friendship of people across the nation and around the world.  While summoning the strength, faith and grace to overcome great personal tragedy, this son of Scranton, Claymont, and Wilmington has become one of the most consequential Vice Presidents in American history, an accolade that nonetheless rests firmly behind his legacy as husband, father, and grandfather.

A grateful nation thanks Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. for his lifetime of service on behalf of the United States of America.

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

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Mr. President.  (Applause.)  Please, please, thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Please.  Thank you.

Ricchetti, you’re fired.  (Laughter.)  For the press, Ricchetti is my chief of staff.  (Laughter.)

I had no inkling.  I thought we were coming over, Michelle, to — for you, Jill, and Barack and I and a couple of senior staff to toast one another and say what an incredible journey it’s been.

Mr. President, you got right the part about my leaning on Jill.  But I’ve also leaned on you and a lot of people in this room.  I look around the room, and I see great friends like Ted Kaufman, who has been — has so much wisdom.  Guys like Mel Monzack.  I look around here and I’m startled.  I keep seeing people I don’t expect.  Madam President, how are you?  Mr. President, look at my new boss over there.  (Laughter.)

But you know, I get a lot of credit I don’t deserve, to state the obvious and — because I’ve always had somebody to lean on.  From back that time in 1972, when the accident happened, I leaned on — and I mean this in literal sense; Chris knows this — Dodd knows this, and Mel knows this, and Ted knows this — I leaned on my sons Beau and Hunter.  And I continue to lean on Hunter who continues to in a bizarre kind of way raise me.  I mean I’ve leaned on them.

And, Mr. President, you observed early on that when either one of my boys would walk in the room, they’d walk up and say, Dad, what can I get you?  Dad, what do you need?

And then Jill came along, and she saved our lives.  She — no man deserves one great love, let alone two.  And — but everybody knows here, I am Jill’s husband.  Everybody knows that I love her more than she loves me.  (Laughter.)  With good reason.  (Laughter.)  And she gave me the most precious gift, the love of my life, the life of my love, my daughter, Ashley.

And I continue to lean on the family.  Mr. President, you kidded me once.  You heard that the preparation for the two debates — vice presidential debates that I had — I only had two that Beau and Hunt would be the last people in the room.  And Beau would say, look at me, Dad.  Look at me.  Remember, remember home base.  Remember.

And the Secret Service can tell you, Mr. President, that Beau and Hunt and Ashley continue to have to corral me.  We were at one of the national parks, and I was climbing up on top of a bridge to jump off the bridge with a bunch of young kids.  And I hear my sons yelling, Dad, get down.  Now!  (Laughter.)  And I just started laughing so hard I couldn’t stop.  And I said, I was just going to do a flip — a full gainer off here.

He said, Dad, the Secret Service doesn’t want you up there.  Dad.  Look at me, Dad.  (Laughter.)

So we’ve never figured out who the father is in this family.  (Laughter.)

And, Mr. President, you know that with good reason there is no power in the vice presidency.  Matter of fact I just did for Nancy Pelosi’s daughter a reading of the Constitution.  You probably did one for her.  And they had me read the provisions relating to the vice presidency in the Constitution.  And there is no inherent power, nor should there be.

But, Mr. President, you have more than kept your commitment to me by saying that you wanted me to help govern.  The President’s line often — other people don’t hear it that often, but when someone would say, can you get Joe to do such and such.  He says, I don’t do his schedule.  He doesn’t do mine.

Every single thing you’ve asked me to do, Mr. President, you have trusted me to do.  And that is — that’s a remarkable thing.  I don’t think according to — I see the President of Georgetown here, as well.  I don’t think according to the presidential, vice presidential scholars that kind of relationship has existed. I mean, for real.  It’s all you, Mr. President.  It’s all you.

The reason why when you send me around the world, nothing gets — as my mom would say, gets missed between the cup and the lip, it’s because they know when I speak, I speak for you.

And it’s been easy, Mr. President, because we not only have the same political philosophy and ideology, I tell everybody — and I’ve told them from the beginning.  And I’m not saying this to reciprocate.  I’ve never known a President and few people I’ve ever met my whole life — I can count on less than one hand — who have had the integrity and the decency and the sense of other people’s needs like you do.

I know you were upset when I told the story about when Hunt and I were worried that Beau would have to — that he would, as a matter of honor, decide he had to step down as attorney general while he was fighting his battle because he had aphasia.  He was losing his ability to speak, and he didn’t want to ever be in a position where to him everything was about duty and honor.

And I said, and he may resign.  I don’t know I just have the feeling he may.  And Hunt and I had talked about this.  And I said, he doesn’t have any other income, but we’re all right because Hunt’s there, and I can sell the house.

We were having a private lunch like we do once a week.  And this man got up, came over, grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye, and said, don’t you sell that house.  You love that house.

I said, it’s no big deal, Mr. President.  He said, I’ll give you the money.  We’ll give you the money.  Promise me, promise me you won’t sell that house.

I remember when Ashley, Mr. President, we were in the Oval, and Ashley was in an elevator, and the elevator plummeted to the — she was with a group of people — I forget which building in Philadelphia, and it plummeted to the ground.  And immediately the Service was worried that she may have been badly hurt.  And I got up to take the call, and you didn’t let up until you made sure your service followed through and made sure everything was all right.

But you know, Mr. President, we kid about both about marrying up.  We both did, that kind of thing.  But the truth of the matter is — I said this to Michelle last night.  Michelle is the finest First Lady in my view that has ever served in the office.  There’s been other great First Ladies, but I really genuinely mean it.  (Applause.)

When I got to meet Michelle’s brother, and he told me about how you guys were raised, and I got to know and love your mom, if your mom — were your mom 15 years older, she could have been my mom.  Literally, the way you were raised, the way we were raised, there wasn’t any difference.  And I knew that this decision to join you, which was the greatest honor of my life, was the right decision on the night we had to go and accept the nomination, the formal — we’d be nominated at the convention.  And Finnegan, who is now 18 years old, was then 10 years old.  And she came to me, and she said, Pop, is it okay if the room that we’re in — Finnegan, Maisy, and Naomi — that we have the beds taken out.  And I said, why?  She said, maybe the Obama girls and your brothers’ children, maybe they would come down, all sleep together in sleeping bags.  (Laughter.)  And I give you my word as a Biden, I knew when I left to go to the convention, open that door, and saw them cuddled together, I knew this was the right decision.  I knew it was the right decision.  I really did.  Because, Mr. President, the same values set — the same values set.

Folks, you know, I joke with my staff that I don’t know why they pay them anything, because they get to advise me.  (Laughter.)  Let me explain what I mean by that.  As the President of the University of Delaware, where my heart resides, and my home campus of Delaware, as he can tell you, it’s — I get to give you advice.  I get to be the last guy in the room and give you advice on the most difficult decisions anyone has to make in the whole world.  But I get to walk out, and you make it all by yourself.  All by yourself.

Harry Truman was right about the buck stopping at the desk.  And I’ve never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never once doubted, on these life and death decisions, I never once doubted that your judgement was flawed — not once.  Not once.

And we’ve disagreed, and we’ve argued, and we’ve raised our voices, one of which we made a deal we’d be completely open like brothers with one another.  But, Mr. President, I watched you under intense fire.  I will venture to say that no President in history has had as many novel crises land on his desk in all of history.  The Civil War was worse, the World War Two was worse, but, Mr. President, almost every one of the crises you faced was a case of first instance — a case of first instance.  And I watched that prodigious mind and that heart as big as your head — I’ve watched you.  I’ve watched how you’ve acted.

When you see a woman or man under intense pressure, you get a measure — and you know that, Michelle, and your daughters know it, as well.  This is a remarkable man.  And I just hope that the asterisk in history that is attached to my name when they talk about this presidency is that I can say I was part of the journey of a remarkable man who did remarkable things for this country.  (Applause.)

You know, I can’t let a comment go by without quoting an Irish poet.  (Laughter.)  Jill and I talk about why you were able to develop the way you developed and with the heart you have.  Michelle and I have talked about it.  I’ve confided in Michelle, I’ve gone to her for advice.  We’ve talked about this man.  You give me insight.  And I think it’s because — Mr. President, you gave me credit for having understanding other people’s misery and suffering.  Mr. President, there is not one single, solitary ounce of entitlement in you, or Michelle, or your beautiful daughters — and you girls are incredible, you really are.  That’s not hyperbole, you really are.  Not one ounce of entitlement.

And Seamus Heaney in one of his poems said — (laughter) — when you can find someone who says it better, use it.  He said, you carried your own burden and very soon, your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared.  You carried your own burdens, and very soon, the creeping symptoms of privilege disappeared.

Mr. President, you have sometimes been like a lone wolf, but you carried yourself in a way that’s pretty remarkable.  The history of the journey — your journey — is something people are going to write about a long time, and I’m not being solicitous when I say this.  And you’re so fortunate, both of you, to have found each other because all that grounding, all that you have, made this guy totally whole.  And it’s pretty amazing.

Mr. President, this honor is not only well beyond what I deserve, but it’s a reflection on the extent and generosity of your spirit.  I don’t deserve this, but I know it came from the President’s heart.  There is a Talmudic saying that says, what comes from the heart, enters the heart.  Mr. President, you have creeped into our heart — you and your whole family, including Mom — and you occupy it.  It’s an amazing thing that happened.  I knew how smart you were.  I knew how honorable you were.  I knew how decent you were from the couple years we worked in the Senate, and I knew what you were capable of.  But I never fully expected that you’d occupy the Bidens’ heart, from Hunter, to Ashley, my sister, all of us.  All of us.

And Mr. President, I’m indebted to you.  I’m indebted to your friendship, I’m indebted to your family, and as I’ll tell you — I’ll end on a humorous note.  We’re having a lunch — lunches, and mostly it’s what’s ever in either one of our minds.  We’ll talk about family an awful lot.  And about six months in, President looks at me, he said, you know, Joe, you know what surprised me?  How we’ve become such good friends.  (Laughter.)  And I said, surprised you?  (Laughter.)

But that is candid Obama, and it’s real, and, Mr. President, you know as long as there’s a breath in me, I’ll be there for you, my whole family will be, and I know, I know it is reciprocal.  And I want to thank you all so very, very, very much.  All of you in here.  (Applause.)

END
4:27 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts January 10, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Farewell Address to the American People

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s Farewell Address to the American People

Source: USA-Today, 1-10-17

“It’s good to be home. My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes we’ve received over the past few weeks. But tonight it’s my turn to say thanks. Whether we’ve seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people — in living rooms and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant outposts — are what have kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going. Every day, I learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

“I first came to Chicago when I was in my early twenties, still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life. It was in neighborhoods not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills. It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss. This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.

“After eight years as your President, I still believe that. And it’s not just my belief. It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government.

“It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that We, the People, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.

“This is the great gift our Founders gave us. The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a greater good.

“For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom. It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande, pushed women to reach for the ballot, powered workers to organize. It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan — and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.

“So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional. Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow.

“Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.

“If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history…if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11…if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens — you might have said our sights were set a little too high.

“But that’s what we did. That’s what you did. You were the change. You answered people’s hopes, and because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.

“In ten days, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power from one freely-elected president to the next. I committed to President-Elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me. Because it’s up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face.

“We have what we need to do so. After all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on Earth. Our youth and drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention mean that the future should be ours.

“But that potential will be realized only if our democracy works. Only if our politics reflects the decency of the our people. Only if all of us, regardless of our party affiliation or particular interest, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.

“That’s what I want to focus on tonight – the state of our democracy.

“Understand, democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders quarreled and compromised, and expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity — the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.

“There have been moments throughout our history that threatened to rupture that solidarity. The beginning of this century has been one of those times. A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic change and the specter of terrorism — these forces haven’t just tested our security and prosperity, but our democracy as well. And how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids, and create good jobs, and protect our homeland.

“In other words, it will determine our future.

“Our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity. Today, the economy is growing again; wages, incomes, home values, and retirement accounts are rising again; poverty is falling again. The wealthy are paying a fairer share of taxes even as the stock market shatters records. The unemployment rate is near a ten-year low. The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower. Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in fifty years. And if anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our health care system — that covers as many people at less cost — I will publicly support it.

“That, after all, is why we serve – to make people’s lives better, not worse.

“But for all the real progress we’ve made, we know it’s not enough. Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class. But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic principles. While the top one percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many families, in inner cities and rural counties, have been left behind — the laid-off factory worker; the waitress and health care worker who struggle to pay the bills – convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interests of the powerful — a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.

“There are no quick fixes to this long-term trend. I agree that our trade should be fair and not just free. But the next wave of economic dislocation won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes many good, middle-class jobs obsolete.
And so we must forge a new social compact — to guarantee all our kids the education they need; to give workers the power to unionize for better wages; to update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from the new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their success possible. We can argue about how to best achieve these goals. But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves. For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.

“There’s a second threat to our democracy — one as old as our nation itself. After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago — you can see it not just in statistics, but in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum.

“But we’re not where we need to be. All of us have more work to do. After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves. If we decline to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children — because those brown kids will represent a larger share of America’s workforce. And our economy doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Last year, incomes rose for all races, all age groups, for men and for women.

“Going forward, we must uphold laws against discrimination — in hiring, in housing, in education and the criminal justice system. That’s what our Constitution and highest ideals require. But laws alone won’t be enough. Hearts must change. If our democracy is to work in this increasingly diverse nation, each one of us must try to heed the advice of one of the great characters in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’

“For blacks and other minorities, it means tying our own struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face — the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender American, and also the middle-aged white man who from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but who’s seen his world upended by economic, cultural, and technological change.

“For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ‘60s; that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness; that when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment our Founders promised.

“For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said, almost word for word, about the Irish, Italians, and Poles. America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; they embraced this nation’s creed, and it was strengthened.

“So regardless of the station we occupy; we have to try harder; to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.

“None of this is easy. For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste — all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.

“This trend represents a third threat to our democracy. Politics is a battle of ideas; in the course of a healthy debate, we’ll prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them. But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible.

“Isn’t that part of what makes politics so dispiriting? How can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on preschool for kids, but not when we’re cutting taxes for corporations? How do we excuse ethical lapses in our own party, but pounce when the other party does the same thing? It’s not just dishonest, this selective sorting of the facts; it’s self-defeating. Because as my mother used to tell me, reality has a way of catching up with you.

“Take the challenge of climate change. In just eight years, we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, doubled our renewable energy, and led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet. But without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change; they’ll be busy dealing with its effects: environmental disasters, economic disruptions, and waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary.

“Now, we can and should argue about the best approach to the problem. But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations; it betrays the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our Founders.

“It’s that spirit, born of the Enlightenment, that made us an economic powerhouse — the spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral; the spirit that that cures disease and put a computer in every pocket.

“It’s that spirit — a faith in reason, and enterprise, and the primacy of right over might, that allowed us to resist the lure of fascism and tyranny during the Great Depression, and build a post-World War II order with other democracies, an order based not just on military power or national affiliations but on principles — the rule of law, human rights, freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and an independent press.

“That order is now being challenged — first by violent fanatics who claim to speak for Islam; more recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets, open democracies, and civil society itself as a threat to their power. The peril each poses to our democracy is more far-reaching than a car bomb or a missile. It represents the fear of change; the fear of people who look or speak or pray differently; a contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable; an intolerance of dissent and free thought; a belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.

“Because of the extraordinary courage of our men and women in uniform, and the intelligence officers, law enforcement, and diplomats who support them, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years; and although Boston and Orlando remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be, our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant than ever. We’ve taken out tens of thousands of terrorists — including Osama bin Laden. The global coalition we’re leading against ISIL has taken out their leaders, and taken away about half their territory. ISIL will be destroyed, and no one who threatens America will ever be safe. To all who serve, it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your Commander-in-Chief.

“But protecting our way of life requires more than our military. Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear. So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are. That’s why, for the past eight years, I’ve worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firm legal footing. That’s why we’ve ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, and reform our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties. That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans. That’s why we cannot withdraw from global fights — to expand democracy, and human rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights — no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem. For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression. If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened.

“So let’s be vigilant, but not afraid. ISIL will try to kill innocent people. But they cannot defeat America unless we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight. Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world — unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors.

“Which brings me to my final point — our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions. When voting rates are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should make it easier, not harder, to vote. When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service. When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.

“And all of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings.

“Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power — with our participation, and the choices we make. Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.

“In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but ‘from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken … to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;’ that we should preserve it with ‘jealous anxiety;’ that we should reject ‘the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties’ that make us one.

“We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character are turned off from public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow malevolent. We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.

“It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen.

“Ultimately, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life. If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself. Show up. Dive in. Persevere. Sometimes you’ll win. Sometimes you’ll lose. Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. And more often than not, your faith in America — and in Americans — will be confirmed.

“Mine sure has been. Over the course of these eight years, I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers. I’ve mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in Charleston church. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and our wounded warriors walk again. I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us of our obligations to care for refugees, to work in peace, and above all to look out for each other.

“That faith I placed all those years ago, not far from here, in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change — that faith has been rewarded in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined. I hope yours has, too. Some of you here tonight or watching at home were there with us in 2004, in 2008, in 2012 — and maybe you still can’t believe we pulled this whole thing off.

“You’re not the only ones. Michelle – for the past twenty-five years, you’ve been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend. You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor. You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You’ve made me proud. You’ve made the country proud.

“Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion. You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.

“To Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son: you were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best. Not just because you have been a great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother. We love you and Jill like family, and your friendship has been one of the great joys of our life.

“To my remarkable staff: For eight years — and for some of you, a whole lot more — I’ve drawn from your energy, and tried to reflect back what you displayed every day: heart, and character, and idealism. I’ve watched you grow up, get married, have kids, and start incredible new journeys of your own. Even when times got tough and frustrating, you never let Washington get the better of you. The only thing that makes me prouder than all the good we’ve done is the thought of all the remarkable things you’ll achieve from here.

“And to all of you out there — every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town and kind family who welcomed them in, every volunteer who knocked on doors, every young person who cast a ballot for the first time, every American who lived and breathed the hard work of change — you are the best supporters and organizers anyone could hope for, and I will forever be grateful. Because yes, you changed the world.

“That’s why I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than I was when we started. Because I know our work has not only helped so many Americans; it has inspired so many Americans — especially so many young people out there — to believe you can make a difference; to hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves. This generation coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, something not to fear but to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.

“My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain. For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your President — the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.

“I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.

“I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written:

“Yes We Can.

“Yes We Did.

“Yes We Can.

“Thank you. God bless you. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.”

Full Text Political Transcripts January 7, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Farewell Address to the Nation Weekly Address

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: President Obama’s Farewell Address to the Nation

Source: WH, 1-7-17

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, President Obama discussed his upcoming farewell address to the nation. In 1796, as George Washington set the precedent for a peaceful, democratic transfer of power, he also set a precedent by penning a farewell address to the American people. And over the 220 years since, many American presidents have followed his lead. Next week, the President will return to his hometown of Chicago to say a grateful farewell to the nation. This will mark the first time that a President has returned to his hometown to deliver such a speech. The President has said that the running thread through his career has been the notion that when ordinary people get involved, get engaged and come together, things change for the better. This belief is at the heart of the American experiment in self-government – and it gives purpose to new generations. Through his address, the President will thank his supporters, celebrate the ways we have changed this country for the better these past eight years, and offer his vision on where we all go from here. The President will deliver his farewell address at 9:00 PM EST on Tuesday, January 10, at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. To tune in on Tuesday, visit WhiteHouse.gov/live.

Remarks of President Barack Obama as Delivered
Weekly Address
The White House
January 7, 2017

Since the days of George Washington, presidents have delivered some form of final message while in office – a farewell address to the American people.

On Tuesday night, in Chicago, I’ll deliver mine.  I chose Chicago not only because it’s my hometown – where I met my wife and we started a family – but also because it’s really where my career in public service began.

The running thread through my career has been the notion that when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together in collective effort, things change for the better.

That’s the belief at the heart of this precious American experiment in self-government.  It’s what gives work and purpose to each new generation.

It’s easy to lose sight of that truth in the day-to-day back-and-forth of Washington and our minute-to-minute news cycles.  But remember that America is a story told over a longer time horizon, in fits and starts, punctuated at times by hardship, but ultimately written by generations of citizens who’ve somehow worked together, without fanfare, to form a more perfect union.

Over the past eight years, we’ve added our own new chapter to that story.

Together, we’ve turned an economy that was shrinking and losing jobs into one that’s growing and creating jobs, with poverty falling, incomes rising, and wages that have jumped faster over the past few years than at any time in the past four decades.

Together, we’ve achieved what eluded politicians of both parties for a century – we’ve moved 20 million more Americans from uninsured to insured, ended the days of discrimination against the up to half of Americans who have a preexisting condition, and secured new rights and protections for everybody with health insurance.

 

Full Text Political Transcripts January 4, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Armed Forces Full Honor Review Farewell Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Armed Forces Full Honor Review Farewell Ceremony

Source: WH, 1-4-17

Joint Base Myer-Henderson
Fort Myer, Virginia

3:21 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Please be seated.

Well, good afternoon.  It turns out these are easier when you’re talking about somebody else.  (Laughter.)  At a moment like this, I think of all the times I’ve stood before our men and women in uniform.  Commissioning our newest officers.  Presiding over promotions.  Presenting the Commander-in Chief’s Trophy to — the best football team in the military.  I will let you argue over that one.  (Laughter.)  I have never taken sides.

Secretary Carter, I could not be more grateful for your gracious words, but more importantly, for your outstanding leadership, across, as you noted, more than three decades and nearly all of my presidency.  You have always given me, Ash, your best strategic counsel.  You’ve made sure that we were investing in innovation for the long term and a strong Force of the Future.  As a physicist, Ash is also one of the few people who actually understands how our defense systems work.  And I know that our troops and their families are immensely grateful for the compassion that you and Stephanie have shown them over the years.  So to you and your family, on behalf of all of us, thank you for your outstanding service.  (Applause.)

General Dunford, we’ve relied on you as Commandant of the Marine Corps, as our commander in Afghanistan, and now, as our nation’s highest-ranking military officer.  I thank you, and General Selva and the entire Joint Chiefs for the unvarnished military advice that you’ve always provided to me, for your dedication, for your professionalism, for you integrity.  Because of you, because of this team, our Armed Forces are more integrated and better prepared across domains — a truly Joint Force.  Which is why, as a White Sox fan, I can overlook the fact that you love the Red Sox.  (Laughter.)  Moreover, on a personal note, outside of your professional qualities, you are a good man, and I am grateful to have worked with you.  And thank Ellyn for allowing you to do this.  (Applause.)

To members of Congress; Vice President Biden — who, along with Jill, has known the love and the pride and the sacrifice of a military family.  To Deputy Secretary Work; service secretaries; distinguished guests; dedicated civilians from across the Defense Department; my national security team; most of all, our men and women in uniform.  I thank you for this honor, and for the warmth and respect that you’ve always shown me, the support that you’ve shown Michelle and our daughters during these past eight years.

And so, although I recognize that the formalities require me listening to praise directed in large part to me, I want to turn the tables — I am still Commander-in-Chief, so I get to do what I want to do — and I want to thank you.  Of all the privileges of this office — and there are many — I will miss Air Force One, I will miss Marine One — (laughter) — but I can stand before you today and say that there has been no greater privilege, and no greater honor, than serving as the Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military in the history of the world.  (Applause.)

When I took office, I noted that Presidents and those of you in uniform swear a similar oath — to protect and defend this country and the Constitution that we cherish.  By stepping forward and volunteering, by raising your right hand and taking that oath, each of you made a solemn pledge.  You committed yourself to a life of service and of sacrifice.  And I, in turn, made a promise to you, which, to the best of my abilities, I’ve  tried to uphold every single day since, that I would only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, with the strategy, the well-defined goals, with the equipment and the support that you needed to get the job done.  Because that’s what you rightfully expect and that is what you rightfully deserve.

I made that pledge at a time when less than one percent of Americans wear the uniform.  Fewer Americans know someone who serves.  And as a result, a lot of Americans don’t see the sacrifices you make on our behalf.  But as Commander-in-Chief, I do.  I’ve seen it when I looked into the eyes of young cadets, knowing that my decisions could very well send them into harm’s way.  I’ve seen it when I’ve visited the field — at Bagram and Baghdad — far from your families, risking your lives so that we can live ours safely and in freedom.  And so you’ve inspired me, and I have been humbled by you consistently.  And I want every American to know what I know — through year after year after year of continuous military operations — you have earned your place among the greatest generations.

The list of accomplishments that Joe and Ash so generously mentioned, they’re because of you.  It’s what I tell my staff — I’m the front man, but you’re the ones doing the work.  Because of you, our alliances are stronger, from Europe to the Asia Pacific.  Because of you, we surged in Afghanistan, trained Afghan forces to defend their country, while bringing most of our troops home.  Today our forces serve there on a more limited mission — because we must never again allow Afghanistan to be used for a safe haven in attacks against our nation.

It’s because of you — particularly our remarkable Special Forces — that the core al Qaeda leadership that attacked us on 9/11 has been decimated.  Countless terrorist leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are gone.  From South Asia to Africa, we have forged partnerships to go after terrorists that threaten us.  Because of you, we are leading a global coalition against ISIL.  These terrorists have lost about half of their territory.  They are losing their leaders.  Towns and cities are being liberated.  And I have no doubt this barbaric terrorist group will be destroyed — because of you.

You’ve shown that when it comes to fighting terrorism, we can be strong and we can be smart.  Not by letting our forces get dragged into sectarian conflicts and civil wars, but with smart, sustainable, principled partnerships.  That’s how we’ve brought most of our troops home — nearly 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan down to 15,000 today.  That’s how, even as we’ve suffered terrible attacks here at home, from Boston to Orlando, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years.

Because of you, the world has seen the awesome reach of American Armed Forces.  In some of the first few weeks of my job, when Somali pirates took Captain Phillips, later on, when they kidnapped Jessica Buchanan, it was you that went in and you that risked everything, and you that brought these Americans home to their families.

The world has seen your compassion — the help you deliver in times of crisis, from an earthquake in Haiti to the tsunami in Japan.  Think of Ebola and the countless lives this Armed Forces saved in West Africa.  It was you that set up the architecture and set the example for the world’s response.  One woman in West Africa said, “We thanked God first and then we thanked America second for caring about us.”  That’s the difference you make — you continue to make — in the lives of people around the world.

As you know well, with service comes great sacrifice.  And after 15 years of war, our wounded warriors bear the scars — both seen and unseen.  In my visits to their bedsides and rehab centers, I have been in awe, watching a wounded warrior grab his walker and pull himself up and, and through excruciating pain, take a step, and then another.  Or hearing troops describe how they grappled with post-traumatic stress but summoned the strength to ask for help.  As a military and as a nation, we have to keep supporting our resilient and incredibly strong wounded warriors as they learn to walk and run and heal.  As they find new ways to keep serving our nation, they need to know that we still need your incredible talents.  You’ve given so much to America, and I know you have more to give.

And then you have not seen the depths of true love and true patriotism until you’ve been to Dover, when our troops receive our fallen heroes on their final journey home; until you have grieved with our Gold Star families who’ve given a piece of their heart to our nation — a son or a daughter, a father or mother, a husband or wife, a brother or a sister.  Every one a patriot.  Every single one of these American families deserves the everlasting gratitude and support of our entire nation.

Today, after two major ground wars, our Armed Forces have drawn down, and that is natural and it is necessary.  And after reckless budget cuts of sequester, we need to keep improving the readiness, and the training, and modernizing our forces.  So let me take this opportunity, while I still have it, to appeal to our friends from Congress who are here:  We cannot go back to sequestration.  There is a responsible way forward — investing in America’s strengths, our national security and our economic security.  Investing in the reform and the equipment and support that our troops need, including the pay and the benefits, and the quality of life, and the education and the jobs that our troops and our veterans and all of your families deserve.

But make no mistake, even with the challenges of recent years — and there have been challenges– our allies and adversaries alike understand America’s military remains, by far, the most capable fighting force on the face of the Earth.  Our Army, tested by years of combat, is the best-trained and best-equipped land force on the planet.  Our Navy is the largest and most lethal in the world — on track to surpass 300 ships.  Our Air Force, with its precision and reach, is unmatched.  Our Marine Corps is the world’s only truly expeditionary force.  Our Coast Guard is the finest in the world.

And we’re also the best because this military has come to welcome the talents of more of our fellow Americans.  Service members can now serve the country they love without hiding who they are or who they love.  All combat positions in our military are now open to women.  And Joe Biden and I know that women are at least as strong as men.  We’re stronger for it.  It’s one of the reasons that our military stands apart as the most respected institution in our nation by a mile.  (Applause.)  The American people look up to you and your devotion to duty, and your integrity, and your sense of honor, and your commitment to each other.

One of my proudest achievements is that I have been able to, I think, communicate through the constant partisan haze, along with so many others, how special this institution is, and the esteem in which our military is held has held steady and constant and high throughout my presidency.  And I’m very grateful for that.  Because you remind us that we are united as one team.  At times of division, you’ve shown what it means to pull together.

So my days as your Commander-in-Chief are coming to an end, and as I reflect on the challenges we have faced together and on those to come, I believe that one of the greatest tasks before our Armed Forces is to retain the high confidence that the American people rightly place in you.  This is a responsibility not simply for those of you in uniform, but for those who lead you.  It’s the responsibility of our entire nation.

And so we are called to remember core principles:  That we must never hesitate to act when necessary to defend our nation, but we must also never rush into war — because sending you into harm’s way should be a last and not first resort.  It should be compelled by the needs of our security and not our politics.  We need to remember that we must not give in to the false illusion of isolationism, because in this dangerous time, oceans alone will not protect us, and the world still seeks and needs our leadership as the one indispensable nation.

We have to remember that our military has to be prepared for the full spectrum of threats, conventional and unconventional, from 20th century-style aggression to 21st century-style cyber threats.  And when we do go to war, we have to hold ourselves to high standards and do everything in our power to prevent the loss of innocent life, because that’s what we stand for.  That’s what we should stand for.  We have to remember that as we meet the threats of our time, we cannot sacrifice our values or our way of life — the rule of law and openness and tolerance that defines us as Americans, that is our greatest strength and makes us a beacon to the world.  We cannot sacrifice the very freedoms that we’re fighting for.

And finally, in our democracy, the continued strength of our all-volunteer force also rests on something else — a strong bond of respect and trust between those in uniform and the citizens that you protect and defend.  At a time when too few Americans truly understand the realities or sacrifices of military service, at a time when many political leaders have not served, if some in the military begin to feel as though somehow they are apart from the larger society they serve those bonds can fray.

As every generation learns anew, freedom is not free.  And so while less than 1 percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, 100 percent of Americans can do their parts — at the very least — to support you and your families.  Everybody can do something — every business, every profession, every school, every community, every state — to reach out and to give back, and to let you know that we care, to help make the lives of our troops and your families just a little bit easier.  Everybody can do something.

And that’s why Michelle and Jill Biden have mobilized more Americans to honor and support you and your families through Joining Forces.  And that’s why, even after we leave the White House, Michelle and I intend to keep on looking for ways to help rally more of our fellow citizens to be there for you, just like you’ve always been there for us.

So we can’t say it enough and we can’t show it enough.  Thank you for your patriotism.  Thank you for your professionalism.  Thank you for your character in representing the very best of the American spirit.  Our nation endures — we live free under the red, white and blue — because of patriots like you.

It has been a privilege of a lifetime to serve with you.  I have learned much from you.  I’m a better man having worked with you.  I’m confident that the United States and our Armed Forces will remain the greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known.

God bless you and your families.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
3:44 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 31, 2016: President Barack Obama’s New Years Weekly Address

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Working Together to Keep America Moving Forward

Source: WH, 12-31-16

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, President Obama reflected on the significant progress we’ve made since he took office in 2009. Over the past eight years, we’ve turned the recession into recovery; 20 million more Americans have health insurance; we’ve brought 165,000 troops from Iraq and Afghanistan; we took out Osama bin Laden; and we brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could save the planet for our kids. The President reminded us that this extraordinary progress wasn’t inevitable – it was the result of tough choices, and the hard work and resilience of the American people. It will take all of us working together to sustain and build on all that we’ve achieved – that’s how we keep America moving forward.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at http://www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00AM EDT, December 31, 2016.

MP4MP3

Remarks of President Barack Obama as Delivered
Weekly Address
The White House
December 31, 2016

Happy New Year, everybody.  At a time when we turn the page on one year and look ahead to the future, I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for everything you’ve done to make America stronger these past eight years.

Just eight years ago, as I prepared to take office, our economy teetered on the brink of depression.  Nearly 800,000 Americans were losing their jobs each month.  In some communities, nearly one in five folks were out of work.  Almost 180,000 troops were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden was still at large.  And on challenges from health care to climate change, we’d been kicking the can down the road for way too long.

Eight years later, you’ve told a different story.  We’ve turned recession into recovery.  Our businesses have created 15.6 million new jobs since early 2010 – and we’ve put more people back to work than all other major advanced economies combined.  A resurgent auto industry has added nearly 700,000 jobs, and is producing more cars than ever.  Poverty is falling.  Incomes are rising.  In fact, last year, folks’ typical household income rose by $2,800, that’s the single biggest increase on record, and folks at the bottom and middle saw bigger gains than those at the top.

Twenty million more Americans know the financial security of health insurance.  Our kids’ high school graduation rate is at an all-time high.  We’ve brought 165,000 troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and took out Osama bin Laden.  Through diplomacy, we shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program, opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, and brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could save this planet for our kids.  Almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago.  And marriage equality is finally a reality from coast to coast.

We’ve made extraordinary progress as a country these past eight years.  And here’s the thing: none of it was inevitable.  It was the result of tough choices we made, and the result of your hard work and resilience.  And to keep America moving forward is a task that falls to all of us.  Sustaining and building on all we’ve achieved – from helping more young people afford a higher education, to ending discrimination based on preexisting conditions, to tightening rules on Wall Street, to protecting this planet for our kids – that’s going to take all of us working together.  Because that’s always been our story – the story of ordinary people coming together in the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating, but always vital work of self-government.

It’s been the privilege of my life to serve as your President.  And as I prepare to take on the even more important role of citizen, know that I will be there with you every step of the way to ensure that this country forever strives to live up to the incredible promise of our founding – that all of us are created equal, and all of us deserve every chance to live out our dreams.  And from the Obama family to yours – have a happy and blessed 2017.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 29, 2016: President Barack Obama issues sanctions against Russia over election interference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Executive Order — Taking Additional Steps to Address the National Emergency with Respect to Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities

Source: WH, 12-29-16

EXECUTIVE ORDER

– – – – – – –

TAKING ADDITIONAL STEPS TO ADDRESS THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH RESPECT TO SIGNIFICANT MALICIOUS CYBER-ENABLED ACTIVITIES

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, in order to take additional steps to deal with the national emergency with respect to significant malicious cyber-enabled activities declared in Executive Order 13694 of April 1, 2015, and in view of the increasing use of such activities to undermine democratic processes or institutions, hereby order:

Section 1. Section 1(a) of Executive Order 13694 is hereby amended to read as follows:

“Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in:

(i) the persons listed in the Annex to this order;

(ii) any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State, to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, cyber-enabled activities originating from, or directed by persons located, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States that are reasonably likely to result in, or have materially contributed to, a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economic health or financial stability of the United States and that have the purpose or effect of:

(A) harming, or otherwise significantly compromising the provision of services by, a computer or network of computers that support one or more entities in a critical infrastructure sector;

(B) significantly compromising the provision of services by one or more entities in a critical infrastructure sector;

(C) causing a significant disruption to the availability of a computer or network of computers;

(D) causing a significant misappropriation of funds or economic resources, trade secrets, personal identifiers, or financial information for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain; or

(E) tampering with, altering, or causing a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions; and

(iii) any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State:

(A) to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, the receipt or use for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain, or by a commercial entity, outside the United States of trade secrets misappropriated through cyber-enabled means, knowing they have been misappropriated, where the misappropriation of such trade secrets is reasonably likely to result in, or has materially contributed to, a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States;

(B) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, any activity described in subsections (a)(ii) or (a)(iii)(A) of this section or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order;

(C) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(D) to have attempted to engage in any of the activities described in subsections (a)(ii) and (a)(iii)(A)-(C) of this section.”

Sec. 2. Executive Order 13694 is further amended by adding as an Annex to Executive Order 13694 the Annex to this order.

Sec. 3. Executive Order 13694 is further amended by redesignating section 10 as section 11 and adding a new section 10 to read as follows:

“Sec. 10. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to determine that circumstances no longer warrant the blocking of the property and interests in property of a person listed in the Annex to this order, and to take necessary action to give effect to that determination.”

Sec. 4. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Sec. 5. This order is effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on December 29, 2016.

BARACK OBAMA

THE WHITE HOUSE,
December 28, 2016.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 23, 2016: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Last Christmas Weekly Address

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Merry Christmas from the President and the First Lady

Source: WH, 12-23-16

Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as Delivered

Weekly Address

The White House

December 24, 2016

THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas everybody!  One of the best parts of the holiday season is spending time with the special people in your life.  And for me, that means getting some help from my best friend for our annual Christmas Weekly Address.

THE FIRST LADY: Given how our first Christmas Weekly Address went, I realized that Barack needed all the help he could get.

[PAUSE]

THE FIRST LADY: Celebrating the holidays in the White House over these past eight years has been a true privilege.  We’ve been able to welcome over half a million guests… our outstanding pastry chefs have baked 200,000 holiday cookies… and Barack has treated the American people to countless dad jokes.

THE PRESIDENT: Although a few got a…Frosty reception.

THE FIRST LADY: This year’s White House holiday theme is “The Gift of the Holidays,” and our decorations reflect some of our greatest gifts as a nation: from our incredible military families, to the life-changing impact of a great education.

THE PRESIDENT: And the greatest gift that Michelle and I have received over the last eight years has been the honor of serving as your President and First Lady.  Together, we fought our way back from the worst recession in 80 years, and got unemployment to a nine-year low.  We secured health insurance for another twenty million Americans, and new protections for folks who already had insurance.  We made America more respected around the world, took on the mantle of leadership in the fight to protect this planet for our kids, and much, much more.

By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we first got here.  And I’m hopeful we’ll build on the progress we’ve made in the years to come.

Tomorrow, for the final time as the First Family, we will join our fellow Christians around the world to rejoice in the birth of our Savior.  And as we retell His story from that Holy Night, we’ll also remember His eternal message, one of boundless love, compassion and hope.

THE FIRST LADY:  The idea that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.  That we should treat others as we would want to be treated.  And that we care for the sick… feed the hungry… and welcome the stranger… no matter where they come from, or how they practice their faith.

THE PRESIDENT: Those are values that help guide not just my family’s Christian faith, but that of Jewish Americans, and Muslim Americans; nonbelievers and Americans of all backgrounds. And no one better embodies that spirit of service than the men and women who wear our country’s uniform and their families.

THE FIRST LADY: As always, many of our troops are far from home this time of year, and their families are serving and sacrificing right along with them.  Their courage and dedication allow the rest of us to enjoy this season.  That’s why we’ve tried to serve them as well as they’ve served this country.  Go to JoiningForces.gov to see how you can honor and support the service members, veterans and military families in your community – not just during the holidays, but all year round.

THE PRESIDENT: So as we look forward to the New Year, let’s resolve to recommit ourselves to the values we share.  And on behalf of the all the Obamas – Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo, and that troublemaker Sunny – Merry Christmas, everybody.

THE FIRST LADY: And we wish you and your family a happy and healthy 2017… thanks, and God bless.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 16, 2016: President Barack Obama’s last end-of-year press conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s last end-of-year news conference

Source: WaPo, 12-16-16

OBAMA: All right, everybody. Good afternoon. This is the most wonderful press conference of the year. I have got a list of who has been naughty and nice to call on. But let me first make a couple of quick points and then I will take your questions.

Typically I use this year-end press conference to review how far we have come over the course of the year. Today, understandably, I’m going to talk a little bit about how far we have come over the past eight years.

As I was preparing to take office, the unemployment rate was on its way to 10 percent. Today it is at 4.6 percent, the lowest in nearly a decade. We’ve seen the longest streak of job growth on record, and wages have grown faster over the past few years than at any time in the past 40.

When I came into office, 44 million people were uninsured. Today we have covered more than 20 million of them. For the first time in our history, more than 90 percent of Americans are insured.

In fact, yesterday was the biggest day ever for health care.gov, more than 670,000 Americans signed up to get covered, and more are signing up by the day.

We’ve cut our dependence on foreign oil by more than half, doubled production of renewable energy, enacted the most sweeping reforms since FDR to protect consumers and prevent a crisis on Wall Street from punishing main street ever again.

None of these actions stifled growth as critics are predicted. Instead, the stock market has nearly tripled.

Since I signed Obamacare into law, our businesses have added more than 15 million new jobs, and the economy undoubtedly more durable than it was in the days when we relied on oil from unstable nations and banks took risky bets with your money.

Add it all up, and last year the poverty rate fell at the fastest rate in almost 50 years, while the median household income grew at the fastest rate on record. In fact, income gains were actually larger for households at the bottom and the middle than for those at the top.

And we have done all this while cutting our deficits by nearly two-thirds, and protecting vital investments that grow the middle class.

In foreign policy, when I came into office we were in the midst of two wars. Now nearly 180,000 troops are down to 15,000. Bin Laden, rather than being at large, has been taken off the battlefield, along with thousands of other terrorists.

Over the past eight years no foreign terrorist organization has successfully executed an attack on our homeland that was directed from overseas. Through diplomacy, we have ensured Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon without going to war with Iran.

We opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba. And we have brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could very well save this planet for our kids.

And almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago. In other words, by so many measures our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started. It is a situation that I’m proud to leave for my successor. And it’s thanks to the American people, to the hard work that you have put in, the sacrifices you have made for your families and your communities, the businesses that you started or invested in, and the way you looked out for one another. And I could not be prouder to be your president.

Of course, to tout this progress does not mean that we are not mindful of how much more there is to do. In this season in particular, we are reminded that there are people who are still hungry, people who are still homeless, people who still have trouble paying the bills or finding work after being laid off.

There are communities that are still mourning those who have been stolen from us by senseless gun violence, and parents who still are wondering how to protect their kids.

OBAMA: And after I leave office I intend to continue to work with organizations and citizens doing good across the country on these and other pressing issues to build on the progress that we have made.

Around the world as well, there are hotspots where disputes have been intractable, conflicts have flared up, and people, innocent people are suffering as result, and nowhere is this more terribly true than in the city of Aleppo. For years, we’ve worked to stop the civil war in Syria and alleviate human suffering. It has been one of the hardest issues that I’ve faced as president.

The world as we speak is united in horror at the savage assaults by the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies on the city of Aleppo. We have seen a deliberate strategy of surrounding, besieging and starving innocent civilians. We’ve seen relentless targeting of humanitarian workers and medical personnel, entire and neighbors reduced to rubble and dust. There are continuing reports of civilians being executed. These are all horrific violations of international law.

Responsibility for this brutality lies in one place alone, with the Assad regime and its allies, Russia and Iran, and this blood and these atrocities are on their hands. We all know what needs to happen. There needs to be an impartial international observer force in Aleppo that can help coordinate an orderly evacuation through say corridors. There has to be full access for humanitarian aid, even as the United States continues to be the world’s largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. And beyond that, there needs to be a broader cease-fire that can serve as the basis for a political rather than a military solution.

That’s what the United States is gonna continue to push for, both with our partners and through multilateral institutions like the U.N.

Regretfully, but unsurprisingly, Russia has repeatedly blocked the Security Council from taking action on these issues, so we’re gonna keep pressing the Security Council to help improve the delivery of humanitarian aid to those who are in such desperate need and ensure accountability, including continuing to monitor any potential use of chemical weapons in Syria.

And we’re gonna work in the U.N. General Assembly as well, both on accountability and to advance a political settlement because it should be clear that although you may achieve tactical victories, over the long-term, the Assad regime cannot slaughter its way to legitimacy. That’s why we’ll continue to press for a transition to a more representative government, and that’s why the world must not avert our eyes to the terrible events that are unfolding.

The Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are trying to obfuscate the truth. The world should not be fooled and the world will not forget.

So even in a season where the incredible blessings that we know as Americans are all around us, even as we enjoy family and friends and are reminded of how lucky we are, we should also be reminded that to be an American involves bearing burdens and meeting obligations to others. American values and American ideals are what will lead the way to a safer and more prosperous 2017, both here and abroad. And by the way, you (ph) embody those values and ideals like our brave men and women in uniform and their families.

So I just want to close by wishing all of them a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

With that, I will take some questions, and I’m gonna start with Josh Lederman of A.P.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

There’s a perception that you’re letting President Putin get away with interfering in the U.S. election and that a response that nobody knows about (inaudible) don’t cut it. Are you prepared to call out President Putin by name for ordering (inaudible)? And do you agree with Hillary Clinton now says, that the hacking was actually partially responsible for her loss?

And is your administration open to correlate with Trump and his team on this issues, tarnishing (ph) the smooth transition of power that you have promised?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, with respect to the transition, I think they would be the first to acknowledge that we have done everything we can to make sure that they are successful, as I promised, and that will continue. And it’s just been a few days since I last talked to the president-elect about a whole range of transition issues. That cooperation’s gonna continue.

OBAMA: There hasn’t been a lot of squabbling. What we’ve simply said is the facts, which are that based on uniform intelligence assessments, the Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC and that as a consequence, it is important for us to review all elements of that and make sure that we are preventing that kind of interference through cyber attacks in the future. That should be a bipartisan issue, that shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

And my hope is that the president-elect is going to similarly be concerned with making sure that we don’t have a potential foreign influence in our election process. I don’t think any American wants that. And that shouldn’t be a source of an argument.

I think that part of the challenge is that it gets caught up in the carryover from election season. And I think it is very important for us to distinguish between the politics of the election and the need for us as a country, both from a national security perspective but also in terms of the integrity of our election system and our democracy to make sure that we don’t create a political football here.

Now, with respect to how this thing unfolded last year, let’s just go through the facts pretty quickly. At the beginning of the summer, were alerted to the possibility that the DNC has been hacked. And I made (ph) an order, law enforcement, as well as our intelligence teams to find out everything about it, investigate it thoroughly to brief the potential victims of this hacking, to brief on a bipartisan basis the leaders of both the House and the Senate and the relevant intelligence committees.

And once we had clarity and certainty around what in fact had happened, we publicly announced that in fact Russia had hacked into the DNC. And at that time, we did not attribute motives or you know any interpretations of why they had done so.

We didn’t discuss what the effects of it might be. We simply let people know — the public know just as we had let members of Congress know that this had happened.

And as a consequence, all of you wrote a lot of stories about both what had happened and then you interpreted why that might have happened and what effect it was going to have on the election outcomes. We did not — and the reason we did not was because in this hyper-partisan atmosphere, at a time when my primary concern was making sure that the integrity of the election process was not in any way damaged, at a time when anything that was said by me or anybody in the White House would immediately be seen through a partisan lens. I wanted to make sure that everybody understood we were playing this thing straight, that we weren’t trying to advantage one side or another. But what we were trying to do was let people know that this had taken place.

And so if you started seeing effects on the election, if you were trying to measure why this was happening and how you should consume the information that was being leaked, that you might want to take this into account. And that’s exactly how we should have handled it.

Imagine if we had done the opposite, it would become immediately just one more political scrum. And part of the goal here was to make sure that we did not do the work of the leakers for them by raising more and more questions about the integrity of the election right before the election was taking place — at a time, by the way, when the president-elect himself was raising questions about the integrity of the election.

And finally, I think it’s worth pointing out, that the information was already out. It was in the hands of Wikileaks, so that was going to come out no matter what.

What I was concerned about in particular was making sure that that wasn’t compounded by potential hacking that could hamper vote counting, affect the actual election process itself.

And so in early September when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that did not happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out, there were going to be some serious consequences if he did not.

And in fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process. But the leaks through Wikileaks had already occurred.

So when I look back in terms of how we handled it, I think we handled it the way it should have been handled. We allowed law enforcement and the intelligence community to do its job without political influence.

We briefed all relevant parties involved in terms of what was taking place. When we had a consensus around what had happened, we announced it, not through the White House, not through me, but rather through the intelligence communities that had actually carried out these investigations.

And then we allowed you and the American public to make an assessment as to how to weigh that going into the election.

And the truth is, is that there was nobody here who did not have some sense of what kind of effect it might have. I am finding it a little curious that everybody is suddenly acting surprised that this looked like it was disadvantaging Hillary Clinton, because you guys wrote about it every day, every single leak about every little juicy tidbit of political gossip, including John Podesta’s risotto recipe.

This was an obsession that dominated the news coverage. So I do think it is worth us reflecting how it is that a presidential election of such importance, of such moment, with so many big issues at stake and such a contrast between the candidates came to be dominated by a bunch of these leaks.

What is it about our political system that made us vulnerable to these kinds of potential manipulations which, as I’ve said publicly before, were not particularly sophisticated. This was not some elaborate, complicated espionage scheme.

They hacked into some Democratic Party e-mails that contained pretty routine stuff, some of it embarrassing or uncomfortable because I suspect that if any of us got our emails hacked into there might be some things that we would not want suddenly appearing on the front page of a newspaper or a telecast, even if there was not anything particularly illegal or controversial about it.

And then it just took off. And that concerns me, and it should concern all of us. But the truth of the matter is, is that everybody had the information. It was out there, and we handled it the way we should have.

Now, moving forward, I think there are a couple of issues that this raises. Number one is just the constant challenge that we are going to have with cyber security throughout our economy and throughout our society.

We are a digitalized culture. And there’s hacking going on every single day. There is not a company, there is not a major organization, there is not a financial institution, there is not a branch of our government were somebody is not going to be fishing for something or trying to penetrate or put in a virus or malware.

And this is why for the last eight years I have been obsessed with how do we continually upgrade our cyber security systems. And this particular concern around Russian hacking is part of a broader set of concerns about how do we deal with cyber issues being used in ways that can affect our infrastructure, affect the stability of our financial systems, and affect the integrity of our institutions like our election process.

I just received, a couple of weeks back, it wasn’t widely reported on, a report from our cyber-security commission that outlines a whole range of strategies to do a better job on this. But it’s difficult because it’s not all housed — the target of cyberattacks is not one entity, but it’s widely dispersed and a lot of it is private, like the DNC. You know, it’s not a branch of government. We can’t tell people what to do.

What we can do is inform them, get best practices. What we can also do is to on a bilateral basis warn other countries against these kinds of attacks, and we’ve done that in the past. So just as I told Russia to stop it and indicated there will be consequences when they do it, the Chinese have in the past engaged in cyberattacks directed at our companies to steal trade secrets and proprietary technology, and I had to have the same conversation with President Xi. And what we’ve seen is some evidence that they have reduced but not completely eliminated these activities, partly because they can use cutouts. One of the problems with the internet and cyber issues is there’s not always a return address, and by the time you catch up to it, you know, attributing what happened to a particular government can be difficult, not always provable in court, even tough our intelligence communities can make an assessment.

What we’ve also tried to do is to start creating some international norms about this to prevent some sort of cyber arms race because we obviously have offensive capabilities as well as defensive capabilities, and my approach is not a situation which everybody’s worse off because folks are constantly attacking each other back and forth, but putting some guardrails around behavior of nation states, including our adversaries, just so that they understand that whatever they do to us, we can potentially do to them.

We do have some special challenges because oftentimes, our economy is more digitalized. It is more vulnerable partly because we’re a wealthier nation and we’re more wired than some of these other countries and we have a more open society and engage in less control and censorship over what happens over the internet, which is also part of what makes us special.

Last point, and the reason I’m going on here is because I know that you guys have a lot of questions about this and I addressed all of you directly about this. With respect to response, my principal goal leading up to the election was making sure that the election itself went off without a hitch, that it was not tarnished and that it did not feed any sense in the public that somehow, tampering had taken place with the actual process of voting and we accomplished that. That does not mean that we are not going to respond, it simply meant that we had a set of priorities leading up to the election that were of the utmost importance.

Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia or others not to do this to us because we can do stuff to you, but it is also important for us to do that in a thoughtful, methodical way. Some of it, we do publicly. Some of it, we will do in a way that they know but not everybody will. And I know that there have been folks out there who suggests somehow that if we went out there and made big announcements and thumped our chests about a bunch of stuff, that somehow that would potentially spook the Russians.

But keep in mind that we already have enormous numbers of sanctions against the Russians. The relationship between us and Russia has deteriorated, sadly, significantly over the last several years. And so how we approach an appropriate response that increases costs for them for behavior like this in the future but does not create problems for us is something that’s worth taking the time to think through and figure out. And that’s exactly what we’ve done.

So, at a point in time where we’ve taken certain actions that we can divulge publicly, we will do so. There are times where the message will be directly received by the Russians and not publicized. And I should point out by the way, part of why the Russians have been effective on this is because they don’t go around announcing what they’re doing. It’s not like Putin’s gone around the world publicly saying, look what we did. Wasn’t that clever? He denies it.

So the idea that somehow public shaming is gonna be effective, I think doesn’t read the — the thought process in Russia very well. OK.

QUESTION: Did Clinton lose because of the hacking?

OBAMA: I’m gonna let all the political pundits in this town have a long discussion about what happened in the election. It was a fascinating election. So, you know, I’m sure there are gonna be a lot of books written about it. I’ve said what I think is important for the Democratic Party going forward, rather than try to parse every aspect of the election.

And I — I’ve said before, I couldn’t be prouder of Secretary Clinton, her outstanding service and she’s worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and I don’t think she was treated fairly during the election. I think the coverage of her and the issues was troubling, but having said that, what I’ve been most focused on — appropriate for the fact I am not going to be a politician in about — what is it, 32 days, 31, 34?

(LAUGHTER)

What I’ve said is that I can maybe give some counsel advice to the Democratic Party. And I think the — the — the thing we have to spend the most time on — because it’s the thing we have most control over — is, how do we make sure that we’re showing up in places where I think Democratic policies are needed, where they are helping, where they are making a difference, but where people feel as if they’re not being heard?

And where Democrats are characterized as coastal, liberal, latte- sipping, you know, politically correct, out-of-touch folks, we have to be in those communities. And I’ve seen that, when we are in those communities, it makes a difference. That’s how I became president. I became a U.S. Senator not just because I had a strong base in Chicago, but because I was driving downstate Illinois and going to fish fries and sitting in V.F.W. Halls and talking to farmers.

And I didn’t win every one of their votes, but they got a sense of what I was talking about, what I cared about, that I was for working people, that I was for the middle class, that the reason I was interested in strengthening unions and raising the minimum wage and rebuilding our infrastructure and making sure that parents had decent childcare and family leave, was because my own family’s history wasn’t that different from theirs even if I looked a little bit different. Same thing in Iowa.

And so the question is, how do we rebuild that party as a whole, so that there’s not a county in any state — I don’t care how red — where we don’t have a presence and we’re not making the argument, because I think we have a better argument. But that requires a lot of work. You know, it’s been something that I’ve been able to do successfully in my own campaigns.

OBAMA: It is not something I’ve been able to transfer to candidates in mid-terms and sort of build a sustaining organization around. That’s something I would have liked to have done more of, but it’s kind of hard to do when you’re also dealing with a whole bunch of issues here in the White House. And that doesn’t mean, though, that it can’t be done, and I think there are gonna be a lot of talented folks out there, a lot of progressives who share my values, who are gonna be leading the charge in the years to come.

Michelle Kosinski (ph) of CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you.

This week we heard Hillary Clinton talk about how she thinks that the FBI director’s most recent announcement made a difference in the outcome of the election. And we also just heard in an op-ed her campaign chairman talk about something being deeply broken within the FBI.

He talked about thinking that the investigation early on was lackadaisical, in his words. So what do you think about those comments? Do you think there’s any truth to them? Do you think there’s a danger there that they’re calling into question the integrity of institutions in a similar way that Donald Trump’s team has done?

And the second part to that is that Donald Trump’s team repeatedly — I guess, given the indication that the investigation of the Russian hack as well as retaliation might not be such a priority once he’s in office.

So what do you think the risk is there? And are you going to talk to him directly about some of those comments he made?

OBAMA: Well, on the latter point, as I said before, the transition from election season to governance season is not always smooth. You know, it’s bumpy. There are still feelings that are raw out there. There are people who are still thinking how things unfolded. And I get all that.

But when Donald Trump takes the oath of office and is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, then he has got a different set of responsibilities and considerations.

And I’ve said this before. I think there is a sobering process when you walk into the Oval Office. And, you know, I haven’t shared previously private conversations I’ve had with the president-elect. I will say that they have been cordial and in some cases have involved me making some pretty specific suggestions about how to ensure that regardless of our obvious deep disagreements about policy, maybe I can transmit some thoughts about maintaining the effectiveness, integrity, cohesion of the office, our various democratic institutions, and he has listened.

I can’t say that he will end up implementing, but the conversations themselves have been cordial as opposed to defensive in any way. And I will always make myself available to him just as previous presidents have made themselves available to me as issues come up.

With respect to the FBI, I will tell you, I’ve had a chance to know a lot of FBI agents. I know Director Comey. They take their job seriously. They work really hard. They help keep us safe and save a lot of lives.

And it is always a challenge for law enforcement when there’s an intersection between the work that they are doing and the political system. It’s one of the difficulties of democracy generally.

We have a system where we want our law enforcement investigators and our prosecutors to be free from politics, to be independent, to play it straight. But sometimes that involves investigations that touch on politics and particularly in this hyper-partisan environment that we’ve been in, everything is suspect, everything you do one way or the other.

One thing that I have done is to be pretty scrupulous about not wading into investigation decisions or prosecution decisions or decisions not to prosecute. I have tried to be really strict in my own behavior about preserving the independence of law enforcement, free from my own judgments and political assessments, in some cases. And I don’t know why it would stop now.

Mike Dorney (ph) of Bloomberg.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

On Aleppo, your views of (ph) what happens there, the responsibility of the Russian government, the Iranian government, the Assad regime (inaudible), but do you, as president of the United States, leader of the free world, feel any personal moral responsibility now at the end of your presidency for the carnage we’re all watching in Aleppo, which I’m sure disturbs you (inaudible)?

Secondly, also on Aleppo, you’ve again made clear your practical disagreements with (inaudible) and President-elect Trump has throughout his campaign, and he said again last night, that he wants to create safe zones in Syria. Do you feel like in this transition, you need to help him toward implementing that or is that not something you need to be doing?

OBAMA: Mike, I always feel responsible. I felt responsible when kids were being shot by snipers. I felt responsible when millions of people had been displaced. I feel responsible for murder and slaughter that’s taken place in South Sudan that’s not being reported on, partly because there’s not as much social media being generated from there.

There are places around the world where horrible things are happening and because of my office, because I’m president of the United States, I feel responsible. I ask myself every single day, is there something I could do that would save lives and make a difference and spare some child who doesn’t deserve to suffer. So that’s a starting point. There’s not a moment during the course of this presidency where I haven’t felt some responsibility.

That’s true, by the way, for our own country. When I came into office and people were losing their jobs and losing their homes and losing their pensions, I felt responsible and I would go home at night and I would ask myself, was there something better that I could do or smarter that I could be that would make a difference in their lives, that would relieve their suffering and relieve their hardship.

So with respect to Syria, what I have consistently done is taken the best course that I can to try to end the civil war while having also to take into account the long-term national security interests of the United States. And throughout this process, based on hours of meetings — if you tallied it up, days and weeks of meetings — where we went through every option in painful detail with maps and we had our military and we had our aid agencies and we had our diplomatic teams, and sometimes, we’d bring in outsiders who were critics of ours.

OBAMA: Whenever we went through it, the challenge was that short of putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground uninvited, without any international law mandate, without sufficient support from Congress, at a time when we still had troops in Afghanistan and we still had troops in Iraq and we had just gone through over a decade of war and spent trillions of dollars and when the opposition on the ground was not cohesive enough to necessarily govern a country and you had a military superpower in Russia prepared to do whatever it took to keep its (inaudible) involved and you had a regional military power in Iran that saw their own vital strategic interests at stake and were willing to maintain that territory in the absence of consent from the Syrian government and now the Russians or the Iranians.

So it may be that with Aleppo’s tragic situation unfolding that in the short term, if we can get more of the tens of thousands who are still trapped there out , that so long as the world’s eyes are on them and they are feeling pressure, the regime in Russia concludes that they are willing to find some arrangement, perhaps in coordination with Turkey, whereby those people can be safe.

Even that will probably be temporary, but at least it solves a short-term issue that’s going to arise.

Unfortunately we are not there yet because right now we have Russians and Assad claiming that basically all the innocent civilians who were trapped in Aleppo are out when international organizations, humanitarian organizations who know better and who are on the ground, have said unequivocally that there are still tens of thousands who are trapped and prepared to leave under pretty much any conditions.

And so right now our biggest priority is to continue to put pressure wherever we can to try to get them out.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Mike, I can’t have too much…

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) but do you see, responsibility notwithstanding, moving in that direction or help President-elect Trump move in that direction?

OBAMA: I will help President Trump — President-elect Trump with any advice, counsel, information that we can provide so that he, once he’s sworn in, can make a decision.

Between now and then, these are decisions that I have to make based on the consultations that I have with our military and the people who have been working this every single day.

Peter Alexander (ph).

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you very much.

Can you, given all the intelligence that we have now heard, assure the public this was once and for all a free and fair election? And specifically on Russia, do you feel any obligation now as they have been insisting that this isn’t the case to show the proof, as it were? They say, put your money where your mouth is and declassify some of the intelligence and the evidence that exists.

And more broadly, as it relates to Donald Trump on this very topic, are you concerned about his relationship with Vladimir Putin, especially given some of the recent cabinet picks, including his selection for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who toasted Putin with champagne over oil deals together? Thank you.

OBAMA: I may be getting older because these multipart questions, I start losing track.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I can assure the public that there was not the kind of tampering with the voting process that was our concern and will continue to be of concern going forward, that the votes that were cast were counted, they were counted appropriately.

We have not seen evidence of machines being tampered with, so that assurance I can provide.

That doesn’t mean that we find every single, you know, potential probe of every single voting machine all across the country, but we paid a lot of attention to it. We worked with state officials, et cetera, and we feel confident that that didn’t occur and that the votes were cast and they were counted.

And so that’s on that point. What was the second one?

QUESTION: Say more about declassification.

OBAMA: Declassification. Look, we will provide evidence that we can safely provide, that doesn’t mean, though, that it can’t be done, and I think there are going to be a lot of talented folks out there, a lot of progressives who share my values who are going to be leading the charge in the years to come.

Michelle Kosinski (ph) of CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you.

This week we heard Hillary Clinton talk about how she thinks that the FBI director’s most recent announcement made a difference in the outcome of the election. And we also just heard in an op-ed her campaign chairman talk about something being deeply broken within the FBI.

He talked about thinking that the investigation early on was lackadaisical, in his words. So what do you think about those comments? Do you think there’s any truth to them? Do you think there’s a danger there that they’re calling into question the integrity of institutions in a similar way that Donald Trump’s team has done?

And the second part to that is that Donald Trump’s team repeatedly — I guess, given the indication that the investigation of the Russian hack as well as retaliation might not be such a priority once he’s in office.

So what do you think the risk is there? And are you going to talk to him directly about some of those comments he made?

OBAMA: Well, on the latter point, as I said before, the transition from election season to governance season is not always smooth. You know, it’s bumpy. There are still feelings that are raw out there. There are people who are still thinking how things unfolded. And I get all that.

But when Donald Trump takes the oath of office and is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, then he has got a different set of responsibilities and considerations.

And I’ve said this before. I think there is a sobering process when you walk into the Oval Office. And, you know, I haven’t shared previously private conversations I’ve had with the president-elect. I will say that they have been cordial and in some cases have involved me making some pretty specific suggestions about how to ensure that regardless of our obvious deep disagreements about policy, maybe I can transmit some thoughts about maintaining the effectiveness, integrity, cohesion of the office, our various democratic institutions, and he has listened.

I can’t say that he will end up implementing, but the conversations themselves have been cordial as opposed to defensive in any way. And I will always make myself available to him just as previous presidents have made themselves available to me as issues come up.

With respect to the FBI, I will tell you, I’ve had a chance to know a lot of FBI agents. I know Director Comey. They take their job seriously. They work really hard. They help keep us safe and save a lot of lives.

And it is always a challenge for law enforcement when there’s an intersection between the work that they are doing and the political system. It’s one of the difficulties of democracy generally.

We have a system where we want our law enforcement investigators and our prosecutors to be free from politics, to be independent, to play it straight. But sometimes that involves investigations that touch on politics and particularly in this hyper-partisan environment that we’ve been in, everything is suspect, everything you do one way or the other.

One thing that I have done is to be pretty scrupulous about not wading into investigation decisions or prosecution decisions or decisions not to prosecute. I have tried to be really strict in my own behavior about preserving the independence of law enforcement, free from my own judgments and political assessments, in some cases. And I don’t know why it would stop now.

Mike Dorney (ph) of Bloomberg.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

On Aleppo, your views of (ph) what happens there, the responsibility of the Russian government, the Iranian government, the Assad regime (inaudible), but do you, as president of the United States, leader of the free world, feel any personal moral responsibility now at the end of your presidency for the carnage we’re all watching in Aleppo, which I’m sure disturbs you (inaudible)?

Secondly, also on Aleppo, you’ve again made clear your practical disagreements with (inaudible) and President-elect Trump has throughout his campaign, and he said again last night, that he wants to create safe zones in Syria. Do you feel like in this transition, you need to help him toward implementing that or is that not something you need to be doing?

OBAMA: Mike, I always feel responsible. I felt responsible when kids were being shot by snipers. I felt responsible when millions of people had been displaced. I feel responsible for murder and slaughter that’s taken place in South Sudan that’s not being reported on, partly because there’s not as much social media being generated from there.

There are places around the world where horrible things are happening and because of my office, because I’m president of the United States, I feel responsible. I ask myself every single day, is there something I could do that would save lives and make a difference and spare some child who doesn’t deserve to suffer. So that’s a starting point. There’s not a moment during the course of this presidency where I haven’t felt some responsibility.

That’s true, by the way, for our own country. When I came into office and people were losing their jobs and losing their homes and losing their pensions, I felt responsible and I would go home at night and I would ask myself, was there something better that I could do or smarter that I could be that would make a difference in their lives, that would relieve their suffering and relieve their hardship.

So with respect to Syria, what I have consistently done is taken the best course that I can to try to end the civil war while having also to take into account the long-term national security interests of the United States. And throughout this process, based on hours of meetings — if you tallied it up, days and weeks of meetings — where we went through every option in painful detail with maps and we had our military and we had our aid agencies and we had our diplomatic teams, and sometimes, we’d bring in outsiders who were critics of ours.

OBAMA: Whenever we went through it, the challenge was that short of putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground uninvited, without any international law mandate, without sufficient support from Congress, at a time when we still had troops in Afghanistan and we still had troops in Iraq and we had just gone through over a decade of war and spent trillions of dollars and when the opposition on the ground was not cohesive enough to necessarily govern a country and you had a military superpower in Russia prepared to do whatever it took to keep its (inaudible) involved and you had a regional military power in Iran that saw their own vital strategic interests at stake and were willing to send in as many of their people or proxies to support the regime.

And in that circumstance, unless we were all in and willing to take over Syria, we were going to have problems. And everything else was tempting because we wanted to do something and it sounded like the right thing to do but it was going to be impossible to do this on the cheap. And in that circumstance, I have to make decision as president of the United States as to what is best — I’m sorry.

What’s going on? Somebody’s not feeling good. All right. Why don’t we have — we got — we can get our doctors back there to help out. Somebody want to go to my doctor’s office and just send them — all right. Where was I? So we couldn’t do it on the cheap. Now, it may be —

QUESTION: Can we get a doctor in here? Can that be arranged?

OBAMA: Can somebody help out, please, and get Doc Jackson in here? Somebody grabbing our doctor?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Of course. In the meantime, just give her a little room. Doctor will be here in a second. You guys know where the doctor’s office is? So just go through the palm doors. Its right — its right next to the map room. There he is. All right. There’s Doc Jackson. He’s all right. OK. The doctor — the doctor’s in the house.

So — And I don’t mean that — I mean that with all sincerity. I understand the impulse to want to do something, but ultimately what I’ve had to do is to think about, what can we sustain, what is realistic? And my first priority has to be, what’s the right thing to do for America? And it has been our view that the best thing to do has been to provide some support to the moderate opposition so that they could sustain themselves. And that you wouldn’t see anti-Assad regime sentiments just pouring into Al- Nusra and Al-Qaeda or ISIL that we engaged our international partners in order to put pressure on all the parties involved. And to try to resolve this through diplomatic and political means. I cannot claim that we’ve been successful. And so that’s something that, as is true with a lot of issues and problems around the world, I have to go to bed with every night.

But I continue to believe that it was the right approach given what realistically we could get done. Absent a decision, as I said, to go into much more significant way. And that, I think would not have been a sustainable or good for the American people because we had a whole host of other obligations that we also had to meet, wars we had already started and that were not yet finished.

With respect to the issue of safe zones , it is a continued problem, a continued challenge with safe zones is if you are setting up those zones on Syrian territory, then that requires some force that is willing to maintain that territory in the absence of consent from the Syrian government and now the Russians or the Iranians.

So it may be that with Aleppo’s tragic situation unfolding that in the short term, if we can get more of the tens of thousands who are still trapped there out , that so long as the world’s eyes are on them and they are feeling pressure, the regime in Russia concludes that they are willing to find some arrangement, perhaps in coordination with Turkey, whereby those people can be safe.

Even that will probably be temporary, but at least it solves a short-term issue that’s going to arise.

Unfortunately we are not there yet because right now we have Russians and Assad claiming that basically all the innocent civilians who were trapped in Aleppo are out when international organizations, humanitarian organizations who know better and who are on the ground, have said unequivocally that there are still tens of thousands who are trapped and prepared to leave under pretty much any conditions.

And so right now our biggest priority is to continue to put pressure wherever we can to try to get them out.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Mike, I can’t have too much…

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) but do you see, responsibility notwithstanding, moving in that direction or help President-elect Trump move in that direction?

OBAMA: I will help President Trump — President-elect Trump with any advice, counsel, information that we can provide so that he, once he’s sworn in, can make a decision.

Between now and then, these are decisions that I have to make based on the consultations that I have with our military and the people who have been working this every single day. Peter Alexander (ph).

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you very much.

Can you, given all the intelligence that we have now heard, assure the public this was once and for all a free and fair election? And specifically on Russia, do you feel any obligation now as they have been insisting that this isn’t the case to show the proof, as it were? They say, put your money where your mouth is and declassify some of the intelligence and the evidence that exists.

And more broadly, as it relates to Donald Trump on this very topic, are you concerned about his relationship with Vladimir Putin, especially given some of the recent cabinet picks, including his selection for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who toasted Putin with champagne over oil deals together? Thank you.

OBAMA: I may be getting older because these multipart questions, I start losing track.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I can assure the public that there was not the kind of tampering with the voting process that was our concern and will continue to be of concern going forward, that the votes that were cast were counted, they were counted appropriately.

We have not seen evidence of machines being tampered with, so that assurance I can provide.

That doesn’t mean that we find every single, you know, potential probe of every single voting machine all across the country, but we paid a lot of attention to it. We worked with state officials, et cetera, and we feel confident that that didn’t occur and that the votes were cast and they were counted.

And so that’s on that point. What was the second one?

QUESTION: Say more about declassification.

OBAMA: Declassification. Look, we will provide evidence that we can safely provide, that does not compromise sources and methods. But I’ll be honest with you, when you are talking about cybersecurity, a lot of it is classified and we’re not going to provide it, because the way we catch folks is by knowing certain things about them that they may not want us to know and if we’re gonna monitor this stuff effectively going forward, we don’t want them to know that we know.

So, this is one of those situations where, unless the American people genuinely think that the professionals in the CIA, the FBI, our entire intelligence infrastructure, many of whom — by the way, served in previous administrations and who are Republicans — are less trustworthy than the Russians. Then people should pay attention to what our intelligence agencies say.

This is part of what I meant when I said we’ve got to think what is happening to happening to our political culture here. The Russians can’t change us or significantly weaken us. They are a smaller country, they are a weaker country, their economy doesn’t produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms. They don’t innovate.

But they can impact us if we lose track of who we are. They can impact us if we abandon our values. Mr. Putin can weaken us just like he’s trying to weaken Europe if we start buying into notions that it’s OK to intimidate the press, or lock up dissidents, or discriminate against people because of their faith or what they look like.

And what I worry about — more than anything — is the degree to which because of the fierceness because of the partisan battle, you start to see certain folks in the Republican Party and Republican voters suddenly finding a government and individuals who stand contrary to everything that we stand for as being OK, because that’s how much we dislike Democrats.

I mean, think about it. Some of the people who historically have been very critical of me for engaging with the Russians and having conversations with them, also endorsed the president-elect, even as he was saying that we should stop sanctioning Russia and being tough on them and work together with them against our common enemies.

It was very complimentary of Mr. Putin personally. Now that — that wasn’t news. The president-elect during the campaign said so. And some folks who had made a career out of being anti-Russian, didn’t say anything about it. And then after the election, suddenly they’re asking, oh, why didn’t you tell us that maybe the Russians were trying to help our candidate? Well, come on.

There was a survey some of you saw where — not this just one poll, but pretty credible source, 37 percent of Republican voters approve of Putin. Over a third of Republican voters approve of Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB. Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave. And how did that happen? It happened in part because for too long, everything that happens in this town, everything that’s said is seen through the lens of does this help or hurt us relative to Democrats or relative to President Obama. And unless that changes, we’re going to continue to be vulnerable to foreign influence because we’ve lost track of what it is that we’re about and what we stand for.

With respect to the president-elect’s appointments, it is his prerogative, as I have always said, for him to appoint who he thinks can best carry out his foreign policy or his domestic policy. It is up to the Senate to advise and consent. There will be plenty of time for members of the Senate to go through the record of all his appointees and determine whether or not they’re appropriate for the job.

Martha (inaudible).

QUESTION: Mr. President, I want to talk about Vladimir Putin again. Just to be clear, do you believe Vladimir Putin himself authorized the hack? And do you believe he authorized that to help Donald Trump?

And on the intelligence, one of the things Donald Trump cites is Saddam Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction and that they were never found. Can you say unequivocally that this was not China, that this was not a 400-pound guy sitting on his bed as Donald Trump says? And do these types of tweets and kinds of statements from Donald Trump embolden the Russians?

OBAMA: When the report comes out before I leave office, that will have drawn together all the threads, and so I don’t want to step on their work ahead of time. What I can tell you is that the intelligence that I’ve seen gives me great confidence in their assessment that the Russians carried out this hack.

QUESTION: Which hack?

OBAMA: The hack of the DNC and the hack of John Podesta.

Now, the — but again, I think this is exactly why I want the report out, so that everybody can review it. And this has been briefed and the evidence in closed session has been provided on a bipartisan basis, not just to me, it’s been provided to the leaders of the House and the Senate and the chairmen and ranking members of the relevant committees. And I think that what you’ve already seen is, at least some of the folks who’ve seen the evidence don’t dispute I think the basic assessment that the Russians carried this out.

QUESTION: But specifically, could (ph) you not say that…

OBAMA: Well, Martha, I think what I want to make sure of is that I give the intelligence community a chance to gather all the information.

But I’d make a larger point, which is, not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin. This is a pretty hierarchical operation. Last I checked, there’s not a lot of debate and democratic deliberation, particularly when it comes to policies directed at the United States. We have said and I will confirm that this happened at the highest levels of the Russian government and I will let you make that determination as to whether there are high-level Russian officials who go off rogue and decide to tamper with the U.S. election process without Vladimir Putin knowing about it.

QUESTION: So I wouldn’t be wrong in saying the president thinks Vladimir Putin authorized the hack?

OBAMA: Martha, I’ve given you what I’ve — what I’m gonna give you.

What was your second question?

QUESTION: Do the tweets and do the statements by — by Donald Trump embolden Russia?

OBAMA: As I said before, I think that the president-elect, you know, is still in transition mode from campaign to governance. I think he hasn’t gotten his whole team together yet. He still has campaign spokespersons sort of filling in and appearing on cable shows. And there is just a whole different attitude and vibe when you’re not in power as when you are in power.

So rather than me sort of characterize the appropriateness or inappropriateness of what he is doing at the moment, I think what we have to see is how will the president-elect operate and how will his team operate when they’ve been fully briefed on all these issues. They have their hands on all the levers of government. And they have got to start making decisions.

One way I do believe that the president-elect can approach this that would be unifying is to say that we welcome a bipartisan independent process that gives the American people an assurance not only that votes are counted properly, that the elections are fair and free, but that we have learned lessons about how internet propaganda from foreign countries can be released into the political bloodstream and that we have got strategies to deal with it for the future.

The more this can be non-partisan, the better served the American people are going to be, which is why I made the point earlier and I’m going to keep on repeating this point, our vulnerability to Russia or any other foreign power is directly related to how divided, partisan, dysfunctional our political process is. That’s the thing that makes us vulnerable.

If fake news that’s being released by some foreign government is almost identical to reports that are being issued through partisan news venues, then it’s not surprising that that foreign propaganda will have a greater effect. It doesn’t seem that far-fetched compared to some of the other stuff that folks are hearing from domestic propagandists.

To the extent that our political dialogue is such where everything is under suspicion, and everybody is corrupt, and everybody is doing things for partisan reasons, and all of our institutions are, you know, full of malevolent actors, if that’s the story line that is being put out there by whatever party is out of power, then when a foreign government introduces that same argument, with facts that are made up, voters who have been listening to that stuff for years, who have been getting that stuff every day from talk radio or other venues, they’re going to believe it.

So if we want to really reduce foreign influence on our elections, then we had better think about how to make sure that our political process, our political dialogue is stronger than it has been.

Mark Langley (ph).

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

I wonder whether I could move you from Russia to China for a moment.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Your successor spoke by phone with the president of Taiwan the other day, and declared subsequently that he wasn’t sure why the United States needed to be bound by the One China Policy.

He suggested it could be used as a bargaining chip perhaps to get better terms on a trade deal or more cooperation on North Korea. There’s already evidence that tensions between the two sides have increased a bit, and just today, the Chinese have seized an underwater drone in the South China Sea.

Do you agree, as some do, that our China policy could use a fresh set of eyes and what’s the big deal about having a short phone call with the president of Taiwan? Or do you worry that these types of unorthodox approaches are setting us on a collision course with perhaps our biggest geopolitical adversary?

OBAMA: That’s a great question.

I’m somewhere in between. I think all of our foreign policy should be subject to fresh eyes. I think one of the — I’ve said this before, I am very proud of the work I’ve done. I think I’m a better president now than when I started. But you know, if you’re here for eight years in the bubble, you start seeing things a certain way and you benefit from — the democracy benefits, America benefits from some new perspectives.

And I think it should be not just the prerogative, but the obligation of a new president to examine everything that’s been done and see what makes sense and what doesn’t. That’s what I have done when I came in and I’m assuming any new president’s gonna undertake those same exercises.

And given the importance of the relationship between United States and China, given how much is at stake in terms of the world economy, national security, our presence in the Asia-Pacific, China’s increasing role in international affairs, there’s probably no bilateral relationship that carries more significance and where there’s also the potential if that relationship breaks down or goes into full conflict mode that everybody is worse off. So I think it’s fine for him to take a look at it. What I have advised the president-elect is that across the board on foreign policy, you want to make sure that you’re doing it in a systematic, deliberate, intentional way.

And since there’s only one president at a time, my advice to him has been that before he starts having a lot of interactions with foreign governments other than the usual courtesy calls, that he should want to have his full team in place, that he should want his team to be fully briefed on what’s gone on in the past and where the potential pitfalls may be, where the opportunities are, what we’ve learned from eight years of experience so that as he’s then maybe taking foreign policy in a new direction, he’s got all the information to make good decisions, and by the way, that all of government is moving at the same time and singing from the same hymnal.

And with respect to China — and let’s just take the example of Taiwan, there has been a longstanding agreement essentially between China and the United States, and to some agree the Taiwanese, which is to not change the status quo. Taiwan operates differently than mainland China does. China views Taiwan as part of China, but recognizes that it has to approach Taiwan as an entity that has its own ways of doing things.

OBAMA: The Taiwanese have agreed that as long as they’re able to continue to function with some agree of autonomy, that they won’t charge forward and declare independence. And that status quo, although not completely satisfactory to any of the parties involved, has kept the peace and allowed the Taiwanese to be a pretty successful economy and — of people who have a high agree of self-determination. What I understand for China, the issue of Taiwan is as important as anything on their docket.

The idea of One China is at the heart of their conception as a nation. And so if you are going to upend this understanding, you have to have thought through what the consequences because the Chinese will not treat that the way they’ll treat some other issues. They won’t even treat it the way they issues around the South China Sea, where we’ve had a lot of tensions. This goes to the core of how they see themselves.

And their reaction on this issue could end up being very significant. That doesn’t mean that you have to adhere to everything that’s been done in the past, but you have to think it through and have planned for potential reactions that they may engage in. All right. Isaac Dovere, Politico.

QUESTION: Thank you Mr. President. Two questions on where this all leaves us.

OBAMA: What leaves us? Where my presidency leaves us? It leaves us in a really good spot.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: If we make some good decisions going forward.

QUESTION: What do you say to the electors who are going to meet on Monday and are thinking of changing their votes? Do you think they should be given an intelligence briefing about the Russian activity or should they bear in mind everything you have said and have said already (ph)? Should they — should votes be bound by the state votes as they’ve gone? And long-term, do you think that there is need for Electoral College reform that was tied to the popular vote?

OBAMA: Sounded like two but really was one.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I love how these start. I’ve got two questions, but each one has four parts.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: On the Democratic Party, your labor secretary is running for — to be the chair of the Democratic National Committee. Is the vision that you’ve seen him putting forward what you think the party needs to be focused on? And what do you think about the complaint that say that the future democratic committee shouldn’t be a continuation of some of your political approach? Part of that is complaints that decisions that you have made as president and leader of the party has structurally weakened the DNC and the Democratic Party and they think that that has led to or has help lead to some of the losses in elections around the country. Do you regret any of those decisions?

OBAMA: I’ll take the second one first and say that Tom Perez has been, I believe one of the best secretaries of labor in our history. He is tireless. He is wicked smart. He has been able to work across the spectrum of you know, labor, business, activists. He has produced. I mean, if you look at his body of work on behalf of working people, what he’s pushed for in terms of making sure that workers get a fair deal, decent wages, better benefits, that their safety is protected on the job. He has been extraordinary.

Now others who have declared are also my friends and fine people as well. And the great thing is, I don’t have a vote in this. So – so – so we’ll let the process unfold, I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon. I described to you earlier what I think needs to happen, which is that the democratic party, whether that’s entirely through the DNC or through rebuilding of state parties, or some other arrangement, has to work at the grassroots level, has to be present in all 50 states, has to have a presence in counties.

Has to think about in that extension (ph) how are we speaking directly to voters.

I will say this, and I’m not going to engage in too much punditry. But that I could not be prouder of the coalition that I put together in my — each of my campaigns. Because it was inclusive and it drew in people who normally weren’t interested in politics and didn’t participate.

But I’d like to think — I think I can show that in those elections, I always cast a broad net. I always said first and foremost we’re Americans, that we have a common creed, that there’s more that we share than divides us. And I want to talk to everybody and get a chance to get everybody’s vote.

I still believe what I said in 2004 which is this red state-blue thing is a construct. Now it is a construct that has gotten more and more powerful for a whole lot of reasons from gerrymandering, to big money, to a way that the media is splintered.

And so people are just watching what reinforces their existing biases as opposed to having to listen to different points of view. So there are all kinds of reasons for it. But outside the realm of electoral politics, I still see people the way I saw them when I made that speech, full of contradictions and some regional differences but basically, folks care about their families.

They care about having meaningful work. They care about making sure their kids have more opportunity than they did. They want to be safe. They want to feel like things are fair.

And whoever leads the DNC and any candidate with the Democratic brand going forward, I want them to feel as if they can reach out and find that common ground and speak to all of America. And that requires some organization.

And you’re right that — and I said this in my earlier remarks, that what I was able to do during my campaigns, I wasn’t able to do during midterms. It’s not that we didn’t put in time and effort into it. I spent time and effort into it. But the coalition I put together didn’t always turn out to be transferable.

And the challenge is that — you know, some of that just has to do with the fact that when you are in the party in power and people are going through hard times like they were in 2010, they are going to punish to some degree the president’s party regardless of what organizational work is done.

Some of it has to do with just some deep standing traditional challenges for Democrats like during off-year elections the electorate is older and we do better with the younger electorate. But we know those things are true.

And I didn’t crack the code on that. And if other people have ideas about how to do that even better, I’m all for it.

So with respect to the electors, I’m not going to wade into that issue. Because, again, it’s the American people’s job and now electors’ job to decide my successor. It is not my job to decide my successor.

And I have provided people with a lot of information about what happened during the course of the election, but more importantly, the candidates themselves I think talked about their beliefs and their vision for America.

The president-elect I think has been very explicit what he cares about and what he believes in. And so it’s not in my hands now, it’s up to them.

QUESTION: what about long term about the Electoral College?

OBAMA: Long term with respect to the Electoral College, the Electoral College is a vestige, it’s a carry-over from an earlier vision of how our federal government was going to work that put a lot of premium on states, and it used to be that the Senate was not elected directly, it was through state legislatures. And it’s the same type of thinking that gives Wyoming two senators and — with about half a million people and California with 33 million get the same two.

So there’s — there are some structures in our political system as envisioned by the founders that sometimes are going to disadvantage Democrats, but the truth of the matter is is that if we have a strong message, if we’re speaking to what the American people care about, typically, the popular vote and the electoral college vote will align.

And I guess — I guess part of my overall message here as I leave for the holidays is that if we look for one explanation or one silver bullet or one easy fix for our politics, then we’re probably going to be disappointed. There are just a lot of factors in what’s happened, not just over the last few months, but over the last decade that has made both politics and governance more challenging. And I think everybody’s raised legitimate questions and legitimate concerns.

I do hope that we all just take some time, take a breath, that’s certainly what I’m going to advise Democrats, to just reflect a little bit more about how can we — how can we get to a place where people are focused on working together based on at least some common set of facts? How can we have a conversation about policy that doesn’t demonize each another? How can we channel what I think is the basic decency and goodness of the American people so it reflects itself in our politics, as opposed to it being so polarized and so nasty that in some cases, you have voters and unelected officials who have more confidence and faith in a foreign adversary than they have in their neighbors?

And those go to some bigger issues. How is it that we have some voters or some elected officials who think that Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative and school nutrition program is a greater threat to democracy than, you know, our government going after the press if they’re issuing a story they don’t like? I mean, that’s — that’s an issue that I think, you know, we’ve got to — we’ve got to wrestle with. And we will.

People have asked me how you feel after the election and so forth and I say well, look, this is a clarifying moment. It’s a useful reminder that voting counts, politics counts. What the president- elect is going to be doing is gonna be very different than what I was doing and I think people will be able to compare and contrast and make judgments about what worked for the American people. And I hope that building off the progress we’ve made, that what the president-elect is proposing works.

What I can say with confidence is that what we’ve done works. That I can prove. I can show you where we were in 2008 and I can show you where we are now. And you can’t argue that we are not better off, we are.

And for that, I thank the American people and then more importantly I thank — well, not importantly, as importantly — I was going to say Josh Earnest…

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: … for doing such a great job. For that, I thank the American people, I thank the men and women in uniform who serve. I haven’t gotten to the point yet where I’ve been overly sentimental. I will tell you that when I was doing my last Christmas party photo — I know many of you have participated in these, they’re pretty long.

Right at the end of the line, the President’s Marine Corps Band comes in, those who have been performing. And I take a picture with them. And that was the last time that I was going to take a picture with my Marine Corps Band after an event. And I got a little choked up.

Now I was in front of marines so I had to like tamp it down. But it was just one small example of all of the people who have contributed to our success. I am responsible for where we’ve screwed up, the successes are widely shared with all of the amazing people who have been part of this administration.

OK? Thank you, everybody. Mele Kalikimaka!

 

Full Text Political Transcripts December 14, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Evening Hanukkah Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Evening Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-14-16

East Room

7:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, hello, hello!  (Applause.)  HelloGood evening, everybody!  Welcome to the White House, and Happy Hanukkah!  (Applause.)  It so happens we’re a little early this year.  (Laughter.)  But Michelle and I are going to be in Hawaii when Hanukkah begins, and we agreed that it’s never too soon to enjoy some latkes and jelly donuts.  (Laughter.)  This is our second Hanukkah party today, but in the spirit of the holiday, the White House kitchen has not run out of oil.  (Laughter.)  Dad jokes for every occasion.  (Laughter.)

I want to recognize some special guests that are with us today.  There are a number of members of Congress here who obviously are so supportive of the values that are represented by this holiday and extraordinarily strong friends of Israel.  We’ve got Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg in the house.  (Applause.)  We’ve got one of the country’s finest jurists, who I happened to have nominated to the Supreme Court and who’s going to continue to serve our country with distinction as the chief judge on the D.C. circuit, Merrick Garland is here.  (Applause.)

Our wonderful and outstanding and tireless Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, is here.  (Applause.)  As is our U.S. Trade Representative and former B-B-Y-O president, Mike Froman.  (Applause.)  And I want to give it up for our outstanding musical guests, Six-Thirteen, who just did a amazing performance for Michelle and I of a “Hamilton” remix talking about the Maccabees, and the President, and menorahs, and —

MRS. OBAMA:  It was good.

THE PRESIDENT:  If you ever have a chance to get the mix-tape, you should buy it.  (Laughter.)

Now, this is the eighth year that Michelle and I have hosted this little gathering.  And over the years, we’ve welcomed Jewish Supreme Court justices, Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress.  We celebrated Alan Gross’s return from captivity in Cuba.  (Applause.)  We got to celebrate a once-in-70,000-year event, Thanksgivvikuh — (laughter) — where we lit the “Menurkey.”  (Laughter.)  That was a turkey-shaped menorah, in case you forgot.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  We got it.

THE PRESIDENT:  So this is a White House tradition that we are proud to carry on.  It gives us a lot of nakhas.  (Laughter.)  If I pronounced that right, then that was a Hanukkah miracle.  (Laughter.)

Tonight, we come together for the final time to tell a familiar story — so familiar that even we Gentiles know it.  But as many times as we tell it, this 2,000-year-old tale never gets old.  In every generation, we take heart from the Maccabees’ struggle against tyranny, their fight to live in peace and practice their religion in peace.  We teach our children that even in our darkest moments, a stubborn flame of hope flickers and miracles are possible.  (Applause.)

That spirit from two millennia ago inspired America’s founders two centuries ago.  They proclaimed a new nation where citizens could speak and assemble, and worship as they wished.  George Washington himself was said to have been stirred by the lights of Hanukkah after seeing a soldier seek the warmth of a menorah in the snows of Valley Forge.  And years later, Washington wrote that timeless letter we have on display today in the White House — I hope you saw it when you walked in.  Washington assured the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island, that the United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”  (Applause.)  He went on to write that all that is required of those “who live under [the nation’s] protection” is that they be “good citizens.”

It’s easy, sometimes, to take these fundamental freedoms for granted.  But they, too, are miraculous.  They, too, have to be nurtured and safeguarded.  And it’s in defense of these ideals — precisely because the Jewish people have known oppression — that throughout our history, this community has been at the forefront of every fight for freedom.  It’s why Jews marched in Selma, why they mobilized after Stonewall, why synagogues have opened their doors to refugees, why Jewish leaders have spoken out against all forms of hatred.

And in my last months in office, I want to thank you for all your courage, and your conviction, and your outspokenness.  (Applause.)  The story of this community and the work you continue to do to repair the world forever reminds us to have faith that there are brighter days ahead.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  They’re a little cynical.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no, they’re not cynical.

MRS. OBAMA:  Little doubtful.

THE PRESIDENT:  The menorah we light today is a testament such resilient optimism.  It belonged to Rina and Joseph Walden, a young Polish couple who acquired it in the early 1900s.  When the Second World War came, the Waldens fled to France and took shelter on a farm.  And they hid their Jewishness, including their magnificent menorah, entrusting it to a courageous neighbor.  But one Hanukkah, they retrieved their menorah and lit it behind locked doors and covered windows.  That same week, the Nazis raided their neighbor’s house and burned it to the ground.  Of all the Walden family’s treasures, only this menorah survived.

A few years later, the Waldens moved to Israel, where their son Raphael met a young woman named Zvia Peres — the only daughter of one of Israel’s founding fathers and greatest statesmen.  And I had the honor to go to Jerusalem earlier this year to bid farewell to my dear friend Shimon Peres and reaffirm the commitment of the United States to the State of Israel.  We could not be more honored to have Shimon’s son, Chemi, his grandson, Guy, and his granddaughter, Mika, here with us tonight.  (Applause.)

The Walden-Peres family lit these lights when the State of Israel was new.  They’ve blazed it in the months after the Yom Kippur War and the Camp David Accords.  And tonight, Chemi and Mika will light this amazing heirloom in the White House.  And as they do, we hope all of you draw strength from the divine spark in Shimon Peres, whose miraculous life taught us that “faith and moral vision can triumph over all adversity.”  I hope it inspires us to rededicate ourselves to upholding the freedoms we hold dear at home and around the world — that we are able to see those who are not like us and recognize their dignity, not just those who are similar to us.  I hope it inspires us to continue to work for peace, even when it is hard — perhaps especially when it is hard.  (Applause.)

And, as Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport more than 200 years ago, “May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, in our paths.”

I’d now like to invite Rabbi Rachel Isaacs from Colby College and Temple Beth Israel in Waterville, Maine — which I said sounds cold — (laughter) — to say a few words and lead us in blessings.  But first, I have to get a box, because she’s a little shorter than I am.  (Laughter.)

(A prayer is offered.)

Well, we hope that you enjoy this celebration here at the White House.  On behalf of Michelle and myself, we could not be more grateful for your friendship and your prayers.  And we want to emphasize that although we will be leaving here on January 20th —

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  — we will meet you on the other side.  (Laughter.)  And we’ve still got a lot of work to do.  We look forward to doing that work with you, because it’s not something that we can do alone, and you’ve always been such an extraordinary group of friends that strengthen us in so many different ways.

I should also note that your singing was outstanding.  (Laughter.)  I think this was an exceptional group of voices here.  (Laughter.)

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

END
7:57 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 31, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at My Brother’s Keeper National Summit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at My Brother’s Keeper National Summit

Source: WH, 12-14-16

South Court Auditorium

5:03 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Hello!  Everybody, please have a seat.  Welcome to the White House.

Thank you, Malachi, for the great introduction and being a great role model for the young people coming up behind you.  I was watching the introduction on the screen — he’s very telegenic.  (Laughter.)  We might have to run him for something at some point.  (Laughter.)  We’re so proud of you.

And I want to make sure that we introduce the other young men who are behind me, as well, because they’ve got equally compelling stories.  Devin Edwards, coming out of MBK Boston.  Devin, wave.  There you go.  (Applause.)  And as well as Bunker Hill Community College in Greater Boston.  Jerron Hawkins, Howard University.  (Applause.)  White House Mentorship and Leadership Program.  You already met Malachi.  Noah McQueen, Morehouse College.  (Applause.)  One of our mentors.  Luis Ramirez, MBK Oakland Career and Opportunity Fair.  (Applause.)  And Quamiir Trice, MBK Philadelphia.  Howard University.  (Applause.)

These young people behind me are proof that a little love, a little support allows them to achieve anything they can dream, anything they can conceive.  Since day one, my administration has been focused on creating opportunities for all people.  And by almost every measure, this country is better off than it was when I started.  (Applause.)  But what we’ve also long understood is that some communities have consistently had the odds stacked against them — and that’s especially true for boys and young men of color.

All of you know the statistics and the stories of young people who had the intelligence, the potential to do amazing things, but somehow slipped through the cracks.  And I’ve said this before — I see myself in these young people.  I grew up without a father.  There were times where I made poor choices, times where I was adrift.  The only difference between me and a lot of other young men is that I grew up in a more forgiving environment.  I had people who encouraged me and gave me a second chance.

That’s why Michelle and I have dedicated so much of our time to creating opportunities for young people.  We know this is not just an urban problem; it’s not just a people of color problem.  This is a national challenge — because if we’re going to stay ahead as a nation, we’re going to need the talent of every single American.  And even more than that, this is about who we are as a country, what our values are, whether we’re going to continue to be a place where if you work hard you can succeed, or whether we continue to see stagnation and diminishing mobility and the ladders of opportunity cut off for too many people.  The only way we live up to America‘s promise is if we value every single child, not just our own, and invest in every single child as if they’re our own.

It’s almost three years ago, we launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to give more of our young people the tools and the support that they need to stay on track for a bright future.  We knew this couldn’t just be a government initiative.  We knew that our concerns couldn’t be sporadic, just inflamed by the latest high-profile shooting or some other disturbance.  It has to be sustained, thought through.  Progress had to be measurable.

So we put out a call for action across the country.  And I’ve just got to say, the response was incredible.  Hundreds of you — mayors, tribal leaders, county executives have created MBK communities in all 50 states, as well as D.C. and Puerto Rico.  Businesses and foundations, many of whom are represented here today, are working across sectors and investing more than a billion dollars in proven pathways for young people.

In just a few years, the progress we’ve made is remarkable. So I just wanted to come by and say thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you for stepping up to the challenge.  Thank you for being great partners in this work.  Thank you for believing in our young people.

I also want to say thank you to the young men who are here and who came in from across the country, and many of whom are watching or may be listening, who’ve been part of this initiative.  I’ve had a chance to meet many of these young people.  Everybody on this stage, I’ve had significant conversations with.  I’ve heard their stories and I’ve seen young men like this grow into confident, capable, responsible men.  Many of you have overcome unbelievable obstacles — obstacles that most people never have to face.  It hasn’t always been easy, but look at the progress that you’ve inspired.  I could not be prouder of these young people and so many who are participating around the country.

And this is just the beginning.  We are going to keep these efforts going to invest in our young people, to break down barriers that keep them from getting ahead, and to make sure that they’ve got a chance to contribute.  And we’re going to need more of you to be mentors and role models and supporters for this next generation.  As they keep moving up in the world, then we’re going to call on them to reach back and invest in the folks who are coming behind them.

And that’s the final point I want to make.  My Brother’s Keeper was not about me, it was not about my presidency.  It’s not even just about Malachi and all these amazing young men behind me.  It’s about all of us working together.  Because ensuring that our young people can go as far as their dreams and hard work will take them is the single most important task that we have as a nation.  It is the single most important thing we can do for our country’s future.  This is something I will be invested in for the rest of my life, and I look forward to continuing the journey with you.  (Applause.)

So to the young people who are here, thank you.  To folks who are investing and supporting this effort, thank you.  But we are just scratching the surface.

For every one of these young men, there are tens of thousands — hundreds of thousands who are not currently being reached.  And although it is important for us to poke and prod and push government at every level to make the investments that are necessary — to ensure our schools are properly funded and are teaching the kids what they need to learn, that we are investing and making sure that there are jobs available in communities so that people can see that there is a right path to go down that will result in them having a bright future; although there’s infrastructure that has to be built by the government to ensure that our young people can succeed and prosper in this 21st century economy — we can’t wait for government to do it for us.

We’ve got to make sure that we’re out there showing what works.  We’ve got to put our own time and energy and effort and money into the effort.  We have to be rigorous in measuring what works.  We can’t hang onto programs just because they’ve been around a long time.  We can’t be protective of programs that have not produced results for young people, even if they’ve produced some jobs for some folks running them.  (Laughter.)  And we have to make sure that we’re casting a wide net so that we’re not just cherry-picking some kids who probably have so much drive they’d make it anyway.  We’ve also got to go deep, including in the places like juvenile facilities and our prisons to make sure that some very still-young people are reachable.

So this is going to be a big project.  It is as a consequence of neglect over generations that so many of these challenges exist.  We shouldn’t expect that we’re going to solve these problems overnight, but we’ve got proof about what happens when, as Malachi said, you just give folks a little love and you act on that love.  And I’m looking forward to working with you to do that.

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

END
5:13 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 14, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-14-16

East Room

4:04 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Hello, everybody.  Welcome to the White House.  Michelle and I want to be the first to wish all of you a happy Hanukkah.  I figure we’ve got to be first because we’re about 10 days early.  (Laughter.)

We have some very special guests in the house to share some latkes with, so I want to call them out.  We are, first of all, honored to be joined by Rabbi Steven Exler, the outstanding senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.  (Applause.)  He also happens to be Secretary Jack Lew’s rabbi.  (Laughter.)   He taught my Director of Jewish Outreach, Chanan Weissman.  So he obviously is doing something right.  Also, let’s give it up for Koleinu, whose sound might be the most beautiful thing to come out of Princeton since the woman standing next to me.  (Applause.)  That was a good one, right?

MRS. OBAMA:  That was a good one.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Today in the White House, as you will soon do in your homes, we recall Hanukkah’s many lessons:  How a small group can make a big difference.  That’s the story of the Maccabees’ unlikely military victory, and of great moral movements around the globe and across time.  How a little bit can go a long way, like the small measure of oil that outlasted every expectation.  It reminds us that even when our resources seem limited, our faith can help us make the most of what little we have.  The small State of Israel and the relatively small Jewish population of this country have punched far above their weight in their contributions to the world.  So the Festival of Lights is also a reminder of how Isaiah saw the Jewish people, as a light unto the nations.

This is the season that we appreciate the many miracles, large and small, that have graced our lives throughout generations, and to recognize that the most meaningful among them is our freedom.  The first chapter of the Hanukkah story was written 22 centuries ago, when rulers banned religious rituals and persecuted Jews who dared to observe their faith.  Which is why today we are asked not only to light the menorah, but to proudly display it — to publicize the mitzvah.  And that’s why we’ve invited all these reporters who are here.  (Laughter.)

Everybody in America can understand the spirit of this tradition.  Proudly practicing our religion, whatever it might be — and defending the rights of others to do the same — that’s our common creed.  That’s what families from coast to coast confirm when they place their menorah in the window — not to share the candles’ glow with just your family, but also with your community and with your neighbors.

The story of Hanukkah, the story of the Jewish people, the story of perseverance — these are one and the same.  Elie Wiesel taught us that lesson probably better than just about anybody.  In one of his memories of the Holocaust, Elie watched a fellow prisoner trade his daily ration of bread for some simple materials with which to piece together a makeshift menorah.  And he wrote that he couldn’t believe the sacrifices this man was making to observe the holidays.  A stunned Elie asked him, “Hanukkah in Auschwitz?”  And the man replied, “Especially in Auschwitz.”

The world lost my friend, Elie Wiesel, this year.  We lost a keeper of our collective conscience.  But we could not be more honored today to be joined by his beloved family.  (Applause.)  His wife, Marion, is here.  (Applause.)  His wife, Marion, is here, beautiful as always.  His son, Elisha, is here.  His daughter-in-law, Lynn.  And his grandchildren, Elijah and Shira.  (Applause.)  So today we’re going to light a menorah that Shira made a few years ago when she was in kindergarten.  (Laughter.)  And as is appropriate to the spirit of the season, it’s made of simple materials.  It’s got bolts and tiles and glue.  (Laughter.)  And it looks like some balsa wood.

SHIRA WIESEL:  It’s actually melted wax.

THE PRESIDENT:  What is it?

SHIRA WIESEL:  It’s actually melted wax.

THE PRESIDENT:  Melted wax.  (Laughter.)  Just saying.

Over the years, your grandfather also corrected me several times.  (Laughter.)  And it was always very helpful.  (Laughter.)

We’ve lit a number of beautiful menorahs here at the White House.  Some that weathered storms like Katrina and Sandy; others that were crafted by spectacular artists from Israel and the United States.  But I’ve just got to say, this is my favorite.  (Laughter.)  I think this is the most beautiful one that we’ve ever lit.  (Laughter and applause.)  And it’s a reminder that a menorah is not valuable because it’s forged in silver or gold.  It’s treasured because it was shaped by the hands of a young girl who proves with her presence that the Jewish people survive.  (Applause.)  Through centuries of exile and persecution, and even the genocide of families like the Wiesels endured, the Hanukkah candles have been kindled.  Each wick an answer to the wicked.  Each light a signal to the world that yours is an inextinguishable faith.

Jewish leaders from the Maccabees to the Wiesels, to the college students who proudly sing Hebrew songs on campus, reaffirm our belief that light still drives out darkness, and freedom still needs fighters.

So let me close by saying I want to say how much Michelle and I appreciate the opportunities to have celebrated so many Hanukkahs with you in the White House.  You know, at the beginning of my presidency, some critics thought it would last for only a year.  (Laughter.)  But — miracle of miracles — (applause) — it has lasted eight years.  It’s lasted eight whole years.  (Laughter.)  Nes Gadol Haya Po.  (Applause.)

As many of you know, the name “Hanukkah” comes from the Hebrew word for “dedication.”  So we want to thank you again for your dedication to our country, to the historic progress that we’ve made, to the defense of religious freedom in the United States and around the world.  (Applause.)

And with that, let me invite Rabbi Exler to say a few words before Elijah and Shira light the candles and get this party started.

Mr. Rabbi.  (Applause.)

END
4:13 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 14, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Fourth Anniversary of the Sandy Hook Tragedy

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Fourth Anniversary of the Sandy Hook Tragedy

Source: POTUS Facebook, 12-14-16

Four years ago today twenty beautiful children and six heroic educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Today, we remember them – the staff and teachers who responded to the danger in their hallways with strength and resolve, guiding the children to safety, even giving their lives to protect the children in their care. We remember the first responders who rushed to the scene to help, holding their own shock at bay because others needed them more. And we remember the children who held each other in the face of unconscionable evil; who, even as they’ve grown up in the shadow of this tragedy, will grow up loved and cared for more fiercely than ever.

Two days after that horror, I traveled to Sandy Hook to tell the people of Newtown that they were not alone – that we shared their grief, that they inspired us, and that for them, we would try to change. That’s all still true. We still share their grief. We’re still inspired by the survivors and the families who have worked to make a difference. And we’ve tried to change. My administration has taken action to tighten the background check system and make it more efficient, strengthen enforcement of existing laws, boost gun safety technology, and help more Americans suffering with mental illness get the help they need. Still, Congress failed to pass gun safety reforms, including universal background checks that had the bipartisan support of the vast majority of Americans, even as more mass shootings have riddled America in the years since. But I still believe that there are enough good people on both sides of this issue who care more about protecting our kids than defending effortless access to guns for those who would do our kids harm. I still believe we have the courage to change.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 13, 2016: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s speech at 21st Century Cures Act Bill Signing

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and the Vice President at the 21st Century Cures Act Bill Signing

Source: WH, 12-13-16

South Court Auditorium

2:54 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Mr. President, it’s a lousy club, but I’m proud of you.  We’re all proud of you.

Mr. President, my Senate colleagues, all the members of Congress who are here and worked so hard to get this bill done today, just let me say that last week I had the honor of presiding, probably for the last time in the United States Senate, over the Senate as, Mr. President, they moved to pass the 21st Century Cures Act.  And as I said, it’s probably one of the last times that I will get to preside over the Senate, and maybe one of the most important moments in my career.

On behalf of the administration, let me thank all the bipartisan leadership here.  I want to make this clear:  This bill would have never occurred, not for some of the — without the leading voices, Republican voices, in the House and the Senate, as well as Democrats.  It would have never, ever occurred.  And I hope this bodes well for what will come next year, that we’re back working together.  This is a consequential piece of legislation that was extremely important and cost a lot of money, and it was done in the lame duck session.

Without the true bipartisan support, this piece of legislation would have never occurred, and it’s going to help millions of people — millions of people.  As the President and I talked — he’ll talk about this in greater detail in a moment — the 21st Century Cures Act is going to harness America’s best minds of science, medicine and technology to tackle some of our biggest and most complex health challenges of today.

The bill commits $6.3 billion over seven years, dealing with opioid addition, precision medicine, and the BRAIN initiative, and mental illness, Alzheimer’s disease, and so much more.  But, Mr. President, if you’ll excuse as we both have just a done — a point of personal privilege, I want to thank my colleagues.  Of that $6.3 billion, $1.8 billion will go and be invested in cancer research and care.

When the President asked me last year at the State of the Union to head the Cancer Moonshoot, we said we were going to ask you all for significant funding increases at the NIH and the National Cancer Institute.  And you all stepped up again, Republicans and Democrats.  As part of the Moonshoot, we set up what’s called a Blue Ribbon Panel to review what should be the scientific priorities as we tackle this to try to end cancer as we know it.  We’ll try to do in the next five years what ordinarily would take ten years.

These priorities include investing in promising new therapies like immunotherapy, using the body’s own immune system to target and kill cancer cells; enhancing prevention and detection efforts in every community, regardless of the zip code in which you live; supporting research to improve outcomes for children with cancer, and putting us on a path to turn what is currently a devastating cancer diagnosis into either a chronic disease or an absolute cure.

And in the process, it will fundamentally, I believe, change the culture of our fight against cancer, and inject an overwhelmingly sense of the urgency, or, as the President often says, the urgency of now.  Because every single moment counts, as Senator Murray and everybody else who’s worked on this bill knows.  God willing, this bill will literally, not figuratively, literally save lives.

But most of all, what it does — just this mere signing today, Mr. President, as you know better than I do, gives millions of Americans hope.  There’s probably not one of you in this audience or anyone listening to this who hasn’t had a family member or friend or someone touched by cancer.

And I want to particularly thank my colleagues, Senator McConnell and Senator Reid, who moved, Mr. President, as you know, to name this section of the bill after our son, and Jill, who’s here with me today — our son, Beau.  (Applause.)  As we used to say in the Senate, a point of personal privilege, Mr. President — and you know he loved you, and you were wonderful to Beau.  And he spent a year in Iraq, came back a decorated veteran, and he was attorney general of the state, and he never, ever, ever gave up — nor did we.

And we had access to some of the best doctors in the world, including the head of the Department of Neuro-Oncology at MD Anderson — became a great friend of ours — Dr. Al Yung.  Al, thank you for being here.  But, you know, as I said, we never gave up.  But Jill and I realized that we’re not the only family touched by cancer.  And so many are touched who don’t have nearly the support system we’ve had.  And, Mr. President, you lost your mother, and so many other families in here have lost someone to cancer.

And as I said, this legislation is going to give hope.  Every day, millions of people are praying — praying for hope, praying for time, praying that somehow something will happen just to extend their — they’re not even praying for cures most of the time.  Those of you who are doctors in the audience, how many times have you heard a patient say, Doc, can you just give just three more weeks so I can walk her down the aisle, or, just give me another two months, it’s my first grandbaby and I want see him or her born.  It’s all a matter of hours, days, weeks, months.

And what we’re doing here now is — this is going to accelerate exponentially, in my view, the kinds of efforts we can make right now, things that are at our disposal right now to extend life.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe President Obama and my colleagues in the Senate — as I said, both parties — were motivated by the same commitment that — after whom this Moonshot was named.  I mean, President Kennedy had talked about going to the moon.  The problem is, there was only one moon, and there’s 200-and-some cancers.  But here’s what he said.  Here’s what he said.  He said, we are unwilling to postpone.  We all here are unwilling to postpone — unwilling to postpone another minute, another day.  And doing what we know is within our grasp — it shows the government at its best, Mr. President, and it shows that our politics can still come together to do big, consequential things for the American people.  I see my friend, Senator Hatch, who I worked with for years and years, had stood up in this.  All junior senators, senior senators — everyone came together.

So Jill and I are proud to stand beside you, Mr. President, as you sign this last law of our administration.  I’m proud to have served with you, Mr. President.  And your absolute commitment to changing the way in which we deal with our health care system is going to make a big difference.  And this particular bill is going to allow people to live, live longer, and live healthier.  But, most of all, Mr. President, I think it gives people hope.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I always kid the President that when he asked me to join him on the ticket and my daughter came home at lunch — she’s social worker — and she said, did he call?  Did he call?  And I said, yes.  She said, you said yes, didn’t you, Daddy?  (Laughter.)  And I said, yes, of course I did.  And she said, this is wonderful.  She said, you know how you’re always quoting Seamus Heaney about hope and history rhyming?  And I said, yeah.  She said, this is hope and history.  I’m history, here’s hope.  (Laughter and applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.  (Applause.)

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

Well, welcome to the White House, everyone.  It’s December, so it’s holiday time around here, and we thought it was a good occasion to have one more party.  And this is a celebration worth having.

I want to, first of all, thank Joe Biden and Jill Biden, and their entire family, who have been such extraordinary friends to us.  And what a fitting way for us to be able to signify our partnership as our time comes to an end together.  It makes me feel very good.

I want to thank David and Kate Grubb for sharing their family’s story.  As David said, we have a lot in common, and nothing more than the love of our children, our daughters.  When I first met them in Charleston, their story was, unfortunately, more common than we would have liked.  And I indicated a number of the people on this stage are people who have gone through tough times or have seen their loved ones suffer, either because of opioid addiction or because of cancer; who have bravely shared their story and channeled their passion into increasing the urgency all of us feel around this issue.

And so, more than anything, this is a testimony to them, and an extraordinary commemoration of those that they’ve loved.  So we’re very grateful to them.  Please give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

We’re joined by a whole bunch of members of Congress here today.  And it is wonderful to see how well Democrats and Republicans in the closing days of this Congress came together around a common cause.  (Applause.)  And I think it indicates the power of this issue, and how deeply it touches every family across America.

Over the last eight years, one of my highest priorities as President has been to unleash the full force of American innovation to some of the biggest challenges that we face.  That meant restoring science to its rightful place.  It meant funding the research and development that’s always kept America on the cutting edge.  It’s meant investing in clean energy that’s created a steady stream of good jobs and helped America become the world’s leader in combatting climate change.  It meant investing in the medical breakthroughs that have the power to cure disease and help all of us live healthier, longer lives.

So I started the 2016 State of the Union address by saying we might be able to surprise some cynics and deliver bipartisan action on the opioid epidemic.  And in that same speech, I put Joe in charge of mission control on a new Cancer Moonshot.  And today, with the 21st Century Cures Act, we are making good on both of those efforts.  We are bringing to reality the possibility of new breakthroughs to some of the greatest health challenges of our time.

Joe has already indicated some of the scope of the bill, but let me repeat it, because it’s worth repeating.  First, this legislation is going to combat the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic that is ravaging too many families across the country.  This is an epidemic that can touch anybody — blue collar, white collar, college students, retirees, kids, moms, dads.  I’ve had the chance to meet people from every stage of recovery who are working hard to sustain the progress that they’re making.  And I’ve met parents like the Grubbs, who have worked tirelessly to help a child struggling with addiction.

It could not be clearer that those of us called upon to lead this country have a duty on their behalf, that we have to stand by them; that, all too often, they feel as if they’re fighting this fight alone instead of having the community gather around them and give them the resources and the access and the support that they need.

So today, I could not be prouder that this legislation takes up the charge I laid out in my budget to provide $1 billion in funding so that Americans who want treatment can get started on the path to recovery and don’t have to drive six hours to do it.  It is the right thing to do, and families are ready for the support.  (Applause.)

Second, the Cures Act provides a decade’s worth of support for two innovative initiatives from my administration.  The first is the BRAIN Initiative, which we believe will revolutionize our understanding of the human mind.  And when I sign this bill into law, we’ll give researchers new resources to help identify ways to treat, cure, and potentially prevent brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, and more.

And we’re also going to support what we’ve called our Precision Medicine Initiative, an effort we started to use data to help modernize research and accelerate discoveries so that treatment and health care can be tailored specifically to individual patients.  This spring, with the help of this legislation, the National Institutes of Health plans to launch a groundbreaking research cohort, inviting Americans from across the country to participate to support the scientific breakthroughs of tomorrow.

Number three, the Cures Act improves mental health care.  (Applause.)  It includes bipartisan reforms to address serious mental illness.  It takes steps to make sure that mental health and substance-use disorders are treated fairly by insurance companies, building on the work of my Presidential Task Force.  And it reauthorizes, meaningfully, suicide prevention programs.  Many of these reforms align with my administration’s work to improve our criminal justice system, helping us enhance data collection and take steps so that we’re not unnecessarily incarcerating folks who actually need mental health assistance.

Fourth, we’re building on the FDA’s work to modernize clinical trial design so that we’re updating necessary rules and regulations to protect consumers so that they’re taking into account this genetic biotech age.  And we’re making sure that patients’ voices are incorporated into the drug development process.

And finally, the Cures Act invests in a breakthrough effort that we’ve been calling the Vice President’s Cancer Moonshot.  And I think the Senate came up with a better name when they named it after Beau Biden.  (Applause.)

Joe said Beau loved me.  I loved him back.  And like many of you, I believe that the United States of America should be the country that ends cancer once and for all.  We’re already closer than a lot of folks think, and this bill will bring us even closer, investing in promising new therapies, developing vaccines, and improving cancer detection and prevention.  Ultimately, it will help us reach our goal of getting a decade’s worth of research in half the time.  And as Joe said, that time counts.

In this effort, Joe Biden has rallied not just Congress, but he has rallied a tremendous collection of researchers and doctors, philanthropists, patients.  He’s showing us that with the right investment and the ingenuity of the American people, to quote him, “there isn’t anything we can’t do.”  So I’d like everybody to just please join me in thanking what I consider to be the finest Vice President in history, Joe Biden.  (Applause.)  Go ahead and embarrass Joe.  Go ahead.  (Laughter and applause.)  Hey!

So we’re tackling cancer, brain disease, substance-use disorders, and more.  And none of this work would have been possible without bipartisan cooperation in both houses of Congress.  A lot of people were involved, but there are some folks who deserve a special shout-out.  That includes Senators Alexander and Senators Murphy.  (Applause.)  Representatives Upton, Pallone, and DeGette, and Green.  (Applause.)  And of course, we couldn’t have gotten across the finish line without the leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, who are here — (applause) — as well as leaders from both houses, Speaker Ryan, Leaders McConnell and Reid, and Senator Patty Murray.  (Applause.)  Not to mention all the members of Congress who are sitting here that I can’t name, otherwise I’m going to be here too long and I will never sign the bill.  (Laughter.)  But you know who you are.

I want to thank all of you on behalf of the American people for this outstanding work.  These efforts build on the work that we’ve done to strengthen our healthcare system over the last eight years — covering preexisting conditions, expanding coverage for mental health and substance-use disorders, helping more than 20 million Americans know the security of health insurance.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it means they have access to some of the services that are needed.

I’m hopeful that in the years ahead, Congress keeps working together in a bipartisan fashion to move us forward rather than backward in support of the health of our people.  Because these are gains that have made a real difference for millions of Americans.

So this is a good day.  It’s a bittersweet day.  I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not easy for the Grubbs to come up here and talk about Jessie.  It’s not easy for Joe and Jill, I know, to talk about Beau.  Joe mentioned my mother, who died of cancer.  She was two and a half years younger than I am today when she passed away.

And so it’s not always easy to remember, but being able to honor those we’ve lost in this way and to know that we may be able to prevent other families from feeling that same loss, that makes it a good day.  And I’m confident that it will lead to better years and better lives for millions of Americans, the work that you’ve done.  That’s what we got sent here for.  And it’s not always what we do.  It’s a good day to see us doing our jobs.

So with that, I think it’s time for me to sign this bill into law.  (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.)

END
3:16 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 6, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks to Thank Service Members

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President to Thank Service Members

Source: WH, 12-6-16

MacDill Air Force Base
Tampa, Florida

3:34 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, MacDill!  Thank you so much!

Well, first of all, you notice this coincidence — on the scoreboard it says “44” — (applause.)  That happens to be — oh.
AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you, too.  I do.  (Applause.)

To General Votel, General Thomas, and most importantly, to all of you — I am here for a very simple reason, and that is just to say thank you, on behalf of the American people.  We have been so reliant on the outstanding work that has been done by SOCOM and CENTCOM, the extraordinary leadership from the highest general down to the person who’s just started.  I have been consistently in awe of your performance and the way that you’ve carried out your mission.

As some of you remember, I was here two years ago.  I want to thank, in addition to some of the outstanding leadership team, a couple of special folks to mention — Colonel April Vogel, Chief Master Sergeant Melanie Noel, all your senior enlisted leaders.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

I know that, obviously, we’ve got a lot of Air Force here.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got Central Command.  (Applause.)  We got Special Operations Command.  (Applause.)  We got Army.  (Applause.)  Navy.  (Applause.)  Marines.  (Applause.)  We got our DOD civilians.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got spouses, partners, sons, daughters —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Family!

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s that?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Family.

THE PRESIDENT:  I was just mentioning them.  (Laughter.)  You guys, I was getting to that.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got amazing military families here who are sacrificing alongside of you every single day.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

So I just had the chance to meet with General Thomas and some of the extraordinary personnel from across U.S. Special Operations Command.  I’m going to go give a big policy speech right after I talk to you.  The main thing I want to do is just shake your hands.  And I’m going to try to shake as many hands as I can.  (Applause.)

I know you’re marking an important anniversary.  For 75 years — from World War II through Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the Afghan and Iraq wars — the men and women of this base have always stepped up when we needed them most.  So, on behalf of the entire country, I want to wish you a happy 75th anniversary.  (Applause.)

For Michelle and myself, the lease is running out on our apartment.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Renew it!

THE PRESIDENT:  I can’t.  (Laughter.)  So I just want to get my security deposit back.  (Laughter.)  But it has been the privilege and honor of a lifetime to be your Commander-in-Chief
— the Commander-in-Chief of the finest fighting force the world has ever known.  You are the best.  Because we have the best people.

You and your families have inspired us.  We’ve been inspired by your patriotism, for stepping forward, for volunteering, for dedicating yourself to a life of service.  We’ve been inspired by your devotion, your willingness to sacrifice for all of us.  We’ve been inspired by your example.  At a time when sometimes the country seems so divided, you remind us that, as Americans, we’re all part of one team.  We take care of each other.  And you remind us of what patriotism really means.

So I just want to say thank you to all of you.  You are going to continue with your mission, but I will tell you that Michelle and I, having had the experience and the honor of working with you, are going to make it one of our missions as civilians to support you in every way that we can.

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

END
3:40 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 4, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception

Source: WH, 12-4-16

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

Well, good evening, everybody.  On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.  Over the past eight years, this has always been one of our favorite nights.  And this year, I was especially looking forward to seeing how Joe Walsh cleans up — pretty good.  (Laughter.)

I want to begin by once again thanking everybody who makes this wonderful evening possible, including David Rubenstein, the Kennedy Center Trustees — I’m getting a big echo back there — and the Kennedy Center President, Deborah Rutter.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

We have some outstanding members of Congress here tonight.  And we are honored also to have Vicki Kennedy and three of President Kennedy’s grandchildren with us here -– Rose, Tatiana, and Jack.  (Applause.)

So the arts have always been part of life at the White House, because the arts are always central to American life.  And that’s why, over the past eight years, Michelle and I have invited some of the best writers and musicians, actors, dancers to share their gifts with the American people, and to help tell the story of who we are, and to inspire what’s best in all of us.  Along the way, we’ve enjoyed some unbelievable performances -– this is one of the perks of the job that I will miss.

Thanks to Michelle’s efforts, we’ve brought the arts to more young people -– from hosting workshops where they learn firsthand from accomplished artists, to bringing “Hamilton” to students who wouldn’t normally get a ticket to Broadway.  And on behalf of all of us, I want to say thanks to my wife for having done simply — (applause) — yes.  (Applause.)  And she’s always looked really good doing it.  (Laughter.)  She does.  (Laughter.)

This is part of how we’ve tried to honor the legacy of President and Mrs. Kennedy.  They understood just how vital art is to our democracy — that we need song and cinema and paintings and performance to help us challenge our assumptions, to question the way things are, and maybe inspire us to think about how things might be.  The arts help us celebrate our triumphs, but also holds up a mirror to our flaws.  And all of that deepens our understanding of the human condition.  It helps us to see ourselves in each other.  It helps to bind us together as a people.

As President Kennedy once said, “In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation.”  Tonight, we honor five amazing artists who have dedicated their lives to telling their truth, and helping us to see our own.

At eight years old, Mavis Staples climbed onto a chair in church, leaned into the microphone, raised her eyes upwards and belted out the gospel.  When people heard that deep, old soul coming out of that little girl, they wept — which, understandably, concerned her.  (Laughter.)  But her mother told her, “Mavis, they’re happy.  Your singing makes them cry happy tears.”

It was those early appearances on the South Side of Chicago -– South Side!  — (laughter and applause) — with Mavis, her siblings, their father, Roebuck “Pops” Staples that launched the legendary Staple Singers.  Theirs was gospel with just a touch of country, a twist of the blues, little bit of funk.  There was a little bit of sin with the salvation.  (Laughter.)  And driven by Pops’ reverbed guitar, Mavis’ powerhouse vocals and the harmonies that only family can make, the Staple Singers broke new ground with songs like “Uncloudy Day.”  They had some truths to tell.  Inspired by Dr. King, Pops would tell his kids, “If he can preach it, we can sing it.”  And so they wrote anthems like “Freedom Highway,” and “When Will We Be Paid” — which became the soundtrack of the Civil Rights movement.

As a solo artist, Mavis has done it all and worked with just about everybody from Bob Dylan to Prince to Jeff Tweedy.  On albums like “We’ll Never Turn Back,” and “One True Vine,” she still is singing for justice and equality, and influencing a new generation of musicians and fans.  And each soulful note — even in heartbreak and even in despair -– is grounded in faith, and in hope, and the belief that there are better days yet to come.  “These aren’t just songs I’m singing to be moving my lips,” she says.  “I mean this.”  And we mean it too.  Six decades on, nobody makes us feel “the weight” like Mavis Staples.  Give her a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

Al Pacino calls the theater his “flashlight.”  It’s how he finds himself, where he sees truth.  And since Al first hit Broadway in 1969, his singular talent has been the gold standard for acting.

A great playwright once compared the way Al inhabits his characters to the way Louis Armstrong played jazz.  One director said that while “some actors play characters, Al Pacino becomes them.”  And we’ve all seen it.  In the span of five years — you think about it — he became Serpico, became Sonny Wortzik, twice became Michael Corleone for, let’s face it, what have got to be the two best movies of all time — (laughter) — became Tony Montana on screen, then became the owner of a couple of Tonys on stage.  And he’s always been this way.

At 13, Al committed so profoundly to a role in the school play that when his character was supposed to get sick on stage, Al actually got sick on stage.  (Laughter.)  I’m not sure how audiences felt about that.  (Laughter.)  Later, when he played Richard III and Jackie Kennedy visited him backstage, the actor playing the self-absorbed king didn’t even stand up to greet actual American royalty, which he says he still regrets.  (Laughter.)

Through it all, Al has always cared more for his “flashlight” than the spotlight.  He says he’s still getting used to the idea of being an icon.  But his gift, for all the inspiration and intensity that he brings to his roles, is that he lets us into what his characters are feeling.  And for that, we are extraordinarily grateful.  Al Pacino.  (Applause.)

In the late sixties, James Taylor got the chance to audition in front of Paul McCartney and George Harrison.  Ringo, I don’t know if you were there — but this is a true story.  (Laughter.)  “I was as nervous as a Chihuahua on methamphetamines” — (laughter) — is what James Taylor says.  Which is exactly the kind of metaphor that makes him such a brilliant songwriter.  (Laughter.)

But if James has a defining gift, it is empathy.  It’s why he’s been such a great friend to and Michelle and myself.  We’re so grateful to him and Kim for their friendship over the years. It’s why everybody from Carole King to Garth Brooks to Taylor Swift collaborates with him.  It’s what makes him among the most prolific and admired musicians of our time.  In fact, James recently went through all his songs and kept coming across the same stories — songs about fathers and traffic jams; love songs, recovery songs.  I really love this phrase:  “Hymns for agnostics.”  (Laughter.)  He says that in making music, “There’s the idea of comforting yourself.  There’s also the idea of taking something that’s untenable and internal and communicating it.”  And that’s why it feels like James is singing only to you when he sings.  It feels like he’s singing about your life.  The stories he tells and retells dwell on our most enduring and shared experiences.  “Carolina on My Mind” is about where you grew up, even if you didn’t grow up in Carolina.  “Mean Old Man” is probably somebody you know.  “Angels of Fenway” — well, actually, that’s just about the Red Sox.  So — (laughter) — if you’re a White Sox fan you don’t love that song, but it’s okay.  (Applause.)

James is the consummate truth-teller about a life that can leave us with more unresolved questions than satisfying answers, but holds so much beauty that you don’t mind.  And from his honesty about his own struggles with substance abuse to his decades of progressive activism, James Taylor has inspired people all over the world and helped America live up to our highest ideals.  Thank you, James Taylor.  (Applause.)

Without a preschool rivalry, we might not be honoring Martha Argerich.  The story goes that when Martha was two years old, a little boy taunted her, saying, “I bet you can’t play the piano!”  (Laughter.)  So she sat down at the keys, remembered a piece her teacher had played, and played it flawlessly.  By eight years old, she had made her concert debut.  By the time she was a teenager, she left her native Argentina to study in Vienna and won two major international competitions, launching one of the most storied and influential careers in classical music.  That little boy lost his bet.

Martha combines unparalleled technical prowess with passion and glittering musicianship.  From Bach to Schumann, she doesn’t just play the piano, she possesses it.  Martha can charge through a passage with astonishing power and speed and accuracy, and, in the same performance, uncover the delicate beauty in each note.  As a critic once wrote, “She is an unaffected interpreter whose native language is music.”

But what truly sets her apart and has cemented her place as one of the greatest pianists in modern history is her dogged commitment to her craft.  In an age of often superficial connections, where people too often seek fame and recognition, Martha has been guided by one passion, and that is fidelity to the music.  She can only be herself.  And that is the truest mark of an artist.  And the result is timeless, transcendent music for which we thank Martha Argerich.  (Applause.)

And finally, there have been some interesting things said about this next group, including being called “one of rock’s most contentiously dysfunctional families.”  (Laughter.)  So, yeah, it was unlikely that they’d ever get back together and that they called their reunion tour “Hell Freezes Over.”  (Laughter.)  I love that.  But here’s the thing — when you listen to the Eagles, you hear the exact opposite story, and that is perfect harmony.

You hear it in the crisp, overpowering a capella chords of “Seven Bridges Road”; dueling guitar solos in “Hotel California”; complex, funky riffs opening “Life in the Fast Lane.”  It’s the sound not just of a California band, but one of America’s signature bands — a supergroup whose greatest hits sold more copies in the United States than any other record in the 20th century.  And the 20th Century had some pretty good music.  (Laughter.)

So, here tonight, we have three of the Eagles:  Don Henley, the meticulous, introspective songwriter with an unmistakable voice that soars above his drum set.  Timothy Schmit, the bass player and topline of many of those harmonies.  And Joe Walsh, who’s as rowdy with a guitar lick as I’m told he once was in a hotel room.  (Laughter.)  Twice.  (Laughter.)  This is the White House, though.  (Laughter.)  And Michelle and I are about to leave.  As I’ve said before, we want to get our security deposit back.  (Laughter and applause.)

But, of course, the Eagles are also the one and only Glenn Frey.  And we all wish Glenn was still here with us.  We are deeply honored to be joined by his beautiful wife, Cindy, and their gorgeous children.  Because the truth is that these awards aren’t just about this reception or even the show we have this evening, which will be spectacular.  The Kennedy Center Honors are about folks who spent their lives calling on us to think a little harder, and feel a little deeper, and express ourselves a little more bravely, and maybe “take it easy” once in a while.  And that is Glenn Frey — the driving force behind a band that owned a decade, and did not stop there.  We are all familiar with his legacy.  And the music of the Eagles will always be woven into the fabric of our nation.

So we are extraordinarily honored to be able to give thanks for the Eagles.  And what’s true for them is true for all of tonight’s honorees:  remarkable individuals who have created the soundtrack to our own lives — on road trips, in jukebox diners; folks who have mesmerized us on a Saturday night out at the movies or at a concert hall.

Mavis Staples.  Al Pacino.  James Taylor.  Martha Argerich The Eagles.  Their legacies are measured not just in works of art, but the lives they’ve touched, and creating a stronger and more beautiful America.  They’re artists who have served our nation by serving their truth.  And we’re all better off for it.

So before we transport ourselves to what I’m sure will be a spectacular evening, please join me in saluting our extraordinary 2016 Kennedy Center Honorees.  (Applause.)

 

END                  5:44 P.M. EST

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