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 Obama Presidency August 7, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the Signing of the VA Bill, the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the Signing of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act

Source:  WH, 8-7-14

Wallace Theater
Ft. Belvoir, Virginia

12:05 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Fort Belvoir!  (Applause.)  Everybody, have a seat.  I think I’m going to take Sergeant Major McGruder on the road.  (Laughter.)  I’m just going to have him introduce me wherever I go.  (Laughter.)  He got me excited, and I’m being — I get introduced all the time.  So thank you, James, for your incredible service to our country.  Give James a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

I also want to say a big thanks to America’s new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald, who is here.  Stand up, Bob.  (Applause.)  As some of you may know, Bob headed up one of the biggest, most successful companies in the world.  But he also was a West Point grad, also a Ranger who served valiantly on behalf of his country.  And this a labor of love for him, and he has hit the ground running.  He’s heading out to VA hospitals and clinics around the country, starting with Phoenix tomorrow.  So thank you, Bob, for accepting this charge and this challenge, and making sure that we’re doing right by our veterans.  I know you’re going to do a great job.  Really proud of him.  (Applause.)

I want to thank all the members of Congress who are here today, and I especially want to thank those who led the fight to give Bob and the VA more of the resources and flexibility that they need to make sure every veteran has access to the care and benefits that they have earned.  Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Richard Burr, Representative Mike Michaud, Representative Jeff Miller — give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  That’s for the good work.  (Applause.)

And we are all grateful to our outstanding veterans service organizations for all the work that they do on behalf of our veterans and their families.  So thank you very much to all the veterans service organizations.  Most of all, I want to thank General Buchanan and Sergeant Major Turnbull, and all of you who serve here at Fort Belvoir.

For nearly a century, this base has helped keep America strong and secure.  Seventy years ago, troops from here –- the 29th Infantry Division, the Blue and Gray -– were some of the first to storm Omaha Beach.  And in recent years, many of you have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  And you’ve risked your lives on multiple tours to defend our nation.  And as a country, we have a sacred obligation to serve you as well as you’ve served us -– an obligation that doesn’t end with your tour of duty.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of dedicated public servants at the VA help us honor that commitment.  At VA hospitals across America, you’ve got doctors and nurses who are delivering world-class care to America’s veterans.  You’ve got millions of veterans and their families who are profoundly grateful for the good work that is done at the VA.  And as Commander-in-Chief, I’m grateful, too.

But over the last few months, we’ve discovered some inexcusable misconduct at some VA health care facilities — stories of our veterans denied the care they needed, long wait times being covered up, cooking the books.  This is wrong.  It was outrageous.  And working together, we set out to fix it and do right by our veterans across the board, no matter how long it took.

And we’ve already taken the first steps to change the way the VA does business.  We’ve held people accountable for misconduct.  Some have already been relieved of their duties, and investigations are ongoing.  We’ve reached out to more than 215,000 veterans so far to make sure that we’re getting them off wait lists and into clinics both inside and outside the VA system.

We’re moving ahead with urgent reforms, including stronger management and leadership and oversight.  And we’re instituting a critical culture of accountability — rebuilding our leadership team, starting at the top with Secretary McDonald.  And one of his first acts is that he’s directed all VA health care facilities to hold town halls to hear directly from the veterans that they serve to make sure that we’re hearing honest assessments about what’s going on.

Now, in a few minutes, we’ll take another step forward when I sign into law the VA reform bill that was passed overwhelmingly, with bipartisan majorities — and that doesn’t happen often in Congress.  It’s a good deal.  (Laughter and applause.)

This bill covers a lot of ground — from expanding survivor benefits and educational opportunities, to improving care for veterans struggling with traumatic brain injury and for victims of sexual assault.  But today, I want to focus on the ways this bill will help us ensure that veterans have access to the care that they’ve earned.

First of all, this will give the VA more of the resources that it needs.  It will help the VA hire more doctors and more nurses and staff more clinics.  As a new generation of veterans returns home from war and transitions into civilian life, we have to make sure the VA system can keep pace with that new demand.  Keep in mind that I have increased funding for the VA since I came into office by extraordinary amounts.  But we also have extraordinary numbers of veterans coming home.  And so the demand, even though we’ve increased the VA budget, is still higher than the resources that we’ve got.  This bill helps to address that.

Second, for veterans who can’t get timely care through the VA, this bill will help them get the care they need someplace else.  And this is particularly important for veterans who are in more remote areas, in rural areas.  If you live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, or if VA doctors can’t see you within a reasonable amount of time, you’ll have the chance to see a doctor outside the VA system.

Now finally, we’re giving the VA Secretary more authority to hold people accountable.  We’ve got to give Bob the authority so that he can move quickly to remove senior executives who fail to meet the standards of conduct and competence that the American people demand.  If you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired.  Period.  It shouldn’t be that difficult.  (Applause.)  And if you blow the whistle on an unethical practice, or bring a problem to the attention of higher-ups, you should be thanked.  You should be protected for doing the right thing.  (Applause.)  You shouldn’t be ignored, and you certainly shouldn’t be punished.

“To care for him [or her] who shall have borne the battle.”  That’s the heart of the VA’s motto.  That’s what the bill I’m about to sign will help us achieve.  But I want to be clear about something:  This will not and cannot be the end of our effort.  Implementing this law will take time.  It’s going to require focus on the part of all of us.  And even as we focus on the urgent reforms we need at the VA right now, particularly around wait lists and the health care system, we can’t lose sight of our long-term goals for our servicemembers and our veterans.

The good news is, we’ve cut the disability claims backlog by more than half.  But let’s now eliminate the backlog.  Let’s get rid of it.  (Applause.)  The good news is, we’ve poured major resources into improving mental health care.  But now, let’s make sure our veterans actually get the care they need when they need it.  The good news is, we’ve helped to get thousands of homeless veterans off the street, made an unprecedented effort to end veterans’ homelessness.  We should have zero tolerance for that.  But we’ve got to — still more work to do in cities and towns across America to get more veterans into the homes they deserve.

We’ve helped more than a million veterans and their spouses and children go to college through the post-9/11 GI bill.  (Applause.)  But now, we’ve got to help even more of them earn their educations, and make sure that they’re getting a good bargain in the schools they enroll in.

We’ve rallied companies to hire hundreds of thousands of veterans and their spouses.  That’s the good news.  With the help of Jill Biden and Michelle Obama — two pretty capable women.  (Laughter.)  They know what they’re doing, and nobody says no to them, including me.  (Laughter.)  But now, we’ve got to help more of our highly skilled veterans find careers in this new economy.

So America has to do right by all who serve under our proud flag.  And Congress needs to do more, also.  I urge the Senate, once again, to finally confirm my nominee for Assistant Secretary for Policy at the VA, Linda Schwartz; my nominee to lead the Board of Veterans Appeals, Constance Tobias; my nominee for CFO, Helen Tierney.  Each of them have been waiting for months for a yes-or-no vote — in Constance’s case for more than a year.

They’re ready to serve.  They’re ready to get to work.  It’s not that hard.  It didn’t used to be this hard to just go ahead and get somebody confirmed who is well qualified.  Nobody says they’re not.  It’s just the Senate doesn’t seem to move very fast.  As soon as the Senate gets back in September, they should act to put these outstanding public servants in place.  Our veterans don’t have time for politics.  They need these public servants on the job right now.  (Applause.)

So let me wrap up by saying two months ago, I had the chance to spend some time with some of America’s oldest veterans at Omaha Beach.  Some of you may have seen on television the celebration, the commemoration of those incredible days, the 70th anniversary of D-Day.  And this is my second visit to democracy’s beachhead.  It’s the second time I’ve gone as President.  And it’s a place where it’s impossible not to be moved by the courage and the sacrifice of free men and women who volunteer to lay down their lives for people they’ve never met, ideals that they can’t live without.  That’s why they’re willing to do these things.

And some of these folks that you met, they were 18 at the time.  Some of them were lying about their age.  They were 16, landing either at the beach or sometimes behind the lines.  The casualty rates were unbelievable.  Being there brought back memories of my own grandfather, who marched in Patton’s Army, and then came home.  And like so many veterans of his generation, they went to school and got married and raised families.  And he eventually helped to raise me.

And on that visit to Normandy, I brought some of today’s servicemembers with me because I wanted to introduce them to the veterans of D-Day and to show the veterans of D-Day that their legacy is in good hands, that there’s a direct line between the sacrifices then and the sacrifices that folks have made in remote places today.  Because in more than a decade of war, today’s men and women in uniform — all of you — you’ve met every mission we’ve asked of you.

Today, our troops continue to serve and risk their lives in Afghanistan.  It continues to be a difficult and dangerous mission, as we were tragically reminded again this week in the attack that injured a number of our coalition troops and took the life of a dedicated American soldier, Major General Harold Greene.  Our prayers are with the Greene family, as they are with all the Gold Star families and those who have sacrificed so much for our nation.

Four months from now, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be complete.  Our longest war will come to an honorable end.  In the years to come, many from this generation will step out of uniform, and their legacy will be secure.  But whether or not this country properly repays their heroism, properly repays their patriotism, their service and their sacrifice, that’s in our hands.

I’m committed to seeing that we fulfill that commitment.  Because the men and women of this generation, this 9/11 Generation of servicemembers, are the leaders we need for our time — as community leaders and business leaders, I hope maybe some leaders in our politics, as well.

From the Greatest Generation to the 9/11 Generation, America’s heroes have answered the call to serve.  I have no greater honor than serving as your President and Commander-in-Chief.  And I have no greater privilege than the chance to help make sure that our country keeps the promises that we’ve made to everybody who signs up to serve.  And as long as I hold this office, we’re going to spend each and every day working to do right by you and your families.  I’m grateful to you.

God bless you.  God bless America.  With that, I am going to sign this bill.  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.)  (Applause.)

END
12:18 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 22, 2014: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks at the Bill Signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and Vice President at Bill Signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Source: WH,  7-22-14

12:18 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.  It’s great to be here.  (Applause.)  Please, thank you very much.  Thank you, distinguished members of Congress and members of labor and business, and the community.  Today, as the President signs the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, we’re using this occasion also to present to the President a roadmap he asked — requested in the State of the Union message, how to keep and maintain the highest-skilled workforce in the world.  And this is a perfect build-on as to what the bipartisan consensus that Congress recently reached.

I had the best partners in preparing this report that I could ask for — Tom Perez at Labor, Penny Pritzker at Commerce and Arne Duncan at the Department of Education.  I talked to governors, mayors, industry leaders, presidents of community colleges and colleges, and unions, and a lot of members of Congress, many of whom are here.  And I have to acknowledge at the out front — at the outset, my wife, Jill, has been an incredible advocate for community colleges and the role they play in training the workforce.

But most importantly, I spoke with an awful lot of Americans who are — as all of you have, particularly members of Congress, who were hit exceedingly hard by the Great Recession, but are doing everything they possibly can to find a job — willing to learn new skills in order to have a decent, middle-class job.  One thing I hope that’s been put to rest — and I know we all share this view — Americans want to work.  They want to work.  They’re willing to do anything that they need to do to get a good and decent job.

And they show us that our single greatest resource is not — and it’s not hyperbole — remains the American people.  They’re the most highly-skilled workers in the world and the most capable people in the world.  And they’re in the best position to learn the new skills of the 21st century that the workforce requires.  There’s that phrase — all has changed, changed utterly.  Well, all has changed.  It’s a different world in which people are competing in order to get the kind of jobs they need, whether it’s in advanced manufacturing or clean energy or information technology or health care — all areas that are booming, all areas where America is back.

So the core question that we set out to answer — and I’m sure my colleagues did as well — was how do you connect?  How do you connect these workers who desperately want a job, who will do all they need to do to qualify, how do you connect them with jobs?  How do Americans know what skills employers need?  It sounds like a silly question, but how do they know?  And how do they get these skills once they know what skills are needed for the job?  And where, where do they go to get those jobs?

This report is designed to help answer those extremely practical questions.  It includes 50 actions that the federal government and our outside partners are taking now to help fill this skills gap.  There is this new strategy that we think will lead directly to more middle-class jobs.  These actions are going to help promote partnerships between educational institutions and workforce institutions.  They’re going to increase apprenticeships, which will allow folks to learn — and earn while they learn.  And it will empower job seekers and employers with better data on what jobs are available and what skills are needed to fill those jobs.

Let me tell you a story why all this matters.  And I’ve been all over the country and invited by many of you into your districts and states in order to look at programs you have that are similar to what we’re proposing today.  But I was recently — and I could talk about many of them, but I was recently in Detroit just last week.  And I met with an incredible group of women at a local community college.  Now, all of these women came from hardscrabble neighborhoods in Detroit.  They happened to be all women, it was coincidence, but they all made it through high school.  They ranged in age I’m guessing somewhere from 25 to their mid-50s.  But they all got a high school education, and they were absolutely determined to do more to be able to provide for themselves and their family.

Through word of mouth, Tom, they heard about a coding boot camp, computer coding — a coding boot camp.  And it’s called [Step] IT Up America.  And it was a partnership between Wayne County Community College and a company called UST Global.  Now, it’s an intensive, four-month — just four months, but intensive eight-hour day — I think it’s almost the whole day — don’t hold me to the exact number of hours, but intensive training program where these women happen to be, as I said, there were about a dozen and a half women learn IT skills needed to fill jobs at UST Global.

UST Global represents a lot of other IT companies as well.  Knowing vacancies exist — they estimate over a thousand vacancies just in the greater Detroit area.  And upon completion of this program, UST Global hires the students, and the lowest starting job is at $45,000 a year and the highest is $70,000 a year.  These are coders, computer programmers.  But there’s a key point:  UST Global doesn’t train these women out of some altruistic sense of charity.  They do it because it’s a very, very smart business decision.

There’s an overwhelming need for more computer coders -— as does not just UST Global, but the entire industry.  By 2020, our research shows there will be 1.4 million new IT jobs all across this country.  And the pay is in the $70,000 range.

I was so proud of these women.  As I said, my wife teaches in a community college.  Her average class age of people in her class is 28 to 30 years old.  Just think of yourself, what courage it takes.  You’re out of high school.  You’re graduated.  You’ve been bumping along in a job trying to make it.  You’ve been out, two, five, 10, 15 years.  And someone says, there’s this opportunity to take this program to learn Java, to learn a new language, to learn how to operate a computer in a way that you can code it.  It takes a lot of courage to step up.

It takes a willingness to be ready to fail.  These women were remarkable, but not just these women.  They write code, so they look — they weren’t out there.  They were — they knew someone who had gotten a job because of the program, and they thought they could do it.  So they learned an entire new language, and they displayed an initiative that was remarkable to see.  They showed up.  They worked hard because they want a good-paying job.  They want to make a decent living.  They want to take care of themselves and their families.

Folks, that’s what — as I know all of my colleagues believe — that’s what this is all about.  It’s not just information technology.  Manufacturing — 100,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs available today in the United States because the employers cannot find workers with the right skills.  That number of highly skilled manufacturing jobs is going to grow to 875,000 by 2020.

And, folks, I was recently up in Michigan.  And Dow Kokam has a plant there that’s — they couldn’t find anybody with photovoltaic technology, didn’t know how to run the machines.  So the community college and the business, they roll the machines right into the community college because of the help you all have provided in Congress, the funding.  And it’s like an assembly line.  These are good-paying jobs.

And in energy:  26 percent more jobs for petroleum engineers, average salary 130,000 bucks a year; 25 percent more jobs for solar panel installers, $38,000 a year; 20 percent more jobs needed — more electricians are needed, earning $50,000 a year -— all now and in the near term.  These are real jobs.  These are real jobs.

Health care:  There are 20 percent more jobs -— or 526,000 more that are needed in the health care industry -— registered nurses, jobs that pay 65,000 bucks a year.  There’s training programs in all of your states and districts, where you go out there, and while you’re a practical nurse, you can still be working and be essentially apprentice, while you are learning how to become — and taking courses to be a registered nurse.

Physician assistants — badly needed as the call for health care increases.  What’s the number, Tom, 130,000 a year roughly?  These are jobs all within the grasp of the American people if we give them the shot, if we show them the way, let them know how they can possibly pay for it while they are raising a family, and they’ll do the rest.

To maintain our place in the world we need to keep the world’s most skilled workforce right here in America, and to give a whole lot more hardworking Americans a chance at a good, middle-class job they can raise a family on.

But we also know the actions in this report are only a beginning, and as is the legislation.  The fact of the matter is that so many people over the last two decades have fallen out of the middle class, and so many in the upcoming generation need to find a path back.  Well, there is a path back if we all do our jobs — from industry, to education, to union leaders, to governors, to Congress, to the federal government.

And the mission is very simple.  It goes back to the central economic vision that has guided most of us — I can speak for the President and I — from the first day we got here.

The mission is to widen the aperture to be able to get into the middle class by expanding opportunity.  No guarantees, just expanding opportunity to American men and women who represent the backbone of the most dynamic, thriving economy in the world.  That’s a fact.  We are the most dynamic, thriving economy in the world.

But in order to thrive, their education and training has to be as just as dynamic and adaptable as our economy is.  So, folks, America is back.  We’re better positioned today than we ever have been.  According to A.T. Kearney, we are the most attractive place in the world for foreign investments by a long shot, of every other country in the world.  Since this survey has been kept, the gap between number one and number two is wider than it ever has been.  Manufacturing is back, folks.  They’re coming home.  Instead of hearing — my kids, instead of hearing about outsourcing, what are you hearing now?  You’re hearing about insourcing.  Companies are coming back.

We’re in the midst of — we take no direct credit for it — we’re in the midst of an energy boom.  North America will be the epicenter of energy in the 21st century — the United States of America, Mexico, and Canada.  We remain the leader in innovation.  We have the greatest research universities in the world.  We have the most adaptive financing systems in the world, to go out and take chances on new startups.  And American workers are the most productive in the world.  They want to work.

But to seize this moment, we need to keep the world’s most skilled workforce here in America.  And I think today in this bipartisan group — we’re ready.  The American people are ready.  And I know the man I’m about to introduce is ready.  He wakes up every morning trying to figure out how do we give ordinary Americans an opportunity.  This is just about opportunity, man.  Simple opportunity — how do we give them — because they — an opportunity because they are so exceptional.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I think everyone in this room shares that goal — providing for opportunity.  And the man I’m about to introduce, that’s all he talks about, it seems to me when he talks to me.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Everybody, please be seated.  Thank you.  Well, welcome to the White House, everybody.  And I want to thank Joe for the generous introduction, but more importantly, for everything he does, day in, day out, on behalf of American workers.  And I want to thank the members of Congress who are here from both parties who led the effort to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act.

When President Clinton signed the original Workforce Investment Act back in 1998, he said it was, “a big step forward in making sure that every adult can keep on learning for a lifetime.”  And he was right — the law became a pillar of American job training programs.  It’s helped millions of Americans earn the skills they need to find a new job or get a better-paying job.

But even back then, even in 1998, our economy was changing.  The notion that a high school education could get you a good job and that you’d keep that job until retirement wasn’t a reality for the majority of people.  Advances in technology made some jobs obsolete.  Global competition sent other jobs overseas.  And then, as we were coming into office, the Great Recession pulled the rug out from under millions of hardworking families.

Now, the good news is, today, nearly six years after the financial crisis, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s.  The unemployment rate is at its lowest point since September of 2008 -– by the way, the fastest one-year drop in nearly 30 years.  There are now more job openings than at any time since 2007, pre-recession.  For the first time in a decade, as Joe mentioned, business leaders around the world have declared that the number-one place to do business, the number-one place to invest isn’t China, it’s the United States of America.

So thanks to the hard work of the American people and some decent policies, our economy has recovered faster and it has gone farther than most other advanced nations.  As Joe said, we are well-positioned.  We’ve got the best cards.  So we have the opportunity right now to extend the lead we already have -– to encourage more companies to join the trend and bring jobs home; to make sure that the gains aren’t just for folks at the very top, but that the economy works for every single American.  If you’re working hard, you should be able to get a job, that job should pay well, and you should be able to move forward, look after your family.

Opportunity for all.  And that means that even as we’re creating new jobs in this new economy, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs.  And keep in mind, not every job that’s a good job out there needs a four-year degree, but the ones that don’t need a college degree generally need some sort of specialized training.

Last month, I met just a wonderful young woman named Rebekah in Minnesota.  A few years ago, she was waiting tables.  Her husband lost his job, he was a carpenter doing construction work.  He had to figure out how to scramble and get a new job that paid less.  She chose to take out student loans, she enrolled in a community college, she retrained for a new career.  Today, not only has her husband been able to get back into construction but she loves her job as an accountant — started a whole new career.  And the question then is how do we give more workers that chance to adapt, to revamp, retool, so that they can move forward in this new economy.

In 2011, I called on Congress to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, update it for the 21st century.  And I want to thank every single lawmaker who is here — lawmakers from both parties — who answered that call.  It took some compromising, but, you know what, it turns out compromise sometimes is okay.  Folks in Congress got past their differences and they got a bill to my desk.  So this is not a win for Democrats or Republicans.  It is a win for American workers.  It’s a win for the middle class.  And it’s a win for everybody who is fighting to earn their way into the middle class.

So the bill I’m about to sign will give communities more certainty to invest in job-training programs for the long run.  It will help us bring those programs into the 21st century by building on what we know works based on evidence, based on tracking what actually delivers on behalf of folks who enroll in these programs -– more partnerships with employers, more tools to measure performance, more flexibilities for states and cities to innovate and to run their workforce programs in ways that are best suited for their particular demographic and their particular industries.  And as we approach the 24th anniversary of the ADA, this bill takes new steps to support Americans with disabilities who want to live and work independently.  So there’s a lot of good stuff in here.

Of course, as Joe said, there is still more that we can do.  And that’s why we’ve rallied employers to give long-term unemployed a fair shot.  It’s why we’re using $600 million in federal grants to encourage companies to offer apprenticeships and work directly with community colleges.  It’s why, in my State of Union address this year, I asked Joe to lead an across-the-board review of America’s training programs to make sure that they have one mission:  Train Americans with the skills employers actually need, then match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.

So today, I’m directing my Cabinet — even as we’re signing the bill — to implement some of Joe’s recommendations.  First, we’re going to use the funds and programs we already have in a smarter way.  Federal agencies will award grants that move away from what our Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, who has been working very hard on this, what he calls a “train and pray” approach, and I’ll bet a lot of you who have dealt with folks who are unemployed know what that means.  They enroll, they get trained for something, they’re not even sure whether the job is out there, and if the job isn’t out there, all they’re doing is saddling themselves with debt, oftentimes putting themselves in a worse position.  What we want to do is make sure where you train your workers first based on what employers are telling you they’re hiring for.  Help business design the training programs so that we’re creating a pipeline into jobs that are actually out there.

Number two, training programs that use federal money will be required to make public how many of its graduates find jobs and how much they earn.  And that means workers, as they’re shopping around for what’s available, they’ll know in advance if they can expect a good return on their investment.  Every job seeker should have all the tools they need to take their career into their own hands, and we’re going to help make sure they can do that.

And finally, we’re going to keep investing in new strategies and innovations that help keep pace with a rapidly changing economy — from testing new, faster ways of teaching skills like coding and cybersecurity and welding, to giving at-risk youth the chance to learn on the job, we will keep making sure that Americans have the chance to build their careers throughout a lifetime of hard work.

So the bill I’m signing today and the actions I’m taking today will connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.  Of course, there is so much more that we can still do.  And I’m looking forward to engaging all the members of Congress and all the businesses and not-for-profits who worked on this issue.  I’m really interested in engaging them, see what else we can get going.

I’ll give you a couple of examples.  Our high school graduation rate is the highest on record.  More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before.  But we still have work to do to make college more affordable and lift the burden of student loan debt.  I acted to give nearly five million Americans the opportunity to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income — particularly important for those who were choosing careers that aren’t as lucrative.  But Congress could help millions more, and I’d like to work with you on that.

Minimum wage.  This week marks five years since the last increase in the minimum wage.  More and more states and business owners are raising their workers’ wages.  I did the same thing for federal contractors.  I’d like to work with Congress to see if we can do the same for about 28 million Americans — give Americans a raise right now.

Fair pay.  Let’s make sure the next generation of women are getting a fair deal.  Let’s make sure the next generation of good manufacturing jobs are made in America.  Let’s make it easier, not harder, for companies to bring those jobs back home.  Tomorrow, senators will get to vote on the Bring Jobs Home Act.  Instead of rewarding companies for shipping jobs overseas or rewarding companies that are moving profits offshore, let’s create jobs right here in America and let’s encourage those companies.

So let’s build on what both parties have already done on many of these issues.  Let’s see if we can come together and, while we’re at it, let’s fix an immigration system that is currently broken in a way that strengthens our borders and that we know will be good for business, we know will increase our GDP, we know will drive down our deficit.

So I want to thank all the Democrats and Republicans here today for getting this bill done.  This is a big piece of work.  You can see, it’s a big bill.  (Laughter.)  But I’m also inviting you back.  Let’s do this more often.  It’s so much fun.  (Laughter and applause.)  Let’s pass more bills to help create more good jobs, strengthen the middle class.  Look at everybody — everybody is smiling, everybody feels good.  (Laughter.)  We could be doing this all the time.  (Laughter.)

Our work can make a real difference in the lives of real Americans.  That’s why we’re here.  We’ll have more job satisfaction.  (Laughter.)  The American people, our customers, they’ll feel better about the product we produce.

And back in 1998, when President Clinton signed the original Workforce Investment Act into law, he was introduced by a man named Jim Antosy from Reading, Pennsylvania.  And Jim spoke about how he had been laid off in 1995 at age 49, two kids, no college degree.  With the help of job training programs, he earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science, found a new job in his field.

Today, Jim and his wife, Barb, still live in Reading.  Over the past 16 years, he’s been steadily employed as a programmer, working his way up from contractor to full-time employee.  In just a few months, Jim now is planning to retire after a lifetime of hard work.  A job training program made a difference in his life.  And one thing he’s thinking about doing in his retirement is teaching computer science at the local community college, so he can help a new generation of Americans earn skills that lead directly to a job, just like he had the opportunity to do.

Well, I ran for President because I believe even in a changing economy, even in a changing world, stories like Jim aren’t just possible, they should be the norm.  Joe believes the same thing.  Many of you believe the same thing.  I believe America is — I don’t just believe, I know America is full of men and women who work very hard and live up to their responsibilities, and all they want in return is to see their hard work pay off, that responsibility rewarded.

They’re not greedy.  They’re not looking for the moon.  They just want to be able to know that if they work hard, they can find a job, they can look after their families, they can retire with dignity, they’re not going to go bankrupt when they get sick, maybe take a vacation once in a while — nothing fancy.  That’s what they’re looking for, because they know that ultimately what’s important is family and community and relationships.  And that’s possible.  That’s what America is supposed to be about.  That’s what I’m fighting for every single day as President.

This bill will help move us along that path.  We need to do it more.  Let’s get together, work together, restore opportunity for every single American.  So with that, I’d like to invite up some of the outstanding folks who are sitting in the audience who helped make this happen.  And I’m going to sign this bill with all those pens.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
12:48 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines March 7, 2013: President Barack Obama Signs Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Signs Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-7-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Obama signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act Thursday, expanding protections for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

“This is a country where everybody should be able to pursue their own measure of happiness and live their lives free from fear, no matter who you are, no matter who you love. That’s got to be our priority. That’s what today is about,” he said at a bill signing ceremony at the Interior Department….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 7, 2013: President Barack Obama & Vice President Joe Biden’s Speeches at Signing of the Violence Against Women Act

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and Vice President at Signing of the Violence Against Women Act

Source: WH, 3-7-13
President Obama Signs the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization

President Obama Signs the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization

Interior Department
Washington, D.C.

2:16 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Diane.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Some of you in the audience who are survivors know how much courage it takes to do what Diane did.  (Applause.)  Some people who don’t know will say, well, she’s just recounting what happened.  But every single time you stand and recount what happened, it brings it all back.  It brings it all back like a very bad nightmare.  But your speaking out, Diane, and so many survivors like you are literally saving the lives of so many other women who, God willing, will be able to avoid the abuse that you had to put up with.

I want to thank all the advocates who are here today.  I got a chance to meet in my office with some of you a little bit earlier — not only those on the stage who I, again, had a chance to meet with, but the many women out in the audience, as I look out and see some familiar faces like Pat Rouse and Ellie Smeal and Paulette Sullivan Moore from — I’m being parochial — Paulette Sullivan Moore from my home state, and so many others.  (Applause.)

Those of you who have been around a while with me know that I quote my father all the time who literally would say, the greatest sin that could be committed, the cardinal sin of all sins was the abuse of power, and the ultimate abuse of power is for someone physically stronger and bigger to raise their hand and strike and beat someone else.  In most cases that tends to be a man striking a woman, or a man or woman striking a child.  That’s the fundamental premise and the overarching reason why John Conyers and I and others started so many years ago to draft the legislation called the Violence Against Women Act.

It passed 19 years ago, and that’s why we shortly thereafter instituted a hotline where women in distress could call for help. I remember, John, when we did that hotline, it was like, well, it will be useful, but I’m not so sure how much it will be used.  Well, the truth of the matter is it’s been used a lot and it’s saved a lot of lives.  Over 2 million women have had the courage — the courage — to try to get out of earshot of their abuser, escape from the prison of their own home, and pick up that phone and call to a line that you had no idea who on the other end was going to answer, and to say, I’m in trouble.  Can you help me?  Can you help me?

I love those men who would say when we started this about why don’t they just leave.  Well, if they had one-third the courage that those women — those 2 million women had who have picked up the phone and called, not knowing what to expect, it would be a whole lot better nation.

We’ve built a network of shelters that are immediately available to women in need because we found out that the vast majority of children who are homeless on the street — Nancy knows and others — were there because their mothers were abused. Imagine fleeing for your life with only the clothes on your back and your child in your arms.  The shelter was their only lifeline, and it’s worked.

We also have specialized law enforcement units with trained prosecutors, victim advocates, court personnel who understand the unique challenges of the access.  Because of all of you in the audience that are here today, we’ve been able to train judges and train intake officers, so when a frightened woman shows up at the family court and says to the intake officer, “I want to tell you” — “Speak up, will you?”  “Well, I just — my” — and they turn around and walk away, because there’s only a very brief window, as all of you know, a very brief window, again, after a woman screws up the courage — the courage — to ask for help.

All these links in the chain have made a difference in the lives of women.  It’s one woman, one girl, one person at a time, one case at a time.  And you providers know that better than anyone.

With all the law’s success, there are still too many women in this country who live in fear of violence, who are still prisoners in their own home; too many victims that we have to mourn.  We knew from the outset in 1994 that there was much more we could have done at the beginning if we were able to get the votes.  But we did what was necessary and important, but we knew more had to be done to reduce domestic violence, domestic violence homicides, to provide new tools, as was just spoken to, to protect Native American women, to address the perplexing rate of dating violence among young women, and so much more.

But because of the people on this stage and in this room, every time we reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, we improved it.  Every single time, we’ve improved it.  (Applause.)

And we did this again.  First, we’ve given jurisdiction to tribal courts over those who abuse women on reservations regardless of whether or not they — (applause.)  We’re providing more resources to the states so they can be trained as to how to collect evidence, acquire convictions, particularly in prosecutions for rape.  We’re going to increase the use of proven models to reduce domestic violence homicides.

We’ve all focused on the tragic gun violence that has been in the news lately, but I want to point something out to you.  From 2009 to 2012, 40 percent of the mass shootings in America, other than the celebrated ones you’ve seen — 40 percent where there’s four or more people who have been shot, the target has been a former intimate partner or a close family member.

So they go into the office, just like that young man who — or woman who stood in front of you when your husband came with a loaded pistol to shoot you.  Forty percent are a consequence of domestic violence.

We created a strong — strong — anti-violence program.  Campuses will have more tools to educate students about sexual violence.  (Applause.)

So when Congress passed this law that the President will sign today, they just didn’t renew what I consider a sacred commitment to protect our mothers, our daughters, our sisters.  They strengthened that commitment.  And I want to thank them.  I hope I don’t leave anybody out.  Starting off with my old buddy, Pat Leahy, who chairs the committee.  Pat, thank you very, very much.  (Applause.)  And Mike Crapo.  Mike, this wouldn’t have happened if you had not stepped up.  (Applause.)  Lisa Murkowski is not here.  But my friend who — I don’t want to get her in trouble, but I know she really likes me because I like her a lot — (laughter) — Senator Collins.  Seriously, it was Republicans coming and standing up and saying this has to be done in the Senate.  So we owe you.  We owe you big.  (Applause.)

And by the way, if you ever want a partner to get anything important done, call Nancy Pelosi.  Call Nancy Pelosi.  (Applause.)  And Steny Hoyer, and Congresswoman Moore — (applause — and my old buddy — I hope I’m not leaving anybody out here — but my old buddy, John Conyers.  (Applause.)  I’m sure I’m leaving someone out, for which I apologize.

Look, we all know we have a lot more to do, but we’re going to continue to make progress.  And one of the reasons we’re going to continue to make progress is we’re going to have for at least three more years the President of the United States, my friend, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody!  Please, everybody have a seat, have a seat.

I want to thank all of you for being here.  I want to thank Secretary Salazar, my great friend, for letting us into the building.  (Laughter.)  Make sure, everybody, pick up their stray soda cans and stuff afterwards.  (Laughter.)

I want to thank Attorney General Holder for joining us.  He’s doing a great job.  (Applause.)

We usually host these bill signings over at the White House. But there were just too many of you — (laughter) — who helped to make this happen.  (Applause.)  And you all deserve to be a part of this moment.  I want to thank everybody on this stage.  Joe just mentioned the extraordinary work that each and every one of these leaders — both advocates as well as legislators —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And I left out Congressman Tom Cole.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there you go.  Give Tom a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

But everybody on this stage worked extraordinarily hard.  Most of all, though, this is your day.  This is the day of the advocates; the day of the survivors.  This is your victory.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, Mr. President!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Applause.)

And this victory shows that when the American people make their voices heard, Washington listens.  (Applause.)  So I want to join Joe in thanking all the members of Congress from both parties who came together, got this bill across the finish line.

I want to say a special thanks to Pat Leahy and Mike Crapo. (Applause.)  Thank you, guys, for your leadership.  (Applause.)  And I want to give much love to Gwen Moore, who worked so hard on this.  (Applause.)

And I also want to take a minute before I begin to thank the Senators who, just a few hours ago, took another big step towards sensible gun safety reforms by advancing a federal gun trafficking bill.  That’s real progress.  (Applause.)  Now, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent legislation to the Senate floor that would crack down on folks who buy guns only to turn around and funnel them to dangerous criminals.

It’s a bill named, in part, for Hadiya Pendleton, who was murdered in Chicago earlier this year.  You’ll remember I told this story about how she had marched in the Inauguration Parade, and just a few weeks later had been gunned down about a mile away from my house.

So I urge the Senate to give that bill a vote.  I urge the House to follow suit.  And I urge Congress to move on other areas that have support of the American people — from requiring universal background checks to getting assault weapons off our streets — because we need to stop the flow of illegal guns to criminals, and because Hadiya’s family and too many other families really do deserve a vote.  (Applause.)

Finally, I want to thank Joe Biden for being such an outstanding Vice President.  (Applause.)  That’s right, you can stand for Joe.  Stand for Joe.  (Applause.)  Give it up for Joe Biden.  (Applause.)  Joe is a hardworking Vice President.

AUDIENCE:  Yes, he is!

THE PRESIDENT:  And he told me when he agreed — when I asked him to be Vice President, he said, well, I don’t want to just be sitting around.  (Laughter.)  I said, I promise you I won’t let you just sit around.  (Laughter.)  And he has not.  He has played a key role in forging the gun safety reforms that I talked about, largely by working closely with survivors of gun violence and their families.  He forged the Violence Against Women Act 20 years ago — never forgetting who it was all about. (Applause.)

So on behalf of everybody here and all the lives that you’ve had a positive impact and touched through the Violence Against Women Act — the survivors who are alive today because of this law, the women who are no longer hiding in fear because of this law, the girls who are growing up aware of their right to be free from abuse because of this law — (applause) — on behalf of them and all their families, I want to thank Joe Biden for making this one of the causes of his career.  (Applause.)

Now, as Joe said earlier, we’ve come a long way.  Back when Joe wrote this law, domestic abuse was too often seen as a private matter, best hidden behind closed doors.  Victims too often stayed silent or felt that they had to live in shame, that somehow they had done something wrong.  Even when they went to the hospital or the police station, too often they were sent back home without any real intervention or support.  They felt trapped, isolated.  And as a result, domestic violence too often ended in greater tragedy.

So one of the great legacies of this law is that it didn’t just change the rules; it changed our culture.  It empowered people to start speaking out.  It made it okay for us, as a society, to talk about domestic abuse.  It made it possible for us, as a country, to address the problem in a real and meaningful way.  And it made clear to victims that they were not alone — that they always had a place to go and they always had people on their side.

And today, because members of both parties worked together, we’re able to renew that commitment.  Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act is something I called for in my State of the Union address.  And when I see how quick it got done, I’m feeling — (applause) — makes me feel optimistic.  (Applause.)

Because of this bill, we’ll keep in place all the protections and services that Joe described, and, as he said, we’ll expand them to cover even more women.  Because this is a country where everybody should be able to pursue their own measure of happiness and live their lives free from fear, no matter who you are, no matter who you love.  (Applause.)  That’s got to be our priority.  That’s what today is about.  (Applause.)

Today is about the millions of women — the victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault — who are out there right now looking for a lifeline, looking for support.  Because of this bill, they’ll continue to have access to all the services that Joe first helped establish 19 years ago:  the national hotline, network of shelters, protection orders that carry across state lines.  And because of this bill, we’re also expanding housing assistance so that no woman has to choose between a violent home and no home at all.  That’s what today is all about.  (Applause.)
Today is about all the law enforcement officials — like Police Chief Jim Johnson — (applause) — they’re the first to respond when a victim calls for help.  And because of this bill, we’re continuing all the training and support that’s proven so effective in bridging some gaps that were in actual enforcement of the law so that we can actually bring more offenders to justice.  And we’re giving our law enforcement better tools to investigate cases of rape, which remains a consistently underreported crime in our country.  Helping police officers deliver on the most important part of their job — preventing harm and saving lives – that’s what today is all about.

Today is about women like Diane.  I’m so grateful Diane shared her story.  That takes great courage.  (Applause.)  And tragically, it is a common story.

I know we’ve got tribal leaders here today, and I want to thank all of you for fighting so hard on behalf of your people — (applause) — to make this bill a reality.  (Applause.)

Indian Country has some of the highest rates of domestic abuse in America.  And one of the reasons is that when Native American women are abused on tribal lands by an attacker who is not Native American, the attacker is immune from prosecution by tribal courts.  Well, as soon as I sign this bill that ends.  (Applause.)  That ends.  That ends.  (Applause.)

Tribal governments have an inherent right to protect their people, and all women deserve the right to live free from fear.  And that is what today is all about.  (Applause.)

Today is about all the Americans who face discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity when they seek help.  (Applause.)

So I want to thank Sharon Stapel, who’s here — where did she go?  There she is right there — (applause) — for the work she’s doing — the great work she’s doing with the Anti-Violence Project.  But Sharon and all the other advocates who are focused on this community, they can’t do it alone.  And then now they won’t have to.  That’s what today is all about.  That’s what today is all about.  (Applause.)

Today is about the women who come to Rosie Hidalgo looking for support — (applause) — immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse.  I mean, imagine the dilemma for so many — if your immigration status is tied to a husband who beats you or abuses you, if you’re an undocumented immigrant, you may feel there’s too much to lose by coming forward.  The Violence Against Women Act already had protections so that victims could call the police without fear of deportation, and those protections saved lives.  And because we fought hard to keep them in place, they remain a lifeline for so many women.  That’s part of what today is all about.  (Applause.)

Today is about young women like Tye, who was brought into the sex trade by a neighbor when she was 12 years old.  Tye was rescued with the help of an organization led by trafficking survivors.  Today, she’s enrolled in college.  She’s working full-time to help at-risk girls stay out of the sex trade.  (Applause.)  Couldn’t be prouder of her.  So proud of her.  (Applause.)  So with this bill, we reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to help more girls turn out like Tye.  That’s what today is all about.  (Applause.)

So today is about all the survivors, all the advocates who are standing on this stage.  But it’s also about the millions more they represent — that you represent.  It’s about our commitment as a country to address this problem — in every corner of America, every community, every town, every big city — as long as it takes.

And we’ve made incredible progress since 1994.  But we cannot let up — not when domestic violence still kills three women a day.  Not when one in five women will be a victim of rape in their lifetime.  Not when one in three women is abused by a partner.

So I promise you — not just as your President, but as a son, and a husband, and a father — I’m going to keep at this. I know Vice President Biden is going to keep at it.  My administration is going to keep at it for as long as it takes.

And I know that all the advocates up here, all the legislators — Republican and Democrat — who supported this, I know they could not be prouder of the work that they’ve done together.  And I think I speak for all of them when we say we could not have done it without you.

So with that, let me sign this bill.  (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.)

END
2:40 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency August 6, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Signing of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012

Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012

Remarks by the President at Signing of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012

Source: WH, 8-6-12

Oval Office

2:25 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I want to thank everybody who is here because they all did outstanding work to help us get this legislation completed.

As you know, I think all Americans feel we have a moral, sacred duty towards our men and women in uniform.  They protect our freedom, and it’s our obligation to do right by them.  This bill takes another important step in fulfilling that commitment.

I want to thank the members of Congress who helped to make this happen.  It is going to have immediate impact.  It is going to improve access to health care, streamline services in the VA. It expands support for veterans who are homeless.

There are two parts to the bill, though, that I especially want to highlight.  First of all, this bill ends a decade-long struggle for those who serve at Camp Lejeune.  Some of the veterans and their families who were based in Camp Lejeune in the years when the water was contaminated will now have access to extended medical care.  And, sadly, this act alone will not bring back those we’ve lost, including Jane Ensminger, but it will honor their memory by making a real difference for those who are still suffering.

The second part of this bill that I want to highlight — prohibit protesting within 300 feet of military funerals during the two hours before and two hours after a service.  I supported this step as a senator.  I am very pleased to be signing this bill into law.  The graves of our veterans are hallowed ground.  And obviously we all defend our Constitution and the First Amendment and free speech, but we also believe that when men and women die in the service of their country and are laid to rest, it should be done with the utmost honor and respect.

So I’m glad that Congress passed this bill and I hope that we can continue to do some more good bipartisan work in protecting our veterans.  I’ve been advocating, for example, for a veterans job corps that could help provide additional opportunities for the men and women who are coming home as we’re winding down our operations in Afghanistan and having ended the war in Iraq.  And so this is a good sign of a bipartisan spirit that I’m sure is going to carry through all the way to Election Day and beyond.

With that, I’m going to sign the bill.  Make sure I sign the right place, though.

(The bill is signed.)

There you go.  Congratulations, everybody.  Good work.  Thank you very much.

Q Mr. President, after the Wisconsin shooting, are you going to push for any further gun control measures?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, we’re still awaiting the outcome of a full investigation.  Yesterday I had the chance to speak to both the Governor and the Mayor, as well as leaders of the Sikh community in Oak Creek.  All of us are heartbroken by what’s happened.  And I offered the thoughts and prayers not only of myself and Michelle but also for the country as a whole.

I think all of us recognize that these kinds of terrible, tragic events are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul-searching and to examine additional ways that we can reduce violence.  And as I’ve already said, I think there are a lot of elements involved in it, and what I want to do is to bring together law enforcement, community leaders, faith leaders, elected officials of every level to see how we can make continued progress.

We don’t yet know fully what motivated this individual to carry out this terrible act.  If it turns out, as some early reports indicate, that it may have been motivated in some way by the ethnicity of those who were attending the temple, I think the American people immediately recoil against those kinds of attitudes, and I think it will be very important for us to reaffirm once again that, in this country, regardless of what we look like, where we come from, who we worship, we are all one people, and we look after one another and we respect one another.

But as I said, the FBI is working with local officials and they’re still investigating what motivated this individual.  And as we find out more, I suspect that not only the White House but others in Congress and at the local level will have more to say.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END
2:31 P.M. EDT

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