Political Musings June 25, 2013: PM Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama discuss Keystone XL oilsands pipeline on G8 summit sidelines

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Harper and Obama discuss Keystone XL oilsands pipeline on G8 summit sidelines

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Canadian PM Stephen Harper attended the G8 Summit at the Lough Erne Golf resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland June 17th and 18th as part of a wider working visit to Europe, where he also addressed the British Parliament on June…READ MORE
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Political Headlines June 17, 2013: President Barack Obama Addresses North Ireland Youth in Belfast

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Addresses Youth in Belfast

Source: NYT, 6-17-13


Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Obama acknowledged “wounds that haven’t healed” but mostly praised Northern Ireland on Monday in Belfast.

President Obama on Monday opened a three-day diplomatic trip to Northern Ireland and Germany not with other world leaders but with young residents of this once strife-torn city, urging them to build on the peace that America helped broker 15 years ago.

“For you are the first generation in this land to inherit more than just the bitter prejudices of the past. You are the inheritors of a just and hard-earned peace,” Mr. Obama told more than 2,000 people, many of them teenagers in school uniforms who stood for hours in a chilly morning drizzle to get through security checkpoints into the Waterfront Hall convention center….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 17, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech to Northern Ireland’s Youth ‘Fate of Peace Is Up to You’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Tells Northern Ireland’s Youth ‘Fate of Peace Is Up to You’

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-17-13

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(SLIGO, Ireland)

After decades of violence, President Obama on Monday said peace in Northern Ireland serves as a “blueprint” for ending conflicts around the world, but cautioned “there’s still much work to do.”

“You set an example for those who seek a peace of their own,” the president told a gathering of young people at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall, shortly after arriving in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit.  “You are their proof of what’s possible.  Hope is contagious.  And they are watching to see what you do next.” “The terms of peace may be negotiated by leaders, but the fate of peace is up to you,” he said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 17, 2013: President Barack Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speeches at Town Hall with Youth of Northern Ireland

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and Mrs. Obama in Town Hall with Youth of Northern Ireland

Source: WH, 6-17-13

Belfast Waterfront
Belfast, Northern Ireland

9:58 A.M. BST

MRS. OBAMA:  Good morning.   (Applause.)  Oh, what an honor. Good morning, everyone.  First of all, let me thank Hannah for that very bold and wonderful introduction.  And of course, I want to thank all of you for being here today.

It is such a pleasure to be here in Belfast.  And as you might imagine, whenever we travel to places like this or anywhere else in the world, we’ve got a pretty packed schedule.  We’re meeting with Presidents and Prime Ministers and First Ladies. We’re visiting historical sites and attending state dinners.  And my husband is spending hours trying to make progress on global issues from trade to international security.

But wherever we go, no matter what’s on our plate, we always do our best to meet with young people just like all of you.  In fact, you all might just very well be some of the most important people that we talk to during our visits, because in just a couple of decades, you will be the ones in charge.  Yes, indeed. You’ll be the ones shaping our shared future with your passion and energy and ideas.

So when I look around this room, I don’t just see a bunch of teenagers.  I see the people who will be moving our world forward in the years ahead.  And that’s why we wanted to be here today.

Let me tell you, when I was your age, I never dreamed that I’d be standing here as First Lady of the United States.  And I know that my husband never thought he’d be President, either.  Neither of us grew up with much money.  Neither of my parents went to university.  Barack’s father left his family when Barack was just two years old.  He was raised by a single mom.

And all along the way, there were plenty of people who doubted that kids like us had what it took to succeed — people who told us not to hope for too much or set our sights too high.
But Barack and I refused to let other people define us.  Instead, we held tight to those values we were raised with — things like honesty, hard work, a commitment to our education.

We did our best to be open to others; to give everyone we met a fair shake, no matter who they were or where they came from.  And we soon realized that the more we lived by those values, the more we’d see them from other people in return.  We saw that when we reached out and listened to somebody else’s perspective, that person was more likely to listen to us.  If we treated a classmate with respect, they’d treat us well in return.

And that’s sort of how we became who we are today.  That’s how we learned what leadership really means.  It’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone to explore new ideas.  It’s about rising above old divisions.  It’s about treating people the way you want to be treated in return.

And as young people, you all are in a very powerful position to make some of those same choices yourselves.  You have the freedom of an open mind.  You have a fresh perspective that can help you find solutions to age-old problems.  And with today’s technology, you can connect with other young people from all over Northern Ireland and all around the world.

So right now, you’ve got a choice to make.  You’ve got to decide how you’re going to use those advantages and opportunities to build the lives you dream of.  Because that decision will determine not only the kinds of people you’ll become, but also the kinds of communities you’ll live in, the kind of world we’ll all share together.

And standing here with all of you today, I have never felt more optimistic, let me tell you.  Because time and again, I have seen young people like all of you choosing to work together, choosing to lift each other up, choosing to leave behind the conflicts and prejudices of the past and create a bright future for us all.

That’s what’s so powerful about your generation.  And again, that’s why we’re here today — because we want you to know that we believe in each and every one of you.  That is exactly why we’re here.  We believe that you all have the ability to make a mark on this world that will last for generations to come.  We are so proud of you.  We expect great things.

So with that, I think it would be a good opportunity for me to introduce someone who accompanied me here today.  (Laughter.) I let him travel with me every now and then.  (Laughter.)   But he is someone who is just as excited and delighted to deliver a message of encouragement and support to all of you — my husband, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you!  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Please be seated.

Well, hello, Belfast!  (Applause.)  Hello, Northern Ireland! (Applause.)  You now know why it’s so difficult to speak after Michelle — she’s better than me.  (Laughter.)  But on behalf of both of us, thank you so much for this extraordinarily warm welcome.

And I want to thank Hannah for introducing my wife.  We had a chance to speak with Hannah backstage and she’s an extraordinary young woman, who I know is going to do even greater things in years to come.

I want to thank two men, who I’ve hosted at the White House on many a St. Patrick’s Day, for their warm welcome — First Minister Peter Robinson — (applause) — and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.  (Applause.)  I spend the whole year trying to unite Washington around things, and they come to visit on St. Patrick’s Day and they do it in a single afternoon.  (Laughter.)

I want to thank the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Teresa Villiers.  (Applause.)  To all the Ministers in the audience; to Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank all the citizens of Belfast and Northern Ireland for your hospitality.  (Applause.)

As our daughters pointed out as we were driving in, I cause a big fuss wherever I go.  (Laughter.)  So traffic and barricades and police officers, and it’s all a big production, a lot of people are involved — and I’m very, very grateful for accommodating us.

The first time Michelle and I visited this island was about two years ago.  We were honored to join tens of thousands on College Green in Dublin.  We traveled to the little village of Moneygall, where, as it turned out, my great-great-great grandfather was born.  And I actually identified this individual in this place only a few years ago.  When I was first running for office in Chicago, I didn’t know this, but I wish I had.  (Laughter.)  When I was in Chicago, as I was campaigning, they’d look at my last name and they’d say, “Oh, there’s an O’Bama from the homeland running on the South Side, so he must be Irish — (laughter) — but I’ve never heard the Gaelic name, Barack”  (Laughter.)  But it pays to be Irish in Chicago.  (Laughter.)

So while we were in Moneygall, I had a chance to meet my eighth cousin, Henry — who’s also known as Henry the Eighth.  (Laughter.)  We knew he was my cousin because his ears flapped out just like mine.  (Laughter.)  I leafed through the parish logs where the names of my ancestors are recorded.  I even watched Michelle learn how to pull a proper pint of “black.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Whoop!  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Who’s cheering for that?  (Laughter.)

So it was a magical visit.  But the only problem was it was far too short.  A volcano in Iceland forced us to leave before we could even spend the night.  So we’ve been eager for a chance to return to the Emerald Isle ever since — and this time, we brought our daughters, too.

In particular, we wanted to come here, to Northern Ireland, a place of remarkable beauty and extraordinary history; part of an island with which tens of millions of Americans share an eternal relationship.  America’s story, in part, began right outside the doors of this gleaming hall.  Three hundred and twenty-five years ago, a ship set sail from the River Lagan for the Chesapeake Bay, filled with men and women who dreamed of building a new life in a new land.

They, followed by hundreds of thousands more, helped America write those early chapters.  They helped us win our independence. They helped us draft our Constitution.  Soon after, America returned to Belfast, opening one of our very first consulates here in 1796, when George Washington was still President.

Today, names familiar to many of you are etched on schools and courthouses and solemn memorials of war across the United States — names like Wilson and Kelly, Campbell and O’Neill.  So many of the qualities that we Americans hold dear we imported from this land — perseverance, faith, an unbending belief that we make our own destiny, and an unshakable dream that if we work hard and we live responsibly, something better lies just around the bend.

So our histories are bound by blood and belief, by culture and by commerce.  And our futures are equally, inextricably linked.  And that’s why I’ve come to Belfast today — to talk about the future we can build together.

Your generation, a young generation, has come of age in a world with fewer walls.  You’ve been educated in an era of instant information.  You’ve been tempered by some very difficult times around the globe.  And as I travel, what I’ve seen of young people like you — around the world, they show me these currents have conspired to make you a generation possessed by both a clear-eyed realism, but also an optimistic idealism; a generation keenly aware of the world as it is, but eager to forge the world as it should be.  And when it comes to the future we share, that fills me with hope.  Young people fill me with hope.

Here, in Northern Ireland, this generation has known even more rapid change than many young people have seen around the world.  And while you have unique challenges of your own, you also have unique reasons to be hopeful.  For you are the first generation in this land to inherit more than just the hardened attitudes and the bitter prejudices of the past.  You’re an inheritor of a just and hard-earned peace.  You now live in a thoroughly modern Northern Ireland.

Of course, the recessions that spread through nearly every country in recent years have inflicted hardship here, too, and there are communities that still endure real pain.  But, day to day, life is changing throughout the North.  There was a time people couldn’t have imagined Northern Ireland hosting a gathering of world leaders, as you are today.  And I want to thank Chief Constable Matt Baggott for working to keep everyone safe this week.  (Applause.)

Northern Ireland is hosting the World Police and Fire Games later this year — (applause) — which Dame Mary Peters is helping to organize.  (Applause.)  Golf fans like me had to wait a long six decades for the Irish Open to return to the North last year.  (Applause.)  I am unhappy that I will not get a few rounds in while I’m here.  (Laughter.)  I did meet Rory McIlroy last year — (applause) — and Rory offered to get my swing “sorted,” — (laughter) —  which was a polite way of saying, “Mr. President, you need help.” (Laughter.)

None of that would have been imaginable a generation ago.  And Belfast is a different city.  Once-abandoned factories are rebuilt.  Former industrial sites are reborn.  Visitors come from all over to see an exhibit at the MAC, a play at the Lyric, a concert here at Waterfront Hall.  Families crowd into pubs in the Cathedral Quarter to hear “trad.”  Students lounge at cafés, asking each other, “What’s the craic?”  (Laughter and applause.) So to paraphrase Seamus Heaney, it’s the manifestation of sheer, bloody genius.  This island is now chic.

And these daily moments of life in a bustling city and a changing country, it may seem ordinary to many of you — and that’s what makes it so extraordinary.  That’s what your parents and grandparents dreamt for all of you — to travel without the burden of checkpoints, or roadblocks, or seeing soldiers on patrol.  To enjoy a sunny day free from the ever-present awareness that violence could blacken it at any moment.  To befriend or fall in love with whomever you want.  They hoped for a day when the world would think something different when they heard the word “Belfast.”  Because of their effort, because of their courage that day has come.  Because of their work, those dreams they had for you became the most incredible thing of all — they became a reality.

It’s been 15 years now since the Good Friday Agreement; since clenched fists gave way to outstretched hands.  The people of this island voted in overwhelming numbers to see beyond the scars of violence and mistrust, and to choose to wage peace.  Over the years, other breakthroughs and agreements have followed. That’s extraordinary, because for years, few conflicts in the world seemed more intractable than the one here in Northern Ireland.  And when peace was achieved here, it gave the entire world hope.

The world rejoiced in your achievement — especially in America.  Pubs from Chicago to Boston were scenes of revelry, folks celebrating the hard work of Hume and Trimble and Adams and Paisley, and so many others.  In America, you helped us transcend our differences — because if there’s one thing on which Democrats and Republicans in America wholeheartedly agree, it’s that we strongly support a peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland.

But as all of you know all too well, for all the strides that you’ve made, there’s still much work to do.  There are still people who haven’t reaped the rewards of peace.  There are those who aren’t convinced that the effort is worth it.  There are still wounds that haven’t healed, and communities where tensions and mistrust hangs in the air.  There are walls that still stand; there are still many miles to go.

From the start, no one was naïve enough to believe that peace would be anything but a long journey.  Yeats once wrote “Peace comes dropping slow.”  But that doesn’t mean our efforts to forge a real and lasting peace should come dropping slow.  This work is as urgent now as it has ever been, because there’s more to lose now than there has ever been.

In today’s hyper-connected world, what happens here has an impact on lives far from these green shores.  If you continue your courageous path toward a permanent peace, and all the social and economic benefits that have come with it, that won’t just be good for you, it will be good for this entire island.  It will be good for the United Kingdom.  It will be good for Europe.  It will be good for the world.

We need you to get this right.  And what’s more, you set an example for those who seek a peace of their own.  Because beyond these shores, right now, in scattered corners of the world, there are people living in the grip of conflict — ethnic conflict, religious conflict, tribal conflicts — and they know something better is out there.  And they’re groping to find a way to discover how to move beyond the heavy hand of history, to put aside the violence.  They’re studying what you’re doing.  And they’re wondering, perhaps if Northern Ireland can achieve peace, we can, too.  You’re their blueprint to follow.  You’re their proof of what is possible — because hope is contagious.  They’re watching to see what you do next.

Now, some of that is up to your leaders.  As someone who knows firsthand how politics can encourage division and discourage cooperation, I admire the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly all the more for making power-sharing work.  That’s not easy to do.  It requires compromise, and it requires absorbing some pain from your own side.  I applaud them for taking responsibility for law enforcement and for justice, and I commend their effort to “Building a United Community” — important next steps along your transformational journey.

Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it.  If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division.  It discourages cooperation.

Ultimately, peace is just not about politics.  It’s about attitudes; about a sense of empathy; about breaking down the  divisions that we create for ourselves in our own minds and our own hearts that don’t exist in any objective reality, but that we carry with us generation after generation.

And I know, because America, we, too, have had to work hard over the decades, slowly, gradually, sometimes painfully, in fits and starts, to keep perfecting our union.  A hundred and fifty years ago, we were torn open by a terrible conflict.  Our Civil War was far shorter than The Troubles, but it killed hundreds of thousands of our people.  And, of course, the legacy of slavery endured for generations.

Even a century after we achieved our own peace, we were not fully united.  When I was a boy, many cities still had separate drinking fountains and lunch counters and washrooms for blacks and whites.  My own parents’ marriage would have been illegal in certain states.  And someone who looked like me often had a hard time casting a ballot, much less being on a ballot.

But over time, laws changed, and hearts and minds changed, sometimes driven by courageous lawmakers, but more often driven by committed citizens.  Politicians oftentimes follow rather than lead.  And so, especially young people helped to push and to prod and to protest, and to make common cause with those who did not look like them.  And that transformed America — so that Malia and Sasha’s generation, they have different attitudes about differences and race than mine and certainly different from the generation before that.  And each successive generation creates a new space for peace and tolerance and justice and fairness.

And while we have work to do in many ways, we have surely become more tolerant and more just, more accepting, more willing to see our diversity in America not as something to fear, but as something to welcome because it’s a source of our national strength.

So as your leaders step forward to address your challenges through talks by all parties, they’ll need you young people to keep pushing them, to create a space for them, to change attitudes.  Because ultimately, whether your communities deal with the past and face the future united together isn’t something you have to wait for somebody else to do –- that’s a choice you have to make right now.

It’s within your power to bring about change.  Whether you are a good neighbor to someone from the other side of past battles — that’s up to you.  Whether you treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve — that’s up to you.  Whether you let your kids play with kids who attend a different church -– that’s your decision.  Whether you take a stand against violence and hatred, and tell extremists on both sides that no matter how many times they attack the peace, they will not succeed –- that is in your hands.  And whether you reach your own outstretched hand across dividing lines, across peace walls, to build trust in a spirit of respect –- that’s up to you.  The terms of peace may be negotiated by political leaders, but the fate of peace is up to each of us.

This peace in Northern Ireland has been tested over the past 15 years.  It’s been tested over the past year.  It will be tested again.  But remember something that President Clinton said when he spoke here in Belfast just a few weeks after the horrors of Omagh.  That bomb, he said, “was not the last bomb of The Troubles; it was the opening shot of a vicious attack on the peace.”  And whenever your peace is attacked, you will have to choose whether to respond with the same bravery that you’ve summoned so far, or whether you succumb to the worst instincts.  those impulses that kept this great land divided for too long.  You’ll have to choose whether to keep going forward, not backwards.

And you should know that so long as you are moving forward, America will always stand by you as you do.  We will keep working closely with leaders in Stormont, Dublin and Westminster to support your political progress.  We’ll keep working to strengthen our economies, including through efforts like the broad economic initiative announced on Friday to unlock new opportunities for growth and investment between our two countries’ businesses –- because jobs and opportunity are essential to peace.

Our scientists will keep collaborating with yours in fields like nanotechnology and clean energy and health care that make our lives better and fuel economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic –- because progress is essential to peace.  And because knowledge and understanding is essential to peace, we will keep investing in programs that enrich both of us -– programs like the one at Belfast Metropolitan College, which teaches students from West and North Belfast the skills they need for new jobs, and exchange programs that have given thousands in Northern Ireland and the United States the chance to travel to each other’s communities and learn from one another.

Now, one of those young people is here today.  Sylvia Gordon is the director of an organization called Groundwork Northern Ireland, which aims to bring about change from the ground up.  (Applause.)  Where’s Sylvia?  Where’s Sylvia?  Is Sylvia here somewhere?  Where is she?  She’s here somewhere.  You’re here, too, yes.  Some guy just waved, he said, “I’m here.”  (Laughter.) Which is good, I appreciate you being here.  (Laughter.)

As someone who got my start as a community organizer, I was so impressed with what Sylvia has done, because a few years ago, Sylvia visited the United States to learn more about how Americans organize to improve their communities.  So after she came home, Sylvia rolled up her sleeves here in Belfast and decided to do something about Alexandra Park.  Some of you may know this park.  For years, it was thought to be the only park in Europe still divided by a wall.  Think about that.  In all of Europe, that one park has got a wall in the middle of it.

Sylvia and her colleagues knew how hard it would be to do anything about a peace wall, but they reached out to the police, they reached out to the Department of Justice.  They brought together people from across the communities.  They knew it was going to be hard, but they tried anyway.  And together, they all decided to build a gate to open that wall.  And now, people can walk freely through the park and enjoy the sun — when it comes out –- (laughter) — just like people do every day in parks all around the world.

A small bit of progress.  But the fact that so far we’ve only got a gate open and the wall is still up means there’s more work to do.  And that’s the work of your generation.  As long as more walls still stand, we will need more people like Sylvia.  We’ll need more of you, young people, who imagine the world as it should be; who knock down walls; who knock down barriers; who imagine something different and have the courage to make it happen.  The courage to bring communities together, to make even the small impossibilities a shining example of what is possible. And that, more than anything, will shape what Northern Ireland looks like 15 years from now and beyond.

All of you — every single young person here today — possess something the generation before yours did not, and that is an example to follow.  When those who took a chance on peace got started, they didn’t have a successful model to emulate.  They didn’t know how it would work.  But they took a chance.  And so far, it has succeeded.  And the first steps are the hardest and requires the most courage.  The rest, now, is up to you.

“Peace is indeed harder than war,” the Irish author Colum McCann recently wrote.  “And its constant fragility is part of its beauty.  A bullet need happen only once, but for peace to work we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.”

And that’s what we need from you.  That’s what we need from every young person in Northern Ireland, and that’s what we need from every young person around the world.  You must remind us of the existence of peace — the possibility of peace.  You have to remind us of hope again and again and again.  Despite resistance, despite setbacks, despite hardship, despite tragedy, you have to remind us of the future again and again and again.

I have confidence you will choose that path; you will embrace that task.  And to those who choose the path of peace, I promise you the United States of America will support you every step of the way.  We will always be a wind at your back.  And as I said when I visited two years ago, I am convinced that this little island that inspires the biggest of things — this little island, its best days are yet ahead.

Good luck.  God bless you.  And God bless all the people of Northern Ireland.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END
10:32 A.M. BST

Political Headlines May 20, 2012: President Obama Sees ‘Emerging Consensus’ on Eurozone Economic Rescue at G8 Summit

POLITICAL HEADLINES

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Sees ‘Emerging Consensus’ on Eurozone Rescue

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-20-12

Jewel Samad/AFP/GettyImages

There were a couple new faces in town at the annual Group of Eight summit, and a couple new allies for President Obama, who has been urging Europeans to follow America’s lead. And with 4 million jobs created in the United States in last 26 months, the Europeans are listening.

The global economy dominated the day, and while no bold, specific steps were laid out, a broad, shared path was embraced by the G-8 leaders Saturday at Camp David.

The president continues to argue that in the middle of the economic crisis, the U.S. went one way, spending on stimulus for growth, and the Europeans went the other, with austerity and spending cuts….READ MORE

Political Buzz May 19, 2012: The G8 Summit at Camp David Roundup — President Barack Obama & G8 Leaders Promise to Tame the Eurozone Economic Crisis Through Growth & Fiscal Responsibility

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

World Leaders Urge Growth, Not Austerity

Source: NYT, 5-19-12

Meeting at Camp David, leaders of the world’s richest countries banded together to press Germany to back more pro-growth policies to halt the deepening debt crisis in Europe.

G8 leaders tout economic growth, fiscal responsibility

Source: CNN, 5-19-12

The 10 members of the G8 Summit pose for a group portait at Camp David, Maryland. Left to right: European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Japanese PM Yoshihiko Noda, Canadian PM Stephen Harper, French President Francois Hollande, U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British PM David Cameron, Italian PM Mario Monti and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

The 10 members of the G8 Summit pose for a group portait at Camp David, Maryland. Left to right: European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Japanese PM Yoshihiko Noda, Canadian PM Stephen Harper, French President Francois Hollande, U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British PM David Cameron, Italian PM Mario Monti and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

President Barack Obama and fellow leaders at the Group of Eight meeting he hosted Saturday put job creation and economic growth at the top of their to-do list.

“(They) must be our top priority. A stable growing European economy is in everybody’s best interest, including the United States’,” Obama told reporters after the two-day Camp David retreat in Maryland concluded.

At the same time, leaders stated “that the right measures are not the same for each of us.”

The G8 meeting was one of two high-stakes, back-to-back weekend summits scheduled over the weekend. On Sunday, NATO kicks off its two-day summit in Chicago, with a focus on the Afghanistan war….READ MORE

Obama sees ’emerging consensus’ on economic fix

Source: AP, 5-19-12

Confronting an economic crisis that threatens them all, President Barack Obama and leaders of other world powers on Saturday declared that their governments must both spark growth and cut the debt that has crippled the European continent and put investors worldwide on edge.

“There’s now an emerging consensus that more must be done to promote growth and job creation right now,” Obama proclaimed after hosting unprecedented economic talks at Camp David, his secluded and highly secure mountaintop retreat. Seeking a second term amid hard economic times, Obama hailed a debate heading in the direction he likes, with nations now talking of ways to spark their economies instead of just slashing spending….READ MORE

Wrapping Up the G8 Summit at Camp David

Source: WH, 5-19-12
G8 Summit in Camp David, 2012 Logo

This weekend, the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia joined President Obama at Camp David for the annual G8 Summit. The leaders met to address major global economic, political, and security challenges, including energy and climate change, food security and nutrition, Afghanistan’s economic transition and transitions taking place across the Middle East and North Africa.

Energy and Climate Change:

At the Camp David Summit, G-8 Leaders recognized that the development of and universal access to environmentally safe, sustainable, secure, and affordable sources of energy is essential to global economic growth and to their overall efforts to address climate change.

Food Security:

President Obama and G8 leaders announced a new alliance on food security with African leaders and the private sector as part of an effort to lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next decade.

Transitions in the Middle East and North Africa:

A year after the historic events across the Middle East and North Africa began to unfold, the aspirations of people of the region for freedom, human rights, democracy, job opportunities, empowerment and dignity are undiminished. At the Camp David Summit, G-8 Leaders recognized the important progress that has been achieved in a number of countries undergoing transition and committed to maintaining their support for these transitions in four key priority areas: stabilization, job creation, participation/governance, and integration.

More from the G8:

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney; Mike Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics; and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes

Full Text Obama Presidency May 19, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Closing of G8 Summit Discusses Agreed Upon Economic Solutions to the Eurozone Crisis

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Statement by President Obama at Closing of G8 Summit

Aspen Cabin
Camp David, Maryland

6:04 P.M. EDT

Good afternoon, everybody.  It has been a great pleasure to host the leaders of some of the world’s largest economies here at Camp David.  I think the surroundings gave us an opportunity to hold some intimate discussions and make some genuine progress.

For the past three years, our nations have worked together and with others first to rescue a global economy from freefall, then to wrestle it back to a path of recovery and growth.  Our progress has been tested at times by shocks like the disaster in Japan, for example.  Today it’s threatened once again by the serious situation in the eurozone.

As all the leaders here today agreed, growth and jobs must be our top priority.  A stable, growing European economy is in everybody’s best interests — including America’s.  Europe is our largest economic partner.  Put simply, if a company is forced to cut back in Paris or Madrid, that might mean less business for manufacturers in Pittsburgh or Milwaukee.  And that might mean a tougher time for families and communities that depend on that business.

And that’s why, even as we’ve confronted our own economic challenges over the past few years, we’ve collaborated closely with our European allies and partners as they’ve confronted theirs.  And today, we discussed ways they can promote growth and job creation right now, while still carrying out reforms necessary to stabilize and strengthen their economies for the future.

We know it is possible — in part, based on our own experience here.  In my earliest days in office, we took decisive steps to confront our own financial crisis — from making banks submit to stress tests to rebuilding their capital — and we put in place some of the strongest financial reforms since the Great Depression.

At the same time, we worked to get our own fiscal house in order in a responsible way.  And through it all, even as we worked to stabilize the financial sector and bring down our deficits and debt over the longer term, we stayed focused on growing the economy and creating jobs in the immediate term.

Of course, we still have a lot of work to do.  Too many of our people are still looking for jobs that pay the bills.  Our deficits are still too high.  But after shrinking by nearly 9 percent the quarter before I took office, America’s economy has now grown for almost three consecutive years.  After losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month, our businesses have created more than 4 million jobs over the past 26 months.  Exports have surged and manufacturers are investing in America again.

And this economic growth then gives us more room to take a balanced approach to reducing our deficit and debt, while preserving our investments in the drivers of growth and job creation over the long term — education, innovation, and infrastructure for the 21st century.

Europe’s situation, of course, is more complicated.  They’ve got a political and economic crisis facing Greece, slow growth and very high unemployment in several countries.  And what’s more, when they want to decide on a way to move forward, there are 17 countries in the eurozone that need to come to an agreement.  We recognize that and we respect that.

But the direction the debate has taken recently should give us confidence.  Europe has taken significant steps to manage the crisis.  Individual countries and the European Union as a whole have engaged in significant reforms that will increase the prospects of long-term growth.  And there’s now an emerging consensus that more must be done to promote growth and job creation right now in the context of these fiscal and structural reforms.  That consensus for progress was strengthened here at Camp David.

Today we agreed that we must take steps to boost confidence and to promote growth and demand while getting our fiscal houses in order.  We agreed upon the importance of a strong and cohesive eurozone, and affirmed our interest in Greece staying in the eurozone while respecting its commitments.  Of course, we also recognized the painful sacrifices that the Greek people are making at this difficult time, and I know that my European colleagues will carry forward these discussions as they prepare for meetings next week.

The leaders here understand the stakes.  They know the magnitude of the choices they have to make and the enormous political, economic, and social costs if they don’t.  In addition to our G8 meeting, it was — I was able to talk to them individually over the last two days and I reaffirmed that Europe has the capacity to meet its challenges, and America is not only confident in their ability to meet their challenges, but we are supportive of their efforts.

This morning, I updated you on the progress we made last night in our discussion of security issues.  And today, following our discussion of the economy, we also made progress on a range of other important challenges.  We discussed the importance of pursuing an all-of-the-above strategy for energy security in a safe and sustainable way.  Leaders agreed to join a new U.S.-led coalition to address climate change, in part by reducing short-lived pollutants.  And in the face of increasing disruptions in the supply of oil, we agreed that we must closely monitor global energy markets.  Together, we stand ready to call upon the International Energy Agency to take action to ensure that the market remains fully and timely supplied.

We also announced a new alliance on food security with African leaders and the private sector as part of an effort to lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next decade.  We discussed our support for a sustainable Afghan economy as we wind down the war, and we reaffirmed our support for the democratic transitions underway in the Middle East and North Africa.

So I’m very pleased that we were able to make some important progress here at Camp David.  And we’re going to keep at it.  Tomorrow we begin our NATO summit in my hometown of Chicago where we’ll discuss our plans to responsibly end the war in Afghanistan.  Next week, European leaders will gather to discuss their next steps on the eurozone.  Next month, we’ll all have the chance to continue this collaboration at the G20 in Mexico.  And I look forward to building on this progress in promoting economic recovery in the weeks and months to come.

Thank you very much, everybody.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the great views and the great weather.

Full Text Obama Presidency May 18, 2012: President Obama’s First Meeting with French President Francoise Hollande to the White House — Bilateral Meeting Remarks

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY
& THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Welcomes French President Francoise Hollande to the White House

Source: WH, 5-18-12

President Obama with President François Hollande of France in the Oval Office, May 18, 2012

President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with President François Hollande of France in the Oval Office, May 18, 2012 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama today met with French President Francois Hollande for the first time when the newly-inaugurated leader stopped at the White House in advance of the G8 Summit which starts tonight at Camp David.

While much of the conversation in the Oval Office was focused on the economic situation in the eurozone — which President Obama said will also be central to the discussions throughout the weekend when they are joined by leaders from Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia  — others issues concerning areas of our nations’ mutual cooperation were on the agenda:

We also discussed the situation in Afghanistan, in anticipation of our NATO meeting in Chicago on Saturday and Sunday. And we agreed that even as we transition out of a combat phase in Afghanistan that it’s important that we sustain our commitment to helping Afghans build security and continue down the path of development.

We also identified the issues of Iran and Syria, the transition that’s taking place in countries like Egypt and Tunisia as topics of critical importance. And we’ll be devoting extensive time to those issues throughout the G8 meeting. France has shown great leadership on these issues, and as I indicated to President Hollande, when the United States and France, along with our other key allies, make up our minds to stand firm on the side of democracy and freedom and development, that enormous progress can be made.

POLITICAL QUOTES
& SPEECHES

Remarks by President Obama and President Hollande of France after Bilateral Meeting

Oval Office

12:35 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, it is my great pleasure to welcome President Hollande to the United States, to the Oval Office, and this evening to Camp David.

We all watched the remarkable election, and I offered him hardy congratulations and assured him that the friendship and alliance between the United States and France is not only of extraordinary importance to me but is deeply valued by the American people.

I was interested, when I was reading the President’s biography, that he actually spent some time in the United States in his youth, studying American fast food — (laughter) — and although he decided to go into politics, we’ll be interested in his opinions of cheeseburgers in Chicago.  (Laughter.)

I also warned him that now that he’s President, he can no longer ride a scooter in Paris.  (Laughter.)  I know because I’ve tried with the Secret Service and they don’t let me do it.  (Laughter.)

Obviously we have had a lot to talk about.  Much of our discussion centered on the situation in the eurozone.  And President Hollande and I agree that this is an issue of extraordinary importance not only to the people of Europe, but also to the world economy.  And we’re looking forward to a fruitful discussion later this evening and tomorrow with the other G8 leaders about how we can manage a responsible approach to fiscal consolidation that is coupled with a strong growth agenda.

We also discussed the situation in Afghanistan, in anticipation of our NATO meeting in Chicago on Saturday and Sunday.  And we agreed that even as we transition out of a combat phase in Afghanistan that it’s important that we sustain our commitment to helping Afghans build security and continue down the path of development.

We also identified the issues of Iran and Syria, the transition that’s taking place in countries like Egypt and Tunisia as topics of critical importance.  And we’ll be devoting extensive time to those issues throughout the G8 meeting.  France has shown great leadership on these issues, and as I indicated to President Hollande, when the United States and France, along with our other key allies, make up our minds to stand firm on the side of democracy and freedom and development, that enormous progress can be made.

So I’m grateful to President Hollande for being willing to come here so shortly after his election and the formation of his government.  He’s gotten off to a very strong start.  And I hope that he will find my administration and the American people strong partners in delivering prosperity not only to the people of France but helping to provide peace and security throughout the world.

PRESIDENT HOLLANDE:  (As interpreted.)  I wanted my first visit outside Europe to be to the United States in order to meet President Obama.  The Camp David G8 summit as well as the meeting in Chicago was an outstanding opportunity, and I would like to thank President Obama for taking that opportunity to allow us to have a long conversation together.

This is the first time that we meet, and not the last one; there will be many other opportunities for as long as possible.  But it was important for me, on this occasion, to reaffirm the importance of the relationship between France and the United States.

Through history, we lived together some important events.  We’ve had our differences, but we always manage to overcome them because of that strong link between our two countries.  We also share some common causes — freedom, democracy.  This is the reason why our history, our culture go back together a long way, and we managed to go through these differences when necessary and have these ties that mean that when France and the U.S. come together we can make progress.

I discussed the main topics with President Obama, including the economy and the fact that growth must be a priority, at the same time as we put in place some fiscal compacts to improve our finances.  And President Obama was able to acknowledge shared views so that we can progress.

I also — on the Greece — the eurozone situation, and our concerns regarding Greece, and we share the same views, the fact that Greece must stay in the eurozone and that all of us must do what we can to that effect.  There will be elections in Greece and we wanted to send a message to that effect to the Greek people.

Our economies depend on one another.  What happens in Europe has an impact on the U.S., and vice versa.  So we are related, and the more coherent we are, the more efficient we can be.

We also discussed Afghanistan, and I reminded President Obama that I made a promise to the French people to the effect that our combat troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012.  That being said, we will continue to support Afghanistan in a different way, our support will take a different format, and all of that will be done in good understanding with our allies within ISAF.  And so we will continue and comply with our commitment to that country, and supply and support, as I said, in a different way.

We will discuss that further in Chicago, and I’m pretty sure I will find the right means so that our allies can continue with their mission and at the same time I can comply to the promise I made to the French people.

And regarding Iran, we, again, noted that we share views and that we could start negotiations, but that being said, with the required firmness that Iran doesn’t get the nuclear military capability.

Regarding Syria and Arab Spring countries, we talked about the Deauville partnership, and here again I said that we would comply with our commitments.

What was important to say today is that, as to our responsibilities, France and the U.S. are countries that have an impact on the destiny of the world, but we are great in friendship, cohesion and partnership.  France is an independent country and cares about its independence but in old friendship with the United States of America.  So it is with that friendship and with that independence that we can be both the most efficient when it comes to dealing with the current challenges.

And I would like to thank President Obama for the knowledge he has of my life before I took office.  I will say nothing against cheeseburgers, of course.  And as to my own vehicle, the one I used to have until I took office, I hope that I will not have to use it — (laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I just want to remember that cheeseburgers go very well with French fries.  (Laughter.)

END
12:53 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency May 18, 2012: President Barack Obama Announces New Partnership to Fight Global Hunger in Speech at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY
& THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES
& SPEECHES

President Obama Announces New Partnership to Fight Global Hunger

Source: WH, 5-18-12

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food SecurityPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. May 18, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

At today’s Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, President Obama announced that leaders at this weekend’s G8 meeting would devote a special session to the urgent challenge facing nearly 1 billion men, women and children around the world: the injustice of chronic hunger and the need for long-term food security.

G8 and African leaders will launch a major new alliance with private sector partners to reduce hunger and lift 50 million people out of poverty by investing in Africa’s agricultural economy. The partnership builds on the commitment leaders made during the 2009 G8 meeting in L’Aquila to put the fight against hunger at the forefront of global development.

And that fight is about more than delivering aid, President Obama said. True, sustainable development is about promoting economic growth that helps nations develop. “The whole purpose of development is to create the conditions where assistance is no longer needed, where people have the dignity and the pride of being self-sufficient,” he said.

A good place to start this growth, the President explained, is to support growing a agriculture industry. “History teaches us that one of the most effective ways to pull people and entire nations out of poverty is to invest in their agriculture,” he said.

I’ve spoken before about relatives I have in Kenya, who live in villages where hunger is sometimes a reality — despite the fact that African farmers can be some of the hardest-working people on Earth. Most of the world’s unused arable land is in Africa. Fifty years ago, Africa was an exporter of food. There is no reason why Africa should not be feeding itself and exporting food again. There is no reason for that.

So that’s why we’re here. In Africa and around the world, progress isn’t coming fast enough.  And economic growth can’t just be for the lucky few at the top, it’s got to be broad-based, for everybody, and a good place to start is in the agricultural sector. So even as the world responds with food aid in a crisis — as we’ve done in the Horn of Africa — communities can’t go back just to the way things were, vulnerable as before, waiting for the next crisis to happen.

The new alliance announced today brings key players around the shared commitment to reduce hunger by investing in agricultural development. President Obama explained:

Governments, like those in Africa, that are committed to agricultural development and food security, they agree to take the lead — building on their own plans by making tough reforms and attracting investment. Donor countries — including G8 members and international organizations — agree to more closely align our assistance with these country plans. And the private sector — from large multinationals to small African cooperatives, your NGOs and civil society groups — agree to make concrete and continuing commitments as well, so that there is an alignment between all these sectors.

Most importantly, President Obama said, these efforts will help maintain focus on clear goals: helping 50 million men, women and children lift themselves out of poverty over the next decade.

Read more about the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition

Remarks by the President at Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security

Ronald Reagan Building
Washington, D.C.

10:08 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Please have a seat.  Thank you.  Well, good morning, everybody.  Thank you, Catherine Bertini, and Dan Glickman and everyone at the Chicago Council.  We were originally going to convene, along with the G8, in Chicago.  But since we’re not doing this in my hometown, I wanted to bring a little bit of Chicago to Washington.  (Laughter.)  It is wonderful to see all of you.  It is great to see quite a few young people here as well.  And I want to acknowledge a good friend.  We were just talking backstage — he was my inspiration for singing at the Apollo — (laughter) — Bono is here, and it is good to see him.  (Applause.)

Now, this weekend at the G8, we’ll be represented by many of the world’s largest economies.  We face urgent challenges — creating jobs, addressing the situation in the eurozone, sustaining the global economic recovery.  But even as we deal with these issues, I felt it was also important, also critical to focus on the urgent challenge that confronts some 1 billion men, women and children around the world — the injustice of chronic hunger; the need for long-term food security.

So tomorrow at the G8, we’re going to devote a special session to this challenge.  We’re launching a major new partnership to reduce hunger and lift tens of millions of people from poverty.  And we’ll be joined by leaders from across Africa, including the first three nations to undertake this effort and who join us here today — I want to acknowledge them:  Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia — (applause) — President Mills of Ghana — (applause) — and President Kikwete of Tanzania.  (Applause.)  Welcome.

I also want to acknowledge President Yayi of Benin, chair of the African Union — (applause) — which has shown great leadership in this cause.  And two of our leaders in this effort — USAID Administrator — every time I meet him, I realize that I was an underachiever in my 30s — (laughter) — Dr. Raj Shah is here.  (Applause.)  And the CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Daniel Yohannes.  (Applause.)

Now, this partnership is possible because so many leaders in Africa and around the world have made food security a priority.  And that’s why, shortly after I took office, I called for the international community to do its part.  And at the G8 meeting three years ago in L’Aquila, in Italy, that’s exactly what we did — mobilizing more than $22 billion for a global food security initiative.

After decades in which agriculture and nutrition didn’t always get the attention they deserved, we put the fight against global hunger where it should be, which is at the forefront of global development.  And this reflected the new approach to development that I called for when I visited Ghana, hosted by President Mills, and that I unveiled at the last summit on the Millennium Development goals.

It’s rooted in our conviction that true development involves not only delivering aid, but also promoting economic growth — broad-based, inclusive growth that actually helps nations develop and lifts people out of poverty.  The whole purpose of development is to create the conditions where assistance is no longer needed, where people have the dignity and the pride of being self-sufficient.

You see our new approach in our promotion of trade and investment, of building on the outstanding work of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.  You see it in the global partnership to promote open government, which empowers citizens and helps to fuel development, creates the framework, the foundation for economic growth.

You see it in the international effort we’re leading against corruption, including greater transparency so taxpayers receive every dollar they’re due from the extraction of natural resources.  You see it in our Global Health Initiative, which instead of just delivering medicine is also helping to build a stronger health system, delivering better care and saving lives.

And you see our new approach in our food security initiative, Feed the Future.  Instead of simply handing out food, we’ve partnered with countries in pursuit of ambitious goals:  better nutrition to prevent the stunting and the death of millions of children, and raising the incomes of millions of people, most of them farmers.  The good news is we’re on track to meet our goals.

As President, I consider this a moral imperative.  As the wealthiest nation on Earth, I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition, and to partner with others.

So we take pride in the fact that, because of smart investments in nutrition and agriculture and safety nets, millions of people in Kenya and Ethiopia did not need emergency aid in the recent drought.

But when tens of thousands of children die from the agony of starvation, as in Somalia, that sends us a message we’ve still got a lot of work to do.  It’s unacceptable.  It’s an outrage.  It’s an affront to who we are.

So food security is a moral imperative, but it’s also an economic imperative.  History teaches us that one of the most effective ways to pull people and entire nations out of poverty is to invest in their agriculture.  And as we’ve seen from Latin America to Africa to Asia, a growing middle class also means growing markets, including more customers for American exports that support American jobs.  So we have a self interest in this.

It’s a moral imperative, it’s an economic imperative, and it is a security imperative.  For we’ve seen how spikes in food prices can plunge millions into poverty, which, in turn, can spark riots that cost lives, and can lead to instability.  And this danger will only grow if a surging global population isn’t matched by surging food production.  So reducing malnutrition and hunger around the world advances international peace and security — and that includes the national security of the United States.

And perhaps nowhere do we see this link more vividly than in Africa.  On the one hand, we see Africa as an emerging market.  African economies are some of the fastest growing in the world.  We see a surge in foreign investment.  We see a growing middle class; hundreds of millions of people connected by mobile phones; more young Africans online than ever before.  There’s hope and some optimism.  And all of this has yielded impressive progress — for the first time ever, a decline in extreme poverty in Africa; an increase in crop yields; a dramatic drop in child deaths.  That’s the good news, and in part it’s due to some of the work of the people in this room.

On the other hand, we see an Africa that still faces huge hurdles:  stark inequalities; most Africans still living on less than $2 a day; climate change that increases the risk of drought and famine.  All of which perpetuates stubborn barriers in agriculture, in the agricultural sector — from bottlenecks in infrastructure that prevent food from getting to market, to the lack of credit, especially for small farmers, most of whom are women.

I’ve spoken before about relatives I have in Kenya, who live in villages where hunger is sometimes a reality — despite the fact that African farmers can be some of the hardest-working people on Earth.  Most of the world’s unused arable land is in Africa.  Fifty years ago, Africa was an exporter of food.  There is no reason why Africa should not be feeding itself and exporting food again.  There is no reason for that.  (Applause.)

So that’s why we’re here.  In Africa and around the world, progress isn’t coming fast enough.  And economic growth can’t just be for the lucky few at the top, it’s got to be broad-based, for everybody, and a good place to start is in the agricultural sector.  So even as the world responds with food aid in a crisis — as we’ve done in the Horn of Africa — communities can’t go back just to the way things were, vulnerable as before, waiting for the next crisis to happen.  Development has to be sustainable, and as an international community, we have to do better.

So here at the G8, we’re going to build on the progress we’ve made so far.  Today, I can announce a new global effort we’re calling a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.  And to get the job done we’re bringing together all the key players around a shared commitment.  Let me describe it.

Governments, like those in Africa, that are committed to agricultural development and food security, they agree to take the lead — building on their own plans by making tough reforms and attracting investment.  Donor countries — including G8 members and international organizations — agree to more closely align our assistance with these country plans.  And the private sector — from large multinationals to small African cooperatives, your NGOs and civil society groups — agree to make concrete and continuing commitments as well, so that there is an alignment between all these sectors.

Now, I know some have asked, in a time of austerity, whether this New Alliance is just a way for governments to shift the burden onto somebody else.  I want to be clear:  The answer is no.  As President, I can assure you that the United States will continue to meet our responsibilities, so that even in these tough fiscal times, we will continue to make historic investments in development.  And, by the way, we’re going to be working to end hunger right here in the United States as well.  (Applause.)  That will continue to be a priority.

We’ll continue to be the leader in times of crisis, as we’ve done as the single largest donor of aid in the Horn of Africa, and as we focus on the drought in the Sahel.  That’s why I’ve proposed to continue increasing funds for food security.  (Applause.)  So I want to be clear:  The United States will remain a global leader in development in partnership with you.  And we will continue to make available food — or emergency aid.  That will not change.  But what we do want to partner with you on is a strategy so that emergency aid becomes less and less relevant as a consequence of greater and greater sustainability within these own countries.

That’s how development is supposed to work.  That’s what I mean by a new approach that challenges more nations, more organizations, more companies, more NGOs, challenges individuals — some of the young people who are here — to step up and play a role — because government cannot and should not do this alone.  This has to be all hands on deck.

And that’s the essence of this New Alliance.  So G8 nations will pledge to honor the commitments we made in L’Aquila.  We must do what we say; no empty promises.  And at the same time, we’ll deliver the assistance to launch this new effort.  Moreover, we’re committing to replenish the very successful Global Agricultural and Food Security Program.  (Applause.)  That’s an important part of this overall effort.

Next, we’re going to mobilize more private capital.  Today, I can announce that 45 companies — from major international corporations to African companies and cooperatives — have pledged to invest more than $3 billion to kick off this effort.  (Applause.)  And we’re also going to fast-track new agricultural projects so they reach those in need even quicker.

Third, we’re going to speed up the development and delivery of innovation — better seeds, better storage — that unleash huge leaps in food production.  And we’re going to tap that mobile phone revolution in Africa so that more data on agriculture — whether it’s satellite imagery or weather forecasts or market prices — are put in the hands of farmers so they know where to plant and when to plant and when to sell.

Fourth, we’re joining with the World Bank and other partners to better understand and manage the risks that come with changing food prices and a changing climate — because a change in prices or a single bad season should not plunge a family, a community or a region into crisis.

And finally, we’re going to keep focusing on nutrition, especially for young children, because we know the effects of poor nutrition can last a lifetime — it’s harder to learn, it’s harder to earn a living.  When there is good nutrition, especially in those thousand days during pregnancy up to the child’s second birthday, it means healthier lives for that child and that mother.  And it’s the smart thing to do because better nutrition means lower health care costs and it means less need for assistance later on.

That’s what we’re going to do.  We’re going to sustain the commitments we made three years ago, and we’re going to speed things up.  And we’re starting with these three countries — Tanzania, Ghana and Ethiopia — precisely because of their record in improving agriculture and food security.

But this is just the beginning.  In the coming months, we’ll expand to six countries.  We’ll welcome other countries that are committed to making tough reforms.  We’ll welcome more companies that are willing to invest.  We’re going to hold ourselves accountable; we’ll measure results.  And we’ll stay focused on clear goals:  boosting farmers’ incomes, and over the next decade, helping 50 million men, women and children lift themselves out of poverty.  (Applause.)

And I know there are going to be skeptics — there always are.  We see heartbreaking images — fields turned to dust, babies with distended bellies — and we say it’s hopeless, and some places are condemned to perpetual poverty and hunger.  But the people in this room disagree.  I think most of the American people disagree.  Anyone who claims great change is impossible, I say look at the extraordinary successes in development.

Look at the Green Revolution, which pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.  (Applause.)  Look at microfinance, which has empowered so many rural poor — something my mother was involved with.  Look at the huge expansion of education, especially for girls.  Look at the progress we’ve made with vaccines — from smallpox to measles to pneumonia to diarrhea — which have saved the lives of hundreds of millions.  And of course, look at the global fight against HIV/AIDS, which has brought us to the point where we can imagine what was once unthinkable — and that is the real possibility of an AIDS-free generation.  (Applause.)

Moreover, we are already making progress in this area right now.  In Rwanda, farmers are selling more coffee and lifting their families out of poverty.  In Haiti, some farmers have more than doubled their yields.  In Bangladesh, in the poorest region, they’ve had their first-ever surplus of rice.  There are millions of farmers and families whose lives are being transformed right now because of some of the strategies that we’re talking about.  And that includes a farmer in Ethiopia who got a new loan, increased production, hired more workers.  And he said, “This salary changed my life.  My kids can now go to school.”

And we start getting the wheel turning in the direction of progress.  We can do this.  We’re already doing it.  We just need to bring it all together.  We can unleash the change that reduces hunger and malnutrition.  We can spark the kind of economic growth that lifts people and nations out of poverty.  This is the new commitment that we’re making.  And I pledge to you today that this will remain a priority as long as I am United States President.  Thank very much.  (Applause.)  God bless you.  Thank you.  God bless America.

END
10:29 A.M. EDT

White House Recap May 12-18, 2012: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Honors Barnard Graduates, Fallen Law Enforcement Officials, LA Galaxy — Awards Medal of Honor & Discussed Congress Economic “To-Do-List”

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: MAY 12-18, 2012

This week, the President discussed his plan to help responsible homeowners, honored law enforcement officers, awarded the Medal of Honor and continued to call on Congress to act on a “To Do List”

West Wing Week

Weekly Wrap Up: Courage and Sacrifice

Source: WH, 5-18-12

Fight for Your Seat: President Obama traveled to New York City to deliver his first commencement address of the year at Barnard College, one of the famous “Seven Sisters” private female liberal arts colleges. HIs first piece advice to the graduates was: “Don’t just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table.”

Celebrating Soccer Champions: On Tuesday, President Obama welcomed the L.A. Galaxy to the White House to congratulate the team on their 2011 Major League Soccer Cup Championship. The star-studded team won a tough championship match after going undefeated at home all season long, and as President Obama noted, “You combined star power, hard work; it paid off.”

What Comes with the Badge: President Obama visited the U.S. Capitol for a ceremony where he paid tribute to law enforcement officials who were killed in the line of duty in the previous year. “Every American who wears the badge knows the burdens that come with it – the long hours and the stress; the knowledge that just about any moment could be a matter of life or death. You carry these burdens so the rest of us don’t have to,” the President said, acknowledging the bravery and sacrifice of all of those who serve as law enforcement officers across our country.

Above and Beyond: On Wednesday, President Obama awarded a Medal of Honor for valor above and beyond the call of duty to Leslie H. Sabo, Jr., an Army Specialist who died while serving in Cambodia in 1970. In honoring Sabo, who received the award posthumously, President Obama also paid tribute to those who served alongside him in the Vietnam era: “This medal is bestowed on a single soldier for his single courage. But it speaks to the service of an entire generation, and to the sacrifice of so many military families.”

Spruce Street at Taylor Gourmet: President Obama joined Small Business Administrator Karen Mills at Taylor Gourmet, a quickly expanding hoagie shop in Washington, D.C. for a roundtable with the business’ owners. President Obama discussed his To-Do List for Congress which includes passing legislation to help hard working small business owners create jobs by giving them a tax credit for new hires and tax relief for investments they make.

Fighting Global Hunger: At Friday’s Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, President Obama announced that leaders at the G8 meeting this weekend at Camp David would devote a special session to the chronic hunger facing nearly 1 billion people around the world. G8 and African leaders will launch a major new alliance with private sector partners with a clear goal of reducing hunger and lifting 50 million people out of poverty by investing in Africa’s agricultural economy.

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