Political Headlines April 4, 2013: President Barack Obama at California Fundraiser: Enacting Gun Laws Is ‘Tougher’ Than Immigration Reform

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama: Enacting Gun Laws Is ‘Tougher’ Than Immigration Reform

Source: ABC News Radio, 4-4-13

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages

Rounding out his two-day fundraising swing in California on Thursday, President Obama told donors that passing new gun measures will be a “tougher” process than achieving immigration reform.

“I am very optimistic that we get immigration reform done in the next few months.  And the reason I’m optimistic is because people spoke out through the ballot box, and that’s breaking gridlock,” Obama told about 30 donors gathered at a fundraiser in Atherton, Calif., Thursday. “It’s going to be tougher to get better gun legislation to reduce gun violence through the Senate and the House that so many of us I think want to see, particularly after the tragedy in Newtown.  But I still think it can get done if people are activated and involved.”…READ MORE

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Full Text Obama Presidency April 4, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speeches at DNC Events in Atherton, California — Calls Kamala Harris ‘Best-Looking’ Attorney General

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at a DNC Event — Atherton, CA

Source: WH, 4-4-13

Private Residence
Atherton, California

12:12 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) It is good to be back in California.

AUDIENCE: It’s good to have you! (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Somebody said — somebody told me, they were in the photo line, they said, we’re glad you could join our state. (Laughter.) They made it sound like a health club or something. (Laughter.) But I appreciate that you allowed me to join — (laughter) — because it is obviously a spectacular place and we’ve got so many good friends here, and some of you I see out there worked tirelessly dating back to when people could not pronounce my name. (Laughter.) And so I’m grateful to all of you.

First of all, though, I want to give a special acknowledgement to John and Marcia for the incredible job they’ve done and their great hospitality. Thank you so much. (Applause.) And I must say that if you had a cute baby competition, their granddaughter would have to be an entry. (Laughter.) And I got to say, I might have to pick her, because she is adorable and did not drool on my suit when I grabbed her. (Laughter.) So I’m grateful. I’m grateful to her for that.

We’ve got some elected officials who are doing incredible work — great friends. First of all, somebody who works tirelessly on behalf of California every day, but also works on behalf of working people and makes sure that we’ve got a more inclusive America — a good friend of mine, somebody who you guys should be very proud of, Congressman Mike Honda is here. Where is Mike? (Applause.) He is around here somewhere. There he is. Yes, I mean, he’s not like a real tall guy, but he’s a great guy. (Laughter.)

Second of all, you have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake. She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country — Kamala Harris is here. (Applause.) It’s true. Come on. (Laughter.) And she is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years.

And, finally, somebody who is not yet probably as well known on the national scene but is certainly well known in all of us who worked on my campaign this last time out. He did incredible work, could not have been more effective, and has now taken on what can sometimes be a thankless job of being the DNC finance chair — Henry Muñoz is here. Can everybody please give Henry Muñoz a big round of applause. (Applause.)

So my election is over and you thought you wouldn’t have to see me again at these fundraisers. (Laughter.) And a close friend of mine, Abner Mikva, who was White House counsel — he was a long-time congressman from the Chicago area — he used to say that being friends with a politician is like perpetually having a child in college. (Laughter.) It’s like every few months you have to write this check and you’re thinking when is it going to be over. With elected officials, it’s never over.

But the reason I’m here is not for me. The reason I’m here is because the country still needs you. We have, as John indicated, done some work that I’m very, very proud of over the last four years. We took an economy that was about to go into a great depression and we were able to yank it out and put us back on a path towards growth and putting people back to work. We were able to make sure that in the process we rebuilt roads and bridges and a smarter infrastructure all across the country; and invested in clean energy; and made sure that schools got the kinds of Internet connections that they needed; and invested in basic science and research — all of which will pay dividends for years and years to come.

We said that in a country as wealthy as ours, nobody should go bankrupt just because they got sick. And, already, millions of people are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act. And, by next year, we will know that millions of people all across the country who previously did not have health insurance will have it, including folks with preexisting conditions, which will make everybody a little bit more secure. (Applause.)

We expanded access to college by expanding our student loan programs. We are in the process of reforming our schools to make sure that every child gets a fair shot in life. We ended “don’t ask, don’t tell” — laying the groundwork to make sure that this was a country where you were treated fairly and equally no matter who you love. (Applause.)

We expanded national service. We doubled fuel efficiency on cars. We doubled the production of wind and solar energy. We made sure that the Violence Against Women Act was resigned and that it provided even greater protection for women all across this country. (Applause.) We ended one war, as promised. We’re in the process of ending another, and at the same time have been able to keep the American people safe.
And so I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done. But we’ve got a lot more work to do. We all know that. This country is the greatest nation on Earth, but it can be even greater. And my main message here today is that America’s greatness will not result simply from who you elect to office; it’s going to depend on you, as citizens, and how badly you want it.

During the State of the Union speech, as well as my inauguration speech, I talked about citizenship. And this is a word that I spend a lot of time thinking about these days, partly because my background, my orientation, I came into politics believing that politics works best when people are involved. I’ve never believed that more than I do now, in my second term as President, that the idea of citizenship is not just that you vote, it’s not just that you write a check where you can to support a candidate. It’s this notion, fundamental to who we are, that we have responsibilities to ourselves and our families, but we also have obligations to our neighborhood, our community, our cities, our states, and ultimately the nation and the next generation.

And the only way that this country moves forward is when we, the people, collectively, make it our business to meet the challenges of our time. And we know what those challenges are. And we know we’ve got to do better.

Now, in the next couple of months, we’ve got the opportunity to make some very significant changes. Number one, I believe that we can get comprehensive immigration reform passed — (applause) — and that is going to mean that America can continue to be a nation of laws, but also a nation of immigrants, and attract the best and the brightest from all around the world. And if we push hard and we stay focused, we’ve got the opportunity to get this done over the next couple of months.

I believe that we have a chance to, after 30 years, frankly, of doing almost nothing, to reduce gun violence in our society. (Applause.) And it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be tough, but I think we’ve got a chance to get some stuff done on that.

Now, one of the things that I want to be very clear on is that this year, next year, and for the next four years that I’m in office, I am always going to be seeking, wherever I can, bipartisan solutions. And I intend to continue to reach out to Republicans because I genuinely believe that the politics that you see in Washington isn’t representative of America; that most people actually have common sense, and most folks think cooperation and occasional compromise is part of life. And I also think that we have to govern, not simply politick.

And so, whether it’s on immigration reform or the budget or any of these issues, I will continue to do everything I can to reach out to my friends on the other side of the aisle. And look, I believe that they love their kids and this country just as much as we do, and although we may have some very fundamental disagreements about how to get there, I don’t think we’ve got a disagreement about what we need to be as a nation.

Having said that, though, there are still some really big arguments that we’re having in Washington, and I believe that Democrats represent those values that will best advance the interests of middle-class families and everybody who is willing to work hard to get into the middle class; that will grow this economy in a broad-based way, and that will lay the foundation for prosperity for generations to come.

And you believe that, too. That’s why you’re here. In order for us to do that, you’re going to have to stay involved. Think about some of the things I spoke about during the State of the Union address: making sure that every child in America has outstanding, high-quality, early childhood education. We know that there’s nothing more important to a child’s success than those early years. And if we do that right, not only are we going to see better performance in our schools, we’re going to see better performance in our economy. And we can do it. We can afford to do it.

But in order for us to make that happen, we’re going to have to have an active, motivated, Democratic national party. People here in this area care deeply about issues of energy and climate change. And I think that the science is indisputable, and this is an obligation we owe to future generations. And as I said, we’ve already done a lot to reduce our carbon footprint and to make our economy more energy efficient. But if we’re going to do more, then we’ve got to make sure that we’re active and involved, and helping to educate our friends and our neighbors and our coworkers about why this is important and why there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth; that, in fact, if we do this right, the energy sources of the future, the clean energy sources of the future can be an engine for economic growth for decades and decades to come.

When it comes to our economy — making sure that we’re investing in basic research and science. This is the epicenter of innovation in this nation. Some of you saw, a couple of days ago, I announced a new BRAIN Initiative that will allow us to crack the code and map — (applause) — what this incredible gray matter between our ears, one of the greatest mysteries there is, what’s causing things like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and to not just provide cures but also to help generate entire new industries that can put people to work in this region and around the country.

In order for us to make sure that we’re investing sufficiently in basic science and research, you’re going to have to be involved. You have to push. You can’t just wait for it to happen, because there are going to be competing interests and folks who want to spend those resources in a different way.

When it comes to our budget, I actually think that we can stabilize our finances, reduce our debt, reduce our deficit in a prudent, balanced way. But we’ve got the other side insisting that somehow we can cut our way to prosperity. I disagree with that. I will take that case to the American people. But for me to be successful in resolving that argument in a way that allows us to keep growing and keep investing, I’m going to need your help.

Making sure that we’re providing ladders of opportunity in communities all across the country that have been left behind — and, in some cases, have been behind for decades — so that we’re not just investing in education, but also making sure that we’re providing transportation assistance and tax credits so that impoverished communities can be part of this global economy. That will make us all stronger. I can’t do that unless I have your help.

And for us to continue to make progress so that this is a society that is more just and more equal and more inclusive — we’ve made remarkable progress over these last few years, but that’s not because of what started in Washington, it’s because of what happened in communities all across the country.

I was mentioning to people I had a chance to see an early screening of this new movie called “42”; it’s about Jackie Robinson. And I look around the room — young people — (laughter) — kind of vaguely know, yes, Jackie Robinson — (laughter) — first African American baseball player. His widow was there, Rachel Robinson, who’s gorgeous and 90, but looks better than I do — (laughter) — and could not be more gracious.

And to sit there in a movie theater watching what happened in her lifetime, and to know that because of the decisions and courage of Jackie Robison and Branch Rickey, and all the other path breakers, that we now have a country that is fairer and better for it is a reminder of how change happens in this country. It doesn’t happen all at once. It doesn’t happen in one fell swoop. It doesn’t happen because a President gives a speech. It happens because a whole bunch of people out there, day in and day out, are making choices and decisions about whether we’re going to be fair or less fair; whether we’re going to be generous or less generous; whether we are going to be inclusive or less inclusive. And that changing of our hearts and our minds ultimately translates itself into politics, but it begins with citizens. It begins with you.

And if the Democratic Party stands for anything, then it has to stand for that basic proposition that not only do we want an economy where if you work hard, you can make it if you try — no matter where you come from, what you look like, who you love — but also that the way to get there is by giving everybody a voice and making sure everybody is involved and everybody is included. If we stand for anything as Democrats, that’s got to be what we stand for.

And so the DNC is an important part of that overall process. And the fact that you are here, the fact that John and Marcia were willing to open up their home like this gives me confidence that, in fact, we will be able to sustain these efforts. And it has to be sustained beyond elections. You can’t just wait until a presidential election to do this. It’s all those days in between that are going to determine whether or not we bring about the changes that we so desperately believe in.

So to all of you, I want to say thank you. But understand this is just a beginning, it’s not an end. You are going to be called on to do more work. You are going to be called on to get more engaged and more involved. And if you ever have any doubts as to why you’re doing it, then you have to look at John and Marcia’s grandbaby, or that young man who’s falling asleep because I’ve been talking too long. (Laughter.) And you will remember that, ultimately, the only thing that matters is whether or not we’re leaving behind a country that’s a little bit better than the one we founded for them. That’s why we do what we do. That’s why I do what I do — for Malia and Sasha, and all the Malias and Sashas out there, I want to make sure we’re doing right by them.

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

END
12:31 P.M. PDT

 

Remarks by the President at a DNC Event — Atherton, CA

Source: WH, 4-4-13

Private Residence
Atherton, California

10:28 A.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Well, it is wonderful to see all of you. This is an intimate group. What I want to do is mostly have a conversation. But, first of all, obviously I want to thank Liz and Mark for their incredible hospitality. We couldn’t be more appreciative. And I want to thank all of you for being here today.

A lot of you — in fact, almost everybody here I’ve known, have supported me. Some of you were involved in my first campaign when nobody could pronounce my name. (Laughter.) And you stuck with me through thick and thin, and I just want to say how much I appreciate all of you for taking the time.

Some people have been asking me — well, what’s different about the second term? And I say, well, for one thing, I’m not raising money for myself, and that’s good. (Laughter.) For another thing, the girls are getting old enough now where they don’t want to spend time with us on the weekends. (Laughter.) They have sleepovers and parties and sports, and all that stuff. I don’t know if you guys are doing the same thing to your parents, but it’s starting to happen.

But I think the most important thing is that when you don’t have another race to run, all you’re really thinking about it is how do I leave a legacy, not simply for the next President, but for the next generation that makes America stronger; that helps assure our children can compete with an ever-changing world; that we are solving what I think is one of the core challenges we face as a generation, and that is making sure that we have a strong, growing middle class and ladders of opportunity for everybody who is willing to work to get into that middle class; that we continue to be innovative; that we address some of our core environmental challenges, particularly climate change, to make sure that the planet we leave behind is one that our children can thrive in.

So you end up taking the long view on things. And you also feel a great urgency because you know you don’t have a lot of time. And so the main message I want to deliver here today is that I could not be prouder of the track record that we’ve put together over the last four years and two months, whether it was saving an economy from a great depression; doubling fuel efficiency standards on cars; expanding access to college for the millions of young people; making sure that nobody in this country has to go bankrupt because they get sick; re-upping the law preventing violence against women; making sure that we have the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which I think has laid the groundwork for further progress when it comes to LGBT rights.

On so many issues, we’ve made progress. But we’ve got so much more work to do. And I laid out what that vision might look like during both the inauguration speech and in the State of the Union. I want to make sure that we’ve got the best education system in the world and that starts young. And so we’ve given all the research that we have. Expanding our investment in childhood education can make all the difference in the world, and will pay enormous dividends for a very, very long time.

I want to make sure that we’re rebuilding this country, our infrastructure. We’ve got $2 trillion in deferred maintenance. We could be putting people back to work right now, and not only improving our current economic growth, but laying the foundation for economic growth for many years to come. Many of you are aware that I am a big proponent of investments in science and research, and obviously, this entire region has thrived precisely because it has been the epicenter of innovation. And that requires us putting money into research in biomedicine, in nanoscience. Our recent initiative around the brain and being able to map that and crack the code potentially not only can help us cure things like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, but can generate entire new industries and put people back to work and be the next great challenge for the American economy.

And I believe that we’ve got to get a handle on our energy policy so that we are growing and we are productive, but we are not simply investing in the energy sources of the past; we’re also investing in the energy sources of the future. We’ve doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars, but we’ve also had a chance to double our production in solar and wind and biofuels. We can continue to make progress on that front. We can continue to make sure that electric cars and other new technologies for transportation are built here in the United States of America and not someplace else.

We can make sure that our buildings, our schools, our hospitals are more efficient. If we were able to achieve the same efficiencies that Japan already has achieved using existing technologies, we’d cut our power utilization by 15, 20 percent — which would have enormous ramifications in bringing down our carbon footprint.

And we can do all this without spending massive amounts of money. The truth is, is that our fiscal situation has improved significantly since I first came into office, but we still have a long way to go. The way for us to do it intelligently is the kind of balanced approach I’ve talked about in the past: making sure that everybody is doing their fair share; making sure that those of us in this room and, frankly, in this whole town probably — (laughter) — recognizes the incredible blessings that we’ve been given and make sure that we’re willing to invest back in the next generation, and also making sure that our money is wisely spent.

We still waste money in all kinds of things that don’t work, and we have the capacity to shift those dollars into things that do work and that will grow our economy. And we can reduce our deficit, stabilize our debt, and do so without sacrificing the kinds of investments that are going to be required to grow.

Now, the last point I’ll make is just politics. Our policies, the ones that we prevented — or the ones that we’ve presented, traditionally, would be considered pretty bipartisan. There’s nothing particularly Democratic about road building or basic science or environmental protection. Teddy Roosevelt started the conservation movement. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President, was pretty big on building infrastructure and investing in things like science and research.

Unfortunately, we continue to still have some of that gridlock in Washington. Part of it is fed by changes in information and communications that amplify conflict and extremes as opposed to trying to bring people together. I know it’s a great source of frustration for the American people. I assure you it’s a source of frustration for me as well. (Laughter.)

But what I believed when I was running for this office back in 2007-2008, what I believed when I was running for a second term is what I still believe now — and that is this country is not as divided as our politics would suggest. And the only way we break through this gridlock is when people’s voices are heard and people are engaged and involved. I am very optimistic that we get immigration reform done in the next few months. And the reason I’m optimistic is because people spoke out through the ballot box, and that’s breaking gridlock.

It’s going to be tougher to get better gun legislation to reduce gun violence through the Senate and the House that so many of us I think want to see, particularly after the tragedy in Newtown. But I still think it can get done if people are activated and involved.

And so, on every front, on every issue that all of you care about, making sure that we can provide good information to the American people, engage them, inform them; make sure that they are embracing a form of citizenship that goes beyond just voting, but involves understanding what’s at stake and talking to their neighbors, talking to their coworkers, talking to their friends, writing to their members of Congress, getting organized, getting mobilized — all that ends up being really the critical ingredient and the constant dynamic change and improvement that has characterized this country for so long.

And your involvement with the DNC helps us do that. It will help us register voters. It will help us make sure that they understand what’s at stake in all of these issues. It’s hugely important. It’s not always glamorous. It’s not always sexy. But it’s really what ends up driving our ability to make policy and to deliver for the young people who are here today.

So, again, I want to thank Liz and Mark for making this spectacular home available to us. And I want to thank all of you for not only what you’ve done in the past on my behalf, but more importantly what you’re continuing to do on behalf of this country as a whole.

Thank you, so much. I appreciate it. (Applause.)

END
10:39 A.M. PDT

Political Headlines February 7, 2013: House of Representatives Democrats Unveil Plan to Address Gun Control & Violence

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

House Dems Unveil Plan to Address Gun Violence

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-7-13

House Democrats unveiled its task force’s plan to crack down on gun violence Thursday, calling on Congress to enact an assault weapons ban, outlaw high-capacity assault magazines, and put in place universal background checks for every firearm sale.

“Every person who holds public office takes that oath to protect and defend,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “It is our first responsibility.”

The plan, which consists of 15 proposals, largely mirrors the steps suggested by President Obama and Vice President Biden last month….READ MORE

Political Headlines January 19, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Urging Congress to Act on Stopping Gun Violence

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama’s Weekly Address: Urging Congress to Act on Stopping Gun Violence

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-19-13

President Obama is enlisting the public’s help to urge lawmakers to act on his proposals to curb gun violence, telling Americans “it’s got to be up to you” to make a difference.

Earlier this week, Obama unveiled his sweeping plan to halt gun violence in America through a comprehensive package of legislation and executive actions. The president is calling for a ban on some types of semiautomatic assault rifles, mandatory background checks for all gun purchases, a ban on high-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds, and cracking down on illicit weapons trafficking.

“None of this will be easy,” the president says in his weekly address. “Already, we’re seeing pundits, politicians, and special-interest lobbyists calling any attempt at commonsense reform an all-out assault on liberty – not because that’s true, but because that’s how they get higher ratings and make more money.  And behind the scenes, they’re doing everything they can to protect the status quo.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines January 16, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Unveils Sweeping Plan to Curb Gun Violence

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama Unveils Sweeping Plan to Curb Gun Violence

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-16-13

The White House

[ Full Transcript Of President Obama’s Remarks On Gun Violence ]

Flanked by four children from across the country, President Obama on Wednesday unveiled a sweeping plan to curb gun violence in America through an extensive package of legislation and executive actions not seen since the 1960s.

Obama is asking Congress to implement mandatory background checks for all gun purchases, not just from licensed dealers; reinstate a ban on some assault-style weapons; ban high-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds; and crack down on illicit weapons trafficking….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 16, 2013: President Barack Obama Announces Gun Violence Reduction Executive Actions

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Gun Violence Reduction Executive Actions

Today, the President is announcing that he and the Administration will:

  1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
  2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
  3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
  4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
  5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
  6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
  7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
  8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
  9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
  10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
  11. Nominate an ATF director.
  12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
  13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
  14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
  15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
  16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
  17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
  18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
  19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
  20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
  21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
  22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
  23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.
  24. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
  25. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
  26. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
  27. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

Full Text Obama Presidency January 16, 2013: Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama’s Speeches Unveiling Gun Laws Transcript

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Full Transcript of Biden and Obama’s Remarks on Gun Laws

Source: NYT, 1-16-13

Obama Unveils Plan for Gun Laws: President Obama outlined his proposals to reduce gun violence in the United States, urging Congress to approve expanded background checks, a ban on assault weapons and other restrictions.

The following is the complete transcript of President Obama’s remarks on gun laws on Wednesday in Washington. (Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service.)

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: Please — please be seated. Thank you.

Before — before I begin today, let me say to the families of the innocents who were murdered 33 days ago, our heart — our heart goes out to you. And you show incredible courage, incredible courage being here. And the president and I are going to do everything in our power to — to honor the memory of your children and your wives with — with the work we take up here today.

It’s been 33 days since the nation’s heart was broken by the horrific, senseless violence that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 20 — 20 beautiful first-graders gunned down in a place that’s supposed to be their second sanctuary; six — six members of the staff killed trying to save those children.

It’s literally been hard for the nation to comprehend, hard for the nation to fathom.

And I know for the families who are here, time is not measured in days but it’s measured in minutes, in seconds since you received that news: another minute without your daughter, another minute without your son, another minute without your wife, another minute without your mom.

I want to personally thank Chris and Lynn McDonnell, who lost a beautiful daughter, Grace, and the other parents who I had a chance to speak to for their suggestions for — again, just for their — the courage of all of you to — to be here today. I — I admire — I admire the grace and the resolve that you all are showing.

And I must say I’ve been deeply affected by your faith as well, and the president and I are going to do everything to try to match the resolve you’ve demonstrated.

No one can know for certain if this senseless act could have been prevented, but we all know we have a moral obligation — a moral obligation to do everything in our power to diminish the prospect that something like this could happen again.

As the president knows, I’ve worked in this field a long time in the United States Senate, having chaired a committee that had jurisdiction over these issues of guns and crime, and having drafted the first gun violence legislation — the last gun violence legislation, I should say, and I have no illusions about we’re up against — what we’re up against or how hard the task is in front of us.

But I also have never seen a nation’s conscience so shaken by what happened at Sandy Hook. The world has changed, and it’s demanding action.

It’s in this context that the president asked me to put together, along with Cabinet members, a set of recommendations about how we should proceed to meet that moral obligation we have. And toward that end, the Cabinet members and I sat down with 229 groups, not just individuals, representing groups — 229 groups from law enforcement agencies to public health officials to gun officials to gun advocacy groups to sportsmen and hunters and religious leaders. And I’ve spoken with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, had extensive conversation with mayors and governors and county officials.

And the recommendations we provided to the president on Monday call for executive actions he could sign, legislation he could call for and long-term research that should be undertaken. They’re based on the emerging consensus we heard from all the groups with whom we spoke, including some of you who were the victims of this godawful occurrence, ways to keep guns out of the wrong hands as well as ways to take comprehensive action to prevent violence in the first place. We should do as much as we can as quickly as we can, and we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

So some of what you will hear from the president will happen immediately. Some will take some time. But we have begun. And we are starting here today, and we’re resolved to continue this fight.

During the meetings that we held, we met with a young man who’s here today — I think Colin Goddard is here. Where are you, Colin? Colin was one of the survivors of the — the Virginia Tech massacre.

He was in the classroom. He calls himself one of the lucky seven. And — and he’ll tell you he was shot four times on that day and he has three bullets that are still inside him.

And when I asked Colin about what he thought we should be doing, he said that — he said, I’m not here because of what happened to me; I’m here because of — what happened to me keeps happening to other people and we have to do something about it. Colin, we will. Colin, I promise you we will.

This is our intention. We must do what we can now. And there’s no person who is more committed to acting on this moral obligation we have than the president of the United States of America.

Ladies and gentlemen, President Barack Obama.

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

Good afternoon, everybody. Let me begin by thanking our vice president, Joe Biden, for your dedication, Joe, to this issue, for bringing so many different voices to the table, because while reducing gun violence is a complicated challenge, protecting our children from harm shouldn’t be a divisive one.

Now, over the month since the tragedy in Newtown, we’ve heard from so many, and obviously none have affected us more than the families of those gorgeous children and their teachers and guardians who — who were lost. And so we’re grateful to all of you for taking the time to be here and recognizing that we honor their memories in part by doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again.

But we also heard from some unexpected people. In particular, I started getting a lot of letters from kids. Four of them are here today: Grant Fritz (ph), Julia Stokes (ph), Hena Zeha (ph) and Teja Goode (ph). They’re pretty representative of some of the messages that I got. These are some pretty smart letters from some pretty smart young people.

Hena (ph), a third-grader — you can go ahead and wave, Hena (ph) — that’s you — (laughter) — Hena (ph) wrote, I feel terrible for the parents who lost their children. I love my country, and I want everybody to be happy and safe.

And then Grant (sp) — go ahead and wave, Grant (sp) — (laughter) — Grant (sp) said, I think there should be some changes. We should learn from what happened at Sandy Hook. I feel really bad.

And then Julia (sp) said — Julia (sp), where are you — there you go — I’m not scared for my safety; I’m scared for others. I have four brothers and sisters, and I know I would not be able to bear the thought of losing any of them.

And these are our kids. This is what they’re thinking about.

And so what we should be thinking about is our responsibility to care for them and shield them from harm and give them the tools they need to grow up and do everything that they’re capable of doing, not just to pursue their own dreams but to help build this country. This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe.

This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.

And that’s why last month I asked Joe to lead an effort, along with members of my Cabinet, to come up with some concrete steps we can take right now to keep our children safe, to help prevent mass shootings, to reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country.

And we can’t put this off any longer. Just last Thursday, as TV networks were covering one of Joe’s meetings on this topic, news broke of another school shooting, this one in California. In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun — 900 in the past month. And every day we wait, that number will keep growing.

So I’m putting forward a specific set of proposals based on the work of Joe’s task force. And in the days ahead I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality, because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.

And I’m going to do my part. As soon as I’m finished speaking here, I will sit at that desk and I will sign a directive giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health community some of the tools they need to help reduce gun violence. We will make it easier to keep guns out of the hands of criminals by strengthening the background check system. We will help schools hire more resource officers, if they want them, and develop emergency preparedness plans. We will make sure mental health professionals know their options for reporting threats of violence, even as we acknowledge that someone with a mental illness is far more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator.

And while year after year those who oppose even modest gun safety measures have threatened to de-fund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence, I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it. And Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds. We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.

Now, these are a few of the 23 executive actions that I’m announcing today, but as important as these steps are, they are in no way a substitute for action from members of Congress. To make a real and lasting difference, Congress too must act, and Congress must act soon. And I’m calling on Congress to pass some very specific proposals right away.

First, it’s time for Congress to require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun.

(Applause.) The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks, and over the last 14 years, that’s kept 1.5 million of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun. But it’s hard to enforce that law when as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check. That’s not safe; that’s not smart; that’s not fair to responsible gun buyers or sellers.

If you want to buy a gun, whether it’s from a licensed dealer or a private seller, you should at least have to show you are not a felon or somebody legally prohibited from buying one. This is common sense. And an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with us on the need for universal background checks, including more than 70 percent of the National Rifle Association’s members, according to one survey. So there’s no reason we can’t do this.

Second, Congress should restore a ban on military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines. (Applause.) The type of assault rifle used in Aurora, for example, when paired with high- capacity magazines, has one purpose: to pump out as many bullets as possible as quickly as possible, to do as much damage using bullets often designed to inflict maximum damage. And that’s what allowed the gunman in Aurora to shoot 70 people — 70 people, killing 12, in a matter of minutes.

Weapons designed for the theater of war have no place in a movie theater.

A majority of Americans agree with us on this.

And by the way, so did Ronald Reagan, one of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment, who wrote to Congress in 1994 urging them — this is Ronald Reagan speaking — urging them to listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of military-style assault weapons. (Applause.)

And finally, Congress needs to help rather than hinder law enforcement as it does its job. We should get tougher on people who buy guns with the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals. And we should severely punish anybody who helps them do this.

Since Congress hasn’t confirmed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in six years, they should confirm Todd Jones, who will be — who has been acting and I will be nominating for the post. (Applause.)

And at a time when budget cuts are forcing many communities to reduce their police force, we should put more cops back on the job and back on our streets.

And let me be absolutely clear. Like most Americans, I believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. I respect our strong tradition of gun ownership and the rights of hunters and sportsmen. There are millions of responsible, law-abiding gun owners in America who cherish their right to bear arms for hunting or sport or protection or collection.

I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale. I believe most of them agree that if America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in Newtown.

That’s what these reforms are designed to do. They’re common- sense measures. They have the support of the majority of the American people.

And yet that doesn’t mean any of this is going to be easy to enact or implement. If it were, we’d already have universal background checks. The ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines never would have been allowed to expire. More of our fellow Americans might still be alive, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and graduations.

This will be difficult. There will be pundits and politicians and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical all-out assault on liberty, not because that’s true but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes they’ll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.

The only way we will be able to change is if their audience, their constituents, their membership says, this time must be different, that this time we must do something to protect our communities and our kids.

I will put everything I’ve got into this, and so will Joe. But I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it.

And by the way, that doesn’t just mean from certain parts of the country. We’re going to need voices in those areas, in those congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong to speak up and to say this is important. It can’t just be the usual suspects.

We have to examine ourselves in our hearts and ask ourselves what is important. This will not happen unless the American people demand it. If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, if hunters and sportsmen, if responsible gun owners, if Americans of every background stand up and say, enough, we suffered too much pain and care too much about our children to allow this to continue, then change will — change will come. That’s what it’s going to take.

You know, on the letter that Julia (sp) wrote me, she said, I know that laws have to be passed by Congress, but I beg you to try very hard. (Laughter.) Julia (sp), I will try very hard. But she’s right. The most important changes we can make depend on congressional action. They need to bring these proposals up for a vote, and the American people need to make sure that they do.

Get them on record. Ask your member of Congress if they support universal background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Ask them if they support renewing a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And if they say no, ask them why not.

Ask them what’s more important, doing whatever it takes to get a — a “A” grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns, or giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade? (Applause.)

This is the land of the free, and it always will be. As Americans, we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights that no man or government can take away from us. But we’ve also long recognized, as our founders recognized, that with rights come responsibilities. Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same. We don’t live in isolation. We live in a society, a government of and by and for the people. We are responsible for each other.

You know, the right to worship freely and faithfully, that right was denied to Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The right to assemble peaceively (sp), that right was denied shoppers in Clackamas, Oregon and moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado. That most fundamental set of rights — to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness — fundamental rights that were denied to college students at Virginia Tech and high school students at Columbine and elementary school students in Newtown, and kids on street corners in Chicago on too frequent a basis to tolerate, and all the families who’ve never imagined that they’d lose a loved one to a bullet, those rights are at stake. We’re responsible.

You know, when I visited Newtown last month, I spent some private time with many of the families who lost their children that day, and one was the family of Grace McDonnell. Grace’s parents are here. Grace was 7 years old when she was struck down, just a gorgeous, caring, joyful little girl. I’m told she loved pink. She loved the beach. She dreamed of becoming a painter.

And so just before I left, Chris, her father, gave me one of her paintings, and I hung it in my private study just off the Oval Office. And every time I look at that painting, I think about Grace and I think about the life that she lived and the life that lay ahead of her, and most of all, I think about how when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now for Grace, for the 25 other innocent children and devoted educators who had so much left to give, for the men and women in big cities and small towns who fall victim to senseless violence each and every day, for all the Americans who are counting on us to keep them safe from harm.

Let’s do the right thing. Let’s do the right thing for them and for this country that we love so much. (Applause.)

Thank you. (Sustained applause.) I’m going to sign these orders. (Sustained applause.)

Political Headlines January 15, 2013: New York Passes Major Gun Control Laws; First Since Newtown Shooting

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

New York Passes Major Gun Control Laws; First Since Newtown Shooting

Taylor Hill/Getty Images

New York Govenor Andrew Cuomo has signed the first gun-control measures to be enacted since the rampage killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.

Lawmakers have expanded the state’s ban on assault-style weapons, restricted the capacity of magazines and required mental health counselors to speak up when they believe their patients may do harm.

“This is a gun control bill, if you will, that actually exercises common sense,” Cuomo said. “The first point is people who are mentally ill should not have access to guns.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency July 25, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the National Urban League Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana Focused on the Economy, Education & Gun Control Laws

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Obama Speaks to the National Urban League

Source: WH, 7-25-12

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Urban League Convention President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Urban League Convention at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, La., July 25, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) 

President Obama Speaks at the National Urban League Convention

President Obama Speaks at the National Urban League Convention

Remarks by the President at the National Urban League Convention

Source: WH, 7-25-12

Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
New Orleans, Louisiana

7:00 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Urban League!  (Applause.)  Thank you.  It is good to be with the Urban League.  (Applause.)  And it’s good to be in the Big Easy.  (Applause.)

Now, I don’t know if the fact that this is called the Morial Convention Center had anything to do with folks coming down to New Orleans — (laughter) — but it is good to be with all of you.  And I’m glad I caught you at the beginning of the conference, before Bourbon Street has a chance to take a toll on you.  (Laughter.)  All right.  You all stay out of trouble now.  (Laughter.)

Everybody please have a seat.  Have a seat.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Four more years!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  A couple of people that I want to acknowledge.  Obviously, first of all, I want to acknowledge your outstanding president and CEO who has shown such extraordinary leadership for so many years — Marc Morial.  (Applause.)  Just like we’ve got an outstanding former mayor of New Orleans, we’ve also got the outstanding current mayor of New Orleans — Mitch Landrieu is in the house.  (Applause.)  Fine young congressman from this area — Cedric Richmond, is here.  (Applause.)  And one of the best mayors in the country — we’re glad he came down from his hometown of Philadelphia — Mayor Michael Nutter is in the house.  (Applause.)

And all of you are here, and I am grateful for it.  (Applause.)  And we love the young people who are in the house.  (Applause.)  Mitch, don’t you — I wasn’t referring to you, man, I was talking to those folks over there.  (Laughter.)  Mitch is all waving, “thank you.”  (Laughter.)

For nearly a century, the National Urban League has been inspiring people of every race and every religion and every walk of life to reach for the dream that lies at the heart of our founding — the promise that no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you came from, no matter how modest your beginnings, no matter what the circumstances of your birth, here in America, you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

Of course, this dream has never come easy.  That’s why the Urban League was formed.  In the aftermath of the Civil War, with the South in the grips of Jim Crow, the waves of men and women who traveled north to urban centers discovered that even in their new homes, opportunity was not guaranteed.  It was something you had to work for, something you had to fight for –- not just on your own, but side-by-side with people who believed in that same dream.

And so the white widow of a railroad tycoon and a black social worker from Arkansas founded what would become the Urban League, to strengthen our cities and our communities brick by brick, and block by block, and neighborhood by neighborhood, life by life.

Decades later, I arrived in one of those cities my hometown of Chicago.  (Applause.)  South Side!  (Applause.)  And I was driven by this same cause.  Like many of my classmates, I felt, I understood, the pull of a hefty paycheck that might come from a more conventional job.  But ultimately the pull to serve was even stronger.

So I moved to the South Side of Chicago, and I took a job with a group of churches, mostly Catholic parishes, working to help families who had no place to turn when the local steel plants shut down, and when panic-peddling had led to enormous turnover in these communities.  And we worked with laypeople and local leaders to rebuild neighborhoods and improve schools, and most of all, to broaden opportunity for young people, too many who were at risk.

And I confess that progress didn’t come quickly and it did not come easily.  Sometimes, it didn’t come at all.  There were times where I thought about giving up and moving on.  But what kept me going, day in and day out, was the same thing that has sustained the Urban League all these years, the same thing that sustains all of you, and that is the belief that in America, change is always possible; that our union may not be perfect, but it is perfectible; that we can strive over time through effort and sweat and blood and tears until it is the place we imagine.

It may come in fits and starts, at a pace that can be slow and frustrating.  But if we are willing to push through all the doubt and the cynicism and the weariness, then, yes, we can form that more perfect union.  (Applause.)

Now, the people I worked with in those early days in Chicago, they were looking for the same thing that Americans everyplace aspire to.  We’re not a nation of people who are looking for handouts.  We certainly don’t like bailouts.  (Laughter.)  We don’t believe government should be in the business of helping people who refuse to help themselves, and we recognize not every government program works.  But we do expect hard work to pay off.  We do expect responsibility to be rewarded.  We do expect that if you put in enough effort, you should be able to find a job that pays the bills.  (Applause.)  You should be able to own a home you call your own.  You should be able to retire in dignity and respect.  You should be able to afford the security of health care and you should be able to give your kids the best possible education.  (Applause.)

That idea that everybody should have a fair shot, not just some — that this country is special because it has grown this magnificent middle class and has provided ladders of access for those striving to get into the middle class — that’s the idea that drove me.  That’s the idea that has driven the Urban League, That idea that everyone should have equal opportunity — that’s what brought me to Chicago.  That belief that this country works best when we are growing a strong middle class and prosperity is broad-based — that’s what led me into politics.  And it is those values that have guided every decision that I have made as President of the United States.  (Applause.)

Now, today we’re battling our way back from a once-in-a-lifetime economic crisis.  And make no mistake, we’ve made progress in that fight.  When I took office, we were losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month.  Our auto industry was on the brink of collapse.  Factories were boarding up their windows. We’d gone through almost a decade in which job growth had been sluggish, incomes had declined, costs were going up — all culminating in the financial system coming close to a breakdown.

Today, three and a half years later, we’ve had 28 straight months of private sector job growth.  (Applause.)  Three and a half years later, the auto industry has come roaring back.  (Applause.)  Three and a half years later, companies are beginning to bring thousands of jobs back to American soil.  (Applause.)

We still have much more work to do.  There’s still too many out of work, too many homes underwater, too many Americans struggling to stay afloat.  So the greater challenge that faces us is not just going back to where we were back in 2007, not just settling to get back to where we were before the crisis hit.  Our task is to return to an America that is thriving and growing out from our middle class, where hard work pays off — where you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

And, Urban League, I want you to know what’s holding us back from meeting these challenges is not a lack of ideas or solutions.  I have no patience with people who say our best days are behind us, because the fact of the matter is we still have the best workers in the world, the best universities in the world, the best research facilities in the world, the most entrepreneurial culture in the world.  (Applause.)  We have all the ingredients to make the 21st century the American Century just like the 20th.

What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington — (applause) — between two fundamentally different views about which path we should take as a country.  (Applause.)  And it’s up to the American people to decide what direction we should go.

Let me tell you what I believe.  I believe that strong communities are places that attract the best jobs and the newest businesses.  And you don’t build that kind of community by giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas.  (Applause.)  You build it by giving tax breaks to companies that create jobs in Detroit and in Cleveland and in Chicago and right here in New Orleans, right here in America — (applause) — using American workers, making American products that we sell around the world, stamped with three proud words — Made In America.  (Applause.)

You build it by investing in America’s manufacturing base and providing the dollars for research so that we have the most advanced products in the world.  You do it by investing in small businesses — the way we’ve provided 18 tax breaks to small businesses since I’ve been in office.  And if you’re a company that wants to relocate in a community that’s been particularly hard hit when a factory left town, I believe you should get help financing that new plant or equipment, or training for your workers — because we can’t leave anybody behind if we want to grow America the way it can grow.  (Applause.)

We also believe that every entrepreneur should have the chance to start a business –- no matter who you are, no matter what you look like.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’ve supported financing and assistance and exporting to small businesses across the board.  That’s why we’ve helped African American businesses and minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses gain access to more than $7 billion in contracts and financing — (applause) — that allowed them to grow and create jobs.

That’s why we’ve emphasized helping our veterans create small businesses — because if they fought for us, they shouldn’t have to fight to get financing when they get home.  (Applause.)  They shouldn’t have to fight for a job when they come home.  They shouldn’t have to fight for a roof over their heads when they come home.  We should honor them the way they’ve honored us with their service.  (Applause.)

I believe strong communities are places where people can afford to buy what their local businesses sell.  So I ran for President promising to cut taxes for the middle class -– and regardless of what you hear during silly political season, I have kept that promise.  (Applause.)  Today, taxes are $3,600 lower for the typical family than they were when I came into office.  (Applause.)

Just a few hours ago, the Senate moved forward a bill that we had promoted to keep middle-class tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans next year.  (Applause.)  I will add that we didn’t get a lot of Republican votes — but that’s okay, they’ve got time.  We passed it through the Senate and now is the time for the House to do the same.  They should not be holding middle-class tax cuts hostage just to get more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.  (Applause.)  At a time when so many people who have a job can barely keep up with their bills, we don’t need another trillion-dollar tax cut for folks like me.  We need tax cuts for working Americans, not for folks who don’t need it and weren’t even asking for it.  (Applause.)

Millions of Americans — including more than 2 million African American families — are better off thanks to our extension of the child care tax credit and the earned income tax credit — (applause) — because nobody who works hard in America should be poor in America.  That’s how strong communities are built.  (Applause.)  And by the way when working folks have money in their pockets, businesses do well because they’ve got customers, and all of us grow.  That’s been the history of this country.

I believe strong communities are built on strong schools.  (Applause.)  If this country is about anything, it’s about passing on even greater opportunity to the next generation.  And we know that has to start before a child even walks into the classroom.  It starts at home with parents who are willing to read to their children, and spend time with their children — (applause) — and instill a sense of curiosity and love of learning and a belief in excellence that will last a lifetime.

But it also begins with an early childhood education, which is why we’ve invested more in child care, and in programs like Early Head Start and Head Start that help prepare our young people for success.  It’s the right thing to do for America.  (Applause.)

Our education policy hasn’t just been based on more money, we’ve also called for real reform.  So we challenged every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and for learning.  And three years later, nearly every state has answered the call.  We have seen the biggest transformation in terms of school reform in a generation, and we’ve helped some of the country’s lowest-performing schools make real gains in reading and math, including here in New Orleans.  (Applause.)

We’ve made it our mission to make a higher education more affordable for every American who wants to go to school.  That’s why we fought to extend our college tuition tax credit for working families — (applause) — saving millions of families thousands of dollars.

That’s why we’ve fought to make college more affordable for an additional 200,000 African American students by increasing Pell grants.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’ve strengthened this nation’s commitment to our community colleges, and to our HBCUs. (Applause.)

That’s why, tomorrow, I’m establishing the first-ever White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans –- (applause) — so that every child has greater access to a complete and competitive education from the time they’re born all through the time they get a career.

And that’s why we’re pushing all colleges and universities to cut their costs — (applause) — because we can’t keep asking taxpayers to subsidize skyrocketing tuition.  A higher education in the 21st century cannot be a luxury.  It is a vital necessity that every American should be able to afford.  (Applause.)  I want all these young people to be getting a higher education, and I don’t want them loaded up with tens of thousands of dollars of debt just to get an education.  That’s how we make America great. (Applause.)

Of course, that means all of you all have got to hit the books.  (Laughter.)  I’m just saying.  Don’t cheer and then you didn’t do your homework.  (Laughter and applause.)  Because that’s part of the bargain, that’s part of the bargain — America says we will give you opportunity, but you’ve got to earn your success.  (Applause.)

You’re competing against young people in Beijing and Bangalore.  They’re not hanging out.  (Laughter.)  They’re not getting over.  They’re not playing video games.  They’re not watching “Real Housewives.”  (Laughter.)  I’m just saying.  It’s a two-way street.  You’ve got to earn success.  (Applause.)

That wasn’t in my prepared remarks.  (Laughter.)  But I’m just saying.  (Applause.)

I believe strong communities are places where you and your family can work and save and buy your home.  That’s why we’ve helped more than a million responsible homeowners — these are folks who were making their payments — refinance their mortgages at these historically low rates, saving thousands of dollars every year.  Because people who did everything right shouldn’t pay the price for somebody else’s irresponsibility.  (Applause.)
So now we want to expand that refinancing opportunity to every homeowner who’s making their payments on time.

And while we’re at it, let’s put construction workers back on the job — because they’ve been hit by the housing bubble bursting.  Let’s put them back on the job not only rebuilding roads and bridges and ports, but also rehabilitating homes in communities that have been hit by foreclosures, businesses that have been hit hardest by the housing crisis.  (Applause.)  That creates jobs.  It raises property values, and it strengthens the economy of the entire nation.

Strong communities are healthy communities.  Because we believe that in the richest nation on Earth, you shouldn’t go broke when you get sick.  (Applause.)  And after a century of trying, and a decision now from the highest court in the land, health care reform is here to stay.  (Applause.)  We’re moving forward.

Insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against those who are sick.  Prescription drug prices will be lower for our seniors.  We’re going to close that doughnut hole. Young people will be able to stay on their parent’s insurance until they’re 26 years old.  (Applause.)  Thirty million Americans without health insurance will finally know the security of affordable care.  (Applause.)

We’ll improve any aspect of this law, and any recommendations and suggestions that those who actually know the health care system and aren’t just playing politics put forward. But we’re going to implement this law and America is going to be better for it.  (Applause.)

Now, I’ve got to say that I recognize we are in political season.  But the Urban League understands that your mission transcends politics.  Good jobs, quality schools, affordable health care, affordable housing — these are all the pillars upon which communities are built.  And yet, we’ve been reminded recently that all this matters little if these young people can’t walk the streets of their neighborhood safely; if we can’t send our kids to school without worrying they might get shot; if they can’t go to the movies without fear of violence lurking in the shadows.  (Applause.)

Our hearts break for the victims of the massacre in Aurora.  (Applause.)  We pray for those who were lost and we pray for those who loved them.  We pray for those who are recovering with courage and with hope.  And we also pray for those who succumb to the less-publicized acts of violence that plague our communities in so many cities across the country every single day.  (Applause.)  We can’t forget about that.

Every day — in fact, every day and a half, the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theater.  For every Columbine or Virginia Tech, there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta, and here in New Orleans.  For every Tucson or Aurora, there is daily heartbreak over young Americans shot in Milwaukee or Cleveland.  Violence plagues the biggest cities, but it also plagues the smallest towns.  It claims the lives of Americans of different ages and different races, and it’s tied together by the fact that these young people had dreams and had futures that were cut tragically short.

And when there is an extraordinarily heartbreaking tragedy like the one we saw, there’s always an outcry immediately after for action.  And there’s talk of new reforms, and there’s talk of new legislation.  And too often, those efforts are defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere.

But what I said in the wake of Tucson was we were going to stay on this, persistently.  So we’ve been able to take some actions on our own, recognizing that it’s not always easy to get things through Congress these days.  The background checks conducted on those looking to purchase firearms are now more thorough and more complete.  Instead of just throwing more money at the problem of violence, the federal government is now in the trenches with communities and schools and law enforcement and faith-based institutions, with outstanding mayors like Mayor Nutter and Mayor Landrieu — recognizing that we are stronger when we work together.

So in cities like New Orleans, we’re partnering with local officials to reduce crime, using best practices.  And in places like Boston and Chicago, we’ve been able to help connect more young people to summer jobs so that they spend less time on the streets.  In cities like Detroit and Salinas, we’re helping communities set up youth prevention and intervention programs that steer young people away from a life of gang violence, and towards the safety and promise of a classroom.

But even though we’ve taken these actions, they’re not enough.  Other steps to reduce violence have been met with opposition in Congress.  This has been true for some time — particularly when it touches on the issues of guns.  And I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms.  And we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation -– that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage.

But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals — (applause) — that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities.  I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone’s criminal record before they can check out a gun seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily.  (Applause.)  These steps shouldn’t be controversial.  They should be common sense.

So I’m going to continue to work with members of both parties, and with religious groups and with civic organizations, to arrive at a consensus around violence reduction — not just of gun violence, but violence at every level, on every step, looking at everything we can do to reduce violence and keep our children safe -– from improving mental health services for troubled youth  — (applause) — to instituting more effective community policing strategies.  We should leave no stone unturned, and recognize that we have no greater mission as a country than keeping our young people safe.  (Applause.)

And as we do so, as we convene these conversations, let’s be clear:  Even as we debate government’s role, we have to understand that when a child opens fire on another child, there’s a hole in that child’s heart that government alone can’t fill.  (Applause.)  It’s up to us, as parents and as neighbors and as teachers and as mentors, to make sure our young people don’t have that void inside them.

It’s up to us to spend more time with them, to pay more attention to them, to show them more love so that they learn to love themselves — (applause) — so that they learn to love one another, so that they grow up knowing what it is to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes and to view the world through somebody else’s eyes.  It’s up to us to provide the path toward a life worth living; toward a future that holds greater possibility than taking offense because somebody stepped on your sneakers.

That’s the difference that we can make in our children’s lives and in the lives of our communities.  That’s the legacy we must leave for the next generation.  (Applause.)

Now, this will not be easy.  Even though it’s called the Big Easy, this proud city and those who call it home, they know something about hardship.  They’ve been battered again and again in this new century:  One of the worst natural disasters in our history, the worst environmental disaster in our history, the worst economic crisis most of us have ever known.  So sometimes being from the Big Easy means knowing hardship and heartbreak.  (Applause.)

But what this city also knows is resilience, and determination, and heroism.  (Applause.)  That’s one of the reasons it is one of America’s jewels.  It’s quintessentially American because of its resilience.

There is no shortage of citizens in this city who’s stepped up in the darkest of times.  And one person I want to end with is somebody that many of you know — the superintendent of schools in St. Bernard’s Parish, Doris Voitier.  Now, when Katrina’s waters rose, Doris and the faculty and staff of Chalmette High School saved the lives of hundreds of their neighbors, many of them old and sick, by moving them to shelter in the school’s second floor.

Two days later, they led 1,200 people to safety.  (Applause.)  The day after that, with her community in ruins, the superintendent was on her way to Baton Rouge to make sure her schools would open that fall.  “Failure is not an option” became her motto.  When some government officials gave her the runaround, she plowed ahead on her own — secured loans, finding portable classrooms and books, and doing everything it took to make sure her kids -– our kids -– could return to some semblance of normalcy.

When an official told her a gas line wouldn’t be repaired in time for school to reopen, and that her kids might have to eat MREs, she hired a local restaurant owner to cook hot lunches on a barge and sent FEMA the bill.  (Applause.)  On the first day of school, less than three months after Katrina swept ashore, she heard a young child, who’d endured nearly three months of suffering and hardship, yell out loud, “Real food!  Real food!”

Of that first night she said, “There were no riots; there were no disruptions; there were just hundreds of people just like you and the person sitting next to you, in the blink of an eye, having lost everything they had worked for over their entire lifetimes, who now looked to us for rescue.  And we accepted that responsibility because that’s what school people do.”  (Applause.)

Now, obviously, the superintendent is an exceptional educator and an exceptional citizen.  But as I’ve traveled around the country, what I’ve discovered is that’s not just what school people do.  That’s not — that’s what Americans do.  (Applause.) That’s what Americans, at their best, do.  When I traveled to Joplin, Missouri, that’s what folks in Joplin do.  When I go to Aurora, that’s what people in Colorado do.  (Applause.)  In urban communities all across America, that’s what you do.

For more than two centuries, our journey has never been easy, and our victories have never come quickly.  And we have faced our share of struggles and setbacks and climbs that have seemed too steep -– just like we do today.  But we know what we’re fighting for.  We can see the America we believe in –- a country where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share, where everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  And if we don’t keep fighting as hard as we know how for that America, if we don’t keep fighting for better jobs and better schools and a better future, who will?  (Applause.)

That’s our challenge.  We don’t quit.  Folks in New Orleans didn’t quit.  Americans don’t quit.  (Applause.)  We accept responsibility.  We keep on going.  We keep marching.  We keep moving forward.  Failure is not an option.  (Applause.)  This is not a time for cynics.  It is not a time for doubters.  It is time for believers.  It is time for folks who have faith in the future.

I still believe in you.  And if you still believe in me, I ask you to stand with me, march with me, fight with me.  (Applause.)  And as I do, I promise we will finish what we started, turn this economy around, seize our future, and remind the world why the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

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

END
7:40 P.M. CDT

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