Full Text December 8, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech / Remarks at White House Hanukkah Reception — Transcript

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

חיוכים ובדיחות בבית הלבן (צילום: AFP)

Laughs and jokes at the White House (Photo: AFP)

A White House Hanukkah Celebration

Source: WH, 12-9-11
20111209 Hanukkah at the WH

President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, delivers remarks at a Hanukkah reception in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Dec. 8, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Officially, Hanukkah doesn’t begin for another 11 days — but last night, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama decided to kick things off a little early with a celebration of the holiday at the White House.

They were joined by Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in attendance, along with U.S. Ambassardor to Israel Michael Oren, the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir, and a large group of faith and community leaders.

Hanukkah, the President said, is “an opportunity to recognize the miracles in our own lives:”

Let’s honor the sacrifices our ancestors made so that we might be here today. Let’s think about those who are spending this holiday far away from home -– including members of our military who guard our freedom around the world. Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season.

This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.

Watch.

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POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at Hanukkah Reception

Grand Foyer

6:10 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, good evening, everybody.  Welcome to the White House.  Thank you all for joining us tonight to celebrate Hanukkah — even if we’re doing it a little bit early.  (Laughter.)

I want to start by recognizing a few folks who are here.   The ambassador to the United States from Israel, Michael Oren, is in the house.  (Applause.)
We are honored to be joined by one of the justices of the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is here.  (Applause.)  We are thrilled to see her.  She’s one of my favorites, I got to — (laughter.)  I’ve got a soft spot for Justice Ginsburg.

And we’ve got more than a few members of Congress here and members of my administration in the house, including our new Director of Jewish Outreach, Jarrod Bernstein is here.  Where’s Jarrod?  (Applause.)  Hey, Jarrod.

I also want to thank the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir –- (applause) — the Voice of Tradition -– for their wonderful performance, but more importantly, for their extraordinary service to our country.

And I want to thank all the rabbis and lay leaders who have come far and wide to be here with us today.

Now, as I said, we’re jumping the gun just a little bit.  The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit.  We’re stretching it out.  (Laughter.)  But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight.  (Laughter.)  That will cause some problems.

This Hanukkah season we remember a story so powerful that we all know it by heart — even us Gentiles.  It’s a story of right over might, of faith over doubt.  Of a band of believers who rose up and freed their people and discovered that the oil left in their desecrated temple –- which should have lasted only one night –- ended up lasting eight.

It’s a timeless story.  And for 2,000 years, it has given hope to Jews everywhere who are struggling.  And today, it reminds us that miracles come in all shapes and sizes.  Because to most people, the miracle of Hanukkah would have looked like nothing more than a simple flame, but the believers in the temple knew it was something else.  They knew it was something special.

This year, we have to recognize the miracles in our own lives.  Let’s honor the sacrifices our ancestors made so that we might be here today.  Let’s think about those who are spending this holiday far away from home -– including members of our military who guard our freedom around the world.  Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season.

This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations.  And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.  (Applause.)

So while it is not yet Hanukkah, let’s give thanks for our blessings, for being together to celebrate this wonderful holiday season.  And we never need an excuse for a good party.  (Laughter.)  So we are going to see all of you in a second downstairs —

MRS. OBAMA:  Aren’t we in the Blue Room?

THE PRESIDENT:  Or wherever we are.  (Laughter.)  I think we’re downstairs.  We are downstairs in the Map Room.  So as I look around, I see a whole bunch of good friends.  We can’t wait to give you a hug and a kiss and wish you a happy holiday.  The guys with whiskers, I won’t give you a kiss.  (Laughter.)

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END 6:14 P.M. EST

Political Buzz December 8, 2011: President Barack Obama Hosts White House Hanukkah Reception

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

חיוכים ובדיחות בבית הלבן (צילום: AFP)

Laughs and jokes at the White House (Photo: AFP)

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA HOLDS HANUKKAH RECEPTION AT THE WHITE HOUSE

Full Text December 8, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech / Remarks at White House Hanukkah Reception — Transcript — WH, 12-8-11

Obama celebrates Hanukkah at White House: President Barack Obama is marking Hanukkah as a story of “faith over doubt.”
Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden convened a Hanukkah celebration at the White House Thursday in an early celebration of the Jewish Festival of Lights.
Obama said the Hanukkah story was about “right over might, faith over doubt.” In the Hanukkah story, a small band of Jews rededicating a Jerusalem temple found that a one-day supply of oil kindled a flame instead for eight.
The president noted “our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.”
Hanukkah begins at sunset on Dec. 20. Obama joked that everyone needs to be “careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight.” — AP, 12-8-11

  • Obama lights White House menorah at reception: President Obama hosted 550 people at the White House Chanukah reception.
    The annual event, held Thursday in Washington, was attended by the president and vice-president and their wives and attracted a mix of Jewish dignitaries from the political, community and cultural worlds. The president reiterated his “unshakable support” for Israel and noted that the festivities were being celebrated a week before the holiday begins.
    “We’re jumping the gun just a little bit,” said Obama. “The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit. We’re stretching it out. But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Chanukah lasts 20 nights instead of eight. That will cause some problems.”
    The West Point Jewish Chapel Choir performed at the event, while the menorah used was made in a displaced persons camp after World War II and donated by the Jewish Museum in New York.
    “Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season,” Obama said. “This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.”… – JTA, 12-9-11
  • Obama celebrates Hanukkah in White House: President appears particularly jovial as he marks Jewish holiday earlier than usual. ‘The Hanukkah story is one of right over might, of faith over doubt,’ he says

    US President Barack Obama held a festive Hanukkah reception at the White House on Thursday and appeared to be in a particularly cheerful mood. Among the guests were his wife Michelle, Vice President Joe Biden, Israeli ambassador Michael Oren and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “The story of Hanukkah is one of right over might, of faith over doubt,” he remarked.
    Getting into the holiday spirit Obama was brimming with jokes and good wishes. “We’re jumping the gun just a little bit,” he noted. “The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit. We’re stretching it out. But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight.”
    Addressing the US’s ties with Israel he said: “This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.”
    Obama seemed particularly jovial as he said, “So while it is not yet Hanukkah, let’s give thanks for our blessings, for being together to celebrate this wonderful holiday season. And we never need an excuse for a good party.” He later noted, “We can’t wait to give you a hug and a kiss and wish you a happy holiday.”
    Addressing the miracle of Hanukkah, the President said: “This Hanukkah season we remember a story so powerful that we all know it by heart – even us Gentiles.” He added, “And for 2,000 years, it has given hope to Jews everywhere who are struggling.”…. – YNet, 12-9-11

  • Michelle Obama is hostess for early Hanukkah party: It’s beginning to look a lot like Hannukah. Michelle Obama and her husband, along with Joe and Jill Biden, welcomed 550 guests last night to the White House to celebrate the Jewish holiday, even though it doesn’t start until Dec.20.
    “We’re jumping the gun just a little bit,” President Obama joked to the crowd, which included Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and ambassador to Israel Michael Oren.
    “The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit. We’re stretching it out. But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight. That will cause some problems…”
    He added, “And we never need an excuse for a good party.”… – USA Today, 12-9-11
  • Obama fights for Jewish support amid GOP attacks: …Firing back, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called Romney’s comments “outrageous” and questioned his own policies. The White House cited military aid to Israel and support at the United Nations, and pointed to statements from Israeli officials backing up Obama’s assertion.
    The fiery debate will probably continue Wednesday when the GOP presidential candidates attend a Washington forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition.
    Obama campaign officials say they will be ready to respond. And the next day, Jewish leaders will be at the White House for briefings on Israel and a Hanukkah party, followed by an Obama speech next week to an expected audience of nearly 6,000 at a conference of the Union for Reform Judaism…. – AP, 12-6-11

Political Buzz May 26, 2011: Supreme Court Rules 5-3 to Uphold Arizona Immigration Law — US Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

John Roberts is pictured. | AP Photo

SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts: The law “expressly reserves to the states the authority to impose sanctions on employers hiring unauthorized workers, through licensing and similar laws,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. “It uses the federal government’s own definition of ‘unauthorized alien,’ it relies solely on the federal government’s own determination of who is an unauthorized alien, and it requires Arizona employers to use the federal government’s own system for checking…

  • Supreme Court backs Arizona immigration law: The Supreme Court today upheld an Arizona law penalizing companies that hire illegal immigrants, rejecting a challenge by business groups and civil liberties organizations, our court correspondent Joan Biskupic reports.
    U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, released a statement supporting the ruling: “Not only is this law constitutional, it is common sense. American jobs should be preserved for Americans and legal workers.”
    The Associated Press reports that Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a majority made up of Republican-appointed justices, said the Arizona’s employer sanctions law “falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states.”
    Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, all Democratic appointees, dissented. The fourth Democratic appointee, Justice Elena Kagan, did not participate because she worked on it while serving as President Obama’s solicitor general.
    The law permits the state to take away the business licenses of companies that knowingly hire illegal workers. It requires employers to use an otherwise optional federal verification program, known as the E-Verify system, which collects data on workers from the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security.
    The ruling, by a 5-3 vote, comes off oral arguments presented in December. Reporting on those arguments, Biskupic had noted that the court “appeared poised … to uphold” the law.
    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Obama administration had opposed the law…. – USA Today, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Immigration Law: The Supreme Court today backed an Arizona law that sanctions businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
    On a 5-3 vote, the court held that federal immigration law does not preempt Arizona from suspending or revoking the licenses of businesses that violate state immigration law.
    Chief Justice Roberts wrote the 27-page opinion, which can be found here. And here’s a report from WSJ.
    Then-Gov. Janet Napolitano signed the Arizona law in 2007, saying that while immigration is a federal responsibility, Arizona had been forced to deal with the issue because the demand for cheap, undocumented labor in the state was contributing to illegal immigration…. – WSJ, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court sustains Arizona employer sanctions law: The Supreme Court has sustained Arizona’s law that penalizes businesses for hiring workers who are in the United States illegally, rejecting arguments that states have no role in immigration matters.
    By a 5-3 vote, the court said Thursday that federal immigration law gives states the authority to impose sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized workers.
    The decision upholding the validity of the 2007 law comes as the state is appealing a ruling that blocked key components of a second, more controversial Arizona immigration enforcement law. Thursday’s decision applies only to business licenses and does not signal how the high court might rule if the other law comes before it.
    Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a majority made up of Republican-appointed justices, said the Arizona’s employer sanctions law “falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states.”
    Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, all Democratic appointees, dissented. The fourth Democratic appointee, Justice Elena Kagan, did not participate in the case because she worked on it while serving as President Barack Obama’s solicitor general
    Breyer said the Arizona law upsets a balance in federal law between dissuading employers from hiring illegal workers and ensuring that people are not discriminated against because they may speak with an accent or look like they might be immigrants.
    Employers “will hesitate to hire those they fear will turn out to lack the right to work in the United States,” he said…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Justices Uphold Law Penalizing Hiring of Illegal Immigrants: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an Arizona law that imposes harsh penalties on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
    The 5-to-3 decision amounted to a green light for vigorous state efforts to combat the employment of illegal workers. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts on behalf of the court’s five more conservative members, noted that Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia had recently enacted laws similar to the one at issue in the case.
    The decision did not directly address a second, more recent Arizona law that in some circumstances requires police there to question people they stop about their immigration status. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked enforcement of that law in April, and the case may reach the Supreme Court soon.
    The challenge to the older Arizona law that was the subject of Thursday’s decision was brought by a coalition of business and civil liberties groups, with support from the Obama administration. They said the law, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, conflicted with federal immigration policy.
    The decision turned mostly on the meaning of a provision of a 1986 federal law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which said that it overrode “any state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ” unauthorized aliens…. – NYT, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court upholds Ariz. law punishing companies that hire illegal immigrants: The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Arizona may revoke the business licenses of companies that knowingly employ illegal immigrants, rejecting arguments that the state’s law intrudes on the federal government’s power to control immigration.
    The court ruled 5 to 3 that Congress specifically allowed states such an option, and dismissed the objections of an unusual coalition that challenged the state law: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, civil rights groups, labor unions and the Obama administration.
    The 1986 federal Immigration Reform and Control Act generally preempts states from using employer sanctions to control immigration. But Arizona took advantage of a parenthetical clause in the statute — “other than through licensing and similar laws” — to go after companies that knowingly and intentionally hired undocumented workers.
    Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. agreed with the state’s reading of the federal law.
    “It makes little sense to preserve state authority to impose sanctions through licensing, but not allow states to revoke licenses when appropriate as one of those sanctions,” he wrote.
    Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. agreed with the outcome.
    The law at issue — the Legal Arizona Workers Act — is different from a more recent Arizona law that the Obama administration is battling in lower courts…. – WaPo, 5-26-11
  • SCOTUS upholds Arizona immigrant hiring law: The Supreme Court ruled Thursday to uphold Arizona’s law that penalizes companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
    In a 5-3 vote, the court concluded that federal immigration law doesn’t prevent the state from revoking the business licenses of companies that violate state law.
    Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the court had come to its decision because “the state’s licensing provisions fall squarely within the federal statute’s savings clause and that the Arizona regulation does not otherwise conflict with federal law.”
    The Arizona law also requires employers to use the federal government’s web-based E-Verify system to determine whether potential employees are eligible to work within the United States. The court upheld this provision, saying it is “entirely consistent” with federal law…. – Politico, 5-26-11
  • US states can shut firms with illegals: Supreme Court: The US Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a state has the right to revoke the license of a business that knowingly employs illegal immigrants, in a case watched for implications on related judicial battles.
    The top US court in a 5-3 decision upheld Arizona’s 2007 law, saying the state was within its rights under a 1986 federal immigration reform measure.
    The ruling comes amid a legal battle on another Arizona law that took effect last July and which makes it a crime to be in the state, which borders Mexico, without proper immigration papers.
    In Thursday’s decision, the court cited the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which preempts state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions other than through licensing and similar laws on firms that employ, recruit, or refer unauthorized aliens for employment.
    The law “expressly reserves to the states the authority to impose sanctions on employers hiring unauthorized workers, through licensing and similar laws,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.
    “It uses the federal government’s own definition of ‘unauthorized alien,’ it relies solely on the federal government’s own determination of who is an unauthorized alien, and it requires Arizona employers to use the federal government’s own system for checking employee status.”… – AFP, 5-26-11
  • ‘Business death penalty’ for hiring illegal workers is upheld by Supreme Court: The 5-3 decision gives states more authority to act against illegal immigrants. Justices rule that states can take away the business licenses of companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
    The Supreme Court on Thursday gave Arizona and other states more authority to take action against illegal immigrants and the companies that hire them, ruling that employers who knowingly hire illegal workers can lose their license to do business.
    The 5-3 decision upholds the Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007 and its so-called business death penalty for employers who are caught repeatedly hiring illegal immigrants. The state law also requires employers to check the federal E-Verify system before hiring new workers, a provision that was also upheld Thursday.
    The court’s decision did not deal with the more controversial Arizona law passed last year that gave police more authority to stop and question those who are suspected of being in the state illegally. But the ruling is likely to encourage the state and its supporters because the court majority said states remained free to take action involving immigrants…. – LAT, 5-26-11
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