Full Text Obama Presidency March 25, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at a Naturalization Ceremony for Active Duty Service Members and Civilians Pushes Congress to Move on Immigration Reform Bill

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama to new citizens: “In each of you, we see the true spirit of America”

Source: WH, 3-25-13

Watch this video on YouTube

Today, President Obama spoke at a at a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians at the White House. He welcomed 28 new American citizens to our nation of immigrants and called for reforms to our immigration system that will help harness the talent and ingenuity of all those like them who want to work hard and find a place here in America….READ MORE

Remarks by the President at a Naturalization Ceremony for Active Duty Service Members and Civilians

President Obama Speaks at a Naturalization Ceremony

President Obama Speaks at a Naturalization Ceremony

Source: WH, 3-25-13

East Room

11:36 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Well, good morning, everybody.  Secretary Napolitano, thank you for administering the oath and making it official.  Director Mayorkas, distinguished guests, family and friends, it is a great pleasure to have you here at the White House.  And it is an honor to be among the first to greet some of my fellow citizens of the United States.

Today, here in the people’s house — a house designed by an Irish immigrant — we welcome 28 men and women, immigrants themselves, who from this day forward have earned the precious right to call this country home.

And I know this is an incredibly special moment for you and your families, but I have to say, it’s a special moment for the rest of us as well.  Because as we look out across this room, we’re reminded that what makes somebody American isn’t just their bloodlines, it’s not just an accident of birth.  It’s a fidelity to our founding principles, a faith in the idea that anyone, anywhere, can write the next great chapter in this American story.

That’s the promise of America.  And today we know it’s alive and well in each and every one of you.

At first glance, of course, it would be easy to define this group by their differences.  They all hail from different corners of the world — from Nigeria to Nicaragua, from the Philippines to Peru.  They arrived here in different ways.  Some of you came here as children, carried by parents who wished for them a life that they had never had.  Others came as adults, leaving behind everything you knew to seek a new life.  But what binds you together — what binds us all together — is something more meaningful than anything of that.  A love for this country and all that it represents — that’s what unites each and every one of you.

For Nikita Kirichenko — there’s Nikita right here — that love runs so deep it led him to enlist in our military.  Nikita came here at the age of 11 from Ukraine.  His mother saw America as the one place on Earth where her son could do anything he wanted.  And a few years ago, Nikita decided that he wanted to join the Air Force so that, in his words, “I could give back to a country that took me in and gave me a better life.”  Thank you, Nikita.  Today, we proudly salute him not just as a member of our military but also as a citizen of our country.

Today, we salute Elrina Brits.  Where did Elrina go?  There she is.  Elrina was born in South Africa, came here as a child, grew up in Washington State.  When Elrina decided to join the Navy, somebody told her that she wouldn’t be able to cut it.  But even though she wasn’t yet American on paper, she had that American quality of being defiant when somebody says you can’t do something.  (Laughter.)  So she proved them wrong.  She deployed twice to the Middle East, once to Haiti, showcasing another quintessentially American impulse, and that’s helping others in need.  And as a new citizen, Elrina hopes to serve her country in a new way -– as a police officer.  So, congratulations, Elrina.

Elrina, Nikita, every member of the military with us have shown incredible patriotism; a willingness to risk their lives in defense of a nation that was not yet their own.  And that’s a remarkable act.  And it made each of them one of us.  It made each of them in some ways American even before it was official.  Because that kind of service and sacrifice has defined our nation for more than two centuries.

In America, we look out for one another.  We see citizenship not just as a collection of rights but also as a set of responsibilities.  That’s who we are.  And that’s what brought so many to our shores, including Kingsley Elebo.  Kingsley came here at the age of 35 from Nigeria, pursued his master’s in information technology.  He’s now pursuing his doctorate.  He wants to become a professor so he can help America lead the world in high-tech industries of tomorrow.  And what Kingsley said is, “What makes this country great is that if you’re a citizen you’re part of something bigger than yourself.”  And he’s right.  And we’re glad that, as of today, Kingsley is part of it, too.

We’re also glad to welcome Pertula George-Redd.  Pertula arrived in America from St. Lucia at the age of 23, leaving behind her parents and seven siblings.  She came here to study international development.  She stayed, for over a decade now, to work at non-profits that teach our kids about sustainable foods and how to live a healthier life by eating well — which I know Michelle is very happy about.  Today, she also has the gratitude of her new nation.  So, thank you so much.

We are so proud of everybody here.  In each of you, we see the true spirit of America.  And we see a bit of ourselves, too, because most of our stories trace back to moments just like this one.  To an ancestor who -– just like the men and women here today –- raised their right hand and recited that sacred oath.

And the point is that unless you are one of the first Americans, unless you are a Native American, you came from someplace else.  That’s why we’ve always defined ourselves as a nation of immigrants.  And we’ve always been better off for it.  The promise we see in those who come from all over the world is one of our greatest strengths.  It’s kept our workforce young.  It keeps our businesses on the cutting edge.  It’s helped to build the greatest economic engine that the world has ever known.  And you think about the drive and the determination that it took for each of these 28 men and women to reach this moment.  Imagine how far they’ll go from here, the kind of difference that they’ll be making on behalf of this country.

Immigration makes us a stronger.  It keeps us vibrant.  It keeps us hungry.  It keeps us prosperous.  It is part of what makes this such a dynamic country.  And if we want to keep attracting the best and the brightest that the world has to offer, then we need to do a better job of welcoming them.  We’ve known for years that our immigration system is broken, that we’re not doing enough to harness the talent and ingenuity of all those who want to work hard and find a place here in America.  And after avoiding the problem for years, the time has come to fix it once and for all.  The time has come for a comprehensive, sensible immigration reform.

Now, a couple months ago in Nevada — and then last month again in my State of the Union Address — I talked about how Republicans and Democrats were ready to tackle this problem together.  And the good news is that since then, we’ve seen some real action in Congress.  There are bipartisan groups in both the House and the Senate working to tackle this challenge, and I applaud them for that.  We are making progress, but we’ve got to finish the job, because this issue is not new.

Everyone pretty much knows what’s broken.  Everybody knows how to fix it.  We’ve all proposed solutions and we’ve got a lot of white papers and studies.  And we’ve just got, at this point, to work up the political courage to do what’s required to be done.  So I expect a bill to be put forward.  I expect the debate to begin next month.  I want to sign that bill into law as soon as possible.

We know that real reform means continuing to strengthen our border security and holding employers accountable.  We know that real reform means providing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are currently living in the shadows — a pathway that includes passing a background check and paying taxes and a penalty, and learning English and then, going to the back of the line behind everyone else who is trying to come here legally.

We know that real reform requires modernizing the legal immigration system so that our citizens don’t have to wait years before their loved ones are able to join them in America, and so that we’re attracting the highly skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that are going to help create good paying jobs and grow our economy.

So let’s get this done, and let’s do it in a way that keeps faith with our history and our values.  And no other country on Earth welcomes as many new arrivals as us.  And as long as the promise of America endures, as long as we continue to stand tall as a beacon of hope and opportunity, then the world’s hardest workers, the hungriest entrepreneurs, the men and women who are willing to make enormous sacrifices to get a better life — not just for themselves but for their children and their grandchildren, they’re going to keep on coming.

And like the millions who came before — and like the 28 Americans who are here today — they will bring with them new hopes and new dreams, new ideas and new optimism about our future.  That will make us stronger.  That’s how we’ll make sure that our best days are ahead of us and not behind us.

So I want to thank each and every one of you for allowing me the opportunity to share in this incredible moment.  One of the best things I get to do as President of the United States is to address all of you as fellow citizens.  God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

And we now have one last piece of business to conclude the ceremony.  I’d like to ask one of our newest citizen, Julian de la Valle, from Colombia, to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Julian.

(The Pledge of Allegiance is recited.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Congratulations.  Congratulations to all of you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

And now, enjoy the White House, all right?  (Laughter.)  Thank you very much, everybody.

END
11:47 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 28, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Discusses Executive Order Helps Veterans and Servicemembers Make Informed Decisions about Higher Education

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama discusses a new Executive Order designed to crack down on the bad actors who prey on our veterans and service members considering higher education.

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address
President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address, White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 4/27/12

Weekly Address: Helping our Veterans and Servicemembers Make Informed Decisions about Higher Education

Source: WH, 4-28-12

President Obama discusses a new Executive Order designed to crack down on the bad actors who prey on our veterans and service members considering higher education.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Helping our Veterans and Servicemembers Make Informed Decisions about Higher Education

In this week’s address, President Obama told the American people about a new Executive Order he signed on Friday to crack down on bad actors that prey on our veterans and service members considering higher education.  Unfortunately these brave men and women are often bombarded by schools that provide false or misleading information about things like interest rates on loans, credit transfers, and job placement programs.  The President’s new Executive Order makes it easier for veterans and service members to make informed decisions about financial aid and paying for college and also takes a number of steps to fight deceptive practices by some institutions.  President Obama will always make sure that those who serve this country get every opportunity they deserve.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
Saturday April 28, 2012

On Friday, I traveled to Ft. Stewart in Georgia to meet with soldiers from the Third Infantry Division.

These men and women have fought with bravery and honor in some of the most dangerous places on the planet.  Some of them didn’t make it back.  But those who did are now fighting a different kind of battle here at home.  They’re looking for new jobs, new opportunities, and new ways to serve.

For many, that means going back to school – and America has a long tradition of making sure our veterans and our men and women in uniform can afford to do that.  After World War II, we helped a generation of Americans – including my grandfather – go to school on the GI Bill.  Now, thanks to the 9/11 GI Bill and the Tuition Assistance program, last year we supported more than half a million veterans and over 300,000 service members who are pursuing a higher education.

That’s progress.  But it’s not enough to just help our veterans and service members afford school – we need to make sure they have all the tools they need to make an informed decision when it comes to picking the right program.

The sad truth is that there are people out there who are less interested in helping our men and women in uniform get ahead and more interested in making a buck.  They bombard potential students with emails and pressure them into making a quick decision.  Some of them steer recruits towards high-interest loans and mislead them about credit transfers and job placement programs.  One of the worst examples was a college recruiter who visited a Marine barracks and enrolled Marines with brain injuries so severe that some of them couldn’t recall what courses the recruiter had signed them up for.

That’s appalling.  It’s disgraceful.  And even though the vast majority of schools do the right thing, we need to guard against the bad actors who don’t.

That’s why, on Friday, I signed an Executive Order making life a whole lot more secure for our service members, veterans and their families – and a whole lot tougher for anyone who tries to prey on them.

We’re making sure veterans and service members get a simple fact sheet called “Know Before You Owe” that lays out all the information they need about financial aid and paying for college.  We’re requiring schools to offer counseling to help students finish their degree even if they have to move or deploy.  And we’re stepping up our efforts to fight dishonest recruiters by strengthening rules about who can come on base and making it easier to file complaints.

When our men and women in uniform succeed, our country succeeds.  They have our back – now it’s our turn to have theirs.  And as long as I’m President, I’m going to make sure that anyone who serves this country gets every opportunity they deserve.

Thank you, and have a great weekend.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 27, 2012: President Barack Obama Signs Executive Order Executive Order Helping Veterans and Service Members Make Informed Decisions about Higher Education at Fort Stewart

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Signs Executive Order Supporting Service Members, Veterans, Military Spouses, and Their Families

Source: WH, 4-27-12
President Barack Obama signs an Executive Order at Fort Stewart  (April 27, 2012)
President Barack Obama signs an Executive Order at Fort Stewart in Georgia, April 27, 2012. The Executive Order will help ensure all of America’s service members, veterans, spouses, and other family members have the information they need to make informed educational decisions and are protected from aggressive and deceptive targeting by educational institutions. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Earlier today, I had the great privilege of joining the President and First Lady — along with an amazing 10,000 soldiers, military families, and veterans — at an extraordinary event in Fort Stewart, Georgia, home to the Army’s famed 3rd Infantry Division.

The President and First Lady traveled to Fort Stewart to meet with soldiers and families — and to sign an Executive Order (EO) that will positively impact the educational benefits and opportunities for our nation’s heroes and their families — for a long time to come.

We know from travels throughout the country — and through feedback from veterans, our troops and their families – that education is a big deal. Opportunities provided through educational programs such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill open doors.

And I know that on a personal level. Like many servicemembers, I have used the benefits of the Post- 9/11 GI Bill to further my education — and that of my children.

At Fort Stewart, the President renewed his commitment to fully fund the post-9/11 GI Bill.  With that bill — and the Tuition Assistance program — more than 550,000 veterans and 325,000 service members pursued education last year. Additionally, nearly 38,000 military spouses used their Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) benefit to advance their education.

But sometimes…navigating through the maze of schools and opportunities can be a challenge. Many service members, veterans and families know exactly what I mean.

They go online to try and find the best school that fits their goals; they end up on a website that looks official; they get promised to get connected with a program looks promising. Unfortunately — and all-too-often — our troops and families find themselves dealing with folks who aren’t interested in helping them find the BEST program — but they are happy to take their money. Our service men and women may get forced into making a quick decision. And sometimes recruiters from these schools show up on bases.

As the President said, one of the worst examples of this is a college recruiter who visited Camp Lejeune and enrolled Marines impacted by Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) — the nature and severity of their injuries were so significant, that the affected Marines couldn’t remember the courses the recruiter signed them up for — but that didn’t stop the recruiter.

That’s just wrong.

But practices like that — and so many others — will be coming to an end as a result of today’s order signed by the President.

In short, the EO is designed to combat unscrupulous practices used by schools to gain access to the military/veteran education benefits; it protects the full range of military/veteran education benefits programs, including Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, the Tuition Assistance program, and MyCAA; and, its provisions focus on ensuring students have the proper information, support, and protections they need to make informed decisions about their educational options.

Here’s what the EO delivers for our veterans, military service members, spouses and their families:

  • Provide students with educational and financial information to make informed decisions. The EO  will require institutions to provide prospective military and veteran students with the Administration’s Financial Aid Shopping Sheet (“Know Before You Owe”) to help students understand the total cost and quality of their education, including: tuition and fees, the availability of federal financial aid, estimated student loan debt upon graduation, and  information about student outcomes like graduation rates.
  • End fraudulent and aggressive recruiting techniques on and off military installations. The EO will require that VA and DoD improve their oversight of improper recruiting practices so that they are consistent with the regulations already in place at ED for title IV Federal student aid programs. The Principles of Excellence will also establish and strengthen solicitation rules to reduce access to military bases for bad actors.
  • Ensure support services for service-members and veterans. The EO will provide military and veteran students with clear educational plans, academic and financial aid counseling services with staff that are familiar with VA and DOD programs, and the ability to more easily re-enroll and receive a refund if they must leave school for service-related reasons.
  • Develop and collect service member- and veteran-specific student outcome data. The EO will require DoD, VA, and ED to develop student outcome measures, such as completion rates, and collect data to be made available on Ed’s College Navigator website. DoD, VA, and Ed will also improve data collection regarding which schools veterans are selecting to use their education benefits.
  • Create a centralized complaint system for students receiving military and veterans’ educational benefits. The EO require DoD and VA, in consultation with ED, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and DOJ, to create a centralized complaint system for students receiving military and veterans’ educational benefits to register complaints against educational institutions. Additionally, VA’s State Approving Agencies will receive and process these complaints and share these complaints with appropriate federal and state agencies.
  • Begin the process to trademark the term “GI Bill.” The EO will require the VA to initiate a process to trademark the term “GI Bill” and other steps to curb websites and programs that deceptively market veterans’ educational benefits.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk on stage  after being introduced at Fort Stewart (April 27, 2012)
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk on stage after being introduced at Fort Stewart in Georgia, April 27, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today’s signing by the President is a BIG step forward in preserving — and enhancing — the educational opportunities for those who have served, as well as their families.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President and First Lady at Fort Stewart, Georgia

Fort Stewart
Hinesville, Georgia

12:45 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Hello, Fort Stewart!  (Applause.)  We are beyond thrilled — beyond thrilled — to be with all of you today.  And before I get started, there’s just one thing I want to say, and that is, hooah!

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

MRS. OBAMA:  Did I do that right?

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

MRS. OBAMA:  All right, good.  (Laughter.)  Phew.

I want to start by thanking Sergeant Marshall for that very kind introduction and for sharing his story with us today.  And I want to thank all of you — our men and women in uniform, our veterans and your extraordinary families.  (Applause.)  Absolutely.  For the families, yes!  (Applause.)

One of my greatest privileges as First Lady has been meeting folks like you on bases and communities all across this country.  And I always say this, but I can never say it enough:  I am in awe of you.  I’m in awe of how many of you signed up to defend our country in a time of war, serving heroically through deployment after deployment.  I’m in awe of your families — the spouses who run their households all alone, the kids who step up at home and succeed at school and stay strong through all the challenges they face.  With their service, they make your service possible.

And I’m also in awe of our veterans — (applause) — because I know that your service doesn’t end when you hang up your uniform.  For so many of you, your whole life is a tour of duty, and as you become leaders in our communities and continue to give back to our country, you keep serving.  And like so many Americans, the more I’ve learned about the sacrifices you all make, the more I wanted to find a way to express my gratitude, and that’s — not just with words, but with action.

And that’s why last year Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces.  It’s a nationwide campaign to recognize, honor and support our veterans, our troops and our military families.  And I have to tell you, we had barely even finished announcing this campaign when we were inundated with offers to help.  I mean, so many people wanted to step up and show their appreciation that we hardly knew where to begin.

In our first year alone, more than 1,600 businesses hired more than 60,000 veterans, and they pledged to hire at least 170,000 more in the coming years.  (Applause.)  National associations of doctors and nurses representing millions of health professionals are working to improve treatment for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.  We’ve had TV shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Sesame Street; organizations like NASCAR and Disney — they’re working to share the stories of our military families with the rest of the country.  And these are just a few examples out of thousands all across the country.

So if I can leave you with just one message today, I want you all to know that America does have your backs.  And we are just getting started.  We are going to keep at this.  We’re going to keep on working every day to serve all of you as well as you have served this country.

And the man who has been leading the way is standing right next to me.  (Applause.)  And ladies, I think he’s kind of cute.  (Laughter and applause.)  He was fighting for all of you long before he ever became President.

He’s made veteran’s employment a national priority, with tax breaks for businesses that hire veterans and wounded warriors.  He’s working to end the outrage of veteran’s homelessness once and for all.  (Applause.)  He championed the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which has helped more than half a million veterans and military families go to college.  (Applause.)  And today, with this new effort to ensure that you all get the education you’ve earned, that story continues.

So please join me in welcoming your strongest advocate — your Commander-In-Chief and our President, my husband, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Hello, Fort Stewart!  (Applause.)  It is good to be here at Fort Stewart.  First of all, how about the First Lady, Michelle Obama?  (Applause.)  Hooah!  She is a tough act to follow.  For the gentlemen out there who are not yet married, let me just explain to you, your goal is to improve your gene pool by marrying somebody who is superior to you.  (Applause.)  Isn’t that right, General?  (Laughter.)

Listen, and as you just heard, when it comes to all of you — when it comes to our military, our veterans, your families –- Michelle Obama and Jill Biden have your back.  They are working tirelessly to make sure that our military families are treated with the honor and respect and support that they deserve.  And I could not be prouder of all the efforts that they’ve been making on their behalf.  (Applause.)
It’s a privilege to hang out with some of America’s finest.

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

THE PRESIDENT:   The ‘Dog Face Soldiers’ of the Third Infantry Division!  (Applause.)  Rock of the Marne!  We’ve got a lot of folks in the house.  We’ve got the Raider Brigade!  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the Spartan Brigade!  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the Vanguard Brigade!  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the Provider Brigade!  (Hooah!)  And we’ve got the Falcon Brigade!  (Hooah!)

Let me thank Major General Abrams and his beautiful wife, Connie, for welcoming us.  Abe is doing an incredible job carrying on his family’s incredible tradition of service to our country.  So we are grateful for him.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

I want to thank Command Sergeant Major Edd Watson and his beautiful wife, Sharon.  (Applause.)  I want to thank someone who’s made it her life’s mission to stand up for the financial security of you and your families, somebody who knows a little bit about military families and military service.  And actually, this is a homecoming for her because she spent over three years when they were posted down here — Holly Petraeus is in the house.  I want you guys to give her a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

But most importantly, I want to thank all of you.  I want to thank you for your service.  I want to thank you for your sacrifice.  I want to thank you for your unshakeable commitment to our country.  You have worn the uniform with honor.  You’ve performed heroically in some of the most dangerous places on Earth.  You have done everything that has been asked of you, and more.  And you have earned a special place in our nation’s history.

Future generations will speak of your achievements.  They’ll speak of how the Third Infantry Division’s ‘thunder run’ into Baghdad signaled the end of a dictatorship, and how you brought Iraq back from the brink of civil war.  They’ll speak of you and your service in Afghanistan and in the fight against al Qaeda, which you have put on the path to defeat.

And to the members of the Special Operations Forces community, while the American people may never know the full extent of your service, they will surely speak of how you kept our country safe and strong, and how you delivered justice to our enemies.

So history will remember what you did, and so will we.  We will remember the profound sacrifices that you’ve made in these wars.  Michelle and I just had a few moments at the Warriors Walk, paying tribute to 441 of your fallen comrades — men and women who gave their last full measure of devotion to keep our nation safe.  And we will remember them.  We will honor them — always.  And our thoughts and prayers also go out to the troops from Fort Stewart who are serving so bravely right now as we speak in Afghanistan.  (Applause.)  And I know many of you will be deploying there, too, so you know you’re going to be in our thoughts and prayers.
Your generation — the 9/11 Generation — has written one of the greatest chapters of military service that America has ever seen.  But I know that for many of you, a new chapter is unfolding.  The war in Iraq is over.  The transition in Afghanistan is underway.  Many of our troops are coming home, back to civilian life.  And as you return, I know that you’re looking for new jobs and new opportunities and new ways to serve this great country of ours.

And three years ago, I made your generation a promise:  I said that when your tour comes to an end — when you see our flag, when you touch down on our soil — you’ll be coming home to an America that will forever fight for you, just as you fought for us.

For me, as President, it’s been a top priority.  It’s something I worked on as a senator when I served on the Veterans Affairs Committee.  It’s something I continue to this day.  Since I took office, we’ve hired over 200,000 veterans to serve in the federal government.  (Applause.)

We’ve made it easier for veterans to access all sorts of employment services.  You just heard how Michelle and Jill have worked with businesses to secure tens of thousands of jobs for veterans and their families.  And with support from Democrats and Republicans, we’ve put in place new tax credits for companies that hire veterans.  We want every veteran who wants a job to get a job.  That’s the goal.  (Applause.)

And those of you who want to pursue a higher education and earn new skills, you deserve that opportunity as well.

Like General Abrams’ dad, my grandfather — the man who helped raise me -— served in Patton’s Army.  And when he came home, he went to school on the GI Bill, because America decided that every returning veteran of World War II should be able to afford it.  And we owe that same commitment to all of you.

So as President, I’ve made sure to champion the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  And with that bill — and the Tuition Assistance program — last year we supported more than 550,000 veterans and 325,000 servicemembers who are pursuing a higher education.  (Applause.)  Because a higher education is the clearest path to the middle class.  That’s progress.  But we’ve got more to do.  We can’t be satisfied with what we’ve already done, we’ve got more to do.  We’ve got to make sure you’ve got every tool you need to make an informed decision when it comes to picking a school.  And that’s why Michelle and I are here today.

Right now, it’s not that easy.  I’ve heard the stories.  Some of you guys can relate; you may have experienced it yourselves.  You go online to try and find the best school for military members, or your spouses, or other family members.  You end up on a website that looks official.  They ask you for your email, they ask you for your phone number.  They promise to link you up with a program that fits your goals.  Almost immediately after you’ve typed in all that information, your phone starts ringing.  Your inbox starts filling up.  You’ve never been more popular in your life.  All of these schools want you to enroll with them.

And it sounds good.  Every school and every business should be out there competing for your skills and your talent and your leadership — everything that you’ve shown in uniform.  But as some of your comrades have discovered, sometimes you’re dealing with folks who aren’t interested in helping you.  They’re not interested in helping you find the best program.  They are interested in getting the money.  They don’t care about you; they care about the cash.

So they harass you into making a quick decision with all those calls and emails.  And if they can’t get you online, they show up on post.  One of the worst examples of this is a college recruiter who had the nerve to visit a barracks at Camp Lejeune and enroll Marines with brain injuries — just for the money.  These Marines had injuries so severe some of them couldn’t recall what courses the recruiter had signed them up for.  That’s appalling.  That’s disgraceful.  It should never happen in America.

I’m not talking about all schools.  Many of them — for-profit and non-profit — provide quality education to our servicemembers and our veterans and their families.  But there are some bad actors out there.  They’ll say you don’t have to pay a dime for your degree but once you register, they’ll suddenly make you sign up for a high interest student loan.  They’ll say that if you transfer schools, you can transfer credits.  But when you try to actually do that, you suddenly find out that you can’t.  They’ll say they’ve got a job placement program when, in fact, they don’t.  It’s not right.  They’re trying to swindle and hoodwink you.  And today, here at Fort Stewart, we’re going to put an end to it.  (Applause.)  We’re putting an end to it.

The executive order I’m about to sign will make life a whole lot more secure for you and your families and our veterans — and a whole lot tougher for those who try to prey on you.  Here’s what we’re going to do.

First, we’re going to require colleges that want to enroll members of our military or veterans or your families to provide clear information about their qualifications and available financial aid.  You’ll be able to get a simple fact sheet called “Know Before You Owe.”  Know before you owe.  (Applause.)  And it will lay out all the information that you need to make your own choices about how best to pay for college.

Second, we’re going to require those schools to step up their support for our students.  They need to provide a lot more counseling.  If you’ve got to move because of a deployment or a reassignment, they’ve got to help you come up with a plan so that you can still get your degree.  (Applause.)

Number three, we’re going to bring an end to the aggressive — and sometimes dishonest — recruiting that takes place.  We’re going to up our oversight of improper recruitment practices.  We’re going to strengthen the rules about who can come on post and talk to servicemembers.  (Applause.)  And we’re going to make it a lot easier for all of you to file complaints and for us to take action when somebody is not acting right.

This is about making sure you succeed — because when you succeed, our country succeeds.  It’s that simple.  After all, at the end of World War II, so many Americans like my grandfather came home to new opportunities.  Because of the original GI Bill, by 1947, half of all Americans who enrolled in college were veterans.  And you know what, they did pretty well.

They rose to become Presidents and Supreme Court Justices and Nobel Prize winners.  They went on to become scientists and engineers, and doctors and nurses.  Eight million Americans were educated under the original GI Bill.  And together, they forged the backbone of what would become the largest middle class that the world had ever seen.  They built this country.  They turned us into that economic superpower.

And we can do it again.  We face some tough times.  We’ve gone through the worst recession since the Great Depression, two wars.  But you know what, we’ve faced tough times before.  And all of you know something that America should never forget:  Just as you rise or fall as one unit, we rise or fall as one nation.  Just as you have each other’s backs, what has always made America great is that we have each other’s backs.  Each of us is only here because somebody looked out for us.  Not just our parents, but our neighbors and our communities and our houses of worship and our VFW halls.  (Applause.)  Each of us is here because we had a country that was willing to invest in things like community colleges and universities, and scientific research and medicine, and caring for our veterans.  Each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, had our backs.

This country exists because generations of Americans worked together and looked out for one other.  Out of many, we are one.  Those are the values we’ve got to return to.  If we do, there’s nothing this country cannot achieve.  There’s no challenge that’s too great for us.  There’s no destiny beyond our reach.  As long as we’re joined in common purpose and common resolve, better days will always lie ahead, and we will remind everybody why the United States of America is the greatest country on Earth.

And as I look out at this sea of incredible men and women — (applause) — it gives me confidence that our best days are still ahead.

God bless you.  God bless our armed services.  God bless the Third Division.  God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

And now I’m going to sign this executive order.

(The executive order is signed.)

END
1:09 P.M. EDT

%d bloggers like this: