Full Text Obama Presidency May 28, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Honors & Celebrates US Troops on Memorial Day — Recalls Fallen Soldiers, Winding Down of Iraq, Afghanistan Wars

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Obama on Memorial Day Recalls the Fallen, Winding Down of Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-28-12

Under bright, hazy skies at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama spent his fourth Memorial Day as commander in chief honoring the hundreds of thousands of  soldiers who died serving their country, particularly in the Vietnam War, which began more than 50 years ago.

“From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, they stepped forward and answered the call,” Obama told hundreds gathered in the humid, midday heat at the cemetery, which is across the Potomac River from the capital.

“They fought for a home they might never return to; they fought for buddies they’ll never forget. While their stories may be separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles, they rest here, together. Side by side, row by row.  Because each of them loved this country and everything it stands for more than life itself.”

Heeding to custom, Obama also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, pausing to reflect and pray as a lone bugler played taps….READ MORE

President Obama Celebrates U.S. Troops on Memorial Day

Source: WH, 5-28-12

President Obama participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery (May 28, 2012)
President Barack Obama, with Major General Michael Linnington, Commanding General Military District of Washington, participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, May 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama earlier marked Memorial Day with two separate events.

This morning, he visited Arlington National Cemetery, where he placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and highlighted the connection shared by each of the heroes who rest at the site:

These 600 acres are home to Americans from every part of the country who gave their lives in every corner of the globe. When a revolution needed to be waged and a Union needed to be saved, they left their homes and took up arms for the sake of an idea. From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, they stepped forward and answered the call. They fought for a home they might never return to; they fought for buddies they would never forget. And while their stories may be separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles, they rest here, together, side-by-side, row-by-row, because each of them loved this country, and everything it stands for, more than life itself.

POLITICAL QUOTES
& SPEECHES

Remarks by the President Commemorating Memorial Day

Memorial Amphitheater
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:39 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Please be seated.  Good morning, everybody.  Thank you, Secretary Panetta, for your introduction and for your incredible service to our country.  To General Dempsey, Major General Linnington, Kathryn Condon, Chaplain Berry, all of you who are here today — active duty, veterans, family and friends of the fallen — thank you for allowing me the privilege of joining you in this sacred place to commemorate Memorial Day.

These 600 acres are home to Americans from every part of the country who gave their lives in every corner of the globe.  When a revolution needed to be waged and a Union needed to be saved, they left their homes and took up arms for the sake of an idea.  From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, they stepped forward and answered the call.  They fought for a home they might never return to; they fought for buddies they would never forget.  And while their stories may be separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles, they rest here, together, side-by-side, row-by-row, because each of them loved this country, and everything it stands for, more than life itself.

Today, we come together, as Americans, to pray, to reflect, and to remember these heroes.  But tomorrow, this hallowed place will once again belong to a smaller group of visitors who make their way through the gates and across these fields in the heat and in the cold, in the rain and the snow, following a well-worn path to a certain spot and kneeling in front of a familiar headstone.

You are the family and friends of the fallen — the parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters by birth and by sacrifice.  And you, too, leave a piece of your hearts beneath these trees.  You, too, call this sanctuary home.

Together, your footsteps trace the path of our history.  And this Memorial Day, we mark another milestone.  For the first time in nine years, Americans are not fighting and dying in Iraq.  (Applause.)  We are winding down the war in Afghanistan, and our troops will continue to come home.  (Applause.)  After a decade under the dark cloud of war, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon.

Especially for those who’ve lost a loved one, this chapter will remain open long after the guns have fallen silent.  Today, with the war in Iraq finally over, it is fitting to pay tribute to the sacrifice that spanned that conflict.

In March of 2003, on the first day of the invasion, one of our helicopters crashed near the Iraqi border with Kuwait.  On it were four Marines:  Major Jay Aubin; Captain Ryan Beaupre; Corporal Brian Kennedy; and Staff Sergeant Kendall Waters-Bey.  Together, they became the first American casualties of the Iraq war.  Their families and friends barely had time to register the beginning of the conflict before being forced to confront its awesome costs.

Eight years, seven months and 25 days later, Army Specialist David Hickman was on patrol in Baghdad.  That’s when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.  He became the last of nearly 4,500 American patriots to give their lives in Iraq.  A month after David’s death — the days before the last American troops, including David, were scheduled to come home — I met with the Hickman family at Fort Bragg.  Right now, the Hickmans are beginning a very difficult journey that so many of your families have traveled before them — a journey that even more families will take in the months and years ahead.

To the families here today, I repeat what I said to the Hickmans:  I cannot begin to fully understand your loss.  As a father, I cannot begin to imagine what it’s like to hear that knock on the door and learn that your worst fears have come true. But as Commander-In-Chief, I can tell you that sending our troops into harm’s way is the most wrenching decision that I have to make.  I can promise you I will never do so unless it’s absolutely necessary, and that when we do, we must give our troops a clear mission and the full support of a grateful nation. (Applause.)

And as a country, all of us can and should ask ourselves how we can help you shoulder a burden that nobody should have to bear alone.  As we honor your mothers and fathers, your sons and daughters, we have given — who have given their last full measure of devotion to this country, we have to ask ourselves how can we support you and your families and give you some strength?

One thing we can do is remember these heroes as you remember them — not just as a rank, or a number, or a name on a headstone, but as Americans, often far too young, who were guided by a deep and abiding love for their families, for each other, and for this country.

We can remember Jay Aubin, the pilot, who met his wife on an aircraft carrier, and told his mother before shipping out, “If anything happens to me, just know I’m doing what I love.”

We can remember Ryan Beaupre, the former track star, running the leadoff leg, always the first one into action, who quit his job as an accountant and joined the Marines because he wanted to do something more meaningful with his life.

We can remember Brian Kennedy, the rock climber and lacrosse fanatic, who told his father two days before his helicopter went down that the Marines he served alongside were some of the best men he’d ever dealt with, and they’d be his friends forever.

We can remember Kendall Waters-Bey, a proud father, a proud son of Baltimore, who was described by a fellow servicemember as “a light in a very dark world.”

And we can remember David Hickman, a freshman in high school when the war began, a fitness fanatic who half-jokingly called himself “Zeus,” a loyal friend with an infectious laugh.

We can remember them.  And we can meet our obligations to those who did come home, and their families who are in the midst of a different, but very real battle of their own.

To all our men and women in uniform who are here today, know this:  The patriots who rest beneath these hills were fighting for many things — for their families, for their flag — but above all, they were fighting for you.  As long as I’m President, we will make sure you and your loved ones receive the benefits you’ve earned and the respect you deserve.  America will be there for you.  (Applause.)

And finally, for all of you who carry a special weight on your heart, we can strive to be a nation worthy of your sacrifice.  A nation that is fair and equal, peaceful and free.  A nation that weighs the cost of every human life.  A nation where all of us meet our obligations to one another, and to this country that we love.  That’s what we can do.

As President, I have no higher honor and no greater responsibility than serving as Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military the world has ever known.  (Applause.)  And on days like this, I take pride in the fact that this country has always been home to men and women willing to give of themselves until they had nothing more to give.  I take heart in the strength and resolve of those who still serve, both here at home and around the world.  And I know that we must always strive to be worthy of your sacrifice.

God bless you.  God bless the fallen.  God bless our men and women in uniform.  And may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:49 A.M. EDT

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White House Recap April 27-May 4, 2012: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Barack Obama’s Surprise Afghanistan Visit — Signs Strategic Partnership Agreement

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: APRIL 27-MAY 4, 2012

West Wing Week: 5/4/12 or “Out of Many, We are One.”

Source: WH, 5-4-12
This week, the President traveled to Afghanistan to sign an historic Strategic Partnership Agreement, visit with our troops, and address the American people about responsibly ending the war. The President also traveled to Fort Stewart to sign an Executive Order to protect service members and their families from deceptive marketing practices, spoke at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, welcomed the Prime Minister of Japan, and spoke at the Building and Construction Trades conference.

Weekly Wrap Up: Driving America Forward

Source: WH, 5-4-12

Correspondents’ Dinner: At the annual Correspondents’ Dinner, which has been held since 1920, President Obama joked about himself and the coverage he has received from the reporters in attendance. In case you missed it – or if you want to watch it again – you can watch President Obama’s speech here.

US-Japan Friendship: On Monday, President Obama met with Prime Minister Noda of Japan at the White House to reaffirm the U.S.-Japan Alliance, a 60-year old partnership and friendship that was exemplified in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami and nuclear crisis that followed. After a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, the two leaders laid out a new joint vision to guide the alliance for decades to come.

Rebuilding America: Speaking to 3,000 attendees of the Building and Construction Trades Department conference in Washington, D.C. Monday, President Obama made an argument for investing in rebuilding America and urged Congress to get construction workers on the job by passing a bipartisan bill that could guarantee work for millions of construction workers.

2012 Warrior Games: The First Lady joined Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Warrior Games Monday – an event that enables men and women who suffered injuries during a tour of duty to compete in a variety of athletic events. “No matter how seriously you’re injured, no matter what obstacles or setbacks you face, you just keep moving forward,” the First Lady remarked. “You just keep pushing yourselves to succeed in ways that just mystify and leave us all in awe.”

Surprise Trip: President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday, where he signed an historic agreement – the Strategic Partnership Agreement – that defines how the partnership between the two countries will be normalized as we look toward a responsible end to the war. After his meeting with President Karzai, President Obama met with U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base, and took the opportunity to thank them for the sacrifices that they and their families have made over the past decade of war.

Cinco de Mayo: President Obama hosted a Cinco de Mayo reception Thursday – a few days early – at the White House. Speaking from the Rose Garden, President Obama remarked, “Right now, there are more than 50 million Americans of Latino descent – one sixth of our population. You’re our neighbors, our coworkers, our family, our friends. You’re starting businesses. You’re teaching in classrooms. You’re defending this country. You’re driving America forward.”

Continuing Student Loan Push: On Friday, President Obama headed to Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, where he continued his push to prevent interest rates on student loans from doubling on July 1st like they are currently scheduled to. “You guys shouldn’t have to pay an extra $1,000 just because Congress can’t get it together,” the President said. “This should be a no-brainer. This is something we need to get done.”

Full Text Obama Presidency May 1, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech to US Troops During Surprise Visit to Afghanistan

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

On Surprise Trip to Kabul, Obama Signs Afghan Pact

Source: NYT, 5-1-12

President Obama got a high five from a member of the U.S. military at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan on Tuesday.
Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama got a high five from a member of the U.S. military at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

President Obama signed a strategic partnership agreement with President Hamid Karzai meant to mark the beginning of the end of the Afghanistan war….READ MORE

The Caucus: Obama’s Afghanistan Trip Latest in Tradition of Covert Travel

President Obama Pays a Surprise Visit to U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

Source: WH, 5-1-12

President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, where he signed an historic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that defines how the partnership between the United States and Afghanistan will be normalized as we look beyond a responsible end to the war.

After his meeting with President Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, President Obama headed to Bagram Air Base, where he met with U.S. troops serving in that country, and thanked them for the sacrifices that they have made, and that their families have made, over the past decade of war, and paid tribute to their successes:

When we see our homeland violated, when we see our fellow citizens killed, then we understand what we have to do. And because of the sacrifices now of a decade, and a new Greatest Generation, not only were we able to blunt the Taliban momentum, not only were we able to drive al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but slowly and systematically we have been able to decimate the ranks of al Qaeda, and a year ago we were able to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice.

That could have only happened because each and every one of you, in your own way, were doing your jobs.  Each and every one of you — without a lot of fanfare, without a lot of fuss — you did your jobs.  No matter how small or how big, you were faithful to the oath that you took to protect this nation.  And your families did their job — supporting you and loving you and remembering you and being there for you.

And so, together, you guys represent what is best in America.  And you’re part of a long line of those who have worn this uniform to make sure that we are free and secure, to make sure that those of us at home have the capacity to live our lives.  And when you’re missing a birthday or you’re missing a soccer game or when you’re missing an anniversary, and those of us back home are able to enjoy it, it’s because of you.

And I’m here to tell you, everybody in America knows that.  And everybody in America appreciates it.  And everybody in America honors it.  And when the final chapter of this war is written, historians will look back and say, not only was this the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, but all of you also represented the values of America in an exemplary way.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President to the Troops in Afghanistan

Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan

1:21 A.M. AFT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hooah!  How’s everybody doing tonight?  Hooah!  (Applause.)

TROOPS:  Hooah!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It is good to be back here with all of you.  (Applause.)

I’ve got a few acknowledgments I’ve got to make before I say what I’ve got to say.  First of all, somebody who has served our country with the kind of distinction that doesn’t happen a lot, somebody who has been a leader for you and a leader for our country for a very long time — give your commander, General John Allen, a big, big round of applause.  (Applause.)

We also have somebody who is John’s partner on the civilian side and has made extraordinary sacrifices, first in Iraq, now in Afghanistan — Ambassador Ryan Crocker is here.  Please give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

All right, now, let me just see if I’ve got this right.  We’ve got the First Infantry Division in the house.  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the Task Force Muleskinner.  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the 101st Army Field Sustainment Brigade.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Hooah!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ve got Task Force Paladin in the house.  (Hooah!)  And we’ve got Task Force Defender in the house.  (Hooah!)  And we’ve got me in the house.  (Applause.)  Eighty-second in the house — 82nd in the house.  (Hooah!)  You know, somebody is going to be in trouble that they didn’t have 82nd on here. Anybody else I’m missing?  There you go.  All right.  I love all of you.

Now, listen, I’m not going to give a long speech. I’m going to have the opportunity to address the nation from Bagram just in a little bit, and it’s going to be broadcast back home during primetime. So all I want to do is just say thank you.

The sacrifices all of you have made, the sacrifices your families make every single day are what make America free and what make America secure. And I know that sometimes, out here, when you’re in theater, it’s not clear whether folks back home fully appreciate what’s going on. And let’s face it, a lot of times it’s easier to get bad news on the news than good news.

But here’s the good news, and here’s part of the reason that I’m here.  I just finished signing a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan that signals the transition in which we are going to be turning over responsibility for Afghan security to the Afghans. We’re not going to do it overnight. We’re not going to do it irresponsibly.  We’re going to make sure that the gains, the hard-fought gains that have been made are preserved. But the reason we’re able to do that is because of you. The reason that the Afghans have an opportunity for a new tomorrow is because of you.  And the reason America is safe is because of you.

We did not choose this war. This war came to us on 9/11. And there are a whole bunch of folks here, I’ll bet, who signed up after 9/11.

TROOPS:  Hooah!

THE PRESIDENT:  We don’t go looking for a fight. But when we see our homeland violated, when we see our fellow citizens killed, then we understand what we have to do. And because of the sacrifices now of a decade, and a new Greatest Generation, not only were we able to blunt the Taliban momentum, not only were we able to drive al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but slowly and systematically we have been able to decimate the ranks of al Qaeda, and a year ago we were able to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice.

TROOPS:  Hooah!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That could have only happened because each and every one of you, in your own way, were doing your jobs.  Each and every one of you — without a lot of fanfare, without a lot of fuss — you did your jobs.  No matter how small or how big, you were faithful to the oath that you took to protect this nation.  And your families did their job — supporting you and loving you and remembering you and being there for you.

And so, together, you guys represent what is best in America.  And you’re part of a long line of those who have worn this uniform to make sure that we are free and secure, to make sure that those of us at home have the capacity to live our lives.  And when you’re missing a birthday or you’re missing a soccer game or when you’re missing an anniversary, and those of us back home are able to enjoy it, it’s because of you.

And I’m here to tell you, everybody in America knows that.  And everybody in America appreciates it.  And everybody in America honors it.  And when the final chapter of this war is written, historians will look back and say, not only was this the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, but all of you also represented the values of America in an exemplary way.

I could not be prouder of you. And I want you to understand, I know it’s still tough. I know the battle is not yet over.  Some of your buddies are going to get injured, and some of your buddies may get killed.  And there’s going to be heartbreak and pain and difficulty ahead. But there’s a light on the horizon because of the sacrifices you’ve made.  And that’s the reason why for Michelle and me nothing is more important than looking after your families while you’re here.  And I want everybody here to know that when you get home, we are going to be there for you when you’re in uniform and we will stay there for you when you’re out of uniform. Because you’ve earned it; you earned a special place in our hearts. And I could not be prouder to be your Commander-in-Chief.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  Now I want to shake some hands.  (Applause.)

END                1:30 A.M. AFT

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