Full Text Political Transcripts May 29, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Memorial Day Speech at Arlington National Cemetery

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at Arlington National Cemetery

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Source: WH, 5-29-17

Arlington, Virginia

11:30 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  And thank you, General Dunford and Secretary Mattis, for your moving words and for your service to our great nation.  Vice President Pence, Cabinet Secretaries, members of Congress, members of the Armed Forces and veterans — thank you for joining us as we honor the brave warriors who gave their lives for ours, spending their last moments on this Earth in defense of this country and of its people.

Words cannot measure the depth of their devotion, the purity of their love, or the totality of their courage.  We only hope that every day we can prove worthy not only of their sacrifice and service but of the sacrifice made by the families and loved ones they left behind.  Special, special people.

I especially want to extend our gratitude to Secretary John Kelly for joining us today.  Incredible man.  (Applause.)  I always like to call him General.  He understands more than most ever could or ever will the wounds and burdens of war.  Not only did Secretary proudly serve in the military for more than 40 years, enduring many hardships, but he and his incredible wife Karen have borne the single most difficult hardship of them all
— the loss of their son, Robert, in service to our country.  Robert died fighting the enemies of all civilizations in Afghanistan.

To John, Karen, Heather, Kate, Andrea and the entire Kelly family, today 300 million American hearts are joined together with yours.  We grieve with you.  We honor you.  And we pledge to you that we will always remember Robert and what he did for all of us.  Thank you, John.  (Applause.)

The Kelly family represents military families across the country who carry the burden of freedom on their shoulders. Secretary Kelly is joined today by his son-in-law, Jake, a Wounded Warrior.  And the Secretary’s son, Johnnie, will soon leave on his fifth deployment.  It is because of families like yours that all of our families can live in safety and live in peace.

To every Gold Star family who honors us with your presence, you lost sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers.  They each had their own names, their own stories, their own beautiful dreams.  But they were all angels sent to us by God, and they all share one title in common — and that is the title of hero.  (Applause.)  Real heroes.  Though they were here only a brief time before God called them home, their legacy will endure forever.

General Douglas MacArthur once said that “the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.”  Here at this hallowed shrine, we honor the noblest among us — the men and women who paid the ultimate price for victory and for freedom.  We pay tribute to those brave souls who raced into gunfire, roared into battle, and ran into hell to face down evil.  They made their sacrifice not for fame, or for money, or even for glory — but for country.

We are privileged to be joined today by a man whose life demonstrates the values of service and sacrifice:  Senator Bob Dole, here with his wife, Senator Elizabeth Dole.  (Applause.)   Senator Dole fought bravely in World War II, and was severely wounded by German fire.  In just a few weeks, Bob will be celebrating his 94th birthday.  (Applause.)

And, Bob, I know I speak for millions of grateful Americans when I say thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Bob.  We thank you not only for your service, but for helping us to remember your fallen comrades and the countless American patriots who gave their lives in the Second World War.

Since the first volley of gunfire in the Revolution, brave Americans in every generation have answered the call of duty and won victory for freedom in its hour of need.  Today, a new generation of American patriots are fighting to win the battle against terrorism — risking their lives to protect our citizens from an enemy that uses the murder of innocents to wage war on humanity itself.

We are joined today by the wife of Specialist Christopher Horton, who rests on these so beautiful grounds.  As Jane tells us, Chris “was a man who loved his country with every part of his being.”
In 2008, Chris enlisted in the Oklahoma Army National Guard.  He trained as a sniper, becoming known as one of the best shots anywhere at any time.  He was a talented, tough guy.  While Chris was in the National Guard, he was also a volunteer police officer.  In everything he did, he was thinking about how he could serve God, serve his family and serve his country.

In 2011, he deployed for the first time to Afghanistan. Chris knew his job was one of the most dangerous there was, but he was determined to go after the enemy at any cost to himself.  His missions helped target and kill terrorists who sought to destroy innocent people.  Just three months into his first deployment, Chris was near the Pakistan border, trying to eliminate an enemy cell that was doing so much damage and that was planting deadly roadside bombs against his unit and the units of many others.  Standing watch with his comrades, he died in the ensuing gun battle with enemy forces.  Chris sacrificed his life to protect his fellow soldiers — and to protect all Americans.  He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his courage. At only 26 years old, Chris secured his place in our hearts for eternity.

Jane, America, grieves with you.  Our whole entire nation sends you our support, our strength, and our deep, deep love.  You lost your husband, and America lost a hero.  And together, we will preserve his memory — today, tomorrow, and always.  Thank you, Jane.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Jane.  Thank you, Jane.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Jane.

We are also joined today by David and Rose Byers, the parents of Major Andrew Byers.  As a boy, Andrew dreamed of the chance to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point.  He worked hard, he earned that chance, and he graduated at the top of his class.  He became the commander of a Special HALO team, leading his fellow soldiers out of aircraft, hurtling into dangerous and unknown territory.

About this time last year, Andrew was sent on his third combat deployment.  This time he went to Afghanistan.  On November 3rd, he was one of 10 Special Forces operators to land by helicopter near a Taliban safe haven in northern Afghanistan. They trekked through a mile of waist-deep mud and climbed a steep cliff before finally reaching the village that they wanted to reach.  There, a night-long battle ensued.  Andrew and his team fought off wave after wave after wave of enemy fighters.  A grenade detonated, and as the Taliban began to surround the American and Afghan forces, Andrew ran through the smoke and through the hail of bullets to rescue an Afghan soldier.  In the midst of this torrent of gunfire and danger, Andrew worked heroically to open a gateway and get his men to safety — risking his life to save theirs.  And he did it.  Unbelievably, he did.  But in saving those lives, Andrew was killed right then and there by enemy fire.  Andrew has since been awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in battle.

To his parents, David and Rose, we stand in awe of your son and his courageous sacrifice.  On behalf of the American people, I express to you our everlasting gratitude for what your son did for his country, for his comrades, and for all of us.

Andrew’s father has said that he holds on to the promise of Joshua Chapter 1, Verse 9:  “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”   Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  What a man he was.

To every Gold Star family, God is with you, and your loved ones are with Him.  They died in wars so that we could live in peace.  I believe that God has a special place in heaven for those who laid down their lives so that others may live free from fear and this horrible oppression.

Now let us pledge to make the most of that freedom that they so gallantly and brilliantly fought for and they died to protect. Let us also pledge to tell the stories of Robert, Chris, Andrew, and all of America’s fallen warriors today and for the next 1,000 years.  (Applause.)

And while we cannot know the extent of your pain, what we do know is that our gratitude to them and to you is boundless and undying.  Boundless and undying.  We’ll always be there.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Their stories are now woven into the soul of our nation, into the Stars and Stripes on our flag, and into the beating hearts of our great, great people.

Today we also hold a special vigil for heroes whose story we cannot tell because their names are known to God alone — the unknown soldiers.  We do not know where they came from, who they left behind, or what they hoped to be.  But we do know what they did.  They fought and they died in a great and noble act of loyalty and love to their families and to our country.

The letter written that is now famous — one Civil War soldier captured it all and for all time.  He wrote to his wife, “If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.”  That is the love we hear whispering throughout this sacred place and from every tombstone on these hallowed grounds.  It is the love that binds this earth beneath us and it bleeds from the hearts of all of those who died so that we might live free.

We can never replace them.  We can never repay them.  But we can always remember.  And today, that is what we are doing — we remember.  Words cannot wipe away the tears or bring back those smiling faces.  But if Americans just take the time to look into your eyes and tell you how much we thank you and how dearly we pray for you and how truly we love you, then hopefully you can find solace through your pain.  And every time you see the sun rise over this blessed land please know your brave sons and daughters pushed away the night and delivered for us all that great and glorious dawn.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless our fallen heroes.  God bless their families.  God bless our military.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:50 A.M. EDT

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Full Text Political Transcripts May 30, 2016: President Barack Obama Remarks on Memorial Day 2016 at Arlington Cemetery

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Memorial Day, 2016

Source: WH, 5-30-16

Arlington Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:31 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning.

THE PRESIDENT:  Secretary Carter, General Dunford, Mr. Hallinan, Major General Becker, members of our Armed Forces, veterans, and most of all, our Gold Star families:  I’m honored to be with you once again as we pay our respects, as Americans, to those who gave their lives for us all.

Here, at Arlington, the deafening sounds of combat have given way to the silence of these sacred hills.  The chaos and confusion of battle has yielded to perfect, precise rows of peace.  The Americans who rest here, and their families — the best of us, those from whom we asked everything — ask of us today only one thing in return:  that we remember them.

If you look closely at the white markers that grace these hills, one thing you’ll notice is that so many of the years — dates of birth and dates of death — are so close together.  They belong to young Americans; those who never lived to be honored as veterans for their service — men who battled their own brothers in Civil War, those who fought as a band of brothers an ocean away, men and women who redefine heroism for a new generation.  There are generals buried beside privates they led.  Americans known as “Dad” or “Mom.”  Some only known to God.  As Mr. Hallinan, a Marine who then watched over these grounds has said, “everyone here is someone’s hero.”

Those who rest beneath this silence — not only here at Arlington, but at veterans’ cemeteries across our country and around the world, and all who still remain missing — they didn’t speak the loudest about their patriotism.  They let their actions do that.  Whether they stood up in times of war, signed up in times of peace, or were called up by a draft board, they embodied the best of America.

As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than leading our men and women in uniform; I have no more solemn obligation sending them into harm’s way.  I think about this every time I approve an operation as President.  Every time, as a husband and father, that I sign a condolence letter.  Every time Michelle and I sit at the bedside of a wounded warrior or grieve and hug members of a Gold Star Family.

Less than one percent of our nation wears the uniform, and so few Americans sees this patriotism with their own eyes or knows someone who exemplifies it.  But every day, there are American families who pray for the sound of a familiar voice when the phone rings.  For the sound of a loved one’s letter or email arriving.  More than one million times in our history, it didn’t come.  And instead, a car pulled up to the house.  And there was a knock on the front door.  And the sounds of Taps floated through a cemetery’s trees.

For us, the living — those of us who still have a voice — it is our responsibility, our obligation, to fill that silence with our love and our support and our gratitude — and not just with our words, but with our actions.  For truly remembering, and truly honoring these fallen Americans means being there for their parents, and their spouses, and their children — like the boys and girls here today, wearing red shirts and bearing photos of the fallen.  Your moms and dads would be so proud of you.  And we are, too.

Truly remembering means that after our fallen heroes gave everything to get their battle buddies home, we have to make sure our veterans get everything that they have earned, from good health care to a good job.  And we have to do better; our work is never done.  We have to be there not only when we need them, but when they need us.

Thirty days before he would be laid to rest a short walk from here, President Kennedy told us that a nation reveals itself not only by the people it produces, but by those it remembers.  Not everyone will serve.  Not everyone will visit this national sanctuary.  But we remember our best in every corner of our country from which they came.  We remember them by teaching our children at schools with fallen heroes’ names, like Dorie Miller Elementary in San Antonio.  Or being good neighbors in communities named after great generals, like McPherson, Kansas.  Or when we walk down 1st Sgt. Bobby Mendez Way in Brooklyn, or drive across the Hoover Dam on a bridge that bears Pat Tillman’s name.

We reveal ourselves in our words and deeds, but also by the simple act of listening.  My fellow Americans, today and every day, listen to the stories these Gold Star families and veterans have to tell.  Ask about who he or she was, why they volunteered. Hear from those who loved them about what their smile looked like, and their laugh sounded like, and the dreams they had for their lives.

Since we gathered here one year ago, more than 20 brave Americans have given their lives for the security of our people in Afghanistan.  We pray for them all, and for their families.  In Iraq, in our fight against ISIL, three Americans have given their lives in combat on our behalf.  And today, I ask you to remember their stories, as well.

Charles Keating, IV — Charlie, or Chuck, or “C-4” — was born into a family of veterans, All-American athletes and Olympians — even a Gold Medalist.  So, naturally, Charlie, and the love of his life, Brooke, celebrated their anniversary on the Fourth of July.  She called him the “huge goofball” everybody wanted to be friends with — the adventurer who surfed and spearfished and planned to sail around the world.

When the Twin Towers fell, he was in high school, and he decided to enlist — joined the SEALs because, he told his friends, it was the hardest thing to do.  He deployed to Afghanistan and three times to Iraq, earning a Bronze Star for valor.  Earlier this month, while assisting local forces in Iraq who had come under attack, he gave his life.

A few days later, one of his platoon mates sent Charlie’s parents a letter from Iraq.  “Please tell everyone Chuck saved a lot of lives today,” it said.  He left us, “with that big signature smile on his handsome face, as always.  Chuck was full of aloha, but was also a ferocious warrior.”  Today, we honor Chief Special Warfare Officer Charles Keating IV.

Louis Cardin was the sixth of seven children, a Californian with an infectious wit who always had a joke at the ready to help someone get through a tough time.  When his siblings ran around the house as kids, his mom, Pat, would yell after them:  “Watch that baby’s safety margin!”  Today, she realizes that what she was really doing was raising a Marine.  As a teenager, he proudly signed up.  Louie graduated high school on a Friday.  Three days later, on Monday morning, the Marines came to pick him up.  That was 10 years ago.  One morning this March, a Marine knocked on his mother’s door again.  On his fifth tour, at a fire base in Iraq, Louie gave his life while protecting the Marines under his command.

Putting others before himself was what Louie did best.  He chose to live in the barracks with his buddies even when he could have taken a house off base.  He volunteered to babysit for friends who needed a date night.  He’d just earned a promotion to mentor his fellow Marines.  When they brought Louie home, hundreds of strangers lined freeway overpasses and the streets of Southern California to salute him.  And today, we salute Staff Sergeant Louis Cardin.  (Applause.)

Joshua Wheeler’s sister says he was “exactly what was right about this world.  He came from nothing and he really made something of himself.”  As a kid, Josh was the one who made sure his brother and four half-sisters were dressed and fed and off to school.  When there wasn’t food in the cupboard, he grabbed his hunting rifle and came back with a deer for dinner.  When his country needed him, he enlisted in the Army at age 19.

He deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan — 14 times; earned 11 Bronze Stars, four for valor.  Last October, as ISIL terrorists prepared to execute 70 hostages, Josh and his fellow Special Ops went in and rescued them.  Every single one walked free.  “We were already dead,” one of the hostages said, “then God sent us a force from the sky.”  That force was the U.S. Army, including Josh Wheeler.

Josh was the doting dad who wrote notes to his kids in the stacks of books he read.  Flying home last summer to be with his wife, Ashley, who was about to give birth, he scribbled one note in the novel he was reading, just to tell his unborn son he was on his way.  Ashley Wheeler is with us here today, holding their 10-month-old son, David.  (Applause.)  Ashley says Josh’s memory makes her think about how can she be a better citizen.  And she hopes it’s what other people think about, too.  Today, this husband and father rests here, in Arlington, in Section 60.  And as Americans, we resolve to be better — better people, better citizens, because of Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler.

A nation reveals itself not only by the people it produces, but by those it remembers.  We do so not just by hoisting a flag, but by lifting up our neighbors.  Not just by pausing in silence, but by practicing in our own lives the ideals of opportunity and liberty and equality that they fought for.  We can serve others, and contribute to the causes they believed in, and above all, keep their stories alive so that one day, when he grows up and thinks of his dad, an American like David Wheeler can tell them, as well, the stories of the lives that others gave for all of us.

We are so proud of them.  We are so grateful for their sacrifice.  We are so thankful to those families of the fallen.  May God bless our fallen and their families.  May He bless all of you.  And may He forever bless these United States of America.  (Applause.)

END                 11:45 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency October 5, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Dedication — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Dedication

Source: WH, 10-5-14 

Washington, D.C.

12:21 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Good afternoon. Please be seated. To all our disabled veterans — our extraordinary wounded warriors — we gather here today, on this gorgeous autumn day in America, because each of you endured a moment that shaped the arc of your lives and that speaks to our debt as a nation.

Maybe it was there on the battlefield, as the bullets and shrapnel rained down around you. Maybe it was as you lay there, the medics tending to your wounds. Perhaps it was days or months later, in that hospital room, when you finally came to. Perhaps it was years later, as you went about your day, or in the midnight hour, when the memories came rushing back like a flood.

Wherever you were, whatever your story, it was the moment that binds each of you forever — that moment of realization that life would not be the same. Your foot. Your hand. Your arm. Your leg — maybe both. Your sight. Your peace of mind. A part of you was gone.

Speaking to his fellow veterans of the Civil War, the great Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said, “As I look into your eyes I feel…that a great trial in your youth made you different…different from what we could have been without it.” And he said, we learned “a lesson early which has given a different feeling to life” — a sense of duty that burns like a fire in the heart.

To Lois Pope, Art Wilson and everyone at the memorial foundation and our incredible veterans service organizations who devoted so many years of effort, especially our friends at the Disabled American Veterans; to all the architects and craftspeople who lent your talents to bring this memorial to life; members of Congress, Secretaries Jewell and McDonald; distinguished guests; and most of all, to our veterans who have come to know “a different feeling to life,” and to your families — it’s a great honor to be with you here today.

For more than two centuries, Americans have left everything they have known and loved — their families and their friends — and stepped forward to serve: to win our independence, to preserve our Union, to defend our democracy, to keep safe this country that we love. And when the guns fall silent, our veterans return home, ready to play their part in the next chapter of our American story. As a nation, we have not always fulfilled our obligations to those who served in our name. This is a painful truth. And few have known this better than our veterans wounded in war.

In the first years after our Revolution — when our young nation still resisted the idea of a standing army — veterans of the Continental Army returned to towns that could be indifferent to their service. One veteran — his hand mangled by a British musket ball — was deemed, like many veterans, as “unfit for labor.” And frustrated by his inability to secure a disability pension, he wrote that “many of those who aided in conquering the enemy are suffering under the most distressing poverty.” After the Civil War, and again after the First World War, our disabled veterans had to organize and march for the benefits they had earned. Down the decades, our nation has worked to do better — to do right by these patriots. Because in the United States of America, those who have fought for our freedom should never be shunned and should never be forgotten.

So, today, we take another step forward. With this memorial we commemorate, for the first time, the two battles our disabled veterans have fought — the battle over there, and the battle here at home — your battle to recover, which at times can be even harder, and certainly as longer. You walk these quiet grounds — pause by the pictures of these men and women, you look into their eyes, read their words — and we’re somehow able to join them on a journey that speaks to the endurance of the American spirit. And to you, our veterans and wounded warriors, we thank you for sharing your journey with us.

Here we feel your fears — the shock of that first moment when you realized something was different; the confusion about what would come next; the frustrations and the worries — as one veteran said — “that maybe I wouldn’t be quite the same.”

And then here we see your resolve — your refusal, in the face of overwhelming odds, to give in to despair or to cynicism; your decision, your choice, to overcome. Like the veteran who said, “It’s possible for a man to lose half his physical being and still become whole.”

It is here we can see your perseverance — your unyielding faith that tomorrow can be better; your relentless determination, often through years of hard recovery and surgeries and rehab, learning the simple things all over again — how to button a shirt, or how to write your name; in some cases, how to talk or how to walk; and how, when you’ve stumbled, when you’ve fallen, you’ve picked yourself up, you’ve carried on, you’ve never given up.

Here we get a glimpse of the wounds within — the veteran who says, “I relive the war every day.” Because no matter what war you served in — and whether they called it “shell shock” or “battle fatigue,” or the “1,000-yard stare” or post-traumatic stress — you know that the unseen wounds of war are just as real as any other, and they can hurt just as much, if not more.

Here we’re reminded that none of you have made this journey alone. Beside each of you is a wife or a husband, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and neighbors and friends — who day after day, year after year, have been there, lifting you up, pushing you further, rooting you on — like the caregiver who said, “I loved him for who he was in his heart. And he still had that.” Today we salute all your families, and the love that never quits.

And, finally, here we see that our wounded veterans are defined not by what you can’t do, but by what you can do. Just ask Captain Dawn Halfaker. In Iraq, her Humvee was hit by an RPG. She suffered burns and broken bones, lost her right arm. She struggled physically and emotionally. But with the help of her fellow wounded warriors she came to focus, she said, “not on what I had lost, but on what I still had.” And today what she has is the respect of her fellow veterans that she mentors; a business of her own — one that hires veterans; and a beautiful 6-month-old son. Dawn’s picture — this member of the 9/11 Generation — now graces this memorial, and we are honored that she is here today. And, Dawn, please stand up. (Applause.)

I’ve seen Dawn’s story over and over and over again — in all the wounded warriors and veterans that I have the honor to meet, from Walter Reed to Bethesda to Bagram. I know in Dawn’s life, many of you see your own. Today, I want every American to see it. After everything you endured, after all the loss, you summoned the best in yourself and found your strength again. How many of you learned to walk again and stand again and run again. How you’ve competed in races and marathons and the Paralympics, on Team USA. How you found joy and love — getting married, raising children. How you found new ways to serve — returning to your units or starting new businesses, or teaching our children, or serving your fellow veterans, or leading in your communities.

America, if you want to know what real strength is, if you want to see the character of our country — a country that never quits — look at these men and women. And I’d ask all of our disabled veterans here today — if you can stand, please stand; if not, please raise your hand so that our nation can pay tribute to your service. We thank you. We’re inspired by you. And we honor you. (Applause.)

From this day forward, Americans will come to this place and ponder the immense sacrifice made on their behalf; the heavy burden borne by a few so that we might live in freedom and peace. Of course, our reflection is not enough. Our expressions of gratitude are not enough.

Here, in the heart of our nation’s capital, this memorial is a challenge to all of us — a reminder of “the obligations this country is under.” And if we are to truly honor these veterans, we must heed the voices that speak to us here. Let’s never rush into war — because it is America’s sons and daughters who bear the scars of war for the rest of their lives. (Applause.) Let us only send them into harm’s way when it’s absolutely necessary. And if we do, let’s always give them the strategy, the mission, and the support that they need to get the job done. When the mission is over — and as our war in Afghanistan comes to a responsible end in two months — let us stand united as Americans and welcome our veterans home with the thanks and respect they deserve. (Applause.)

And if they come home having left a part of themselves on the battlefield, on our behalf, this memorial tells us what we must do. When our wounded veterans set out on that long road of recovery, we need to move heaven and earth to make sure they get every single benefit, every single bit of care that they have earned, that they deserve. (Applause.)

If they’re hurting and don’t know if they can go on, we need to say loud and clear, as family and friends, as neighbors and coworkers, as fellow citizens, and as a nation: You are not alone, it’s all right to ask for help, and we’re here to help you be strong again. Because our wounded warriors may have “a different feeling to life,” but when we are truly there for them, when we give them every opportunity to succeed and continue their enormous contributions to our country, then our whole nation is stronger, all our lives are richer.

So if you’re an American, and you see a veteran — maybe with a prosthetic arm or leg, maybe burns on their face — don’t ever look away. Do not turn away. You go up and you reach out, and you shake their hand, and you look them in the eye and you say those words every veteran should hear all the time: “Welcome home, thank you. We need you more than ever. You help us stay strong, you help us stay free.” (Applause.)

To every wounded warrior, to every disabled veteran — thank you. God bless you. God bless these United States of America. (Applause.)

END
12:35 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency August 26, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the American Legion National Convention about VA Reform Executive Actions and Improving Mental Health Care for Veterans

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Remarks by the President to the American Legion National Convention

Source: WH, 8-26-14 

Charlotte Convention Center
Charlotte, North Carolina

12:07 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, have a seat.  Hello, Legionnaires!

AUDIENCE:  Hello!

THE PRESIDENT:  I want to thank Commander Dellinger for the introduction, but more importantly, for your service in the Army.  And as you conclude your tenure as Commander, thank you for your tireless commitment to America’s veterans.

I want to thank the entire leadership team for welcoming me here today, including your National Adjutant, Dan Wheeler; your Executive Director in Washington, Peter Gaytan; Nancy Brown-Park, all the spouses, daughters — (applause) — hey! — sisters of the Auxiliary, and the Sons of the American Legion.  (Applause.)  And let me say that I join you in honoring the memory of a friend to many of you — an Army veteran and a great Legionnaire from North Carolina, Jerry Hedrick.  (Applause.)

To Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, Mayor Dan Clodfelter — thank you for welcoming us to the great state of North Carolina and to Charlotte, and for your great support of our troops and our veterans.

And I do have to mention the President of Boys Nation –Matthew Ellow, from Lacey’s Spring, Alabama.  I welcomed Matthew and all the incredible young people of Boys and Girls Nation to the White House last month.  I was running a little bit late, so they just started singing, filling the White House with patriotic songs.  And then they sang Happy Birthday to me, so I was pretty moved.  And they’re a tribute to the Legion and to our country.

I’ve brought with me today our new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald.  (Applause.)  And for those of you who are not aware, Bob is one of America’s most accomplished business leaders.  He comes from a military family.  He excelled at West Point, served as an Army Airborne Ranger — so he’s got a reputation for jumping into tough situations.  (Laughter.)  And he’s hit the ground running, visiting hospitals and clinics across the country, hearing directly from veterans and helping us change the way the VA does business.  And by the way, Washington doesn’t agree on much these days, but he got confirmed 97 to 0.  (Applause.)  People understand he’s the right man for the job.  He has my full support.  And, Bob, I want to thank you for once again serving your country.  (Applause.)

It’s an honor to be back with the American Legion.  In the story of your service we see the spirit of America.  When your country needed you most, you stepped forward.  You raised your right hand, you swore a solemn oath.  You put on that uniform and earned the title you carry to this day — whether Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman.

Among you are proud veterans of World War II; of Korea; of Vietnam; of Desert Storm and the Balkans; and our newest veterans — from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Across the generations, you served with honor.  You made us proud.  And you carry the memory of friends who never came home — our fallen, our prisoners of war, those missing in action — heroes that our nation can never forget.

When you took off that uniform, you earned another title –the title of veteran.  And you never stopped serving.  As Legionnaires, you put on that cap, wore that emblem — “for God and country” — and took care of one another, making sure our veterans receive the care and the benefits that you’ve earned and deserve.

And just as you defended America over there, you helped build America here at home — as leaders and role models in your communities, as entrepreneurs and business owners, as champions for a strong national defense.  You helped the United States of America become what we are today — the greatest democratic, economic, and military force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.

Now, these are challenging times.  I don’t have to tell you that.  Around the world as well as here at home.  You turn on the TV and we’re saturated with heartbreaking images of war and senseless violence and terrorism and tragedy.  And it can be easy to grow cynical or give in to the sense that the future we seek is somehow beyond our reach.  But as men and women who have been tested like few others, you should know better.  You know that cynicism is not the character of a great nation.  And so, even as we face, yes, the hard tasks of our time, we should never lose sight of our progress as a people or the strength of our leadership in the world.

Think about it — six years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression — in some ways, the crisis had the potential of being worse than the Great Depression — thanks to the decisions we made to rescue our economy, thanks to the determination of the American people, we are stronger at home.  Over the past 53 months, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs — the longest streak of private sector job creation in American history.  Construction and housing are rebounding.  Our auto industry and manufacturing are booming.  Our high school graduation rate is at a record high.  More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before.  Millions more Americans now have quality, affordable health care.  We’ve cut the deficit by more than half.  And now we have to sustain this momentum so more people share in this progress, so our economy works for every working American.

And just as we’re stronger at home, the United States is better positioned to lead in the 21st century than any nation on Earth.  It’s not even close.  We have the most powerful military in history — that’s certainly not close.  From Europe to Asia, our alliances are unrivaled.  Our economy is the most dynamic.  We’ve got the best workers.  We’ve got the best businesses.  We have the best universities and the best scientists.  With our domestic energy revolution, including more renewable energy, we’re more energy independent.  Our technologies connect the world.  Our freedoms and opportunities attract immigrants who “yearn to breathe free.”  Our founding ideals inspire the oppressed across the globe to reach for their own liberty.  That’s who we are.  That’s what America is.

And moreover, nobody else can do what we do.  No other nation does more to underwrite the security and prosperity on which the world depends.  In times of crisis, no other nation can rally such broad coalitions to stand up for international norms and peace.  In times of disaster, no other nation has the capabilities to deliver so much so quickly.  No nation does more to help citizens claim their rights and build their democracies.  No nation does more to help people in the far corners of the Earth escape poverty and hunger and disease, and realize their dignity.  Even countries that criticize us, when the chips are down and they need help, they know who to call — they call us.  That’s what American leadership looks like.  That’s why the United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world.

Now, sustaining our leadership, keeping America strong and secure, means we have to use our power wisely.  History teaches us of the dangers of overreaching, and spreading ourselves too thin, and trying to go it alone without international support, or rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences.  And nobody knows this better than our veterans and our families — our veteran families, because you’re the ones who bear the wages of war.  You’re the ones who carry the scars.  You know that we should never send America’s sons and daughters into harm’s way unless it is absolutely necessary and we have a plan, and we are resourcing it and prepared to see it through.  (Applause.)  You know the United States has to lead with strength and confidence and wisdom.

And that’s why, after incredible sacrifice by so many of our men and women in uniform, we removed more than 140,000 troops from Iraq and welcomed those troops home.  It was the right thing to do.  It’s why we refocused our efforts in Afghanistan and went after al Qaeda’s leadership in the tribal regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, driving the Taliban out of its strongholds, and training Afghan forces, which are now in the lead for their own security.  In just four months, we will complete our combat mission in Afghanistan and America’s longest war will come to a responsible end.  And we honor every American who served to make this progress possible — (applause) — every single one, especially the more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan to keep us safe.

And now, as Afghans continue to work towards the first democratic transfer of power in their history, Afghan leaders need to make the hard compromises that are necessary to give the Afghan people a future of security and progress.  And as we go forward, we’ll continue to partner with Afghans so their country can never again be used to launch attacks against the United States.  (Applause.)

Now, as I’ve always made clear, the blows we’ve struck against al Qaeda’s leadership don’t mean the end to the terrorist threat.  Al Qaeda affiliates still target our homeland — we’ve seen that in Yemen.  Other extremists threaten our citizens abroad, as we’ve seen most recently in Iraq and Syria.  As Commander-in-Chief, the security of the American people is my highest priority, and that’s why, with the brutal terrorist group ISIL advancing in Iraq, I have authorized targeted strikes to protect our diplomats and military advisors who are there.  (Applause.)

And let me say it again:  American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq.  I will not allow the United States to be dragged back into another ground war in Iraq.  Because ultimately, it is up to the Iraqis to bridge their differences and secure themselves.  (Applause.)  The limited strikes we’re conducting have been necessary to protect our people, and have helped Iraqi forces begin to push back these terrorists.  We’ve also been able to rescue thousands of men and women and children who were trapped on a mountain.  And our airdrops of food and water and medicine show American leadership at our best.  And we salute the brave pilots and crews who are making us proud in the skies of Iraq every single day.  (Applause.)

And more broadly, the crisis in Iraq underscores how we have to meet today’s evolving terrorist threat.  The answer is not to send in large-scale military deployments that overstretch our military, and lead for us occupying countries for a long period of time, and end up feeding extremism.  Rather, our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader strategy to protect our people and support our partners to take the fight to ISIL.

So we’re strengthening our partners — more military assistance to government and Kurdish forces in Iraq and moderate opposition in Syria.  We’re urging Iraqis to forge the kind of inclusive government that can deliver on national unity, and strong security forces and good governance that are ultimately going to be the antidote against terrorists.  And we’re urging countries in the region and building an international coalition, including our closest allies, to support Iraqis as they take the fight to these barbaric terrorists.

Today, our prayers are with the Foley family in New Hampshire as they continue to grieve the brutal murder of their son and brother Jim.  But our message to anyone who harms our people is simple:  America does not forget.  Our reach is long.  We are patient.  Justice will be done.  We have proved time and time again we will do what’s necessary to capture those who harm Americans — (applause) — to go after those who harm Americans.  (Applause.)

And we’ll continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland.  And rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy and it won’t be quick.  But tyrants and murderers before them should recognize that kind of hateful vision ultimately is no match for the strength and hopes of people who stand together for the security and dignity and freedom that is the birthright of every human being.

So even as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end, we will stay vigilant.  We will continue to make sure that our military has what it needs.  And as today’s generation of servicemembers keeps us safe, and as they come home, we also have to meet our responsibilities to them, just as they meet their responsibilities to America.  (Applause.)

When I was here at the Legion three years ago, I said that the bond between our forces and our citizens has to be a sacred trust, and that for me, for my administration, upholding our trust with our veterans is not just a matter of policy, it is a moral obligation.

And working together, we have made real progress.  Think about it.  Working with the Legion and other veterans service organizations, we’ve been able to accomplish historic increases to veterans funding.  We’ve protected veterans health care from Washington politics with advanced appropriations.  We’ve been able to make VA benefits available to more than 2 million veterans who didn’t have them before, including more Vietnam vets who were exposed to Agent Orange.  (Applause.)  We’ve dedicated major new resources for mental health care.  We’ve helped more than 1 million veterans and their families pursue their education under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

And moreover, as the Legion and other veterans groups have said, once veterans get in the door the care you receive from the VA is often very good.  The specialized care is among the best in the world.  And many of the hardworking folks at the VA are veterans themselves — veterans serving veterans.  And we can never thank them enough for their good work.

But what we’ve come to learn is that the misconduct we’ve seen at too many facilities — with long wait times, and veterans denied care, and folks cooking the books — is outrageous and inexcusable.  (Applause.)

As soon as it was disclosed, I got before the American people and I said we would not tolerate it.  And we will not.  And I know the Legion has been on the frontlines, fanning out across the country, helping veterans who’ve been affected.  And I know Bob is going to give you an update on the actions that we’re taking.  But what I want you to know, directly from me, is that we’re focused on this at the highest levels.  We are going to get to the bottom of these problems.  We’re going to fix what is wrong.  We’re going to do right by you, and we are going to do right by your families.  And that is a solemn pledge and commitment that I’m making to you here.  (Applause.)

Already we’re making sure that those responsible for manipulating or falsifying records are held accountable.  We’re reaching out to veterans — more than a quarter million so far  — to get them off wait lists and into clinics.  We’re moving ahead with reforms at the Veterans Health Administration.  And to help get that done, you supported, and Congress passed, and I signed into law the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which means more resources to help the VA hire more doctors and nurses and staff.  It means if you live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, or your VA doctors can’t see you fast enough, we’ll help you go to a doctor outside the VA.

And we’re instituting a new culture of accountability.  Bob doesn’t play.  Bob likes to recall a cadet prayer from West Point, which should be the ethos of all of us:  “Choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.”  And with the new legislation that I signed into law, Bob and the VA now have the authority to more quickly remove senior executives who don’t meet our high standards.  If you engage in unethical practices, or cover up a serious problem, you should be and will be fired.  (Applause.)

And by the way, if you blow the whistle on higher-ups because you’ve identified a legitimate problem, you shouldn’t be punished, you should be protected.  (Applause.)

So my bottom line is this:  Despite all the good work that the VA does every day, despite all the progress that we’ve made over the last several years, we are very clear-eyed about the problems that are still there.  And those problems require us to regain the trust of our veterans, and live up to our vision of a VA that is more effective and more efficient and that truly puts veterans first.  And I will not be satisfied until that happens.  (Applause.)

And we’re in the midst of a new wave of veterans — more than a million servicemembers returning to civilian life.  So we have to do more to uphold that sacred trust not just this year or next year, but for decades to come.  We’re going to have to stay focused on the five priorities that I outlined last year.  And I just want to reiterate them for you just so you know what it is that we’re committing to.

Number one, we need to make sure our veterans have the resources you deserve.  And the new funding we just helped — we just passed with the help of Senators Burr and Kay, that helps.  But as you know, it’s not enough.  Even in these tough fiscal times, I’ve, therefore, proposed another increase in veterans funding for next year.  And I’ll continue to resist any effort to exploit the recent problems at the VA to turn veterans health care into a voucher system.  We don’t need vouchers.  You need VA health care that you have earned and that you can depend on.  (Applause.)  We need to make the system work.

Second, we need to make sure veterans are actually getting the health care you need when you need it.  Reforming the VHA and more doctors and staff is a good step.  But with this new wave of veterans, we’ve got to deliver the care our newest veterans need most.  And that includes tailored care that treats our women veterans with respect and dignity.  (Applause.)  It means doing even more to help veterans from all wars who are struggling with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress.  And we have to end this tragedy of suicide among our troops and veterans.  (Applause.)  As a country, we can’t stand idly by on such tragedy.

So we’re doing even more — more than ever — more awareness, more outreach, more access to mental health care.  So long as any servicemember or veteran is suffering, or feels like they have nowhere to turn, or doesn’t get the support that they need, that means we haven’t done enough.  And we all know we need to do more.  Veterans called for it.  We heard you — which is why today I’m announcing 19 new executive actions to help improve mental health care for those American heroes and their families.  (Applause.)

So just one example:  We’re expanding suicide prevention training across the military and the VA, so colleagues and clinicians can spot the warning signs and encourage our troops and veterans to seek help.  We’ll improve access to care, with more peer support — veterans counseling veterans — at VA hospitals and clinics.  We’re calling on Congress to help us ensure that our troops get coverage for mental health care that’s on par with the coverage for other medical conditions.  And we’re going to make it easier for servicemembers being treated for mental health conditions to continue their care as they transition to the VA, so automatically connecting them with the support they need, making sure they don’t lose access to any medications they may be taking.

And maybe most of all, we’re going to keep saying loud and clear to anyone out there who’s hurting, it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help; it is a sign of strength.  Talk to a friend.  Pick up the phone.  You are not alone.  We are here for you.  And every American needs to know if you see someone in uniform or a veteran who is struggling, reach out and help them to get help.  They were there for America.  We now need to be there for them.  (Applause.)

Our third priority:  We have to keep attacking the disability claims backlog.  Now, the good news is, since its peak last year, we’ve worked with you to slash the backlog by more than 50 percent.  There had been a surge in the backlog in part because of an influx of new veterans; in part because we opened it up for folks who had PTSD, folks with Agent Orange symptoms.  And now we’ve had to work that backlog back down.  The trend lines are good.  But we don’t just want those claims processed fast; we need to make sure they get processed right.

So we’re going to keep at this until we end this backlog once and for all.  And as we do, we’re going to keep working to liberate you from those mountains of paper.  We’ve got to move towards a paperless system — electronic health records that our troops and veterans can keep for life, and that could cut down on some of the bureaucratic red tape so that you’re getting the benefits that you’ve earned a little bit faster.  (Applause.)

Number four:  We need to uphold the dignity and rights of every veteran, and that includes ending the tragedy of homelessness among veterans.  (Applause.)  Again, we’ve got good news to report.  Today, I can announce that, working together over the last few years, we have been able to reduce the number of homeless veterans by one-third.  (Applause.)  And that means on any given night, there are 25,000 fewer veterans on the streets or in shelters.  But we’re not going to stop until every veteran who has defended America has a home in America.  That’s a basic commitment that we have to uphold.  (Applause.)

And finally, we need to make sure our troops and veterans have every opportunity to pursue the American Dream.  That includes a home of their own.  You know, under the law, our servicemembers are entitled to reduced mortgage rates, but the burden is on them to ask for it and prove they’re eligible, which means a lot of folks don’t get the low rates they deserve.

So, today, we’re turning that around.  We’re announcing a new partnership in which some of America’s biggest banks and financial institutions will simplify the process, proactively notify servicemembers who qualify for lower rates and make it easier to enroll.  In other words, we’re going to help more of our troops and military families own their own home without a crushing debt.  (Applause.)

We’re also going to keep helping our troops transition to civilian life.  Because of the work we’ve done together, if you already have a military truck driver’s license, every state now waives the skills test so it’s easier for you to get a commercial driver’s license.  (Applause.)  And we’re going to keep pushing more states to recognize the incredible skills and training of our veterans.  If you could do a job in a warzone, if you’re a medic in a warzone, you shouldn’t have to go take nursing 101 to work in a hospital here in the United States.  (Applause.)  If you can handle million-dollar pieces of equipment in a warzone, that should count for something in getting certified back here at home.  If you can do the kinds of jobs so many of you have done in the most extreme circumstances, I’m pretty confident you can do that job right here at home.  (Applause.)

To help our troops and veterans pursue their education, we worked with loan servicers to automatically cap interest rates on student loans to our servicemembers at 6 percent.  For veterans going back to school under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, we’ll keep standing up against dishonest recruiting and predatory practices that target and prey on you and your families.  So far, about 6,000 colleges and universities have pledged to adhere to our principles of excellence, promising to do right by our veterans.  And more than a thousand colleges and universities have adopted our “8 Keys” to make sure that they’re truly welcoming veterans and helping them succeed on campus.  And by the way, every school in America should join them.  You should be proud if you’re educating a veteran, and you should be doing right by them.  (Applause.)

And we’re going to keep helping our veterans find those private sector jobs worthy of your incredible talents.  Our new online Veterans Employment Center is a single one-stop shop connecting veterans and their spouses to more than 1.5 million jobs that are open right now.  And we’re joining with states and local leaders to identify nearly two dozen cities and regions with the most opportunities for veterans.  And with Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden leading the call, America’s businesses are joining forces to hire or train veterans and spouses — more than half a million so far, and growing.

So veterans’ unemployment is going down, and it’s now actually lower than the national average.  It was higher to begin with, and we have been driving it down.  But we’ve got more to go, especially for our post-9/11 veterans.  So we’re going to keep saying to every business in America, if you want somebody who knows how to get the job done, no matter the mission, hire a veteran.  Hire a vet.  (Applause.)

So fixing what’s broken at the VA; ensuring the resources you deserve; delivering the health care that you’ve earned; eliminating the backlog; standing up for your rights and dignity; helping you realize the American Dream that you so honorably defended — these are our commitments to you.  This is what we’re focused on.  This is what we can do together — especially as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end and we welcome home our newest veterans.

There are a lot of them here tonight.  We salute Captain Scott Miller of Indiana, a proud Hoosier and a proud Marine.  In Afghanistan, he went out on dangerous patrols, traveling to remote villages, meeting with tribal elders, building trust, forging partnerships to push back insurgents.  And here at the Legion, he continues to serve by encouraging businesses across America to give back to the veterans who defended our way of life and make our prosperity possible.  So thank you, Scott.  Where is Scott here today?  (Applause.)  We are proud of him.  There here is.

We salute Master Sergeant Carol Barker of Greensboro, North Carolina.  As a first sergeant of her medevac unit, she was responsible for more than a hundred troops, helped save the lives of our wounded warriors in those critical first hours when life so often hung in the balance.  And here at the Legion, she continues to serve, helping homeless veterans come in off the streets, and begin their lives anew with a roof over their heads.  Thank you, Carol.  Where’s Carol?  (Applause.)

We salute Sergeant Joe Grassi, who grew up just outside New York City.  After his hometown was attacked on 9/11, he left his civilian job, he joined the Army.  A squad leader in Afghanistan, he spent most of his time on the flight line, in the 120-degree heat, supplying our helicopter crews.  And here at the Legion, he continues to serve, helping veterans complete their disability claims, and raising his voice in Washington for a strong national defense, because, he says, “Some things are worth fighting for.  America is worth fighting for.”  Thank you, Joe.  We’re proud of you.  Thank you, sir.  (Applause.)

Scott, Carol, Joe — they’re among the patriots here today who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  And I would ask all our Post-9/11 Generation veterans to stand if you are able and accept the thanks of a grateful nation.  I ask these men and women to stand because the American people have to know that even as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end, our obligation to this generation of veterans has only just begun.  And this cannot just be the work of government and veterans groups alone.  I want every American to take this commitment seriously.  Please stand, Post-9/11 Generation, all of you who’ve served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We’re grateful for you.  (Applause.)

This is not just a job of government.  It’s not just a job of the veterans’ organizations.  Every American needs to join us in taking care of those who’ve taken care of us.  Because only 1 percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, but 100 percent of Americans benefit from that 1 percent.  A hundred percent need to be supporting our troops.  A hundred percent need to be supporting our veterans.  A hundred percent need to be supporting our military families.  (Applause.)

And everybody can do something.  Every American.  Every business.  Every profession.  Every school.  Every community.  Every state.  All of us, as one American team.  That’s how we will truly honor our veterans.  That’s how we will truly say thank you.  That’s how we will uphold the sacred trust with all who’ve served in our name.

God bless you.  God bless our veterans.  God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
12:41 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency August 6, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Signing of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012

Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012

Remarks by the President at Signing of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012

Source: WH, 8-6-12

Oval Office

2:25 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I want to thank everybody who is here because they all did outstanding work to help us get this legislation completed.

As you know, I think all Americans feel we have a moral, sacred duty towards our men and women in uniform.  They protect our freedom, and it’s our obligation to do right by them.  This bill takes another important step in fulfilling that commitment.

I want to thank the members of Congress who helped to make this happen.  It is going to have immediate impact.  It is going to improve access to health care, streamline services in the VA. It expands support for veterans who are homeless.

There are two parts to the bill, though, that I especially want to highlight.  First of all, this bill ends a decade-long struggle for those who serve at Camp Lejeune.  Some of the veterans and their families who were based in Camp Lejeune in the years when the water was contaminated will now have access to extended medical care.  And, sadly, this act alone will not bring back those we’ve lost, including Jane Ensminger, but it will honor their memory by making a real difference for those who are still suffering.

The second part of this bill that I want to highlight — prohibit protesting within 300 feet of military funerals during the two hours before and two hours after a service.  I supported this step as a senator.  I am very pleased to be signing this bill into law.  The graves of our veterans are hallowed ground.  And obviously we all defend our Constitution and the First Amendment and free speech, but we also believe that when men and women die in the service of their country and are laid to rest, it should be done with the utmost honor and respect.

So I’m glad that Congress passed this bill and I hope that we can continue to do some more good bipartisan work in protecting our veterans.  I’ve been advocating, for example, for a veterans job corps that could help provide additional opportunities for the men and women who are coming home as we’re winding down our operations in Afghanistan and having ended the war in Iraq.  And so this is a good sign of a bipartisan spirit that I’m sure is going to carry through all the way to Election Day and beyond.

With that, I’m going to sign the bill.  Make sure I sign the right place, though.

(The bill is signed.)

There you go.  Congratulations, everybody.  Good work.  Thank you very much.

Q Mr. President, after the Wisconsin shooting, are you going to push for any further gun control measures?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, we’re still awaiting the outcome of a full investigation.  Yesterday I had the chance to speak to both the Governor and the Mayor, as well as leaders of the Sikh community in Oak Creek.  All of us are heartbroken by what’s happened.  And I offered the thoughts and prayers not only of myself and Michelle but also for the country as a whole.

I think all of us recognize that these kinds of terrible, tragic events are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul-searching and to examine additional ways that we can reduce violence.  And as I’ve already said, I think there are a lot of elements involved in it, and what I want to do is to bring together law enforcement, community leaders, faith leaders, elected officials of every level to see how we can make continued progress.

We don’t yet know fully what motivated this individual to carry out this terrible act.  If it turns out, as some early reports indicate, that it may have been motivated in some way by the ethnicity of those who were attending the temple, I think the American people immediately recoil against those kinds of attitudes, and I think it will be very important for us to reaffirm once again that, in this country, regardless of what we look like, where we come from, who we worship, we are all one people, and we look after one another and we respect one another.

But as I said, the FBI is working with local officials and they’re still investigating what motivated this individual.  And as we find out more, I suspect that not only the White House but others in Congress and at the local level will have more to say.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END
2:31 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 23, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech to 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nevada — Defends Foreign Policy Record

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Obama Speaks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars

Source: WH, 7-23-12

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Reno, Nev., July 23, 2012 (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Today, President Obama spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and discussed the promises his Administration has kept to secure our nation, fight terrorism, renew American leadership in the world, better serve our troops and military families and honor our veterans. He also thanked veterans for their service to our nation:

Even after you took off the uniform, you never stopped serving.  You took care of each other — fighting for the benefits and care you had earned.  And you’ve taken care of the generations that followed, including our newest veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  On behalf of all our men and women in uniform, and on behalf of the American people, I want to thank you, VFW.  Thank you for your outstanding work.

Our troops have helped secure a better future for our country, the President said:

Thanks to the extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform, we’re winding down a decade of war; we’re destroying the terrorist network that attacked us; we’re strengthening the alliances that extend our values.  And today, every American can be proud that the United States is safer and stronger and more respected in the world.

“Every generation among you served to keep us strong and free,” the President said. “And it falls to us, those that follow, to preserve what you won.”

President Obama discussed his administration’s work to strengthen our military, support military families and uphold the nation’s sacred trust with our veterans, and announced a redesign of the Transition Assistance Program, which helps service members transition to the civilian workforce:

We’re going to set up a kind of “reverse boot camp” for our departing service members.  Starting this year, they’ll get more personalized assistance as they plan their careers. We’ll provide the training they need to find that job, or pursue that education, or start that business. And just as they’ve maintained their military readiness, we’ll have new standards of “career readiness.

The President also called on Congress to pass his Veterans Job Corps proposal and to extend the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior tax credits for businesses that hire veterans.

Remarks by the President to the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars

VFW Convention Hall

Reno, Nevada

12:35 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Please, please, everybody have a seat.

Commander DeNoyer, thank you for your introduction, and your service in Vietnam and on behalf of America’s veterans.  I want to thank your executive director, Bob Wallace; your next commander, who I look forward to working with, John Hamilton.  And to Gwen Rankin, Leanne Lemley, and the entire Ladies Auxiliary, thank you for your patriotic service to America.  (Applause.)

I stand before you as our hearts still ache over the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado.  Yesterday I was in Aurora, with families whose loss is hard to imagine — with the wounded, who are fighting to recover; with a community and a military base in the midst of their grief.  And they told me of the loved ones they lost.  And here today, it’s fitting to recall those who wore our nation’s uniform:

Staff Sergeant Jesse Childress — an Air Force reservist, 29 years old, a cyber specialist who loved sports, the kind of guy, said a friend, who’d help anybody.

Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer — 27 years old, who, like his father and grandfather before him, joined the Navy, and who is remembered as an outstanding shipmate.

Rebecca Wingo — 32 years old, a veteran of the Air Force, fluent in Chinese, who served as a translator; a mother, whose life will be an inspiration to her two little girls.

And Jonathan Blunk — from Reno, just 26 years old, but a veteran of three Navy tours, whose family and friends will always know that in that theater he gave his own life to save another.

These young patriots were willing to serve in faraway lands, yet they were taken from us here at home.  And yesterday I conveyed to their families a message on behalf of all Americans: We honor your loved ones.  We salute their service.  And as you summon the strength to carry on and keep bright their legacy, we stand with you as one united American family.  (Applause.)

Veterans of Foreign Wars, in you I see the same shining values, the virtues that make America great.  When our harbor was bombed and fascism was on the march, when the fighting raged in Korea and Vietnam, when our country was attacked on that clear September morning, when our forces were sent to Iraq — you answered your country’s call.  Because you know what Americans must always remember — our nation only endures because there are patriots who protect it.

In the crucible of battle, you were tested in ways the rest of us will never know.  You carry in your hearts the memory of the comrades you lost.  For you understand that we must honor our fallen heroes not just on Memorial Day, but all days.  And when an American goes missing, or is taken prisoner, we must do everything in our power to bring them home.  (Applause.)

Even after you took off the uniform, you never stopped serving.  You took care of each other — fighting for the benefits and care you had earned.  And you’ve taken care of the generations that followed, including our newest veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  On behalf of all our men and women in uniform, and on behalf of the American people, I want to thank you, VFW.  Thank you for your outstanding work.  (Applause.)

Of course, some among you — our Vietnam veterans — didn’t always receive that thanks, at least not on time.  This past Memorial Day, I joined some of you at The Wall to begin the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.  And it was another chance to say what should have been said all along:  You did your duty, and you made us proud.  And as this 50th anniversary continues, I’d ask all our Vietnam vets to stand, or raise your hand, as we say:  Thank you and welcome home.  (Applause.)

Every generation among you served to keep us strong and free.  And it falls to us, those that follow, to preserve what you won.  Four years ago, I stood before you at a time of great challenge for our nation.  We were engaged in two wars.  Al Qaeda was entrenched in their safe havens in Pakistan.  Many of our alliances were frayed.  Our standing in the world had suffered.  We were in the worst recession of our lifetimes.  Around the world, some questioned whether the United States still had the capacity to lead.

So, four years ago, I made you a promise.  I pledged to take the fight to our enemies, and renew our leadership in the world. As President, that’s what I’ve done.  (Applause.)  And as you reflect on recent years, as we look ahead to the challenges we face as a nation and the leadership that’s required, you don’t just have my words, you have my deeds.  You have my track record. You have the promises I’ve made and the promises that I’ve kept.

I pledged to end the war in Iraq honorably, and that’s what we’ve done.  (Applause.)  After I took office, we removed nearly 150,000 U.S. troops from Iraq.  And some said that bringing our troops home last year was a mistake.  They would have kept tens of thousands of our forces in Iraq — indefinitely, without a clear mission.  Well, when you’re Commander-in-Chief, you owe the troops a plan, you owe the country a plan — and that includes recognizing not just when to begin wars, but also how to end them.

So we brought our troops home responsibly.  They left with their heads held high, knowing they gave Iraqis a chance to forge their own future.  And today, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq, and we are proud of all the Americans who served there.  (Applause.)

I pledged to make it a priority to take out the terrorists who had attacked us on 9/11.  And as a candidate, I said that if we had Osama bin Laden in our sights, we would act to keep America safe — even if it meant going into Pakistan.  Some of you remember, at the time, that comment drew quite a bit of criticism.  But since I took office, we’ve worked with our allies and our partners to take out more top al Qaeda leaders than any time since 9/11.  And thanks to the courage and the skill of our forces, Osama bin Laden will never threaten America again, and al Qaeda is on the road to defeat.  (Applause.)

I pledged to finish the job in Afghanistan.  After years of drift, we had to break the momentum of the Taliban, and build up the capacity and the capability of Afghans.  And so, working with our commanders, we came up with a new strategy, and we ordered additional forces to get the job done.  This is still a tough fight.  But thanks to the incredible services and sacrifices of our troops, we pushed the Taliban back; we’re training Afghan forces; we’ve begun the transition to Afghan lead.

Again, there are those who argued against a timeline for ending this war — or against talking about it publicly.  But you know what, that’s not a plan for America’s security either.  After 10 years of war, and given the progress we’ve made, I felt it was important that the American people — and our men and women in uniform — know our plan to end this war responsibly.  (Applause.)  And so by the end of this summer, more than 30,000 of our troops will have come home.  Next year, Afghans will take the lead for their own security.  In 2014, the transition will be complete.  And even as our troops come home, we’ll have a strong partnership with the Afghan people, and we will stay vigilant so Afghanistan is never again a source for attacks against America. (Applause.)

We’re not just ending these wars; we’re doing it in a way that achieves our objectives.  Moreover, it’s allowed us to broaden our vision and begin a new era of American leadership.  We’re leading from Europe to the Asia Pacific, with alliances that have never been stronger.  We’re leading the fight against nuclear dangers.  We’ve applied the strongest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea — nations that cannot be allowed to threaten the world with nuclear weapons.  (Applause.)  We’re leading on behalf of freedom — standing with people in the Middle East and North Africa as they demand their rights; protecting the Libyan people as they rid the world of Muammar Qaddafi.

Today, we’re also working for a transition so the Syrian people can have a better future, free of the Assad regime.  And given the regime’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching, and that they will be held accountable by the international community and the United States, should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons.  (Applause.)  And we will continue to work with our friends and our allies and the Syrian opposition on behalf of the day when the Syrian people have a government that respects their basic rights to live in peace and freedom and dignity.

Because we’re leading around the world, people have a new attitude toward America.  There’s more confidence in our leadership.  We see it everywhere we go.  We saw it as grateful Libyans waved American flags.  We see it across the globe — when people are asked, which country do you admire the most, one nation comes out on top — the United States of America.  (Applause.)

So this is the progress that we’ve made.  Thanks to the extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform, we’re winding down a decade of war; we’re destroying the terrorist network that attacked us; we’re strengthening the alliances that extend our values.  And today, every American can be proud that the United States is safer and stronger and more respected in the world.

And all this allows us to fulfill another promise that I made to you four years ago — strengthening our military.  After 10 years of operations, our soldiers will now have fewer and shorter deployments, which means more time on the home front to keep their families strong; more time to heal from the wounds of war; more time to improve readiness and prepare for future threats.

As President, I’ve continued to make historic investments to keep our armed forces strong.  And guided by our new defense strategy, we will maintain our military superiority.  It will be second to none as long as I am President and well into the future.  We’ve got the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped military in history.  And as Commander-in-Chief I am going to keep it that way.  (Applause.)

And by the way, given all the rhetoric lately — it is political season — let’s also set the record straight on the budget.  Those big, across-the-board cuts, including defense, that Congress said would occur next year if they couldn’t reach a deal to reduce the deficit?  Let’s understand, first of all, there’s no reason that should happen, because people in Congress ought to be able to come together and agree on a plan, a balanced approach that reduces the deficit and keeps our military strong. It should be done.  (Applause.)

And there are a number of Republicans in Congress who don’t want you to know that most of them voted for these cuts.  Now they’re trying to wriggle out of what they agreed to.  Instead of making tough choices to reduce the deficit, they’d rather protect tax cuts for some of the wealthiest Americans, even if it risks big cuts in our military.  And I’ve got to tell you, VFW, I disagree.  If the choice is between tax cuts that the wealthiest Americans don’t need and funding our troops that they definitely need to keep our country strong, I will stand with our troops every single time.  (Applause.)

So let’s stop playing politics with our military.  Let’s get serious and reduce our deficit and keep our military strong.   Let’s take some of the money that we’re saving because we’re not fighting in Iraq and because we’re winding down in Afghanistan — use half that money to pay down our deficit; let’s use half of it to do some nation-building here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Let’s keep taking care of our extraordinary military families.  For the first time ever, we’ve made military families and veterans a top priority not just at DOD, not just at the VA, but across the government.  As Richard mentioned, this has been a mission for my wife, Michelle, and Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden.  Today, more people across America in every segment of society are Joining Forces to give our military families the respect and the support that they deserve.  (Applause.)

And there’s another way we can honor those who serve.  It may no longer be a crime for con artists to pass themselves off as heroes, but one thing is certain — it is contemptible.  So this week, we will launch a new website, a living memorial, so the American people can see who’s been awarded our nation’s highest honors.  Because no American hero should ever have their valor stolen.  (Applause.)

This leads me to another promise I made four years ago —  upholding America’s sacred trust with our veterans.  I promised to strengthen the VA, and that promise has been kept.  In my first year, we achieved the largest percentage increase in the VA budget in 30 years.  And we’re going to keep making historic investments in our veterans.  When Richard came to the Oval Office, we talked about what those automatic budget cuts — sequestration — could mean for the VA.  So my administration has made it clear:  Your veteran’s benefits are exempt from sequestration.  They are exempt.  (Applause.)  And because advance appropriations is now the law of the land, veterans’ health care is protected from the budget battles in Washington.  (Applause.)

I promised you that I’d stand up for veterans’ health care. As long as I’m President, I will not allow VA health care to be turned into a voucher system, subject to the whims of the insurance market.  Some have argued for this plan.  I could not disagree more. You don’t need vouchers, you need the VA health care that you have earned and that you depend on.  (Applause.)

So we’ve made dramaticinvestments to help care for our veterans.  For our Vietnam veterans, we declared that more illnesses are now presumed connected to your exposure to Agent Orange.  As a result of our decision, Vietnam-era vets and your families received nearly $4 billion in disability pay.  You needed it; you fought for it.  We heard you and we got it done.  (Applause.)

We’ve added mobile clinics for our rural veterans; more tailored care for our women veterans; unprecedented support for veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury.  All tolled, we’ve made VA health care available to nearly 800,000 veterans who didn’t have it before.  (Applause.)  And we’re now supporting caregivers and families with the skills and the stipends to help care for the veterans that they love.

Of course, more veterans in the system means more claims.  So we’ve hired thousands of claims processors.  We’re investing in paperless systems.  To their credit, the dedicated folks at the VA are now completing one million claims a year.  But there’s been a tidal wave of new claims.  And when I hear about veterans waiting months, or years, for your benefits — it is unacceptable.  And we are doing something about it.  (Applause.)

We’re taking all those folks who processed your Agent Orange claims — more than 1,200 experts — and giving them a new mission:  Attack the backlog.  We’re prioritizing veterans with the most serious disabilities.  And the VA and DOD will work harder towards a seamless transition so new veterans aren’t just piled on to the backlog. And we will not rest — I will not be satisfied until we get this right.  And today, I’m also calling on all those who help our vets complete their claims — state VAs, physicians and veteran groups like the VFW — to join us.  You know how this can work better, so let’s get it done, together.

We’re also focused on the urgent needs of our veterans with PTSD.  We’ve poured tremendous resources into this fight — thousands of more counselors and more clinicians, more care and more treatment.  And we’ve made it easier for veterans with PTSD to qualify for VA benefits.  But after a decade of war, it’s now an epidemic.  We’re losing more troops to suicide — one every single day — than we are in combat.  According to some estimates, about 18 veterans are taking their lives each day — more every year than all the troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.  That’s a tragedy.  It’s heartbreaking.  It should not be happening in the United States of America.

So when I hear about servicemembers and veterans who had the courage to seek help but didn’t get it, who died waiting, that’s an outrage.  And I’ve told Secretary Panetta, Chairman Dempsey and Secretary Shinseki we’ve got to do better.  This has to be all hands on deck.

So our message to everyone who’s ever worn the uniform — if you’re hurting, it’s not a sign of weakness to seek help, it’s a sign of strength.  And when you do, we’ll be there and do more to help — including more counselors and clinicians to help you heal.  We need to end this tragedy, VFW.  (Applause.)  And we’re going to work together to make it happen.

So, too with our campaign to end homelessness among our veterans.  We’ve now helped to bring tens of thousands of veterans off the streets and into permanent housing.  This has to be a core mission, because every veteran who has fought for America ought to have a home in America.  (Applause.)

And this brings me to the last promise I want to discuss with you.  Four years ago, I said that I’d do everything I could to help our veterans realize the American Dream, to enlist you in building a stronger America.  After all, our veterans have the skills that America needs.  So today, our economy is growing and creating jobs, but it’s still too hard for too many folks to find work, especially our younger veterans, our veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  And with a million more troops rejoining civilian life in the years ahead — and looking for work — we’ve got to step up our game, at every stage of their careers.

So today, I’m announcing a major overhaul of our transition assistance program.  We’re going to set up a kind of “reverse boot camp” for our departing servicemembers.  Starting this year, they’ll get more personalized assistance as they plan their careers.  We’ll provide the training they need to find that job, or pursue that education, or start that business.  And just as they’ve maintained their military readiness, we’ll have new standards of “career readiness.”

In addition, by making the Post-9/11 GI Bill a priority, we’ve helped more than 800,000 veterans and their families pursue their education.  And I’ve issued an executive order to help put a stop to schools that are ripping off our veterans.  (Applause.)

I’ve directed the federal government to step up on jobs.  Since I took office, we’ve hired more than 200,000 veterans into the federal government.  We made it a priority.  (Applause.)  And we’re keeping track — every agency, every department:  What are you doing for our veterans?

I’ve challenged community health centers to hire thousands of veterans as physicians and nurses.  And as we help local communities hire new police officers and firefighters and first responders, we’re giving a preference to veterans.

We’re also fighting to get more vets hired in the private sector.  With new tools like our online Veterans Jobs Bank, we’re connecting veterans directly to jobs.  We’re helping thousands of veterans get certified for good-paying jobs in manufacturing.  We succeeded in passing tax credits for businesses that hire our veterans and our wounded warriors.  And this morning, I signed into law the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act — making it easier for veterans to transfer their outstanding military skills into the licenses and credentials they need to get civilian jobs.  (Applause.)

If you are a young man that is in charge of a platoon or millions of dollars of equipment and are taking responsibility, or you’re a medic out in the field who is saving lives every single day — when you come home, you need to be credentialed and certified quickly so you can get on the job.  People should understand how skilled you are.  (Applause.)  And there shouldn’t be bureaucrats or runarounds.  We’ve got to put those folks to work.

Last summer, I also challenged the private sector to hire or train 100,000 veterans or their spouses.  Michelle and Jill Biden have been leading the effort, through Joining Forces.  And so far, thousands of patriotic businesses have hired or trained more than 90,000 veterans and spouses.  And our message to companies is simple:  If you want somebody who gets the job done, then hire a vet.  (Applause.)  Hire a vet.  Hire a vet and they will make you proud just like they’ve made America proud.

And we’re fighting for veterans who want to start their own businesses, including more training in entrepreneurship.  It’s one of the reasons we’ve cut taxes — 18 times for small businesses, including veteran-owned businesses.  And the effects ripple out, because vets are more likely to hire vets.

So today, we can point to progress.  More veterans are finding jobs; the unemployment rate for veterans has come down.  Yes, it’s still too high, but it’s coming down.  And now we’ve got to sustain that momentum.  It’s one of the reasons I’ve proposed to Congress a Veterans Jobs Corps to put our veterans back to work protecting and rebuilding America.  And today, I am again calling on Congress:  Pass this Veterans Jobs Corps and extend the tax credits for businesses that hire veterans so we can give these American heroes the jobs and opportunities that they deserve.  (Applause.)

So, VFW, these are the promises that I made.  These are the promises that I’ve kept.  Where we still have more to do, we will not rest.  That’s my vow to you.  I’ve got your back.  I’ve got your six.  Because we have a solemn obligation to all who serve

— not just for the years you’re in uniform, but for all the decades that follow, and because even though today’s wars are ending, the hard work of taking care of our newest veterans has only just begun.

Just as you protected America, we’re going to pass our country to the next generation, stronger and safer and more respected in the world.  So if anyone tries to tell you that our greatness has passed, that America is in decline, you tell them this:  Just like the 20th century, the 21st is going to be another great American Century.  For we are Americans, blessed with the greatest form of government ever devised by man, a democracy dedicated to freedom and committed to the ideals that still light the world.  We will never apologize for our way of life; we will never waver in its defense.

We are a nation that freed millions and turned adversaries into allies.  We are the Americans who defended the peace and turned back aggression.  We are Americans who welcome our global responsibilities and our global leadership.  The United States has been, and will remain, the one indispensable nation in world affairs.

And you, you are the soldiers, the sailors, the airmen, the Marines and the Coast Guardsmen who have kept us strong.  We will honor your legacy.  And we will ensure that the military you served, and the America that we love, remains the greatest force for freedom that the world has ever known.

God bless you.  God bless all of our veterans.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END               1:08 P.M. PDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 2, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Tells Congress It’s Time to Get to Work on Creating Jobs for Veterans

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Obama’s Weekly Address: Congress, ‘Get to Work’

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-2-12

On the heels of Friday’s disappointing jobs report, the president is asking lawmakers to put politics aside and act on his agenda to boost the economy and create jobs.

“My message to Congress is, get to work,” Obama says in his weekly address.

The president admits the economy is not creating jobs “fast enough,” citing “some serious headwinds” that are continuing to stall growth, including high gas prices and the European debt crisis.

The economy added just 69,000 jobs last month, far below expectations of 150,000, and the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2 percent, the Labor Department announced Friday….READ MORE

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Obama speaks to the American people about his proposal to make it easier for companies to hire our returning service members for jobs that utilize their skills and help grow our economy.

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address., White House Photo, Pete Souza, 6/1/12

Weekly Address: It’s Time for Congress to Get to Work

Source: WH, 6-2-12

President Obama speaks to the American people from a Honeywell manufacturing facility in Minnesota about his proposal to make it easier for companies to hire our returning service members for jobs that utilize their skills and help grow our economy.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

WEEKLY ADDRESS: It’s Time for Congress to Get to Work

In this week’s address, President Obama spoke to the American people from a Honeywell manufacturing facility in Minnesota about his proposal to make it easier for companies to hire our returning service members for jobs that utilize their skills and help grow our economy.  This week, the President called on Congress to get to work on his proposals to grow the economy and create jobs like getting our construction workers back on the job, giving small business owners a tax break for hiring more workers, giving responsible homeowners the opportunity to refinance their mortgages, and ensuring that women have equal pay for equal work.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Jobs for America’s Veterans
Golden Valley, Minnesota
June 2, 2012

Today I’m at one of Honeywell’s manufacturing facilities in Golden Valley, Minnesota, where I just announced a step that will make it easier for companies to hire returning service members who have the skills our country needs right now.  It’s another part of our effort to make sure that no American who fights for this country abroad has to fight for a job when they come home.  That’s why businesses like Honeywell are answering our challenge to hire 100,000 post-9/11 veterans and their spouses by the end of next year.  That’s why I’ve directed the government to hire over 200,000 veterans so far – because our economy needs their tremendous talent, and because millions of Americans are still looking for a job.

Right now, this country is still fighting our way back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  The economy is growing again, but it’s not growing fast enough.  Our businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last twenty-seven months, but as we learned in this week’s jobs report, we’re not creating them fast enough.  And just like last year at this time, our economy faces some serious headwinds.  Gas prices are starting to come down again, but when they spiked over the last few months, it hit people’s wallets pretty hard.  The crisis in Europe’s economy has cast a shadow on our own.  And all of this makes it even more challenging to fully recover and lay the foundation for an economy that’s built to last.

But from the moment we first took action to prevent another depression, we knew the road to recovery wouldn’t be easy.  We knew it would take time, that there would be ups and downs along the way.  But we also knew that if we were willing to act wisely, and boldly, and together; if we were willing to keep at it, and never quit, we would come back stronger.

Nothing has shaken my faith in that belief.  We will come back stronger.  We do have better days ahead.  And that’s because of you.  I would place my bet on American workers and American businesses any day of the week.  You’re the reason our auto industry has come roaring back.  You’re the reason manufacturing is hiring at its fastest pace since the 1990s.  You work hard. You play by the rules. And what you deserve are leaders who will do the same; who will do whatever it takes to fight for the middle-class and grow this economy faster.  Because while we can’t fully control everything that happens in other parts of the world, there are plenty of things we can control here at home.  There are plenty of steps we can take right now to help create jobs and grow this economy.

I sent Congress a jobs bill last September full of the kinds of bipartisan ideas that would have put our fellow Americans back to work and helped reinforce our economy against those outside shocks.  I sent them a plan that would have reduced the deficit by $4 trillion in a way that’s balanced – that pays for the job-creating investments we need by cutting unnecessary spending and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes.

Since then, Congress has only passed a few parts of that jobs bill, like a tax cut that’s allowing working Americans to keep more of your paycheck every week.  That was important.  But Congress hasn’t acted on enough of the other ideas in that bill that would make a difference and help create jobs right now. And there’s no excuse for that.  Not when so many people are looking for work.  Not when so many people are struggling to pay the bills.

So my message to Congress is, get to work.

Right now, Congress should pass a bill to help states prevent more layoffs, so we can put thousands of teachers and firefighters and police officers back on the job.  Congress should have passed a bill a long time ago to put thousands of construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our runways.  Instead of just talking a good game about job creators, Congress should give small business owners a tax break for hiring more workers and paying them higher wages.  Let’s get that done.

Right now, Congress should give every responsible homeowner the opportunity to save an average of $3,000 a year by refinancing their mortgage.  Next week, there’s a vote in Congress on a bill that would give working women the tools they need to demand equal pay for equal work.  Ensuring paycheck fairness for women should be a no brainer.  And they need to pass that bill.

Right now, Congress also needs to extend the tax credits for clean energy manufacturers that are set to expire at the end of the year – so that we don’t walk away from 40,000 good jobs.  And it’s long past time for Congress to end the tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, and use that money to cover moving expenses for companies that are bringing jobs back to America.

It’s not lost on anyone, least of all me, that this is an election year.  But we’ve got responsibilities that are bigger than an election.  We’ve got responsibilities to you.  With so many people struggling to get by, now is not the time to play politics.  Now is not the time for Congress to sit on its hands.  The American people expect their leaders to work hard, no matter what year it is.  That’s what I intend to do.  And I expect Democrats and Republicans to join me.

Campaign Headlines May 28, 2012: Mitt Romney’s Memorial Day Tribute Speech Warns About & Criticizes President Obama’s Foreign Policy

CAMPAIGN 2012

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 published by Facts on File, Inc. in 2011.

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO)

IN FOCUS: MITT ROMNEY’S MEMORIAL DAY TRIBUTE SPEECH

In Memorial Day Tribute, Romney Warns of Threats Around the Globe: Delivering a Memorial Day tribute on Monday, Mitt Romney thanked the sacrifice of servicemen and women while warning of the grave dangers around the globe, remarking frankly that “the world is not safe” before ticking off a list of grave security issues around the globe.
“I wish I could tell you that the world is a safe place today,” said Romney, speaking before a crowd of nearly 5,000 which included servicemen and women in uniform. “It’s not. Iran is rushing to become a nuclear nation. As the national sponsor of terror around the world, the thought of missile material in the hands of Hezbollah or Hamas or other terrorists is simply unthinkable. Pakistan is home to some 100 nuclear weapons.”
“China’s on the road to becoming a … military superpower,” Romney continued. “Russia is rebuilding their military and is now led by a man who believes that the Soviet Union was a great, as opposed to evil, empire. Chavez is campaigning for power throughout Latin America. Mexico is under siege from the cartels and in the Middle East the Arab Spring has become an Arab Winter.”… – ABC News Radio, 5-28-12

Today Is A Day To Give Thanks And Remember: I am honored to be celebrating Memorial Day this year with John McCain. I don’t have to tell John’s story; the world already knows it. But it is what today’s holiday is all about: sacrifice, valor, honor, courage, and love of country. A lot of young Americans are risking their lives in distant battlefields today. Memorial Day is a day to give thanks to them, and to remember all of America’s soldiers who have laid down their lives to defend our country. As we enjoy our barbecues with friends and families and loved ones, let’s keep them in our thoughts and in our prayers. – Mitt Romney, 5-28-12

  • Romney takes swipe at Obama’s foreign policy: President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney both marked Memorial Day with speeches and politics wasn’t far below the surface…. – msnbc.com, 5-28-12
  • Romney promises world’s strongest military: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney promised Monday to maintain an American military “with no comparable power anywhere in the world.” The likely Republican presidential nominee faced a San Diego crowd estimated at 5000…. – AP, 5-28-12
  • Veterans Give Romney Big Lead Over Obama: US veterans, about 13% of the adult population and consisting mostly of older men, support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama for president by 58% to 34%, while nonveterans give Obama a four-percentage-point edge…. – Gallup.com, 5-28-12
  • Romney, McCain hold joint Memorial Day commemoration: Mitt Romney commemorated Memorial Day by honoring the nation’s veterans in this military-heavy city on Monday while arguing that the times are perilous and ensuring the United States’ military might was vital for global peace…. – LAT, 5-28-12

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.

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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.

White House Recap April 20-27, 2012: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama’s University Tour in Support of Keeping Student Loan Interest Rates Low — Slow Jams with Jimmy Fallon

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: APRIL 20-27, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: “Stand Up. Be Heard. Be Counted.”

Source: WH, 4-27-12

Soldier Ride: Last Friday, 22 injured servicemembers took a spin around the South Lawn – with President Obama cheering them on – as a part of the annual Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride. The Soldier Ride is a four-day cycling event that unites Wounded Warriors and aims to help restore their physical and emotional well-being. The President praised the riders for their strength and dedication, noting, “You ride because you can, and you ride for those who can’t. That’s what this is all about.”

Honoring Never Again: “Awareness without action changes nothing,” the President remarked at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. on Monday. He spoke about honoring the pledge of “never again” by making sure we are doing everything we can to prevent and respond to atrocities and save lives, by spearheading new efforts and utilizing existing ones, including the Atrocities Prevention Board – established by the President to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on the critical mission to prevent mass atrocities and genocide.

Fighting Falcons: The United States Air Force football team was honored with the Commander-in-Chief Trophy on Monday in the East Room of the White House after beating the Army and Navy in 2011 to claim their 18th trophy.

#DontDoubleMyRate: When speaking this week at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Iowa about the importance of keeping interest rates on student loans low so that more Americans can get a fair shot at an affordable college education, President Obama asked college students to tell their members of Congress one thing: Don’t double my rates. While Congress cut the rates on federal loans in half five years ago, that rate cut is set to expire on July 1st. Students are taking on more debt to afford the tuition and fees, and for each year that Congress doesn’t act, the average student with federal loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt.

Slow Jams: On Tuesday while stopping by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, President Obama had a message for Congress: This is not the time to make school more affordable for our young people. He didn’t just say it, though – if you missed President Obama slow jam the news, you can watch it here.

Veterans and their Families Can’t Wait: On Friday, the President and the First Lady traveled to Fort Stewart, Georgia, home to the Army’s famed 3rd Infantry Division. Besides meeting with soldiers and families, the President signed an Executive Order that renews his commitment to fully fund the post-9/11 G.I. Bill in an effort to preserve and enhance the educational opportunities for those who have served, as well as their families.

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

Full Text Obama Presidency April 20, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Annual the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride for Veterans

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Welcomes the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride

Source: WH, 4-20-12
President Barack Obama cheers for the Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride
President Barack Obama cheers on participants in the Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride on the South Lawn of the White House, April 20, 2012. The President hosted the sixth annual Soldier Ride, a cycling event to help Wounded Warriors restore their physical and emotional well-being. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama today led cheers for 22 injured servicemembers as they took a spin around the South Lawn as part of the annual Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride. The participants in the four-day event include representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, including two brothers, Erik and Deven Schei, riding a specially-made tandem bike.

In his remarks, the President praised the riders for their strength and their dedication:

And I know you’re all doing this ride for different reasons. Some of you may be athletes looking to get the competitive juices flowing again.  Maybe some of you are trying to see how far you can push yourselves. Some of you are doing it for the camaraderie and the bond that comes when you work hard alongside people who know what you’re going through. Maybe you’re doing it to honor a loved one or a buddy.  But all of you are here because you believe in living your lives to the fullest. You know that each of us has a responsibility to seize the opportunities we’ve been blessed with.  You ride because you can, and you ride for those who can’t. That’s what this is all about.


Learn more:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride

South Lawn

4:38 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Well, good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome to the White House.  Thank you, Ric, for that introduction.  More importantly, thank you for your service and for everything you do for our veterans and our wounded warriors.

We’ve also got here today Senator Tom Udall and Congresswoman Corrine Brown with us.  Thank you all for coming.

This is the fourth time we’ve had the Soldier Ride here in the South Lawn.  And this year, you’ve already covered some ground — 34 miles over the last few days, and another 24-mile ride tomorrow.  So our job is to give you a break, maybe even a little extra fuel, and get you back on the road.

The reason I ask this group to stop by every year is because this is one of the most inspiring events that we have here at the White House.  As Commander-in-Chief, I can’t take sides, but I know the Army is represented here.  (Hooah!)  Navy is represented here.  (Navy!)  We’ve got some Air Force.  (Hooyah!)  We’ve got some Marines in the house.  (Ooh-rah!)  And we’ve got some Coast Guard.  (Applause.)  (Laughter.)  And there’s some folks here who don’t wear a uniform, but who work just as hard and sacrifice just as much alongside you — and that’s our outstanding military families in the house.  (Applause.)

So this is a pretty diverse group.  And I know you’re all doing this ride for different reasons.  Some of you may be athletes looking to get the competitive juices flowing again.  Maybe some of you are trying to see how far you can push yourselves.  Some of you are doing it for the camaraderie and the bond that comes when you work hard alongside people who know what you’re going through.  Maybe you’re doing it to honor a loved one or a buddy.  But all of you are here because you believe in living your lives to the fullest.  You know that each of us has a responsibility to seize the opportunities we’ve been blessed with.  You ride because you can, and you ride for those who can’t.  That’s what this is all about.

And that’s what inspired Chris Carney to hop on a bike and head across country on the first Soldier Ride eight years ago to raise money and awareness for returning troops and wounded warriors.  Chris came up with the idea working as a bartender in Long Island.  And I have to say it’s better than most of the ideas that come out of bars.  (Laughter.)  At least that’s been my experience.  (Laughter.)

Today, there are Soldier Rides all across the country.  They serve as a reminder that all of us can do our part to serve the men and women who serve us.  And I’m glad to see you’re all decked out in the stars and stripes, because I want anybody who sees this ride go by to know that they’re in the presence of heroes.

Some of these guys I’ve had a chance to meet before.  I first met Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Max Rohn when he was in the hospital recovering from a grenade attack in Fallujah that cost him his leg.  And Max I think will admit he was in pretty rough shape at the time.  But the next time I saw him, at a dinner that we hosted here recently for Iraq War veterans, Max had gained 80 pounds — or 40 pounds, and was training for the upcoming Wounded Warrior games.  I offered him two dinners after he finished the first one kind of quick, and he readily accepted.  (Laughter.)  After he finished the first dessert kind of quick, I offered him another one.  He accepted that one, too.  I am positive it is the most anybody has ever eaten in the White House.  (Laughter.)  And now he’s ready to ride.

We’ve also got Captain Leslie Smith here today.  Leslie lost her leg and her eyesight after serving in Bosnia, and this is her first time back on a bike.  She’s going to be riding in tandem alongside Meghan Speicher-Harris, who works with the Wounded Warrior Project.  And it’s good to have them both here.

And then there are the Schei brothers — Erik and Deven.  When Erik enlisted in the Army, Deven made a promise that if anything bad ever happened, he would finish what his brother started.  And during his second tour in Iraq, Erik was shot in the head by a sniper.  So Deven enlisted.  Then two years ago, Deven was injured in Afghanistan.  And now the two brothers ride a specially-made tandem bike, with Deven leading the way.  They’re taking on this latest challenge just like they did every other one — together.

So these men and women, they’re an inspiration.  And it’s also inspiring to meet the families behind them — the moms and dads, and the brothers and sisters, the sons and daughters who are standing by their side through good times and bad.  You’re heroes, too.  And I know Michelle and I look forward to any time we get to spend with military families.

So I want to encourage everybody who sees these riders going by this weekend to go out and cheer, and say thanks, and salute, and show your support.  And as Commander-in-Chief, I promise to do everything I can to make sure that you guys get the care and the benefits that you deserve, that you’ve earned.  All of you have served your country.  That’s why now it’s time for the country to serve you.  That’s what you deserve, and here in America we take care of our own.

So to all the riders here today, we are proud of you.  Your country is proud of you.  And now I’m going to see how you guys do taking some laps around the South Lawn.  But you got to do it on the horn — I don’t want anybody cheating.  (Laughter.)

All right.  On your marks, get set — (the President sounds the horn.)  Hey!  (Applause.)

END 4:44 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 19, 2012: First Lady Michelle Obama Celebrates One Year of Joining Forces Recap

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

First Lady Michelle Obama revealed that 60,000 servicemen and women and their spouses have been hired through Joining Forces employment initiatives

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at Kansas City Southern  Railroad duri

First Lady Michelle Obama at Kansas City Southern Railroad during a Joining Forces event, White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson

On Board with the First Lady: Michelle Obama Celebrates One Year of Joining Forces

Source: WH, 4-19-12

Go behind the scenes as First Lady Michelle Obama travels from Washington DC to Philadelphia, New York City, Shreveport and Jacksonville to honor our servicemen and women and their families. Join us on set at the Colbert Report, on stage with Ellen DeGeneres and on the ground with thousands of nurses and meet the 50,000 person to get a job through the Joining Forces hiring initiatives.

See more:

Michelle Obama’s Message to Military Families: You Do Live in a Grateful Nation

Source: WH, 4-11-12

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden today marked the one year anniversary of the launch of Joining Forces with an event on the South Lawn of the White House, and Mrs. Obama used the occasion to renew her call of action, and challenged all Americans to keep finding new ways to show their support for military families.

The First Lady told the crowd that over the past year, as she and Dr. Biden reached out on behalf of our military families, “not a single person that we’ve talked to, that we have approached, has told us that they could not help — not a single person.  We’ve asked; they said yes.

And the good thing is, is that once people get started, they just keep coming up with new ideas on their own.  We’ll present something, and they double it.  They want to do even more.  They just keep raising their goals even higher.  They just keep figuring out how to get more and more people involved.”

And her message for all military families, is that “you do live in a grateful nation.”

First Lady Michelle Obama at the Joining Forces Community  Challenge event on the South Lawn

First Lady Michelle Obama greets guests following the Joining Forces Community Challenge event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 11, 2012. The event was a celebration for military families and organization leaders who have played key roles in supporting our nation’s troops, veterans and military families over the past year. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

Today’s event also honored the Joining Forces Community Challenge finalists, who Dr. Biden called “inspiring. These efforts aren’t always in the headlines, but they support our military families every single day in real and meaningful ways. That’s exactly what the First Lady and I set out to accomplish with Joining Forces.”

Later today, the First Lady and Dr. Biden will be in Philadelphia, where they will announce a commitment from more than 150 state and national nursing organizations and over 500 nursing schools to further educate our nation’s 3 million nurses so they are prepared to meet the unique health needs of service members, veterans, and their families.


Learn more:

Remarks by the First Lady and Dr. Biden at the Joining Forces Anniversary event

South Lawn

11:13 A.M. EDT

DR. BIDEN:  What a great day for a celebration.  Thank you, General Dempsey, for that kind introduction and for all that you have done to support the Joining Forces initiative over the past year.  I also want to thank Deanie Dempsey, who’s been a wonderful partner and a wonderful friend.  Thank you for your leadership.  (Applause.)

To the Joining Forces Community Challenge finalists who are here, it was great to see you all yesterday, and we’re delighted to have you here at the White House this morning.

One of the best parts of my role as Second Lady is spending time with military veterans and families.  And I’ve traveled across the — as I’ve traveled across the country and the world, I’m always inspired by the strength and the resilience of our military families.

While the troops serving our nation may be only 1 percent of the population, we want to make sure that 100 percent of Americans are supporting them.  Our military families have done so much for our country and each of us can do something in return.  That’s why the First Lady and I created Joining Forces to encourage all Americans to support and honor our military families.

Since we launched Joining Forces a year ago, we have been so inspired by the many ways Americans all across the country are honoring, celebrating and supporting our military families.  Our partners in this effort are businesses, schools, churches, communities and individuals.  The Joining Forces Community Challenge finalists here today are shining examples of what we’ve seen.

Organizations like HeartsApart.org — photographers volunteer their time to take photos of soon-to-be deployed servicemembers and their families.  And so that they can carry their loved ones when they are serving us, these beautiful photographs are printed on waterproof, durable cards that fit perfectly in the pocket of a battle dress uniform.

Programs like GreenCare for Troops, which connects local green industry professionals with military families to provide free lawn and landscaping services while their loved ones are serving our country.

Or the city of Richfield, Utah, an entire community that has supported its local Army National Guard through four deployments since September 11, 2001.  They’ve organized a community-sponsored holiday party for the families of deployed troops.  The local newspaper delivers the hometown paper to deployed soldiers so that they can stay in touch with home.  And the community library ordered children’s books about deployment so that children will understand what their parents are doing while they are away.

These are just a few examples of what is happening all across our country.  If I had to sum up what we have seen since launching Joining Forces in one word, it would be “inspiring.”  These efforts aren’t always in the headlines, but they support our military families every single day in real and meaningful ways.  That’s exactly what the First Lady and I set out to accomplish with Joining Forces.

So please, let’s give a round of applause for all the Challenge winners who are here with us today.  (Applause.)

I am also proud to announce that after the wonderful response this first year, we will start another challenge later this year.  We look forward to seeing more of the creative ways that Americans are giving back to our proud and brave military families.

And now it is my great pleasure to introduce an amazing, young woman.  I met Moranda Hern two years ago when she came to my office to tell me what it was like for her when her dad was deployed to Afghanistan.  She was going through all the challenges of being a teenager with the added burden of worrying every day about her father’s safety.

Moranda’s dad is in the California National Guard, so she didn’t have the support of a military community and she felt disconnected from her peers.  When Moranda met another military teen, she realized she wasn’t alone.  The girls created a support network called The Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs* — to make sure other military girls had a way to share their experiences with one another.  Today the Sisterhood connects military girls through an online community and is expanding nationwide.

Moranda is here today as a military daughter and the founder of an initiative that has made a real difference in the lives of military children.  Now, as you can see, she wears a uniform herself.  She is pursuing her dream of becoming a pilot as a sophomore at the United States Air Force Academy.

I’m so proud to introduce Moranda Hern.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

* * * * *

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you, everyone.  Please be seated.  Welcome.  Welcome to the White House.  And happy anniversary.

I want to begin by thanking Moranda for that lovely introduction.  But she is the reason why we do this.  I mean, enough said.  There are thousands of amazing kids like her all over this country that need to have this light shined on them.  So we are so proud of you, so very proud of you — and the others like you.  So keep it up.

I also want to recognize Tom Brokaw, who has been such an advocate for our men and women in uniform.  He has been amazing. And we are privileged to have him with us today and have his voice out there so passionately on behalf of families and troops.

Of course, I want to thank General Dempsey and Deanie.  They have just been amazing partners.  I think I spend more time with you all than I do my husband — (laughter) — which isn’t bad, isn’t bad, not too bad.  But they have just been tremendous.  And I can’t thank you both enough for what you have done for this country, what you are doing and I know you will continue to do for the rest of your lives.  So we wouldn’t be here without you.

And of course, I want to thank my partner in crime, Dr. Jill Biden.  She is, as you know, a proud military mom, very passionate.  She is really just a tremendous friend, just a true inspiration for me.  This would not be as much fun if I didn’t have her by my side.  And she has done just an amazing job, and we need to give her another round of applause.  (Applause.)

And of course, I want to join Jill in congratulating the winners of the Joining Forces Community Challenge.  We are so happy that all of you have been able to come and travel here to D.C.  And you’ve been spending a little time in the city.  I understand that there was a wonderful reception and roundtable yesterday that I missed, but I hear was just wonderful.  And you’ve been able to get some tours around town.  I hope everybody has been nice.  And there’s going to be a luncheon for you all today.  So, hopefully, the food will be good.

But we are just thrilled to have you in our nation’s backyard to congratulate and honor all that you’re doing.  So thank you again.

I also want to recognize Congressman Al Green who is here. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is here as well.  Thank you both for being here.  And, finally, I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to be here this morning.

We have many people in the audience.  We have our troops and military families here, but we also have government and military leaders, business and nonprofit leaders, leaders from our faith communities, our schools, our hospitals, our veterans’ service organizations and so many others.  And I am thrilled that all of you could be here today as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of Joining Forces.

Now, I have to tell you that when Jill and I first started talking about launching this initiative to honor and support our veterans and military families, we knew that we were going to get a pretty good amount of support, because after all, every American is proud of our men and women in uniform.  So we knew that the emotion was there; we knew that the feelings were there.  So we knew we were going to get some support, because we all want to show our gratitude for their service.

But the outpouring of support that we have seen over this last year — I mean, the hours logged, the services donated, the love and devotion and offers to help that have poured in from every corner of the country — all of that has far surpassed even our wildest expectations.  And that’s a good thing.

And I tell military families all around, that’s really what we want you to know, is that you do live in a grateful nation, and when people are asked on your behalf they are stepping up and they are doing it gladly.  Over the past year, more than 1,600 businesses have hired more than 50,000 veterans and spouses, and they pledged to hire at least 160,000 more in the coming years.  And I know they’re going to do even more than that — that’s just the pledges that we’ve gotten.

Technology and employment companies like Google, Monster and LinkedIn, they have stepped up to help connect veterans with good jobs.  We’ve had state leaders that are passing legislation to make it easier for military spouses to renew their professional licenses and get back to work as their families move from state to state.  And we hope that we’re going to see that kind of initiative throughout the country.

Medical schools are training our next generation of health care providers so that they can better care for our military families.  The Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Treasury, Labor, they have all made groundbreaking announcements to support our nation’s veterans, our wounded warriors, our caregivers and our military spouses.

Associations of doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants and social workers, they’re working to improve the treatment that they provide for Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries.

School professionals are reaching out to our military kids in ways that are so important.  High schools have — with high numbers of military students — are adding more Advanced Placement courses so that these kids have the opportunities they deserve to compete for college.

If you watch TV, you’ve seen all of the activity on the airwaves.  TV shows like “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”, “Sesame Street” — our favorites — (laughter) — and organizations like NASCAR, AOL, Disney, they’re all sharing stories of military families and using those stories not just to shine a light, but to encourage others to serve.

You’ve got wonderful people like Tom Hanks, Oprah, Steven Spielberg — they starred in a series of very powerful PSAs.  And then, of course, the episode that has made me a fan favorite in every household — I am now more popular than the President  — because I was on “iCarly.”  (Laughter.)  There are kids who probably didn’t know I was First Lady, but they know I was on “iCarly.”  (Laughter.)  And that episode — they focused the entire episode on the experience of military children.  It was wonderful.  It really got the message out to young people in a way that we could never do on our own.

So over the past year, not a single person that we’ve talked to, that we have approached, has told us that they could not help — not a single person.  We’ve asked; they said yes.
And the good thing is, is that once people get started, they just keep coming up with new ideas on their own.  We’ll present something, and they double it.  They want to do even more.  They just keep raising their goals even higher.  They just keep figuring out how to get more and more people involved.

A wonderful example is Operation Honor Cards.  It’s a wonderful initiative that asks Americans to honor our military families by pledging service of their own.  And when we first sat down with this organization last year, they set a goal of getting 3 million hours of pledge service from people all across the country.  But then what happened was that by June, they had already doubled that number; and then by November, they hit 10 million hours — just by November.  And today, we can announce that we’re at 21 million hours pledged — 21 million hours pledged — with already 30 million total hours served.  (Applause.)

Now, that’s really the story of Joining Forces.  That’s what we are celebrating today.  That’s truly what is going on through Joining Forces.  It is the story of a wave of support that spreads across this country, and it’s reaching more communities every single day.

But the real impact of Joining Forces over this past year truly cannot be measured just by a list of accomplishments.  It can’t be explained with numbers or hours or dollar amounts.  The true measure of our success lies in the lives that we’ve helped to change — all of us, everyone here — those lives, all those moms and dads out there, all of those sons and daughters, like Moranda, all the grandparents who have felt the love and the support of a grateful nation.

They are heroes like my good buddy, Johnny Agbi — Sergeant Agbi.  He’s quite a character; got to spend some time with him.  He was wounded in Afghanistan, and he’s here with us today.  And thanks to Sears and Rebuild Together, who worked together to refit his house for his wheelchair — and Jill and I got to write on his wall — I hope our signatures are still there.  Are they there?  (Laughter.)  All right, that’s good.  We got to write on his wall.  But thanks to their efforts, Sergeant Agbi can now more easily get in his front door — something as simple as that.  He can now move around his home more freely.  And hopefully, everything feels just a little bit more like home again.

They are spouses like Ann Wells, who Jill and I got to meet.  She’s a nurse who, because of the licensing portability efforts in the states may not have to deal with so much bureaucracy the next time her family moves and she needs to recertify before she can get a job.

They are veterans like Joshua Rassi, from Beaverton, Oregon.  Now, in 2007, Sergeant Rassi joined the Army and was trained as a geospatial analyst — you guys probably know what that is, right?  You Joint Chief types, right?  He was deployed to Iraq, where he was in charge of securing convoys, checking roads for IEDs.  He managed many, many soldiers, communicating detailed information throughout his unit.  But when he left active duty in May of 2010, he couldn’t find consistent work.  He couldn’t find consistent work back home.  For more than a year he was out of consistent work.  This highly trained soldier applied everywhere, but his searches ended in frustration.

Then last September, he went to one of the Chamber of Commerce’s hiring fairs in Portland.  And the Red Cross liked what they saw at this fair.  And within a week, Sergeant Rassi had started a new job with the Red Cross as a lab technician.  And he has been working for six months.  And he is thankful not just for the income, not just because his skills are no longer idle, but because it gives him an opportunity to keep giving back to the country that he loves.

And, as he said — and these are his words — he said, “Part of the reason I joined the military was getting to serve, and at the Red Cross I’m doing the same thing.  My big thing in life is making a difference.”  And that’s how deeply ingrained service is to our men and women in uniform.  That is the greatness that we all feel when we travel the country.  That’s why you guys hook us in.  It is that ethic of service.  It’s that commitment to this country that we want to honor through Joining Forces.

I always say if all of our young people could just get a little dose of what you all have, then they would be just fine.  Just fine.  This effort is about making an impact.  It is about repaying our debt to our veterans and military families.  It’s about giving these heroes the opportunities they deserve.

But I want to be clear that we are not here to pat ourselves on the back.  We’re not here just to throw a nice party or to list our accomplishments.  We’re here to really, truly make a difference for these families who have put everything on the line for all of us.  So while today is certainly a time for celebration, it’s also a time to renew our call of action.  That’s why we’d like to mark the sand with an anniversary, because it’s time to say this is what we’ve done, but there is so much more to do.  It’s time for us to redouble our efforts.

So today, I want to challenge all of you here, and I want to challenge Americans all across the country, to keep raising the bar, just keep raising the bar.  Keep bringing more people into the fold — the fold of Joining Forces, the fold of whatever it is you are doing, keep bringing people in.  Keep coming up with new ideas.

And one message to all of the military families here today and watching around the country:  I want you to know that these are not just words.  We are not giving out empty promises — not on my watch, not on Jill’s watch.  We’re going to keep working until all of our veterans know that when they hit the job market, their skills be rewarded.  We’re not stopping until every military student gets an educational experience that honors their service.  We’re not calling it a day until all of our military spouses can rest assured that the next time their family is transferred, they won’t have to leave their job behind.

And we’re going to keep working.  We’re going to keep persuading.  We’re going to keep driving forward until all of our nation’s military families feel in real and concrete ways the love and support and gratitude that we all hold in our hearts.  That is our simple promise to you.  And it is one of the best things that we all do with our time.

And as Tom said, this is a forever proposition.  This is not a blue state or red state proposition.  This is something that we want to make a part of the culture of the United States of America, that every citizen feels this level of gratitude and finds some way to give something back.  And if we can do our part by shining a light on this effort, then we will continue to do that.

So I want to thank you all for everything that you have done, for leading the way in your communities across this country.  Keep it going.  We are so proud of all of you.  We are grateful.  So God bless you all.  And God bless the United States of America.  Enjoy the rest of your time here in Washington.  (Applause.)

END
11:39 A.M. EDT

60,000 Veterans and Military Spouses Have Been Hired Through Joining Forces Employment Initiatives

Source: WH, 4-13-12

First Lady Michelle Obama greets people in the crowd at Kansas  City Southern Railroad

First Lady Michelle Obama greets people in the crowd at Kansas City Southern Railroad after delivering remarks during a Joining Forces Event in Shreveport, La., April 12, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

It was a great day in Shreveport, Louisiana, yesterday. First Lady Michelle Obama joined the leadership of the Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railway Company in announcing Michael Abitago, Junior as the 50,000veteran or military spouse to have been hired by a company through the Joining Forces employment efforts this past year! Abitago literally left active duty in the Army last Saturday after 4 years of service (including 2 tours in Iraq) and starts work on Monday as a Conductor-trainee. He was hired by KCS in mid-March at a Joining Forces hiring event in Ft Hood, Texas.

And there’s even more great news. A couple of months ago when we first wanted to highlight this event, we had planned on announcing our 50,000hire. But as we approached our visit to Shreveport we had already hit that mark. By April another 8,000 veterans and military spouses were hired. And yesterday, Mrs. Obama revealed the news that the surge in hiring pushed the number of veterans and military spouses hired through Joining Forces to 60,000!

Through Joining Forces, American businesses have not only hired more than 60,000 veterans and military spouses to date,  they have also pledged to hire at least 160,000 more in the years ahead.

More than 1,600 companies have been involved in this effort, including Microsoft, Comcast, Honeywell, Safeway and Sears. JPMorgan Chase and the 40 companies of the “100,000 jobs mission” hired more than 6,000 veterans  — alone – in the January-March 2012 timeframe.

The private sector is stepping up in a real way to support veterans and military spouses. For a full list of companies and their commitments please click HERE.


Learn more:

Brad Cooper is the Executive Director of Joining Forces
Related Topics: Economy, Veterans, Women

Remarks by the First Lady at a Joining Forces Employment Event – Shreveport, LA

Kansas City Southern Railways
Shreveport, Louisiana

1:27 P.M. CDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, hello, everyone.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Michael for that very kind introduction and for his service.  We are very proud of him.  We know he’s going to do well.  And we’re just thrilled to be here — thrilled to be here with all of you.

I also want to thank Dave for his work and his introduction, for hosting us here today, and everyone else here at Kansas City Southern for hosting us as well.  It is really exciting to be here as part of our first anniversary of Joining Forces.

I also have to recognize Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover, who is here.  (Applause.)  Thank you for being here and thank you for your leadership and for joining us today.

Yesterday, we kicked off our tour to celebrate the first anniversary of Joining Forces, which is our nationwide campaign to honor and serve America’s veterans and military families.  And I’m here today in Shreveport to make another big announcement about our effort to hire veterans and military spouses across the country.

And I have a little secret — because the truth is, is that when we started to plan this event a couple of months ago, we had planned on announcing the 50,000th hire.  That’s what this was going to be.  But by mid-March — because we were going to hit that goal by the end of — the middle of the year — but by the end of March we had already hit that mark.  (Applause.)  And then a week later, we added 5,000 more.  And by April, another 3,000.  (Applause.)

So today, I couldn’t be more excited to announce that America’s businesses have hired 60,000 veterans and military spouses in the past year.  (Applause.)  And that’s really the story that we want to celebrate here today.  That’s the story of Joining Forces.  Whenever we have asked Americans to step up, no matter who we were talking to, they have gone above and beyond our expectations — just above and beyond.  And I want these veterans to understand that.  America is stepping up in big ways.

When we looked to America’s health care providers, 135 medical schools, more than 500 nursing schools, more than 3 million health care providers stepped up to improve care for veterans and military families.  (Applause.)

When we asked Americans of all kind to find ways to honor our military families, they answered by serving more than 13 million volunteer hours right in their own communities.  (Applause.)  That’s individual.  That’s all volunteer work.

And of course, when it comes to businesses, when we approached the private sector, when we asked them to follow through on my husband’s challenge to hire or train 100,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013, America’s businesses have overwhelmed us with their response.  So just listen to some of what they’ve done, just some examples:

The Chamber of Commerce held more than 130 hiring fairs for veterans and military spouses all across the country.  The Military Spouse Employment Partnership committed to 20,000 hires.  The American Logistics Association pledged 25,000 hires.  And the International Franchising Association committed to 80,000 more hires.

And just last week, a group of 11 companies said that they would devote 15,000 portable, flexible jobs to military spouses and veterans.  More than 1,600 companies — from Sears and Siemens, to NBC and Disney, to Honeywell and Snap-On Tools — they’ve all joined this effort.  Everyone is stepping up.  And in total, they’ve committed to hiring at least 160,000 veterans and military spouses in the coming years.  And that’s above and beyond the 60,000 that we’re talking about here today.  That’s on top of it.  (Applause.)

So I think it is fair to say that over this past year, this has just been one year’s worth of work.  Over this past year, America’s businesses have truly answered the call to give back to the men and women who have given so much to this country.  And all of these companies are joining this effort, as Dave said, not just because it’s the right thing to do, not just because it’s a patriotic way to show our support, but because it’s good business as well.  That’s important.  This is good business.  (Applause.)

Right here at Kansas City Southern you all are seeing that.  That’s why more than 10 percent of your American workforce has worn our country’s uniform.  That’s why you hired 45 veterans last year alone.  You have made hiring veterans a priority because you know that these folks are some of the most highly-skilled, hardest-working employees in this country.  They have experience that simply cannot be created — or recreated in a classroom.

Today’s modern battlefield means that our 9/11 generation of veterans has served not only as soldiers or airmen or sailors, but as diplomats — they’ve served as social workers, as mediators, as educators.  They’re directing dozens of their peers — so they’ve got the management experience.  They’re executing highly complex, life-or-death missions, and they’re operating some of the most advanced technology on the planet.

Meanwhile, their spouses are getting more done in a day than most of us get done in a week.  They are juggling everything — family schedules, keeping the finances in order, coordinating community drives — because they’re also volunteering outside of their own homes, all while earning degrees or trying to build their own careers.  They are doing it all.

So make no mistake about it, our veterans and military spouses are some of the most able –- and employable -– people in the marketplace today.

But for so long, so many of these heroes have had difficulties finding jobs.  Last year, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was over 12 percent — and that was significantly higher than the general population.  And over the last few years, our nation’s military spouses have struggled to find employment as well, with an unemployment rate that nearly doubles that of civilian spouses.

But we have reason for optimism — because the unemployment rate of post-9/11 veterans has been trending downward for the past 27 months.  (Applause.)  Absolutely.  So while we know that we haven’t solved this problem and we know that there is still a lot more work to be done, we are cautiously optimistic that we’re beginning to turn a corner on this employment issue and so many other issues that impact our veterans and military families.

And let’s remember that these are not simply numbers or plot points on a graph that we’re talking about.  These are not just statistics that we’re dealing with.  These are real lives that we’re talking about — real people with real struggles.  These are families who won’t have to worry about where the next mortgage payment is going to come from.  These are military spouses who can once again add a second income to the family’s finances.  Correct?  We are talking about veterans who can provide for their families and put their skills to use, and who can trust that this country has got their backs.  That’s what this is about.  (Applause.)

And that is really what Joining Forces is about.  That’s why we’ve done this.  It is not about words.  And I said that from the very beginning:  This is not about words or about false pats on the back, this is really about action.  That is one thing I didn’t want to do when we started this initiative, is to have some family member look me in the eye and not feel the work that we were doing.  This isn’t about what’s going on in Washington.  This is about what’s happening on the ground.  (Applause.)  It’s about making a real, meaningful difference for these men and women and families who have given our country so much.  And they’ve done it without complaint.  They’ve done it without hesitation.

So to all of you here at Kansas City Southern and to everyone across the country who has hired our veterans and military spouses, I want to thank you for giving our heroes the opportunities they deserve.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

And this anniversary is about continuing to raise the bar.  We can celebrate a little bit today, but there is more work to do.  So to any company out there that needs dedicated, productive, and highly skilled professionals on their team, I urge you to hire a veteran or a military spouse.  I urge you to do that.  I am confident that they will serve you as well as they’ve served this country.

And also, to all of the veterans and to the military members here — and I know that includes the 30 veterans who were recently hired at KCS –- I again want to thank you for everything that you have done and continue to do for this country.  You all inspire me.  And one of this things that most people cannot do is that they don’t get a chance to visit a military base.  They don’t get to see up close and personal what you all go through over the course of a day, a year, a career.  They don’t see what happens when you come back.  The challenges that you face for the service that you’ve provided.

I feel blessed to have had that honor.  I am not from a military background — Jill Biden is, and she’s been a terrific partner in this effort.  But we committed to be a voice for all of you in this position.  We’ve committed to be a part of telling your story so that other Americans who don’t have that connection, who don’t have someone in the military can really understand the incredible lives you’ve lived and the debt that we owe you as a country for the sacrifice that you have so selflessly made.  We are grateful.

And it is important for you to know that you live in a grateful nation.  Everyone we have asked has wanted to step up.  I think the only reason the connection hasn’t been made is that people don’t always know how to serve, because you all are so doggone competent — (laughter) — that you don’t ask for help, and you’re used to handling it all, keeping it all in, so people don’t always know how best to reach out, how best to provide that support.

But it is not just businesses that are doing this.  This is church groups that are stepping out.  These are teachers and classrooms, and again, nursing students and doctors and social workers.  Joining Forces provides them a platform for help.  We are not doing it; they’re doing it.  And they’re doing it not because of us but because of you and your stories.  And I want you to know that, because sometimes it takes a little time for that support to trickle down.  And we are working — that’s why there is so much more work to do.  We cannot stop until the unemployment rate among our veterans and military families is at zero.  That’s a high goal.  (Applause.)  But that’s how much we need to do.

So I want to thank you all for what you’ve done for this country.  This is a forever proposition.  The goal is that Joining Forces, the concept of it — whether it’s in name or in spirit — is something that becomes a part of our culture as America forever.

So thank you, all.  Good luck to you.  Good luck to your families.  And God bless you all.  Thanks so much.  (Applause.)

END
1:40 P.M. CDT

Remarks by the First Lady Honoring Young Women from Military Families

Jacksonville Naval Air Station
Jacksonville, Florida

6:08 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA: Oh! (Applause.) How are you guys doing? (Applause.) You guys sit down. Rest yourselves. Are you having fun? (Applause.) There is more fun to come. I am thrilled — thrilled — to be here.

I want to start by thanking Maddie for her poise and for introducing me not once, but twice. (Applause.) Well done, Maddie. She is amazing. She’s terrific. Very proud of her, so let’s give her another round of applause. (Applause.)

A few other people that I want to thank. I want to thank Representative Corrine Brown, who’s here, and Mayor Alvin Brown, who are here to — joining us today. Thank you both for your leadership and being here with us.

I also want to take a moment to recognize all of the extraordinary men and women in uniform who are here today. You’re amazing — and your amazing spouses. Yay for the spouses. Thank you for the service that you’ve given. Thank you for the sacrifices that you’ve made. You all are the very best this country has to offer, and I am thrilled that you could join us here today.

And finally, I want to thank our guests of honor, these amazing, beautiful, well-dressed, well-put-together young women we are celebrating here today. (Applause.) And on behalf of myself and my husband, I want to tell you all truly how proud we are of you. We are so proud of you. We are inspired by you, and we are grateful for everything that you do for this country every single day. That’s why we wanted to have you here.

You see, when we talk about how our men and women in uniform sacrifice so much and serve this country so bravely, we’re not just talking about your parents. We are not. We are talking about all of you. We’re talking about our military kids and our military families, because we know that when your parents are called to serve, you all serve right alongside them.

When your parents get that call to pick up and move halfway across the country, you pick up and move right alongside them. And then, just when you finally get settled in, just when you’re feeling comfortable and make friends and start fitting in, what happens? That call comes again, right? And you have to start all over again and make new friends, and settle in, yet again.

And I know that couldn’t be easy. That can’t possibly be easy for you. And I know it’s even harder when your parents are deployed, and you have to keep your spirits up through all those missed holidays, and missed birthdays, and times when you would give anything in the world to have them back home.

And I know that some of you here will be — for you, there will be an empty seat at graduation — I know this. And for some of you, when it comes time for the prom, mom might not be there to help you pick out your dress. Dad might not be there to see you out on your date. And I know that that can’t possibly be easy either.

But here’s something else that I know: Through it all –- through all the moves that you’ve had to make, through all those difficult moments, you all have stayed strong. I have seen it. I’ve seen it in so many kids like you across this country. You all have risen to the challenge.

You’ve become leaders in your schools. You’re excelling in your classes. You’re getting involved in all kinds of activities. You’ve become leaders in your communities, finding all kinds of ways to volunteer and give back. And many of you have stepped up at home as well, juggling activities and homework with chores and housework.

Many of you have had to put on a brave face for maybe a younger brother or sister, even when you were worried. You’ve had to reassure your parents that you were okay, even when sometimes you weren’t.

And you’ve done all of this because ultimately, you understand that your parents are part of something far bigger than themselves. You know that they protect and defend the freedoms that every single one of us holds dear. You know that their service keeps this country safe every single day. And you all are a vital part of that work. You truly are.

By working so hard at school and at home, and doing your part, you give your parents the peace of mind they need to focus on their mission. With your service, you make their service possible. And for that, we can’t thank you enough. We cannot thank you enough.

Now, I know that many of you have never known anything else, right? This is your life. So for you, this is no big deal, maybe. Maybe you think it’s nothing special, because this is just how you’ve grown up.

But I am here today — we are all here today, and we’re doing all of this today — because you should know that this is a big deal. You are special. You all have lived lives that make you incredibly special young individuals.

As military kids, you have learned lessons and had experiences that many people don’t have in their entire lifetimes. You’ve immersed yourselves in all kinds of communities and cultures. You’ve made friends with people from all different backgrounds. And you’ve gained the wisdom and the perspective to appreciate what really matters in life.

You see, unlike a lot of young people, you all don’t take your families for granted, right? A lot of times, you have to work to stay connected to your families — maybe through Skype. It’s a lot of hard work making the most of those precious weeks of leave, saying the things that we don’t nearly say enough to the people we love –- things like “I’m so proud of you,” “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” “I love you more than you will ever know.”

And that’s something that always strikes me about our military families –- how dealing with the challenges of military life actually strengthens your family bonds, rather than weakening them; how spending time apart oftentimes actually brings you closer together. And all of that is part of who you are. And you should know that.

And as you get older, you will see that growing up in a military family has prepared you for life in a way that nothing else can. Because that’s really what life is about –- it’s about weathering all sorts of changes and transitions, and bumps and bruises. But it’s also about savoring the good times, right? Treasuring the people that we love and appreciating the many blessings that come with living in this great country of ours. That’s what all of you do every day.

Like your parents, you all are the very best this country has to offer. You’re role models not just for kids, but for adults and for all Americans who want to see what patriotism, sacrifice and service really looks like. That’s why we’re here.

So I want to thank you all for everything that you do. I want to once again thank your parents for their service to our country.

And now — here’s where the fun begins — I would like to announce that we have a special surprise guest who is about to join us. She is someone that I am proud to call a friend. She’s a tremendous supporter and admirer of veterans and military families. And she’s so amazed by your service that she’s going to put you all on national TV right now.

So are you ready?

AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: So joining us live from the set of her TV show, I’m proud to introduce the one and only Ellen DeGeneres. (Applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: Hi, everybody!

MRS. OBAMA: They’re screaming.

MS. DEGENERES: Hello, Mrs. Obama!

MRS. OBAMA: Hey, Ellen.

MS. DEGENERES: We’re screaming here too! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: What’s going on?

MS. DEGENERES: I hope I’m not interrupting anything.

MRS. OBAMA: No, we’re good. We’re just — good to have you here.

MS. DEGENERES: Good to be there. Congratulations on Joining Forces’ one-year anniversary. Tell everybody what it’s about, please.

MRS. OBAMA: Well, Joining Forces is our national initiative to make sure that all Americans honor our troops, veterans and families. This is the one-year anniversary. We’ve made some amazing strides, and we’re here with some great military kids to give them a special thank you.

MS. DEGENERES: And that’s why I’m there, too, to give them a special thank you. You’ve accomplished so much already. What do you hope to accomplish this year?

MRS. OBAMA: Well, we want to do more. We want to make sure that every American does something. We’re saying — our motto is everyone can do something. It can be something as big as having you on your show, but it can also be helping mow the lawn; it can be doing what you do best, but doing it on behalf of a military family — finding those families within your communities and reaching out to find out what they need.

So we want more of that to go on across this country.

MS. DEGENERES: So that is what you’d say if you — if somebody says how can I help, it’s all the little things. Just call up and say, what can I offer, what’s my specialty?

MRS. OBAMA: Yes. And people can go to our website, joiningforces.gov. And we’ve got thousands of wonderful ideas, suggestions, things that are going on in communities all across this country. That’s a good place to start.

MS. DEGENERES: Great. Great. Now, Mrs. Obama, before we go any further, I think it’s time we talk about the push-up situation. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: You’re still bothered by that, huh?

MS. DEGENERES: Oh! (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Still feeling the wounds of defeat. (Laughter.)

MS. DEGENERES: Let’s just make sure that everyone sees what we’re talking about here. You were here in February, we had a competition to see who could do the most push-ups. I did 20, and you did 25. (Laughter.) Now, let’s just watch the video for a second and then we’ll comment.

Anything you’d like to say?

MRS. OBAMA: I could have done 35. I stopped because I felt bad for you. (Laughter and applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: I bet you could have. I actually bet you could have.

All right, we have to take a break. And we’ll be back with the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and we have a surprise for a few lucky people there. We’ll be right back. I’m going to do some push-ups. (Applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: Oh! I’m exhausted. I just did 53 push-ups. (Laughter and applause.)

We’re back with the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. She’s in Jacksonville, Florida right now with military families. (Applause.) Mrs. Obama?

MRS. OBAMA: Yes! (Applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: Mrs. Obama, tell me who you’re sitting with right now.

MRS. OBAMA: Oh man, we’ve got some great, beautiful young ladies. They’re just gorgeous. You want me to pass the mic? You want to hear from them? You want to hear who’s here?

MS. DEGENERES: Sure, let me meet them.

MRS. OBAMA: All right, we’ve got —

Q Hi, I’m Rachel.

MS. DEGENERES: Hi, Rachel. You excited to be there today?

Q Oh, I’m extremely excited to be here. I’m so honored. I’m here with all my classmates and my family members as well.

MS. DEGENERES: Well, it’s so nice to meet you Rachel. Who are you sitting next to?

Q I’m sitting next to —

Q Hey! My name’s Kianna. (Laughter.)

MS. DEGENERES: Hey, Kianna! (Applause.) Hey Kianna, I love your energy. And your mom is serving overseas right now, right?

Q Yes, she is.

MS. DEGENERES: And how do you stay in touch?

Q My mom calls our house a few times a week, and I always enjoy whenever she calls the house. I love hearing her voice, but it reminds me of her background.

MS. DEGENERES: I bet, I bet. And you’re sitting next to?

Q Hi Ellen. My name is Elise.

MS. DEGENERES: Hi Elise, how are you?

Q I’m good. How are you?

MS. DEGENERES: And your dad is a Navy vet? I’m fantastic, thank you. Your dad is a Navy veteran. What is the best thing about being a military kid?

Q I really think that it teaches you a lot of good characteristics and to have a lot of strength and courage. Because it’s really not easy when you have a family member out in deployment.

MS. DEGENERES: I know, it certainly is not easy, and that’s why you get so much love and support from all of us. We admire your strength and everything that your parents are doing for us. (Applause.)

So my question is, it’s almost prom. You’re looking forward to that, I bet, right?

Q Yes. Definitely.

MS. DEGENERES: Now, Mrs. Obama, I don’t think I’ve ever shown you my prom picture. I just wanted to — I want to show you my prom picture first. (Laughter and applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: That is an excellent picture. Love the dress. Love the dress.

MS. DEGENERES: Thank you very much. That was a tablecloth at one point. (Laughter.) Now, I heard you have a good one too, so I thought I would share yours. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: That split was a little high. I don’t know if I’d let my kids go out with a split that high, so let’s not show this to Malia and Sasha.

MS. DEGENERES: All right. Were you shopping at Pier One or something? (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: You’ve never done the wicker chair shot? That’s standard.

MS. DEGENERES: No, I’ve seen the wicker chairs before but — I didn’t know it was standard.

All right. Well, listen, JC Penny knows that you guys are getting ready for prom. They’re a one-stop shop for all your prom needs. They have dresses, shoes, accessories — even a salon — all at great prices. So they’re giving all three of you a $250 JC Penny giftcard. (Applause.)

And I know there are 300 other students there with you all for the event today who need to get ready for the prom as well. So all of you students who are there in Florida with Mrs. Obama are also getting a $250 JC Penny giftcard. (Applause.)

Thank you so much for your time today, Mrs. Obama. You know I admire you, I think you’re an amazing, amazing woman. Thank you for all that you’re doing. We’re going to put something up on our website if anyone wants to get involved with Joining Forces. And we send our love and our support to all of you there. Thank you so much for all you do. And thank you, again, Mrs. Obama, for your time.

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, Ellen. We love you. This is amazing. (Applause.) Thank you.

MS. DEGENERES: Love you, too. We’ll be right back.

END
6:30 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency February 29, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Honors Iraq Veterans at the White House Dinner

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

The President and Mrs. Obama hosted a dinner at the White House to honor our Iraq war veterans. It was an opportunity to thank them on behalf of the more than 300 million Americans in whose name they served.

President Barack Obama at a dinner honoring Iraq war veterans

President Barack Obama at a dinner honoring Iraq war veterans, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 2/29/12

President Obama Honors Iraq Veterans at the White House

Source: WH, 2-29-12

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a dinner to honor Iraq War Veterans

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a Department of Defense dinner in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 29, 2012. The President and Mrs. Obama hosted the dinner to honor Armed Forces who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, and to honor their families. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr Jill Biden tonight welcomed a group of true American heroes to the White House. “A Nation’s Gratitude: Honoring those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn” was a formal dinner that paid tribute to our Iraq veterans and marked the end of the war.

More than 100 service members and their guests were in attendance, and the invitees included men and women in uniform from all ranks, each U.S. state and territory, and every branch of the Armed Forces. Together, they represented the million American troops who served in Iraq, and they also represented  what Vice President Joe Biden called the finest generation of warriors in all of history.

In his remarks, the President welcomed the veterans home, praised their bravery and dedication to their mission, and thanked them on behalf of more than 300 million Americans:

Tonight, what we can do is convey what you’ve meant to the rest of us. Because through the dust and the din and the fog of war, the glory of your service always shone through. In your noble example, we see the virtues and the values that sustain America, that keep this country great.

You taught us about duty. Blessed to live in the land of the free, you could have opted for an easier path. But you know that freedom is not free. And so you volunteered and you stepped forward, and you raised your hand and you took an oath — to protect and defend; to serve a cause greater than yourself, knowing, in a time of war, you could be sent into harm’s way.

You taught us about resolve. Invasion turned to insurgency and then sectarian strife. But you persevered, tour after tour, year after year.  Indeed, we’re mindful that even as we gather here, Iraq veterans continue to risk their lives in Afghanistan, and our prayers are with them all tonight.

In one of our nation’s longest wars, you wrote one of the most extraordinary chapters in American military history. Now the Iraqi people have a chance to forge their own destiny, and every one of you who served there can take pride in knowing you gave the Iraqis this opportunity; that you succeeded in your mission.

You can watch the tributes before the dinner here

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President, the Vice President, Secretary Panetta, and General Dempsey at Dinner in Honor of the Armed Forces who Served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn and their Families

Damon Waters-Bey East Room
February 29, 2012

8:07 P.M. EST

GENERAL DEMPSEY:  You can go ahead and keep — you do whatever you got to do.  I’ll do whatever I got to do.  (Laughter.)  That’s what the chain of command is all about.

This morning, my wife, Deanie, we woke up and she said, “You know today is a special day.”  And I said, “Of course it is.  We’ve been invited to the White House to celebrate the end of mission in Iraq.”  And she said, “No, no.”  I mean, she said, “That’s pretty cool, actually.”  But she said, “It’s also Leap Year.  It’s the 29th of February.  It only comes around once every four years.”  And then she said — and so, in thinking about that, she said, “Do not sing.  Don’t even think about singing at this event tonight.”  (Laughter.)  “Because if you do, we are likely not to be invited back again for like the next four years.”  (Laughter.)  And she said —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Sing!

GENERAL DEMPSEY:  No.  (Laughter.)  And she said, “Besides, the President has a better voice.”  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, sir, I’m your senior military advisor.  I don’t agree with that assessment, personally.  (Laughter.)  But we’ll see.

I’m particularly honored tonight to be joined by the Joint Chiefs, who are scattered through the audience — with General George Casey, with General Rick Sanchez, and General Lloyd Austin, who, honestly, have done some incredible heavy lifting for our nation over the past decade.  You all stand tall in an exceptionally long list of dedicated leaders who put their heart and soul into seeing our difficult mission in Iraq through to completion.

For more than two decades — that’s the thing to remember here — for more than two decades, Iraq was a dominant part of our lives.  In a sense, it was a family affair.  And what I mean by that is some of us sent our own sons and daughters into this conflict over the past 20 years.  All of us left our families behind.  And tour after tour, they served and supported every bit as much as we did.

The road we traveled together was very tough.  Every day required us to balance conflict and compassion, context and consequence.  Everywhere and at every level, we learned the power of relationships — relationships rooted in trust and respect within ourselves, but also with our Iraqi brothers and sisters.

And we saw just how profoundly impressive America’s fighting force, the Armed Forces of the United States — soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen — and family members like all of you here tonight, and those that I’ve known through the years, proudly represent.  Because you, and those who didn’t come home with us, and those who returned forever changed, really made possible what we were able to accomplish in Iraq.

It was your courage, your resilience, and your sheer resolve to take care of each other, to defend our nation, and to provide the Iraqi people with a choice for their own future.  Even in — and maybe even, I’d say, especially in — the toughest of times, your character and those you represent here tonight shine through.  And it mattered.

Mr. President, Mrs. Obama, thank you for recognizing the service and sacrifice of the military family in this very special way.  I really appreciate — we really appreciate — the support that you and the Vice President, and Dr. Biden and your wife, and those that they have bound together in the Joining Forces initiative, and the nation provide us, as men and women in uniform and the families that we represent.  And I know that we all share a commitment to keep faith with them, and especially the thousands who have returned with wounds both seen and unseen.
There’s no one more strongly committed to their well-being than the person that I now have the opportunity and the privilege to introduce.  Ladies and gentlemen, our Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Leon Panetta.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY PANETTA:  Thank you very much, General Dempsey.  And he does have one hell of a voice.  (Laughter.)

Thank you for your duty, for your dedication, for your service to this great nation that we all represent here this evening.

Tonight, we are truly in the company of heroes.  The honor that we present to all of you is because we care about those who have fought and sacrificed in Iraq.

Mr. President, Mrs. Obama, we thank you deeply for honoring those heroes and welcoming them here into your home.

To all who fought in Iraq, we thank you for your service.  You’ve earned our nation’s everlasting gratitude.  We are indebted to you for your willingness to fight, your willingness to fight for your country.  We are indebted to your families and to your loved ones for the sacrifices that they made so that their loved ones could help defend this nation.

Again and again and again, you left the comfort of family and friends, you left the comfort of this great country, and confronted brutal realities.  Places like Baghdad, Ramadi, Fallujah, Sadr City, Najaf and elsewhere throughout Iraq.  Your unflagging commitment and uncommon dedication helped the Iraqis realize a dream of building an independent and sovereign nation that could secure and defend itself.

It is not going to be easy, but the fact is you gave them the opportunity to be a democracy — because of you.  You are part of a generation of Americans — the new, greatest generation of Americans — responding to the call of duty by your nation.  Deployment after deployment, you’ve been willing to serve this nation.  You’ve been willing to put your lives on the line and you’ve been willing to die in order to protect this country.

You have done everything this country asked you to do.  You return to a grateful nation.  And you can stand proud of all you’ve accomplished.  We owe all of you the honor that your service is deserving.  And we owe to you the assurance that we will never forget the sacrifices of those who are not with us this evening — those who gave their lives to this country.  We pledge to their memory and we pledge to all of you that we will never forget and we will never retreat from what you’ve accomplished.

Last December in Baghdad, we cased the colors of the United States Forces Iraq.  And I had the chance to be at that ceremony. And at the time I noted, this is not the end; this is truly the beginning.

For America tonight, this is not the end.  It is the beginning of a long-lasting tribute to you and to all who served in Iraq.  This country was built upon the service and sacrifice of men and women like you.  Our very democracy depends on people like you, who are willing to step forward and defend this country, to salute and, yes, to fight to give each of us a chance to pursue the American Dream, giving our children a better life.
And just as you have recognized and fulfilled your responsibility to this nation, we must do the same for you.  It is now our responsibility, the responsibility of communities at every corner of this country, to embrace your return, to welcome you back, and to ensure that you and your families have the support you deserve.

As Secretary of Defense, I can’t tell you how proud I am of you, and how proud I am of every American who serves this country in uniform.

And now it is my honor to introduce someone who believes deeply in that American Dream — we are both products of that, as the children of those who came from other countries.  And he is dedicated to defending and preserving that dream.  I’m grateful to Vice President Biden and to Dr. Jill Biden for their continued strong support for our men and women in uniform.  They have a son, Beau, who deployed to Iraq, so they know what this war is all about and the sacrifices that are required of military families.

Over the past three years, Vice President Biden has traveled to the region extensively and has played a tremendous role in steering Iraq policy.  He probably deserves a combat badge for the political battles that he’s been involved in.  And Jill has led the effort, along with Mrs. Obama, to support our military families.

On behalf of all of us at the Department of Defense, we thank the President, we thank Mrs. Obama, we thank the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden, for their leadership, for their support and for their dedication to a strong America.  Strong in mind, strong in body and strong in spirit.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President of the United States.  (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I came because I was expecting a duet tonight.  (Laughter.)  I thought maybe we were going to hear you and my Irish friend actually sing, Mr. President.  I’m betting on you.  (Laughter.)

Hey, look, let me begin by saying that — a special thanks to Generals Casey, Sanchez, Odierno and Austin.  The good news for Casey and Sanchez, they only had to see me three or four times.  Poor General O had to see me close to a dozen times, and General Austin put up with me at the end.  I want to say to all of the brass in here and the Joint Chiefs — we owe you a debt of gratitude because you have trained the finest generation of warriors — and this is not hyperbole — the finest generation of warriors in the history of this country — and I would argue, in a literal sense, the finest generation of warriors in all of history.

I get frustrated as the President does when I hear talk about Generation X and how Generation X is — they’re not ready for all the travails that previous generations have been through. Most of you in this room are made up of what I call the 9/11 Generation.  You are the most incredible generation this country has produced.  Since 9/11, over 2.8 million of your generation, men and women, have joined the military, knowing, and in many cases, hoping, that you’d be sent into harm’s way.

More than a million of you strapped on desert boots and walked across those god-awful sands of Iraq, with temperatures up to 135-140 degrees, averaging about 117 degrees in the summer.  Over a million of you.  A million of you.

This journey began nine years ago, when armored vehicles rumbled across the border of Kuwait and into one of the most challenging missions that the American military has ever undertaken.  And all of you sitting at our tables tonight, you know better than anyone, it was something — sometimes an impossible mission.  Sometimes it was impossible to determine who the enemy was — who the enemy was.

That was just a few short years ago.  A few short years ago, there were literally hundreds of bodies a day being piled up in the Baghdad morgue.  The highways became mine fields.  Irish Alley was the place that was one of the most dangerous places in the world.  Every convoy was a test of faith.  And you saddled up, every single day, after seeing some of your buddies blown up, after cleaning out the vehicles, and you saddled up the next day.

A bullet slipped in an envelope and slid under a family’s door became an unmistakable warning that they had to leave the house and the neighborhood or they would die.  And while you may have been steeped in military doctrine — and you have been — you were also made to master the vagaries of local Iraqi politics — issues ranging from electricity to unemployment, from currency exchange to tax collection.

You’re incredible.  You adapted.  You succeeded.  And you defeated.  You defeated a tyrant.  You beat back violent extremists.  And the most remarkable thing you did, because of the breadth of your capability, you enabled a country that had not been governed in any reasonable way for over four decades — you actually helped them set up institutions and train a military and a civilian corps that gives them a real fighting chance.

Today, because of you, rather than a giant vacuum in a strategically vital region, there’s a prospect of stability and prosperity.  And that wasn’t luck, it wasn’t an accident; it was your sacrifice and hard work that made it possible.  And it will never be forgotten.

Harry Truman — President Truman once described the end of a war as “a solemn but glorious honor — excuse me — “a solemn but glorious hour.”  I believe — and it’s presumptuous of me to interpret what he meant, but I believe that he meant that honoring those who fought also requires remembering those who were lost:  4,475.  And the exact number is important — 4,475 fallen angels.  More than 30,000 wounded — some of you in this room.  Others bear, as Leon said, the invisible scars of their experience.

The President obviously will speak for himself, but I can tell you we’re both awed — awed — by your sacrifice.  But not just those of you who deployed, but your brothers, your sisters, your husbands, your wives, your moms, your dads.

John Milton, the English poet, once said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”  They also serve who only stand and wait.  We owe you, your family members, almost as much as we owe you.  Every morning I’d walk in and Jill would be getting her cup of coffee, standing over the sink, mouthing a prayer.  You wives and husbands of the deployed person, your brothers and sisters — there wasn’t an hour a day that didn’t go by that they didn’t flash across your mind — wondering, is my husband, is my wife, is my son, is my daughter — are they okay?  It’s an incredible thing to ask of so many people.

And now, in the finest American tradition, having carried out your mission, you’ve come home.  As I said when I was with General Austin and with Talabani and Barzani and a couple of you, Colonel, were there — it’s good to see you here, Colonel, instead of in Baghdad.

But like every American before you, every warrior before you, you left Iraq, taking nothing with you but your experience, your achievements, and the pride associated with knowing that you did an incredible job.  That’s an American tradition, too — taking nothing but your pride back home.

So on behalf of a grateful nation — there’s never going to be a way we can truly repay you, there’s no way to fully repay you — but let me simply say thank you.  Thank you and your families for the heroic work you’ve done.  You’ve made a difference, and I think you’ve helped chart a different course for history in the 21st century.

But, ladies and gentlemen, a man that I’ve sat with every day for the past three years or so, I’ve watched him make the decisions he had to make about war and conflict.  I’ve watched him, how he’s done it.  And I know — presumptuous of me to say  — I know — I know every one of those decisions that had to be made hang heavy in his mind and his heart.

There’s no one I’ve encountered — and I’ve been here for eight Presidents — who cares more about you, and all of you who continue to serve, than this man.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud — I am proud to introduce to you your Commander-in-Chief and my friend, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you so much, everyone.  Please, please.  Please, everyone, have a seat.

Thank you, Joe Biden, for not only outstanding remarks, but the extraordinary leadership you showed in helping to guide our policies.

To Secretary Panetta; General Dempsey to all the commanders who are here and did so much under such extraordinary circumstances to arrive at an outcome in which the Iraqi people have an opportunity to chart their own destiny — thank you for the great work that you’ve done.

I do have to say, despite Deanie’s advice, I thought Dempsey was going to burst into song.  (Laughter.)  You have not lived until you hear him belt out an Irish ballad.  His voice is better than mine.  I think you’re never a prophet in your own land, Marty, so your wives are there to cut you down a peg.  (Laughter.)

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:  This house has stood for more than two centuries, through war and peace, through hardship and through prosperity.  These rooms have hosted presidents and prime ministers, and kings and queens.  But in the history of this house, there’s never been a night quite like this.  Because this evening, we welcome, not the statesmen who decide great questions of war and peace, but citizens — men and women from every corner of our country, from every rank of our military, every branch of our service — who answer the call, who go to war, who defend the peace.

And in a culture that celebrates fame and fortune, yours are not necessarily household names.  They’re something more — the patriots who serve in our name.  And after nearly nine years of war in Iraq, tonight is an opportunity for us to express our gratitude and to say once more:  Welcome home.

This is not the first time that we’ve paid tribute to those who served courageously in Iraq.  This will not be the last.  And history reminds us of our obligations as a nation at moments like this.  This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, a time when our veterans didn’t always receive the respect and the thanks that they so richly deserved — and that’s a mistake that we must never repeat.

The good news is, already, we’ve seen Americans come together — in small towns and big cities all across the country — to honor your service in Iraq.  And tonight, on behalf of Michelle and myself, on behalf of over 300 Americans — 300 million Americans, we want to express those simple words that we can never say enough, and that’s thank you.

In your heart, each of you carries your own story — the pride of a job well done; the pain of losing a friend, a comrade. Ernie Pyle, who celebrated our GIs in World War II, said that your world can never be known to the rest of us.  Tonight, what we can do is convey what you’ve meant to the rest of us.  Because through the dust and the din and the fog of war, the glory of your service always shone through.  In your noble example, we see the virtues and the values that sustain America, that keep this country great.

You taught us about duty.  Blessed to live in the land of the free, you could have opted for an easier path.  But you know that freedom is not free.  And so you volunteered and you stepped forward, and you raised your hand and you took an oath — to protect and defend; to serve a cause greater than yourself, knowing, in a time of war, you could be sent into harm’s way.

You taught us about resolve.  Invasion turned to insurgency and then sectarian strife.  But you persevered, tour after tour, year after year.  Indeed, we’re mindful that even as we gather here, Iraq veterans continue to risk their lives in Afghanistan, and our prayers are with them all tonight.

In one of our nation’s longest wars, you wrote one of the most extraordinary chapters in American military history.  Now the Iraqi people have a chance to forge their own destiny, and every one of you who served there can take pride in knowing you gave the Iraqis this opportunity; that you succeeded in your mission.

You taught us about devotion — to country and to comrades, but most of all, to family.  Because I know that some of the hardest days of war were the moments you missed back home — the birthdays, the anniversaries, when your little girl or boy took their first wobbly steps.  And behind every one of you, was a parent, a spouse, or son or a daughter, trying to stay strong, and praying for the day that you’d come home safe.  And that’s why Michelle and Dr. Biden have made it their mission to make sure America takes care of your families, because they inspire us as much as you do.  They deserve that honor as much as you do.

That’s why I’d ask all the spouses and the partners and families to stand up and accept our gratitude for your remarkable service — especially because you look so good tonight.  (Applause.)

You taught us about sacrifice — a love of country so deep, so profound, you were willing to give your lives for it.  And tonight, we pay solemn tribute to all who did.  We remember the first, on that first day of war:  Major Jay Thomas Aubin; Captain Ryan Anthony Beaupre; Corporal Brian Matthew Kennedy; Staff Sergeant Kendall Damon Waters-Bey.  And we remember the last — Specialist David Emanuel Hickman, November 14, 2011.

Separated by nearly nine years, they are bound for all time, among the nearly 4,500 American patriots who gave all that they had to give.  To their families, including the Gold Star families here tonight, know that we will never forget their sacrifice and that your loved ones live on in the soul of our nation — now and forever.

You taught us about strength — the kind that comes from within; the kind that we see in our wounded warriors.  For you, coming home was the start of another battle — the battle to recover, to stand, to walk, to serve again.  And in your resilience we see the essence of America, because we do not give up.  No matter the hardship, we push on.  And just as the wounds of war can last a lifetime, so does America’s commitment to you and all who serve — to give you the care you earned and the opportunities you need as you begin the next proud chapter in your lives.

And finally, all of you taught us a lesson about the character of our country.  As you look across this room tonight, you look at our military — we draw strength from every part of our American family — every color, every creed, every background, every belief.  And every day, you succeed together — as one American team.

As your Commander-in-Chief, I could not be more proud of you.  As an American, as a husband and father of two daughters, I could not be more grateful for your example of the kind of country we can be, of what we can achieve when we stick together.

So I’ll leave you with a picture that captures this spirit.  It’s from that day in December, when the last convoy rolled out — five American soldiers standing beside their vehicle, marked with the words, “Last vehicle out of Iraq.”  They’re young, men and women, shoulder to shoulder, proud, heads held high, finally going home.  And they were asked what it was like to be, literally, the last troops out of Iraq.  And one of them gave a simple reply:  “We completed the mission.”  We completed the mission.  We did our jobs.

So I propose a toast.  To the country we love.  To the men and women who defend her.  And to that faith — that fundamental American faith — that says no mission is too hard, no challenge is too great; through tests and through trials, we don’t simply endure, we emerge stronger than before, knowing that America’s greatest days are still to come — and they are great because of you.

Cheers.

God bless you and your families.  And may God continue to bless those in uniform and the United States of America.

Thank you very much, everybody.  May dinner be served.  (Applause.)

END
8:40 P.M. EST

White House Recap November 19-25, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — Thankgiving at the White House & Turkey Pardon

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: NOVEMBER 19-25, 2011

West Wing Week

The President wrapped up an 8 day tour in the Asia Pacific region, signed legislation to help our veterans find jobs, urged Congress to cut payroll taxes, and pardoned two turkeys. That’s November 18th to November 24th or “Your Best You.”

West Wing Week

West Wing Week: 11/24/11 or “Your Best You”

Source: WH, 11-24-11

This week, the President wrapped up an 8 day tour demonstrating American leadership and opening up economic opportunity for America in the Asia Pacific region. Upon his return he signed legislation to help our veterans find jobs, traveled to New Hampshire to urge Congress to cut payroll taxes for workers and small businesses, and pardoned two turkeys. That’s November 18th to November 24th or “Your Best You.”

Full Text November 21, 2011: President Barack Obama Signs the Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act of 2011

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama signs a bill to create tax credits that will make it easier for businesses to hire veterans — and urges Congress to take action to put more Americans back to work.

President Obama signs the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011

President Obama Obama signs the Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 11/21/11

President Obama: “Hire a Veteran”

President Barack Obama signs the Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 (VOW to Hire Heroes Act), that will provide tax credits to help put veterans back to work. First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden attend the ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Nov. 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This morning, President Obama signed the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act” into law, telling those in attendance:

Back in September, I sent Congress a jobs bill. And in it, I proposed a tax credit for any business that hires a veteran who’s been unemployed for at least four weeks. I proposed an even bigger tax break if a business hires a veteran who’s been unemployed for at least six months. And if a business hires an unemployed veteran with a disability related to their service, I proposed doubling the tax break that we already have in place.

Today, because Democrats and Republicans came together, I’m proud to sign those proposals into law. And I urge every business owner out there who’s hiring to hire a veteran right away.

The is just one of the intiatives the President has enacted in order to ensure that the country fulfills its obligation to our servicemembers and their families.

And it’s just one part of the President’s plan to put the American people back to work. At the bill signing, he told lawmakers that families all over the country are demanding the same kind of bold, bipartisan action.

“My message to every member of Congress is keep going,” President Obama said, “Keep working.”

 

Read more:

  • Tax credits for employers who hire unemployed veterans and veterans with service-connected disabilities are just one important part of the Obama Administration’s plan to to help veterans translate their military skills for the civilian workforce, New online tools are available to aid their search for jobs, and the Administration has partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and the private sector to make it easier to connect our veterans with companies that want to hire them.
  • Read the story of Jason Hansman, who managed hundreds of reconstruction projects that totaled millions of dollars while serving in Iraq, but receieved only one job offer, to fill a night mall cop position.
  • Read the story of Navy veteran Eric Smith, who has more than five years experience as a military medic, but works today as a hospital janitor.
  • Read the story of Maria Canales, an Army veteran who spent nearly four years looking for a job because she had trouble communicating how the skills she learned in the military prepared her to be an excellent employee in the civilian workforce.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President and the First Lady at Bill Signing

South Court Auditorium

11:15 A.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you all.  Thanks so much.  Well, good morning, everyone.  Please, rest, rest.  I am thrilled to be here today, alongside the Vice President and my favorite person here, Jill Biden — (laughter) — oh, yes, you, too, honey.  (Laughter.)  Secretary Shinseki, members of Congress, representatives of veteran service organizations, and some of our veterans, as our nation reaffirms its commitment to the men and women who have served this country so bravely.

Over the past few years I’ve had the privilege of meeting with so many of our troops, veterans and military families.  And every time I visit with them at a base, every time I sit with them at a hospital bed, every time I talk to their kids at a barbeque or a baseball game, I walk away inspired.  Their strength, resilience, and commitment to this country is simply unmatched.

They leave home for months at a time, go to some of the most dangerous places on Earth and risk it all for the country they love.  That courage, that unwavering dedication to a higher calling really sticks with me.  It stays in my heart.  And more importantly, it moves me to act.  And that’s why Jill and I started our Joining Forces campaign — because Jill and I wanted to give something back.

So we have been traveling around the country, from city to city, talking with business executive, nonprofit leaders, school administrators, clergy members — pretty much anyone who will listen.  And we’ve been asking them to find new ways to honor and support our veterans and their families.

And the really wonderful thing that we found is that people are actually listening.  Americans are standing up to show their appreciation.  Businesses have already hired more than 18,000 veterans and military families, and they’ve made commitments to hire at least 135,000 more.  Schools are working with nonprofits and tech companies to improve the experience of our military children.  Entertainment executives are making public service announcements.  Community groups are gathering donations and putting together thousands of care packages.  And truly, the list goes on and on and on.

And what I’ve been most struck by is how excited people are to get involved, and that’s what we want our military members and their families to know.  People want to do something.  This is something that Americans want to do.  We want to give something back.  We want our veterans to know that we are humbled by their sacrifice and we’re awed by their service.  But sometimes, we just have to be asked.  And sometimes, we need a little nudge.

And I am about to introduce my favorite man — (laughter) — who is someone who’s not afraid to ask for the support for our veterans.  He has been standing up for veterans since before he was President.  And since he took office, he’s been working hard to strengthen our nation’s sacred trust with our veterans — not just with words, but with actions.

He’s helped send more than half a million veterans and military family members to college through the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.  He’s building a 21st century VA to fully support our veterans throughout their lives.  He’s taken unprecedented steps to improve mental health care and expand care for our women veterans and wounded warriors.  And he’s working to put an end, once and for all, to the outrage of veteran homelessness.

Today, with this bill, that story continues.  So I am truly proud to introduce you to the man who is the favorite man in my life — (laughter) — our President, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  It is wonderful to see all of you.  Thank you for being here.  Thank you, Mich, who is a pretty good speaker, so I try not to follow her.  But given the incredible work that she and Jill Biden have done in advocating for our veterans, I could not be more honored to be with them.  And I know Joe shares my feeling — we could not be proud of their efforts on this front.

Over the past three years, they have visited so many of our troops.  They have thanked them for their service.  They have comforted their spouses.  They have given voice to their struggles.  And they’ve challenged all of us at a national, state and local level, to do more for our veterans.

Joe Biden has been a champion for veterans for decades now. It is his birthday, so we speak in terms of decades.  (Laughter.) It was actually — (laughter) — actually yesterday was his birthday.  I won’t say the number.  You can ask Jill if you want. But for a man who cares as deeply about our troops as Joe does, this bill, I imagine, is a pretty good birthday gift.

Secretary Shinseki is here — where’s Ric?  There he is.  Ric has been doing an outstanding job leading our Department of Veterans Affairs.  And I’m also proud to say that we are joined by some of the nation’s leading veterans service organizations and members of Congress who helped make this bill possible.

I have often said that the most humbling part of my job is serving as Commander-in-Chief to the world’s finest military.  Not a day goes by when I’m not awed by our troops, by the strength of their character, and by the depth of their commitment and the incredible sacrifices that they and their families make on behalf of our nation’s freedom and security.  The men and women of our military don’t just fight for each other, they don’t just fight for their units or for their commanders; they fight for every single American, for the millions of fellow citizens who they have never met and who they will likely never know.

And just as they fight for us on the battlefield, it’s up to us to fight for our troops and their families when they come home.  And that’s why today is such a wonderful day, because today a deeply grateful nation is doing right by our military and paying back just a little bit of what we owe to our veterans.

Today, the message is simple:  For businesses out there, if you are hiring, hire a veteran.  It’s the right thing to do for you, it’s the right thing to do for them, and it’s the right thing to do for our economy.

While we’ve added more than 350,000 private sector jobs over the last three months, we’ve got 850,000 veterans who can’t find work.  And even though the overall unemployment rate came down just a little bit last month, unemployment for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan continued to rise.  And that isn’t right.  These men and women are the best that America has to offer.  They are some of the most highly trained, highly educated, highly skilled workers that we have.  If they can save lives on the battlefield, then they can save a life in an ambulance.  If they can manage convoys moving tons of equipment over dangerous terrain, they can manage a company’s supply chain.  If they can track millions of dollars of assets in Iraq, they can balance the books of any company here in the United States.

Our country has benefited enormously from our veterans’ services overseas.  And we will benefit just the same from their service here at home.  And that’s why, under my direction, the federal government has already hired more than 120,000 veterans. Thanks to the work that Jill and Michelle mentioned, some of our most patriotic businesses have pledged to hire 135,000 more veterans and military spouses.  And today, we’re giving those businesses just one more reason to give veterans a job.

Back in September, I sent Congress a jobs bill.  And in it, I proposed a tax credit for any business that hires a veteran who’s been unemployed for at least four weeks.  I proposed an even bigger tax break if a business hires a veteran who’s been unemployed for at least six months.  And if a business hires an unemployed veteran with a disability related to their service, I proposed doubling the tax break that we already have in place.

Today, because Democrats and Republicans came together, I’m proud to sign those proposals into law.  And I urge every business owner out there who’s hiring to hire a veteran right away.

Now, over the past decade, nearly 3 million service members have transitioned back to civilian life, joining millions who have served through the decades.  And as we end the war in Iraq and we wind down the war in Afghanistan, over a million more will join them over the next five years.  This bill is an important step towards helping those veterans transition into the workforce.  And beyond the tax breaks that I mentioned, it also contains a number of other reforms — from education and training to career counseling, to job search assistance.

We’re still going to need to do more.  And that’s why I’ve also announced a series of executive actions to help our veterans back to work.  We’ve set up a Veteran Gold Card — this is a card that post-9/11 veterans can download today, and it gives you access to a suite of career services, including six months of personalized counseling at the roughly 3,000 one-stop career centers located across the country.

We’ve launched an easy-to-use online tool called My Next Move that allows veterans to enter information about the skills they’ve acquired during their service, and then matches that information with the civilian careers that will best put that unique experience to use.

And we’ve created a new online service called Veterans Job Bank, a partnership with leading search engines that directly connects unemployed veterans to job openings.  So all of these initiatives are up and running right now and you can find them at whitehouse.gov/vets.  That’s whitehouse.gov/vets.

So to our veterans, know that we will stand with you as long as it takes for you to find a job.  And to our businesses, let me say again, if you are hiring, hire a veteran.  Hire a veteran today.  They will make you proud, just as they’ve made this nation proud.

Now, I’m pleased that both parties came together to make this happen.  So once again, I want to thank all members of Congress who are involved.  It is important to note that in addition to our veterans, there are millions of other Americans who are still looking for work right now.  They deserve the same kind of bold, bipartisan action that we’ve seen here today.  That’s what people have sent us here to do.  So my message to every member of Congress is:  Keep going.  Keep working.  Keep finding more ways to put partisanship aside and put more Americans back to work.

Tomorrow, I’m heading to New Hampshire to talk about another proposal in the American Jobs Act, and that’s a tax cut for nearly every worker and small business owner in America.  Democrats and Republicans have traditionally supported these kinds of tax cuts.  Independent economists from across the political spectrum have said this proposal is one of the best ways to boost our economy and spur hiring.  It’s going to be easier for us to hire our vets if the overall economy is going strong.  So there’s no reason not to vote for these tax cuts.

And if Congress doesn’t act by the end of the year, then the typical family’s taxes is going to go up by roughly $1,000. That’s the last thing our middle class and our economy needs right now.  It is the last thing that our veterans need right now.

So let’s keep at it.  No politics.  No delays.  No excuses. Let’s keep doing everything we can to get America back to work. And on that note, it is my great pleasure to do my job and sign this bill into law.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.)  (Applause.)

END
11:28 A.M. EST

 

White House Recap November 5-11, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Honors America’s Military Veterans on Veterans Day & Introduces Initiatives Creating Jobs for Veterans

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: NOVEMBER 5-11, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: Fighting for Our Veterans

This week, the President attends the G-20 Summit in France, announces actions to put veterans back to work, orders reforms of Head Start Programs, and signs an executive order that continues cuts in government waste.

West Wing Week

Source: WH, 11-11-11

Jobs for Veterans: President Obama on Monday announced the launch of a suite of new tools designed to help our veterans transition more easily into the workforce. The Veterans Job Bank, which will help put veterans in contact with companies that appreciate their skills and are eager to hire them, has more than 550,000 job postings from military-friendly employers and is continuing to grow. On Thursday, the First Lady joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to announce new private sector commitments to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014. Later that day the Senate approved the Wounded Warrior and Returning Heroes tax credits, provisions of the American Jobs Act which will offer businesses a $9,600 tax credit for hiring disabled veterans and create additional incentives for employers who hire veterans who have spent four weeks or more out of work.

Honoring our Veterans: Friday morning President Obama honored the millions of Americans who have served in our nation’s military by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. In his speech, the President highlighted the end to the war in Iraq and called for all Americans to support our veterans. “So on this Veterans Day, let us commit ourselves to keep making sure that our veterans receive the care and benefits that they have earned; the opportunity they defend and deserve; and above all, let us welcome them home as what they are — an integral, essential part of our American family.”

Head Start: President Obama announced historic reforms to the Head Start program that will require all Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous quality benchmarks to compete for continued federal funding. These changes are designed to ensure that all children in Head Start are attending top-notch programs that will help them reach their full potential.

Saving You Money: President Obama signed an Executive Order telling Federal agencies to cut their spending on travel, printing, and IT by 20 percent, which will save billions of dollars. This initiative is only one part of the administration-wide Campaign to Cut Waste, headed by Vice President Joe Biden that promises to eliminate government waste, save taxpayer dollars and make government work more efficiently.

White House Recap October 21-28, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Created Executive Action to Grow the Economy & Create Jobs — Ended the War in Iraq & Urged Congress to Pass the American Jobs Act

White House Recap October 21-28, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Created Exceutive Action to Grow the Economy & Create Jobs — Ended the War in Iraq & Urged Congress to Pass the American Jobs Act

 

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: OCTOBER 21-28, 2011

This week, the President kept his promise and announced the end of the war in Iraq, headed west to urge Congress to pass the American Jobs Act while announcing new executive actions that will help middle class families.

West Wing Week

Weekly Wrap Up: “We Can’t Wait”

Source: WH, 10-28-11
Helping Homeowners After Republicans in the Senate blocked the jobs bill yet again, President Obama hit the road with a new message,“We Can’t Wait.” The President decided to take executive action to create jobs and put money back in the pockets of Americans. While in Las Vegas, the President announced steps to make it easier for homeowners to refinance their mortgages, helping responsible borrowers with little or no equity in their homes take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates.

Modifying Student Loans On a snowy day in Colorado, President Obama announced a new effort that will help borrowers better manage their student loan debt. He said he will move forward with A “Pay As You Earn” program that will reduce monthly payments for more than 1.6 million people. Starting in 2014, borrowers will be able to reduce their monthly student loan payments from 15 percent to 10 percent of their discretionary income.

Hiring Veterans The Obama Administration challenged each of the 8,000 Community Health Centers around the country to hire one veteran, effectively opening up 8,000 jobs to our unemployed veterans. These health centers, which provide primary care services in typically underserved areas, are a major piece of President Obama’s historic health care reform law.

We The People On Wednesday, President Obama’s top education advisors issued the first response to a petition created through the online petition site, We The People. The response addressed the petition “Taking Action to Reduce the Burden of Student Loan Debt”. The Administration recognized the high cost of education and moved forward to reduce monthly loan payments formore than1.6 million people. The online tool that allows Americans to voice their opinions to the government has had around755,000 people use the platform to create or sign more than 12,400 petitions.

Tonight Show The President flew to L.A. to appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The two talked about Libya, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and reality television — including a show on C-SPAN called ‘Congress.’

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