Full Text Political Transcripts December 4, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception

Source: WH, 12-4-16

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Everybody please have a seat.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Well, good evening, everybody.  On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.  Over the past eight years, this has always been one of our favorite nights.  And this year, I was especially looking forward to seeing how Joe Walsh cleans up — pretty good.  (Laughter.)

I want to begin by once again thanking everybody who makes this wonderful evening possible, including David Rubenstein, the Kennedy Center Trustees — I’m getting a big echo back there — and the Kennedy Center President, Deborah Rutter.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

We have some outstanding members of Congress here tonight.  And we are honored also to have Vicki Kennedy and three of President Kennedy’s grandchildren with us here -– Rose, Tatiana, and Jack.  (Applause.)

So the arts have always been part of life at the White House, because the arts are always central to American life.  And that’s why, over the past eight years, Michelle and I have invited some of the best writers and musicians, actors, dancers to share their gifts with the American people, and to help tell the story of who we are, and to inspire what’s best in all of us.  Along the way, we’ve enjoyed some unbelievable performances -– this is one of the perks of the job that I will miss.

Thanks to Michelle’s efforts, we’ve brought the arts to more young people -– from hosting workshops where they learn firsthand from accomplished artists, to bringing “Hamilton” to students who wouldn’t normally get a ticket to Broadway.  And on behalf of all of us, I want to say thanks to my wife for having done simply — (applause) — yes.  (Applause.)  And she’s always looked really good doing it.  (Laughter.)  She does.  (Laughter.)

This is part of how we’ve tried to honor the legacy of President and Mrs. Kennedy.  They understood just how vital art is to our democracy — that we need song and cinema and paintings and performance to help us challenge our assumptions, to question the way things are, and maybe inspire us to think about how things might be.  The arts help us celebrate our triumphs, but also holds up a mirror to our flaws.  And all of that deepens our understanding of the human condition.  It helps us to see ourselves in each other.  It helps to bind us together as a people.

As President Kennedy once said, “In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation.”  Tonight, we honor five amazing artists who have dedicated their lives to telling their truth, and helping us to see our own.

At eight years old, Mavis Staples climbed onto a chair in church, leaned into the microphone, raised her eyes upwards and belted out the gospel.  When people heard that deep, old soul coming out of that little girl, they wept — which, understandably, concerned her.  (Laughter.)  But her mother told her, “Mavis, they’re happy.  Your singing makes them cry happy tears.”

It was those early appearances on the South Side of Chicago -– South Side!  — (laughter and applause) — with Mavis, her siblings, their father, Roebuck “Pops” Staples that launched the legendary Staple Singers.  Theirs was gospel with just a touch of country, a twist of the blues, little bit of funk.  There was a little bit of sin with the salvation.  (Laughter.)  And driven by Pops’ reverbed guitar, Mavis’ powerhouse vocals and the harmonies that only family can make, the Staple Singers broke new ground with songs like “Uncloudy Day.”  They had some truths to tell.  Inspired by Dr. King, Pops would tell his kids, “If he can preach it, we can sing it.”  And so they wrote anthems like “Freedom Highway,” and “When Will We Be Paid” — which became the soundtrack of the Civil Rights movement.

As a solo artist, Mavis has done it all and worked with just about everybody from Bob Dylan to Prince to Jeff Tweedy.  On albums like “We’ll Never Turn Back,” and “One True Vine,” she still is singing for justice and equality, and influencing a new generation of musicians and fans.  And each soulful note — even in heartbreak and even in despair -– is grounded in faith, and in hope, and the belief that there are better days yet to come.  “These aren’t just songs I’m singing to be moving my lips,” she says.  “I mean this.”  And we mean it too.  Six decades on, nobody makes us feel “the weight” like Mavis Staples.  Give her a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

Al Pacino calls the theater his “flashlight.”  It’s how he finds himself, where he sees truth.  And since Al first hit Broadway in 1969, his singular talent has been the gold standard for acting.

A great playwright once compared the way Al inhabits his characters to the way Louis Armstrong played jazz.  One director said that while “some actors play characters, Al Pacino becomes them.”  And we’ve all seen it.  In the span of five years — you think about it — he became Serpico, became Sonny Wortzik, twice became Michael Corleone for, let’s face it, what have got to be the two best movies of all time — (laughter) — became Tony Montana on screen, then became the owner of a couple of Tonys on stage.  And he’s always been this way.

At 13, Al committed so profoundly to a role in the school play that when his character was supposed to get sick on stage, Al actually got sick on stage.  (Laughter.)  I’m not sure how audiences felt about that.  (Laughter.)  Later, when he played Richard III and Jackie Kennedy visited him backstage, the actor playing the self-absorbed king didn’t even stand up to greet actual American royalty, which he says he still regrets.  (Laughter.)

Through it all, Al has always cared more for his “flashlight” than the spotlight.  He says he’s still getting used to the idea of being an icon.  But his gift, for all the inspiration and intensity that he brings to his roles, is that he lets us into what his characters are feeling.  And for that, we are extraordinarily grateful.  Al Pacino.  (Applause.)

In the late sixties, James Taylor got the chance to audition in front of Paul McCartney and George Harrison.  Ringo, I don’t know if you were there — but this is a true story.  (Laughter.)  “I was as nervous as a Chihuahua on methamphetamines” — (laughter) — is what James Taylor says.  Which is exactly the kind of metaphor that makes him such a brilliant songwriter.  (Laughter.)

But if James has a defining gift, it is empathy.  It’s why he’s been such a great friend to and Michelle and myself.  We’re so grateful to him and Kim for their friendship over the years. It’s why everybody from Carole King to Garth Brooks to Taylor Swift collaborates with him.  It’s what makes him among the most prolific and admired musicians of our time.  In fact, James recently went through all his songs and kept coming across the same stories — songs about fathers and traffic jams; love songs, recovery songs.  I really love this phrase:  “Hymns for agnostics.”  (Laughter.)  He says that in making music, “There’s the idea of comforting yourself.  There’s also the idea of taking something that’s untenable and internal and communicating it.”  And that’s why it feels like James is singing only to you when he sings.  It feels like he’s singing about your life.  The stories he tells and retells dwell on our most enduring and shared experiences.  “Carolina on My Mind” is about where you grew up, even if you didn’t grow up in Carolina.  “Mean Old Man” is probably somebody you know.  “Angels of Fenway” — well, actually, that’s just about the Red Sox.  So — (laughter) — if you’re a White Sox fan you don’t love that song, but it’s okay.  (Applause.)

James is the consummate truth-teller about a life that can leave us with more unresolved questions than satisfying answers, but holds so much beauty that you don’t mind.  And from his honesty about his own struggles with substance abuse to his decades of progressive activism, James Taylor has inspired people all over the world and helped America live up to our highest ideals.  Thank you, James Taylor.  (Applause.)

Without a preschool rivalry, we might not be honoring Martha Argerich.  The story goes that when Martha was two years old, a little boy taunted her, saying, “I bet you can’t play the piano!”  (Laughter.)  So she sat down at the keys, remembered a piece her teacher had played, and played it flawlessly.  By eight years old, she had made her concert debut.  By the time she was a teenager, she left her native Argentina to study in Vienna and won two major international competitions, launching one of the most storied and influential careers in classical music.  That little boy lost his bet.

Martha combines unparalleled technical prowess with passion and glittering musicianship.  From Bach to Schumann, she doesn’t just play the piano, she possesses it.  Martha can charge through a passage with astonishing power and speed and accuracy, and, in the same performance, uncover the delicate beauty in each note.  As a critic once wrote, “She is an unaffected interpreter whose native language is music.”

But what truly sets her apart and has cemented her place as one of the greatest pianists in modern history is her dogged commitment to her craft.  In an age of often superficial connections, where people too often seek fame and recognition, Martha has been guided by one passion, and that is fidelity to the music.  She can only be herself.  And that is the truest mark of an artist.  And the result is timeless, transcendent music for which we thank Martha Argerich.  (Applause.)

And finally, there have been some interesting things said about this next group, including being called “one of rock’s most contentiously dysfunctional families.”  (Laughter.)  So, yeah, it was unlikely that they’d ever get back together and that they called their reunion tour “Hell Freezes Over.”  (Laughter.)  I love that.  But here’s the thing — when you listen to the Eagles, you hear the exact opposite story, and that is perfect harmony.

You hear it in the crisp, overpowering a capella chords of “Seven Bridges Road”; dueling guitar solos in “Hotel California”; complex, funky riffs opening “Life in the Fast Lane.”  It’s the sound not just of a California band, but one of America’s signature bands — a supergroup whose greatest hits sold more copies in the United States than any other record in the 20th century.  And the 20th Century had some pretty good music.  (Laughter.)

So, here tonight, we have three of the Eagles:  Don Henley, the meticulous, introspective songwriter with an unmistakable voice that soars above his drum set.  Timothy Schmit, the bass player and topline of many of those harmonies.  And Joe Walsh, who’s as rowdy with a guitar lick as I’m told he once was in a hotel room.  (Laughter.)  Twice.  (Laughter.)  This is the White House, though.  (Laughter.)  And Michelle and I are about to leave.  As I’ve said before, we want to get our security deposit back.  (Laughter and applause.)

But, of course, the Eagles are also the one and only Glenn Frey.  And we all wish Glenn was still here with us.  We are deeply honored to be joined by his beautiful wife, Cindy, and their gorgeous children.  Because the truth is that these awards aren’t just about this reception or even the show we have this evening, which will be spectacular.  The Kennedy Center Honors are about folks who spent their lives calling on us to think a little harder, and feel a little deeper, and express ourselves a little more bravely, and maybe “take it easy” once in a while.  And that is Glenn Frey — the driving force behind a band that owned a decade, and did not stop there.  We are all familiar with his legacy.  And the music of the Eagles will always be woven into the fabric of our nation.

So we are extraordinarily honored to be able to give thanks for the Eagles.  And what’s true for them is true for all of tonight’s honorees:  remarkable individuals who have created the soundtrack to our own lives — on road trips, in jukebox diners; folks who have mesmerized us on a Saturday night out at the movies or at a concert hall.

Mavis Staples.  Al Pacino.  James Taylor.  Martha Argerich The Eagles.  Their legacies are measured not just in works of art, but the lives they’ve touched, and creating a stronger and more beautiful America.  They’re artists who have served our nation by serving their truth.  And we’re all better off for it.

So before we transport ourselves to what I’m sure will be a spectacular evening, please join me in saluting our extraordinary 2016 Kennedy Center Honorees.  (Applause.)

 

END                  5:44 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 6, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors Reception Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President to the 2015 Kennedy Center Honorees

Source: WH, 12-6-15 

East Room

5:15 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, have a seat, have a seat.  Have a seat and welcome to the White House.  This is a good-looking group.  (Laughter.)  President Kennedy once said, “There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts.”

I believe he was right.  Our achievements as a country and as a culture go hand-in-hand.  The oldest of the 2015 Kennedy Center Honorees was born over 90 years ago — you won’t be able to tell.  (Laughter.)  But when we look back on the last century, for all the challenges we faced, what we see is a time of extraordinary progress.  We won one World War, and then another.  We endured one depression, and prevented another.  And through it all, we created new medicines and technologies that changed the world for the better.  We welcomed new generations of striving immigrants that made our country stronger.  We worked together, and marched together, to open up new doors of opportunity for women, African Americans, Latinos, LGBT Americans, Americans with disabilities -– achievements that made all of us more free.

Tonight, we honor five artists who helped tell the story of the first American century through music, theater, and film -– and by doing so, helped to shape it, helped to inspire it, helped to fortify our best instincts about ourselves.

(Baby makes noises.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  (Laughter.)  It includes your grandpa.  (Laughter.)

About 80 years ago, the ship carrying a young girl named Rosa Dolores Alverio — (applause) — from Puerto Rico — (applause) — came into New York City, steamed by the Statue of Liberty.  “Oh my goodness,” she thought, “a lady runs this country!”  (Laughter and applause.)  She wasn’t yet known by the stage name of Rita Moreno, but even then, she knew she wanted to be a star.  At age nine, she debuted as a dancer.  At 13, she set foot in a Broadway theatre for the first time in her life -– as a member of the cast.  At 30, she became the first Latina to win an Academy Award for her unforgettable performance as “Anita” in “West Side Story.”

(Baby makes noises.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, it was good, wasn’t it?  (Laughter.)

After more than seven decades on stage and screen, Rita’s one of just a handful of artists to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony.  She’s got an “EGOT.”  (Applause.)  But being a pioneer is never easy.  For years, she was pigeonholed as what she called, “the house ethnic.”  She says she played all her parts with the same accent, because nobody “seemed to care.”  And when she pushed back against Hollywood typecasting, the roles dried up.  But Rita refused to sell herself short.  This is a woman who won the Tony for best supporting actress, then concluded her acceptance speech by reminding everyone, “I am a leading lady — I am not a supporting actress.”  (Laughter and applause.)

And she was right.  She was the leading lady of that show.  And she is still a leading lady of her era, a trailblazer with the courage to break through barriers and forge new paths.  Eight decades after Rita Moreno first laid eyes on the Statue of Liberty, she continues to personify its promise:  that here, in America, no matter what you look like or where you come from or what your last name is, you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

As a teenager in Tokyo, an aspiring classical pianist named Seiji Ozawa defied his mother’s orders and joined a rugby match.  Now, I have to say, looking at you Seiji, I’m not sure that was a good idea.  (Laughter.)  I mean, I don’t know much about rugby.  (Laughter.)  He broke two fingers, and that put an end to his piano-playing career –- but fortunately for the rest of us, it opened up the door to a career as a conductor.

Here, Michelle and my mother-in-law would like me to point out that defying one’s mother does not usually work out well.  (Laughter.)

But there are exceptions, and for Seiji, it did.  In 1960, when he was 25 years old, he landed at Logan Airport with only a few words of English and a sign that read, “Lennox, Mass.” But his work as a conductor spoke volumes.  Just a few weeks later, the New York Times pronounced him “a name to remember.”  He went on to become Leonard Bernstein’s assistant conductor at the New York Philharmonic, and then led the Toronto and San Francisco Symphonies, all by the time he was 35.  It makes you feel kind of underachieving.  (Laughter.)  His conducting was somehow sensitive and intense, drawing the “lyric essence” of every note.  And with his mop haircut, and his turtlenecks, and his love beads, he almost looked like a Beatle.  (Laughter.)

And in 1973, Seiji found his musical home with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which he led for 29 years.  When he wasn’t cheering on his beloved Red Sox and Patriots, he was transfixing audiences with passionate, precise performances conducted entirely from memory, using his whole body -– elbows, fingers, knees, hair -– (laughter) — as a baton.  Seiji has dedicated his life to bridging East and West with classical music.  In his words, “Music is easier to understand than language — it can be understood right away.  Just like the sunset, which is beautiful wherever you watch it.”  (Applause.)

As a child in Harlem, Cicely Tyson sold shopping bags on the street corner to make — to help her family make ends meet.  After high school, she found work as a secretary — until one day she stood up and announced to everyone in the room, “[I am] sure that God did not put me on the face of this Earth to bang on a typewriter for the rest of my life!”  (Laughter and applause.)

Cicely was already displaying what you could call a flair for the dramatic.  (Laughter.)  And like all great actors, she never just plays a character -– she becomes one.  “I’m looking inside myself,” she once explained.  “Inside of me is where this character is coming from.”

It certainly took character to get where she is today.  As a black woman, Cicely wasn’t offered many roles with the pay and stature her tremendous talent should have commanded.  But that only steeled her resolve.  She once said, “When I became aware of the kind of ignorance that existed, I made a very conscious decision that I could not afford the luxury of just being an actress — I had some very important things to say, and I would say them through my work.”

Cicely has been saying important things for nearly 60 years, from “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” to “Sounder,” to “The Trip to the Bountiful.”  And even now, eight shows a week, she walks onto a Broadway stage to beat James Earl Jones in hand after hand of rummy in “The Gin Game.”  (Laughter and applause.)  At 90 years old, she’s still delivering remarkable, heartfelt performances night after night after night -– just like God intended, and she sure does look good doing it every night.  (Applause.)  Cicely Tyson.  (Applause.)

At age 15, a young woman named Carol Klein formed a doo-wop group with her friends called “The Co-Sines” — Co-Sines — that’s a little math.  (Laughter.)  They did great with the hard-to-reach trigonometry demographic.  (Laughter and applause.)  Around the same time, Carol talked to a DJ, and asked him the best way to get in touch with record companies.  He told her a secret –- look them up in a phone book.  (Laughter.)  So Carol made some calls, landed a contract, and took on the stage name of Carole King.

It turned out to be a perfect choice -– because today, in the world of American music, Carole is royalty.  By the time she was 30, she’d teamed up with Gerry Goffin to write hits like “Up on the Roof” for The Drifters.  “One Fine Day” for The Chiffons.  “The Loco-Motion” for Little Eva.  And of course, “You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman)” – I think I just became the first President ever to say that.  (Laughter and applause.)  It sounded better when Aretha said it.  (Laughter and applause.)

And then finally, in the 1970s, Carole found the perfect voice for her songs, which was her own.  At one point, her solo album “Tapestry” — which, by the way, was one of the first albums I ever bought — was the highest-selling album of any genre in history.  It stayed on the charts for six years, full of songs you could not get out of your head -– songs about home, and friendship, and vulnerability; songs about just being human.  And that’s what makes Carole so special.  Whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall — (laughter) — whether she’s fighting with passion for our environment or campaigning for the causes that she believes in; Carole is always that honest, unvarnished voice –- the friend who tells you again and again that you are beautiful — as beautiful as you feel.  (Applause.)

George Lucas recently shared one of his regrets. He told a reporter, “I never got the experience that everyone else got to have.  I never got to see ‘Star Wars.’”  (Laughter.)

Well, George, let me tell you -– you missed out.  It was really good. (Laughter.)  That movie was awesome.  (Laughter.)

As one wise Jedi Master might put it, “Changed nearly everything, George Lucas has.”  (Laughter.)  George was at the vanguard of the New Hollywood, blending genres and combining timeless themes with cutting-edge technology.  Without him, movies would not look as good or sound as good as they do today.  Spaceships might still fly around the screen with little strings attached to them.  (Laughter.)  The effects were only part, though, of what makes George special.  He created a mythology so compelling that in a 2001 census, the fourth-largest religion in the United Kingdom was “Jedi.”  (Laughter and applause.)

Think about how many children have been raised, at least in part, by George Lucas.  (Laughter.)  Think about how many young people searching for their place in the universe have thought to themselves, “If a kid from Tatooine moisture farm can go from bulls-eyeing womp rats in his T-16 to saving the galaxy, then maybe I can be something special too?”  (Laughter.)  How many engineers got their start arguing about the structural flaws in the Death Star?  How many philosophers got their start arguing about whether Han shot first?  (Laughter.)  How many bookish teenagers have taken solace in the fact that the most charismatic guy on the planet is an archeologist named Indiana Jones?  (Laughter.)

George, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but they might even make a brand new “Star Wars” movie soon.  (Laughter.)  It’s very low-key, it’s not getting a lot of promotion.  (Laughter.)  But it’s also pretty remarkable that nearly 40 years after the first star destroyer crawled across the screen, we are still obsessed with George’s vision of a galaxy far, far away.  And we’ll be raising our children on his stories for a long, long time to come.  (Applause.)

Rita Moreno.  Seiji Ozawa.  Cicely Tyson.  Carole King.  George Lucas.  Each of these artists was born with something special to offer their country and the world.  Each of them found a way to enrich our lives with their lives’ work.  For all the joy and the pleasure, all the insight and the understanding that they have brought to us over the years, we want to thank them -– and we sure are proud to celebrate them as our 2015 Kennedy Center Honorees.  Please give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

END
5:32 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency March 18, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Women’s History Month Reception

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Hosts a Celebration of Women’s History Month at the White House

Source: WH, 3-18-13

President Barack Obama with First Lady Michelle Obama and Amanda McMillan at the Women’s History Month reception, March 18, 2013.President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the Women’s History Month reception in the East Room of the White House, March 18, 2013. Standing at right are First Lady Michelle Obama and Amanda McMillan, who introduced the President. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama today welcomed a group of accomplished and inspiring women to a reception in the East Room of the White House. The group, which included leaders like A&E Networks CEO Abbe Raven, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Girl Scouts’ CEO Anna Maria Chávez, astronaut Sunita Williams, activists Dolores Huerta and Lilly Ledbetter, and WNBA star (and 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist) Tamika Catchings, joined the President, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to celebrate the progress women make in this country each and every day. President Obama highlighted the changes we’ve seen in the past century….READ MORE

Remarks By The President at Women’s History Month Reception

The East Room

East Room

5:04 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  And can everybody please give Amanda another big round of applause?  (Applause.)  It seems to me she would be pretty good at sales.  (Laughter.)  I was sold just listening to her right there.

Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your story, the wonderful introduction. It is an honor to welcome all of you here to the White House.

Now, let’s be clear, I am used to being surrounded every day by talented, accomplished women — (applause) — from all the meetings I have in the West Wing to the dinner table with Michelle, Malia and Sasha. (Laughter.) But I have to say, even for somebody who is accustomed to it, this is a pretty exceptional group that I’m looking around here.

We’ve got business leaders like Abbe Raven, CEO of the A&E Networks.  (Applause.)  There she is right there. We’ve got activists like Dolores Huerta and Lilly Ledbetter.  (Applause.)  All-star athletes like Tamika Catchings.  (Applause.)  And outstanding public servants from Congress and my administration, including Valerie Jarrett, who serves as our chair of the Council for Women and Girls here at the White House.  (Applause.)

And when I look around this room, it is hard to believe that 100 years ago this month, thousands of women were marching right outside this house demanding one of our most fundamental right:  the right to vote, to have a say in our democracy.  And today, a century later, its rooms are full of accomplished women who have overcome discrimination, shattered glass ceilings, and become outstanding role models for all of our sons and daughters. And that means we’ve come a long way, and that’s thanks to the efforts of so many people like you.

Because of the hard work and exemplary leadership of the women in this room, military families have protected family and medical leave.  Women have legal recourse to fight against pay discrimination, as Amanda took advantage of.  Women have the opportunity to serve on the front lines of our military conflicts, and that means that they’re getting paid and promoted equally.  Women have the opportunity to make their own choices about their health.

We’re also seeing expanded opportunity for women to reach their full potential all around the world.  That’s in large part because four years ago, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — (applause) — a tireless advocate for women herself, designated an Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues whose sole job it is to make sure that women and girls are a central part of every aspect of our foreign policy, that their concerns are considered at the highest level of our diplomatic decision-making.

For four years, the incredible Melanne Verveer held that role.  (Applause.)  Where is Melanne?  Is she here?  All right, well, she’s incredible.  Take my word for it.  (Laughter.)  We’re so grateful for her service, along with the millions of women around the world that she helped to amplify and helped to fight alongside on the causes that are so important.  But with Melanne leaving on, we’ve got some big shoes to fill.  So today, I am very pleased to announce that I will be nominating Cathy Russell as our next Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.  (Applause.)

Cathy is a longtime advocate for women, for justice, for fairness. She’s worked on preventing violence against women here and around the world. Throughout my first term, she’s served as chief of staff to Dr. Jill Biden.  (Applause.)  She’s worked tirelessly alongside Michelle and Jill to make sure that our military families get every single benefit and bit of assistance that they so richly deserve and have earned.  I’m certain that Jill will miss Cathy, but I know she joins me in saying that we could not be prouder of Cathy’s hard work and her advocacy.  And we know that she’s going to be a powerful voice on behalf of women and girls around the world.  So thank you, Cathy, for your continued service.  (Applause.)

It’s women like Cathy, like Jill, like Amanda, like Michelle, like all of you, that inspire so much progress each and every day.  And I’ve got to tell you, all of you inspire me to make sure that I’m doing everything that I can as President to carry on that progress, and to do everything we can to ensure equality and opportunity for all women.

Just last week, I was proud to sign the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act -– (applause) — a law, by the way, that Cathy helped to make possible in the first place, securing for women the protections and the services to help them live their lives free from fear of violence and free to pursue their own measure of happiness.

And that’s what everybody deserves in this country -– the opportunity to make of their lives what they will, no matter who they are, what they look like, whether they are boys or girls, women or men.  That’s why I ran for President in the first place –- to put the same rights and opportunities within the reach of all of our daughters and sons.  And while there’s still a lot of work to be done, I am confident that we can reach that goal, that we can make sure that every single door is open, every dream is within reach — for Malia, for Sasha, for your daughters, for your granddaughters — to make sure that they never feel like there are barriers in front of them, and that if they work hard, they can make it.

So I want to thank all of you for your incredible advocacy.  I could not be prouder of you.  I’m glad that you had a chance to join us.  I understand that we had some great panels earlier today, and I expect this conversation and, more importantly, the work will continue for many years to come.

So thank you very much, everybody.  Enjoy the reception.  (Applause.)

END                5:15 P.M. EDT

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