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Megan SlackDecember 10, 2013
06:30 PM EST
Today in Johannesburg, President Obama joined leaders from the United States and around the world at a national memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela.
In President Obama’s remarks, he reflected on what Mandela meant to him personally, as well as to the people of South Africa, and urged all of us to remember Madiba’s legacy and contributions to humanity.
For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe, Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate a heroic life. But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must ask: How well have I applied his lessons in my own life? It’s a question I ask myself, as a man and as a President.
Grant T. HarrisDecember 09, 2013
06:46 PM EST
In recent weeks, government affiliated armed groups and independent “self-defense” militias have committed shocking and horrific atrocities against innocent civilians in the Central African Republic. The United States is actively supporting the international community’s efforts to end the violence, protect civilians, prevent atrocities, provide humanitarian assistance, and help create an environment that allows constitutional and democratic governance to be restored.
In an audio message taped in Dakar, Senegal, today, President Obama sent a clear and important message to the people of the Central African Republic: that they should reject the violence currently threatening their country, and move together toward a future of security, dignity, and peace.
Adam GarberDecember 09, 2013
03:50 PM EST
The 2013 White House holiday theme is Gather Around, celebrating heartfelt memories from American families across the country. Thoughtful hand-made decorations in each room of the White House helps tell a story. As part of White House holiday tradition, the State Dining Room is home to the famous gingerbread house. Over the course of several weeks, pastry chef Bill Yosses and his talented team created a 300-pound, edible White House replica. This year’s creation features a mini Bo and Sunny sitting on the front steps of the house lit from within, and a functioning replica of the North Lawn fountain.
The gingerbread house rests on a life-size, custom-made hearth fashioned from over 1,200 Springerle Cookies. (You can get the recipe for the Springerle Cookies here) These sweet treats tell stories through images imprinted on their dough by hand-carved, wooden molds. Framing the opening of the hearth are sugar paste recreations of the tiles commissioned for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fireplace. The edible fireplace reminds us of President Roosevelt’s famous “fireside chats” and will certainly evoke memories for so many of their own special moments gathered around a fireplace.
The time lapse video lets you see how Chef Yosses and his team put the whole project together.
For additional information about holidays at the White House 2013, go to WH.gov/Holidays. Holiday-related content from the White House will be tagged #WHHoliday on Twitter.
December 09, 2013
03:48 PM EST
On May 9, 2013, President Obama signed an Executive Order, Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information, directing historic steps to make government-held data more accessible to the public, entrepreneurs, and others as fuel for innovation, economic growth, and government efficiency.
Under the terms of the Executive Order and the Administration’s Open Data Policy, all newly-generated government data are required to be made available in open, machine-readable formats, which greatly enhances their accessibility and usefulness while continuing to ensure privacy and security. Federal agencies are also required to:
- Create a Single Agency Data Inventory. Agencies are required to catalogue their data assets, just like they would inventory computers or desk chairs, to better manage and use these resources.
- Publish a Public Data Listing. On their agency.gov/data pages, agencies are required to publish a list of their data assets that are public, or could be made public.
- Develop New Public Feedback Mechanisms. Agencies are required to set up feedback mechanisms to engage the public about where agencies should focus open data efforts, such as facilitating and prioritizing the release of datasets. Agencies are also required to identify public points of contacts for agency datasets.
While there is still much more work to do, we are excited to see the great progress being made by Federal agencies to unleash the power of open data.
Over a dozen agencies have launched webpages at agency.gov/data, making it easier for the public to find, understand, and use government data. Many agencies have released—and will continue to release—new datasets, which are now available both on agencies’ public data webpages and on Data.gov.
Federal agencies are also working to put processes in place to manage data more strategically. In fact, over 15 agencies have launched data working groups inside their agency to improve coordination around data management, data security and protection, and data release efforts.
Kasie CoccaroDecember 09, 2013
01:00 PM EST
During the 2013 holiday season more than 70,000 visitors will have the chance to tour the White House holiday decorations, created and hung with care by a team of crafty staff and volunteers.
On Monday, December 16th 2013 we are inviting Pinners, Instgramers and White House Twitter followers from near and far to take in the 2013 holiday decorations and learn about how it all came together. Guests will join us for a craft project, meet with the people that helped transform the White House this holiday season - and share it all with their social media followers with the hashtag #WHHoliday.
Interested in joining? Sign up for your chance to join other White House social media followers at the #WHHoliday social.
In order to apply you must follow an official White House Twitter, Pinterestor Instagram account. After you sign up, spread the word! Let your followers know that you applied to attend the #WHHoliday social.
White House holiday crafts, tour booklet and information can be found at WH.gov/Holidays.
Michael DanielDecember 09, 2013
11:28 AM EST
Every week seems to bring news of yet another website hacked, user accounts compromised, or personal data stolen or misused. Just recently, many Facebook users were required to change their passwords because of hacks at Adobe, a completely different company. Why? Because hackers know that users frequently re-use the same password at multiple websites. This is just one of many reasons that the system of passwords as it exists today is hopelessly broken. And while today it might be a social media website, tomorrow it could be your bank, health services providers, or even public utilities. Two complementary national initiatives aim to do better before the impacts of this problem grow even worse.
Developed in 2011, the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) is a key Administration initiative to work collaboratively with the private sector, advocacy groups, public sector agencies, and other organizations to improve the privacy, security, and convenience of sensitive online transactions. NSTIC calls for the creation of an Identity Ecosystem – an online environment in which individuals can trust each other because they follow agreed-upon standards to authenticate their digital identities. What this means for individual users is that they will be able to choose from a variety of more secure, privacy-enhancing identity solutions that they can use in lieu of passwords for safer, more convenient experiences everywhere they go online.
December 09, 2013
09:00 AM EST
This week is Computer Science Education Week, or “CSEdWeek,” an annual campaign highlighting the importance of learning computer science. CSEdWeek is held in recognition of the birthday of computer science pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, widely known for popularizing the idea of “debugging” a computer—a phrase inspired by her team’s removal of an actual moth from a relay in a Harvard Mark II computer in 1947. (Its remains can be found in the group’s log book at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.) This year, non-profit group Code.org is driving CSEdWeek activities in more than 150 countries around the world and sponsoring an “Hour of Code” campaign that encourages all students to devote an hour this week to getting a taste of computer programming.
The ability to write computer software—to code—is an important skill. It moves people from being consumers of technology to creators of it. An understanding of coding helps people learn new strategies for solving problems and harness the power of computers to realize their own visions, whatever they may be. Everyone—scientists, fashion designers, doctors, journalists, lawyers, musicians, students—can benefit from a greater understanding of how to use computing.
Megan SlackDecember 07, 2013
06:00 AM EST
December 06, 2013
05:39 PM EST
Economic Mobility: On Wednesday, the President spoke about the growing inequality and lack of upward mobility in the United States. “The idea that so many children are born into poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth is heartbreaking enough,” the President said.
But the idea that a child may never be able to escape that poverty because she lacks a decent education or health care, or a community that views her future as their own, that should offend all of us and it should compel us to action. We are a better country than this.
The President called reversing this lack of upward mobility the defining challenge of our time and said he is driven to expanding opportunity to ensure that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead. Click here to read his full remarks.
The passing of Nelson Mandela: Thursday evening President Obama delivered a statement on the passing of former South African President and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. “We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” the President said. “So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.”
White House Youth Summit: The White House held a Youth Summit on Wednesday, where youth leaders from across the country gathered to discuss issues important to their generation, including the Affordable Care Act. They participated in panels and breakout workshops with administration officials, and even had a surprise drop by from the President.
Megan SlackDecember 06, 2013
10:45 AM EST
The White House is officially bedecked with cheer for the holiday season, which means it’s time for another special tradition: the lighting of the National Christmas Tree.
This evening, President Obama, the First Lady and their family will participate in the 91st annual holiday tree lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in President’s Park, just outside the White House gates.
Hosted by Emmy Award-winning actress Jane Lynch, this year’s National Christmas Tree Lighting features a talented line-up of performers including: The Avett Brothers, Joshua Bell, Mariah Carey, Renée Fleming, Forte, Aretha Franklin, Janelle Monáe, Prince Royce, Arturo Sandoval, Train, and Nolan Williams, Jr. and Voices of Inspiration.
December 06, 2013
10:30 AM EST
Since his first full day in office, President Obama has prioritized making government more open and accountable and has taken substantial steps to increase citizen participation, collaboration, and transparency in government. Today, the Obama Administration released the second U.S. Open Government National Action Plan, announcing 23 new or expanded open-government commitments that will advance these efforts even further.
In September 2010, President Obama challenged members of the United Nations General Assembly to work together to make all governments more open and accountable to their people. To meet that challenge, in July 2011, President Obama joined the leaders of seven other nations in announcing the launch of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) – a global effort to encourage transparent, effective, and accountable governance. In two short years, the OGP has grown from eight to more than 60 member-nations that have collectively made more than 1,000 commitments to improve the governance of more than two billion people around the globe.
Then, in September 2011, the United States released its first Open Government National Action Plan, setting a series of ambitious goals to create a more open government. The United States has continued to implement and improve upon the open-government commitments set forth in the first Plan, along with many more efforts underway across government, including implementing individual Federal agency Open Government Plans. The second Plan builds on these efforts, in part through a series of key commitments highlighted in a preview report issued by the White House in October 2013, in conjunction with the Open Government Partnership Annual Summit in London.
Adam GarberDecember 06, 2013
10:00 AM EST
Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week, the President spoke on the importance of addressing economic mobility and supporting implementation of the Affordable Care Act, visited fasting immigration reform activists, marked World AIDS Day, celebrated Hanukkah, and visited a local bookstore for Small Business Saturday. That's November 29th to December 5th or, "Olde English."
Jason FurmanDecember 06, 2013
09:30 AM EST
With solid job growth in November – in addition to strong data on manufacturing activity and auto sales – it is clear that the recovery continues to gain traction. Today’s report was yet another reminder of the resilience of America’s private sector following the disruptive government shutdown and debt limit brinksmanship in the first half of October. Nevertheless, today’s jobs numbers show that too many Americans who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer are still struggling to find jobs. That is why the President is calling on Congress to pass the extension of emergency unemployment insurance before it expires at the end of the year, just like they have always done when long-term unemployment remains elevated. The President also continues to work to increase overall growth while ensuring that growth is shared broadly in the form of higher wages and more mobility, which is why he is fighting for a minimum wage increase and expansion of educational opportunities.
FIVE KEY POINTS IN TODAY’S REPORT FROM THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS
1. America’s resilient businesses have added jobs for 45 consecutive months, with private sector employment increasing by more than 8 million over that period. Today we learned that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 203,000 in November, with 196,000 of that increase in the private sector. Private sector job growth was revised up for September (to 168,000) and October (to 214,000) so that over the last three months, private employment has risen by an average of 193,000 per month.
Lindsay HolstDecember 05, 2013
06:10 PM EST
This afternoon, from the White House Briefing Room, President Obama delivered a statement on the passing of former South African President and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, calling him "a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice."
"We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again," the President said. "So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice."
Kori SchulmanDecember 05, 2013
04:37 PM EST
Our nation's immigration system is broken – and fixing it is an economic, national security, and moral imperative. That’s why President Obama is deeply committed to working to pass a common sense, comprehensive set of reforms that ensures everyone plays by the same rules. And we want to answer your questions about the issue.
On Wednesday, December 11th, Vice President Biden and Cecilia Muñoz, the President’s Domestic Policy Advisor, are sitting down to answer your questions about immigration reform. During the conversation hosted by Bing and Skype, the Vice President and Cecilia will speak with folks from around the country via live Skype Video Call, answer questions submitted through Skype Video and from social media.
What are your questions about immigration reform? Ask a question by Skype Video Message now and join the conversation on Twitter with #AskTheWhiteHouse, then be sure to tune in live on Wednesday, December 11th at 3:45 p.m. ET at Bing.com/WhiteHouse and WhiteHouse.gov/live.
- Learn about the President's Plan to create an immigration system for the 21st century
- Get the latest from the Office of the Vice President and follow @VP on Twitter
- Follow Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, on Twitter @Cecilia44
December 05, 2013
10:45 AM EST
Ed. note: Today at 4:10 ET, tune in to whitehouse.gov/live to see President Obama deliver remarks at a White House Hanukkah Reception
Among the gifts from heads of state that are in the holdings of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum is a menorah presented to President Truman by Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion. The menorah dates back to at least 1767, when it was donated to a synagogue in Buergel, Germany.
The menorah was used in the synagogue until 1913, when it was found broken in pieces. A man by the name of Siegfried Guggenheim asked for the broken pieces and provided a replacement. The Guggenheim family restored the old menorah for their personal use, and brought it to the United States when they immigrated in the 1930s. Eventually, the menorah was acquired by the Jewish Museum in New York.
When Prime Minister Ben-Gurion visited the United States in 1951, he searched for a suitable gift to give to Harry S. Truman in light of the President’s recognition and support of the State of Israel. The Jewish Museum suggested the menorah, and Prime Minister Ben-Gurion presented it to Truman on his birthday, May 8, 1951.
In 1979, Jimmy Carter participated in lighting a Hanukkah menorah on the Ellipse, just south of the White House. Each President since then has commemorated Hanukkah at the White House. The ceremonies have ranged from small presentations in the Oval Office to large parties with the First Family, but they have all shared the common element of a Hanukkah menorah.
December 05, 2013
09:00 AM EST
The United States economy continues to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and while substantial progress has been made, more work remains to boost economic growth and speed job creation. Despite ten consecutive quarters of GDP growth and 7.8 million private sector jobs added since early 2010, the unemployment rate is unacceptably high at 7.3 percent, and far too many families are still struggling to regain the foothold they had prior to the crisis.
The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program authorized by Congress in 2008 has provided crucial support to the economy and to millions of Americans who lost jobs through no fault of their own. Under current law, EUC will end on December 28, 2013.
This report argues that allowing EUC to expire would be harmful to millions of workers and their families, counterproductive to the economic recovery, and unprecedented in the context of previous extensions to earlier unemployment insurance programs.
Since their inception in 2008, extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits have provided critical support to millions of workers and their families:
- Nearly 24 million workers have received extended UI benefits
- Recipients are a diverse group: roughly half have completed at least some college, including 4.8 million with bachelor’s degrees or higher
- Including workers’ families, nearly 69 million people have been supported by extended UI benefits, including almost 17 million children
- In 2012 alone, UI benefits lifted an estimated 2.5 million people out of poverty
Michael RobertsonDecember 04, 2013
10:40 PM EST
“You have stage IV cancer”.
“Well, how many stages are there? Five, Six, Ten?”
“There's only four”.
Two months after proposing to my wife and just three months before my 36th birthday, those were the first words spoken to me by my oncologist.
A check-up with my family doctor only days before spawned a whirlwind of appointments, scans, and tests. I sat, listening in awe, trying to wrap my head around the reality of balancing fear and uncertainty with wanting to fight, but not really knowing how. I learned that I was now a stage IV, metastatic colorectal cancer patient. A cancer that usually afflicts those 65 and older wasn’t just inside my body, it was growing and making its way through my body, spreading from my colon to a tumor in my liver and possibly a lesion on my lungs.
I was otherwise healthy my whole life – 35 years old, an athlete into college, professionally doing important work I’d only dreamed of, and finally about to be married and start my own family. Fighting to survive a catastrophic disease was NOT part my plans.
Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to have insurance through my employer and my cancer was treatable and curable they said. Thankfully, because I had insurance, they said, if I gave them the next year for treatment, they’d give me back the rest of my life.
But imagine if I didn’t have access to health insurance through my job. Until that week, just 16 months ago, I could have made the case that I almost didn’t “need” to spend money on health insurance. Technically, with only yearly check-ups and mostly needing only over-the-counter medicines, I could have afforded to pay for my healthcare needs myself.
Kasie CoccaroDecember 04, 2013
08:21 PM EST
Today, First Lady Michelle Obama previewed the 2013 White House holiday décor to a crowd of military families who were the first of more than 70,000 anticipated visitors this holiday season. Mrs. Obama announced this year's theme, Gather Around: Stories of the Season, a celebration of the stories and traditions that bring us together this special time of year. “Our goal is for every room and every tree to tell a story about who we are and how we gather around one another to mark the holidays,” she said. The custom of selecting an official holiday theme began in the 1960s when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy created a nutcracker-themed Christmas for her daughter Caroline.
The 2013 décor embraces beloved White House traditions. By using thoughtful hand-made volunteer crafts and recycled classic pieces, the Gather Around decorations and 24 trees throughout the residence all tell a story. Special art displays and Christmas trees made from repurposed books help this year’s theme come alive. In total, more than 450 repurposed books were used as part of the holiday décor (they will be donated to a local school’s book drive following the holiday season). Today, military children that attended the event had the opportunity to make crafts including – a fruit wreath and a Bo-quet paper poinsettia.
This year, two of the rooms honor our military families, a tradition started by Mrs. Obama, whose Joining Forces initiative seeks to honor and support those who sacrifice so much for our freedom.
“When visitors arrive, the very first thing they’ll see is a tree decorated to pay tribute to our Armed Forces," she said. "This tree, graced with special Gold Star ornaments, tells the story of some of our greatest heroes: Those who gave their lives for our country. And any Gold Star family who visits the White House can create their own ornament to honor their loved one.”
The Blue Room also honors our military families. It holds the Official White House Christmas Tree, presented from the National Christmas Tree Association standing at 18 1⁄2 feet high and nearly 11 feet wide. According to the First Lady, the Blue Room tree is “dedicated to the idea of gathering around our military. The tree in that room is decorated with holiday greeting cards drawn by military children from bases all across the country as a way to celebrate their parents’ service.”
First Lady Michelle Obama asks us all to “find a way to honor these great Americans, not just during the holidays, but every day. And let us never forget the debt that we owe these men and women and their amazing families.” (You can share your message of thanks through the USO here)
Kyle LiermanDecember 04, 2013
07:50 PM EST
This afternoon, youth leaders from across the country gathered here for our White House Youth Summit. The Summit was made of up 160 of this country's finest national and local leaders aged 18-35. Joined by White House and Administration staff, these millennial participants discussed issues important to their generation -- especially spreading the word about the Affordable Care Act and organizing to get people enrolled in their respective communities. They also participated in a series of panels and breakout workshops with administration officials, stakeholder groups, and advocates.
To kick off the event, a very special guest dropped by to speak to the Youth Summit: President Obama -- who let young Americans know he needed their help.
So I'm going to need you all to spread the word about how the Affordable Care Act really works, what its benefits are, what its protections are and, most importantly, how people can sign up. I know people call this law Obamacare. And that's okay -- because I do care. I care about you. I care about families. I care about Americans.
But no matter how much I care, the truth is, is that for your friends and your family, the most important source of information is not going to be me, it's going to be you. They are going to trust you. If you're taking them on a website, walking them through it saying, look at the price you're able to get, look at the benefits you're able to get. That's what's going to be making a difference.