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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, 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.
Megan SlackDecember 04, 2013
05:16 PM EST
Today in Southeast Washington, DC, President Obama spoke about what he called the defining challenge of our time: reversing a decades-long slope toward growing inequality and a lack of upward mobility. It's a trend that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain, the idea that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.
In the years after World War II, America built the largest middle class the world has ever known, President Obama said.
[D]uring the post-World War II years, the economic ground felt stable and secure for most Americans, and the future looked brighter than the past. And for some, that meant following in your old man’s footsteps at the local plant, and you knew that a blue-collar job would let you buy a home, and a car, maybe a vacation once in a while, health care, a reliable pension. For others, it meant going to college -- in some cases, maybe the first in your family to go to college. And it meant graduating without taking on loads of debt, and being able to count on advancement through a vibrant job market.
“Everyone’s wages and incomes were growing,” President Obama said “And because of upward mobility, the guy on the factory floor could picture his kid running the company some day.”
But by the late 1970s, this social compact began to unravel as jobs began to disappear and our economic foundation weakened. Inequality started to grow, and it got harder for children of lower-income families to move upward. Today, a family in the top 1 percent has a net worth 288 times higher than the typical family. And a child born in the top 20 percent has about a 2-in-3 chance of staying at or near the top, while a child born into the bottom 20 percent has a less than a 1-in-20 shot at making it to the top.
Lindsay HolstDecember 04, 2013
03:46 PM ESTYou've probably been hearing a lot about health reform and HealthCare.gov these past few months.Here's the bottom line: Reform is improving the lives of millions of Americans, right now. Here are just a few of their stories.
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December 04, 2013
12:43 PM EST
Last August, President Obama outlined an ambitious plan to increase value and affordability in postsecondary education. There were a number of commitments he made in his proposal, and, today, the U.S. Department of Education is announcing further action on the President’s initiatives.
President Obama told students and families that helping to ensure their debt is manageable is a priority, and equipping counselors and advisers with the resources they need to help students prepare for higher education and understand college costs is a key component. To meet these goals, the Department has launched a “one-stop shop” for guidance counselors, college advisers, mentors and volunteers to assist students through the process of choosing and financing their higher education.
The Financial Aid Toolkit, available at FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov, consolidates financial aid resources and content into a searchable online database. That makes it easy for individuals to quickly access the information they need to support students on their path to college, including details on how to apply for financial aid along with presentations, brochures and videos.
By equipping counselors and advisers with financial aid information in an easy-to-use format, we can help to ensure that current and potential students get the assistance they need to successfully navigate the process of planning and paying for a postsecondary education.
Katherine VargasDecember 03, 2013
04:47 PM EST
Today, President Obama hosted President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia at the White House. Their visit underscored the growing partnership with Colombia, founded on our shared democratic values, deepening economic ties, and our long history of shared security goals.
Colombia is a respected leader in the region. We are expanding our partnership far beyond security into new areas of mutual interest like commerce, energy access, regional infrastructure and economic integration. Thanks to the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement – a win-win for both countries - U.S. exports to Colombia are up nearly 20 percent, supporting thousands of American jobs and helping to achieve President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports.
Colombia is an example of the profound transformations underway in Latin America. Elections that once were exceptions are now largely the norm. Some of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Latin America and across the region. Tens of millions of people have escaped poverty and entered the middle class. This represents an incredible opportunity for a new era of relations between the United States and the Americas.
David SimasDecember 03, 2013
04:25 PM EST
Today, HHS released its first monthly report on Medicaid enrollment and enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program – and it’s good news. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act and decisions by Democratic and Republican elected officials in 26 states to expand their Medicaid programs, 1.46 million hardworking Americans have applied for and been deemed eligible to enroll in quality, affordable health care.
More hardworking Americans will know the security of health care coverage in states that chose to expand Medicaid than those states that chose to recklessly and irresponsibly deny health coverage to millions of Americans. In fact, if every state expanded Medicaid coverage, over 5.4 million more Americans—and more than 1 million in Texas alone—would get health coverage. And today’s report showed that states that expanded Medicaid have seen over a 15 percent increase in applications for Medicaid and CHIP, compared to the average monthly enrollment in the three preceding months. While states that refused to expand Medicaid only saw a 4.1 percent increase in applications.
This spike in applications confirmed what we have always known: hardworking Americans need and want the security of affordable health coverage.
Gene SperlingDecember 03, 2013
09:49 AM EST
A core component of President Obama’s agenda to grow the middle class is to make the U.S. a magnet for the location of high-quality jobs – especially those that support manufacturing and innovation.
The President has already taken significant steps to support America’s manufacturers, including by announcing nearly $250 million in funding to support four new manufacturing innovation institutes, aggressive new efforts to enforce trade agreements and open new markets, new investments in community colleges to help workers get the high-demand advanced manufacturing credentials needed by our manufacturers, and launching the first-ever federal effort to bring job-creating foreign investment to the U.S.
And going forward, the President will continue to push a comprehensive agenda to support a manufacturing renaissance that includes supporting a network of up to 45 manufacturing innovation institutes with a one-time $3 billion investment, making the U.S. more cost competitive by reforming our business tax code including a rate no higher than 25% for manufacturing, expanding and making permanent the R&D tax credit, continuing to ensure that trading partners like China are playing by the rules, and pushing new efforts to train workers for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
Our emphasis on manufacturing is due to the unique role that the sector plays in creating positive “spillover” benefits to our broader economy, particularly in its connection to our ability to innovate. Manufacturing punches above its weight; despite representing 12 percent of GDP, manufacturing accounts for roughly 70 percent of private sector research and development, 60 percent of all US R&D employees, over 90 percent of patents issued, and the majority of all U.S. exports. The benefits from a stronger manufacturing sector go far beyond factory jobs and include the production capabilities needed in design and innovation for many technologies, the high-skill talent that enable our services industries, and the dense web of suppliers that employ millions outside of the manufacturing sector.
While our emphasis on manufacturing must have a long-term focus – one that goes beyond the ups and downs in our economy in any month or quarter – today we received more good news that growth in America’s manufacturing sector continues to be strong.
On Monday, ISM released its monthly purchasing managers’ index (PMI), which rose to 57.3 in November – the fastest monthly pace of growth since April 2011, with all five components of the index showing strength, including employment (a reading above 50 indicates expansion). he index has shown sector expansion for six straight months and is on track to have its strongest quarter since mid-2011. Recent strength in the ISM report underscores that America’s manufacturing sector is helping to lead our recovery. Today there is little disagreement that the U.S. is a more competitive location for production, and we are beginning to see the results. America’s manufactures have created jobs at the fastest pace in 15 years, with over 500,000 new jobs added since February 2010, and our manufacturing sector has grown roughly twice as fast as the overall economy since the beginning of 2010. And there is little doubt that without the threat of default and harm from the arbitrary sequester, America’s manufacturing sector and the economy would be performing even better today.
Erin LindsayDecember 02, 2013
08:09 PM EST
Back in August 2013, Young Invincibles, in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services, launched the Healthy Young America Video Contest, an effort to mobilize young people to help educate and inform one another about the Affordable Care Act. Participants submitted their videos, the public weighed in, and a finalist was selected in each of three categories: "You Are Not Invincible," original song performance, and animation.
Erin McDonald was announced as the overall Grand Prize winner with her video "Forget about the Price Tag" in a Google+ Hangout featuring Kal Penn and White House Health Care policy expert Christen Linke Young on December 2.
During the Hangout, Christen and Kal also helped preview the White House Youth Summit coming up on December 4 and took questions about what the Affordable Care Act means for young people. You can tune into the Youth Summit starting at 2:00 pm ET on whitehouse.gov/live.
Watch Erin's video below, and also check out videos from finalists in the other two categories.
Grand Prize & Perform a Song Winner:
Forget About the Price Tag: Erin McDonald
December 02, 2013
04:07 PM EST
The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation.” Now more than ever, it is a fitting theme as the United States focuses, both on the domestic and global fronts, on building partnerships that strengthen our response to HIV and AIDS.
Here in the U.S., we are working with state, tribal and local governments, community groups, and other key stakeholders to implement this country’s first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy (the Strategy) launched by President Obama in 2010. Since the launch, we have made significant progress in strengthening scientific investments, expanding effective HIV prevention, and connecting stakeholders in both the public and private sectors.
Last July, as the next step in implementing the Strategy, the President established via Executive Order the HIV Care Continuum Initiative, which focuses on the gaps in care and prevention, especially among communities with the greatest HIV burden. Today the White House Office of National AIDS Policy released a report that contains the first recommendations from the Initiative describing how federal efforts will be integrated to strengthen testing, linkage to care, retention and treatment for people living with HIV.
The next stage of implementing the Strategy will be guided by the work on the Initiative, in conjunction with ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which will increase access to affordable healthcare coverage for thousands of persons living with HIV and millions at risk for infection.
Kasie CoccaroNovember 29, 2013
06:08 PM EST
Today, First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed the delivery of the Official White House Christmas Tree. The tree, a 18 1/2-foot high and nearly 11 foot wide Douglas Fir arrived in a horse-drawn carriage.
Members of the National Christmas Tree Association have presented the official White House Christmas Tree for display in the Blue Room each year since 1966. This year, the tree will be presented to the First Lady by the Botek family, growers of this year’s tree, and the Wyckoff family, winners of the National Christmas Tree Association’s National Christmas Tree contest. The Boteks are second-generation Christmas Tree farmers from Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, PA, and the Wyckoff farm has been family owned for six generations -- since 1839. This year, four trees from the farm will be featured throughout the White House during the holiday season.
The official White House Christmas Tree will be displayed in the heart of the White House: the Blue Room. As in many years past, the tree will be decorated in honor of military families.
Learn more about past White House Holidays and stay tuned for more information about this years White House holiday décor.
November 29, 2013
04:06 PM EST
On her first foreign trip as National Security Advisor, Ambassador Susan Rice spent three and a half days in Afghanistan to thank our troops and civilians around the holidays, and assess the situation on the ground.
Afghanistan continues to be one of the United States’ top national security priorities, and this was opportunity for Ambassador Rice to take stock of our efforts and meet with American troops serving in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and our civilians at the U.S. Mission to Afghanistan.
Megan SlackNovember 29, 2013
03:00 PM EST
In September 2009, the President announced that—for the first time in history—White House visitor records would be made available to the public on an ongoing basis. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in August 2013. This release brings the total number of records made public by this White House to over 3.4 million—all of which can be viewed in our Disclosures section.
Cecilia MuñozNovember 29, 2013
02:31 PM EST
Today, the President and the First Lady visited the brave individuals who are fasting in the shadow of the Capitol, sacrificing their health in an effort to get Congress to act swiftly on commonsense immigration reform. The President and the First Lady gave their support for their fight for family unity this Thanksgiving weekend, as families across the country come together to spend time with loved ones.
Since November 12, fasters from “Fast For Families” have abstained from all food except water in an effort to bring attention to the urgent need for the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives to take a vote on comprehensive immigration reform. Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and I have also visited Fast For families in recent weeks.
The fasters shared their stories and described empty stomachs but full hearts as they received an outpouring of support; to date, more than 3,000 people around the country have committed to fasting in solidarity.
The President and the First Lady thanked Eliseo Medina, Dae Joong Yoon, and all of the fasters for their sacrifice and dedication and told them that the country is behind them on immigration reform. He said that the only thing standing in the way is politics. And it is the brave commitment to change from advocates like them that will pressure the House to finally act on immigration reform.
This Thanksgiving, as friends, family, and community gather in the spirit of unity, we lend our support to those fighting for making commonsense immigration reform a reality. We will stand with them every step of the way to make sure that we bring coherence to our immigration laws, and pass a common sense reform that is consistent with our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
November 29, 2013
11:00 AM EST