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  • This week, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins and Army Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat, met with National Spelling Bee winners, announced a major increase in our efforts to help fight Ebola in West Africa, gave a statement about the bipartisan support of our strategy to defeat ISIL, and launched a campaign to help stop sexual assault.

    Check out the rest of the highlights from this week.


    Monday:

    A Closer Look at the Medal of Honor Ceremony

    President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins and Army Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat for their heroic and brave actions in Vietnam. While you probably know that the Medal of Honor is the highest military award that a member of the U.S. Armed Forces can receive, have you ever wondered what goes into the actual ceremony at the White House?

    We went behind the scenes as the President presented the Medal of Honor in June to Cpl. William "Kyle" Carpenter, a retired United States Marine, for his actions during combat operations in Afghanistan. Take a look here:

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  • This week, Congress passed and President Obama signed something called a Continuing Resolution, an important measure that ensures our government has the resources necessary to address key domestic and national security goals in the months ahead, including our strategy to degrade and destroy ISIL, and to continue normal government operations without disruption.

    The President thanked Congress for their quick action in supporting our efforts: “I believe that we’re strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together.  And I thank leaders in Congress for the speed and seriousness with which they approached this urgent issue -- in keeping with the bipartisanship that is the hallmark of American foreign policy at its best.”

    But what exactly is a Continuing Resolution and what does this one include? Here’s a few answers to some key questions that many Americans may be asking: 

    Q: So what is a Continuing Resolution?

    In our government, the legislative branch holds the power of the purse, which means Congress is responsible for passing legislation to fund the government.  From funding our national defense to investing in job training and public infrastructure to maintaining government operations, Congress decides how to appropriate taxpayer dollars each fiscal year.  

    However, if Congress fails to pass legislation to fund the government before a new fiscal year begins, they can pass legislation to keep federal operations going at the current spending levels. That legislation is called a Continuing Resolution (CR).

  • Earlier today, White House staffer Jordan Brooks sent this message to the White House email list. Didn't get it? Make sure you sign up for email updates here.


    I'm proud to work for our President every day. But that's especially true today.

    To the survivors who are leading the fight against sexual assault on campuses, your efforts have helped to start a movement. I know that ... there are times where the fight feels lonely, and it feels as if you're dredging up stuff that you'd rather put behind you. But we're here to say, today, it's not on you. This is not your fight alone. It's on all of us -- every one of us -- to fight campus sexual assault. You are not alone, and we have your back.

    That's what President Obama said in the East Room this morning, when he announced the launch of "It's On Us" -- a new effort to fundamentally change the way we think about sexual assault as a country, by inspiring everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something.

    When I was in college, I met so many courageous students and friends who had been victims of sexual assault. Their stories, and countless stories of people just like them, touched me deeply and personally. They made me feel angry, sad, outraged, and -- often times -- powerless.

    I decided to do absolutely everything that I could to make a change, and keep it from happening to anyone else. So I organized with our campus gender relations center. We conducted bystander intervention trainings for students across campus, and worked to get out the word about sexual assault: how people couple help step up to stop it, and how survivors could get the resources they needed to heal.

    I believe, just like so many others working to end sexual assault, that it's on every one of us to step up, take a stand, and make a difference where we can.

    Right now, I'm asking you to take a stand, too -- join the President and Americans across the country by making a personal commitment to help keep men and women safe from sexual assault. Visit ItsOnUs.org, and take the pledge.

  • Recently, a private-sector partner opined that it would be nice if the millions of dollars he was putting into defense wasn’t defeated by a $500 tool easily rented online. It doesn’t matter whether you’re from a government agency, a contractor, or a retailer – no one seems to be immune to this problem.

    But there are some relatively simple steps that we can take to make those investments more effective against the $500 tool. Just as a neighborhood bands together to raise its collective safety, we can work as a community to strengthen our collective defenses to make it harder for those who wish to cause harm. 

    First, we can broaden how we think about cybersecurity to make our defenses more effective. The Cybersecurity Framework issued earlier this year helps us do that. The Framework’s greatest strength is that it is deeply rooted in how businesses actually manage risk in the real world. In taking a risk management approach, the Framework recognizes that no organization can or will spend unlimited amounts on cybersecurity. Instead, it enables a business to make decisions about how to prioritize and optimize its cybersecurity investments.

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    Today at the White House, President Obama joined Vice President Biden and Americans across the country to launch the “It’s On Us” initiative -- an awareness campaign to help put an end to sexual assault on college campuses. 

    It's On Us asks everyone -- men and women across America -- to make a personal commitment to step off the sidelines and be part of the solution to campus sexual assault. 

    "An estimated one in five women has been sexually assaulted during her college years -- one in five," the President noted. "Of those assaults, only 12 percent are reported, and of those reported assaults, only a fraction of the offenders are punished." 

  • This morning, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent the following message to the White House email list.

    Didn't get the email? Make sure you're signed up to receive updates from the White House and senior Administration officials.


    Last week, I met Brittany.

    She's a hardworking student at West Georgia Technical College who is now just months away from being certified as a nursing assistant, but there was a point when she didn’t think she’d be here. In high school, Brittany became pregnant and her future suddenly became uncertain. Her high school counselor suggested she apply for the 12 for Life program, a local program that offers students who have fallen behind in high school the opportunity to attend class, work and get back on their feet.

    As I talked with Brittany and her fellow students — many of whom were the first in their family to graduate high school — they spoke powerfully and tearfully of the program’s success, and how it had given them hope for the future.

    Brittany’s inspiring story is just one of many I heard last week during the Department of Education’s annual back-to-school bus tour. This year’s tour took us to Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, and provided my team and me with the opportunity to see innovations in education and to discuss progress, promise, and results.

    I wish I could see every innovative program — every initiative creating promise for our children — happening across the country, but even after visiting all 50 states and more than 350 schools during my time as Secretary, I can’t visit every school. So that’s where you come in.

    What cutting-edge programs are your local schools undertaking? Or, if you don’t know of any, what would you like to see them do?

    We'll share some of your stories and suggestions on the White House blog.

  • Today, the President announced an initiative to help put an end to campus sexual assault. It's called "It's On Us."

    That's not just a slogan or catchphrase. It's the whole point. Because in a country where one in five women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted -- only 12 percent of which are reported -- this is a problem that should be important to every single one of us, and it's on every single one of us to do something to end the problem. 

    As a husband, as a brother, and as a father of three boys and daughter who is a sophomore in college, it's on me to help create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable, and where survivors are supported.

    It's on me to tell my kids to never blame the victim. To not be a bystander. It's on me to make sure they know that if they see something that looks wrong, they need to get involved -- to intervene any way they can, even if it means enlisting the help of a friend or resident advisor. It's on me to teach them to be direct, and to trust their gut.

    That's why this is personal for me. 

    And it’s why I took a step this morning to show my commitment to doing my part.  And whether you're a parent, a student, a survivor or a friend of one, there's something you can do right now to do the same.

    Go to ItsOnUs.org, and take the pledge -- a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault. It's a promise that you won't be a bystander to the problem -- that you'll be a part of the solution. The President took the pledge this morning. I did, too -- along with dozens of other White House staffers. Do it right now.

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    In a bipartisan vote, the House and Senate passed a Continuing Resolution that supports the U.S. military effort to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces so they can take the fight to the terrorist force ISIL.

    At the White House tonight, President Obama delivered a statement to clearly outline these efforts and to thank Congress for standing united in our efforts to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.

    I believe that we’re strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. And I want to thank leaders in Congress for the speed and seriousness with which they approached this urgent issue -- in keeping with the bipartisanship that is the hallmark of American foreign policy at its best.

  • Solar energy is shattering records in the United States. Since President Obama took office, installed solar power has increased 13-fold, topping nearly 16 gigawatts today – enough to power the equivalent of 3.2 million average American homes. As solar energy continues to grow, it is becoming a major source of high-paying American jobs – employing nearly 143,000 full-time professionals last year.

    During the next decade, the solar industry is slated to grow even more. The next generation of skilled professionals will be key to the industry’s effort to meet the demand for this clean, renewable energy. That’s why the Energy Department is launching a pilot solar installation training program to provide military veterans who are transitioning out of active duty with the skills needed to become the leaders of the nation’s clean energy economy.

    The solar industry has long taken a leading role in hiring veterans, employing more service members than any other sector in the U.S. Building on this tradition, the SunShot Initiative’s Solar Instructor Training Network – which aims to train 50,000 new solar installers in total by 2020, some of who will be veterans – is partnering with up to three military bases to create a veterans solar job training pilot project this fall.

  • Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    This week, the President celebrated the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, awarded the Medal of Honor to two American heroes, detailed U.S. efforts to combat the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa at the CDC in Atlanta, spoke to the troops at MacDill Air Force Base about our strategy against ISIL, before returning to meet with the Ukrainian President. That's September 12 to 19 or, "You guys aren't usually this quiet, are you?" 

    Watch on YouTube

  • Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama joined the site Upworthy as a guest curator to share content to inspire young people to reach higher and take charge of their future. Her first post highlighted inspiring stories from first-generation students at Kansas State University who have overcome challenges, and in her latest post she shares a powerful video of a College Signing Day assembly in San Antonio.

    College Signing Day is special event to honor students who have committed to continue their education beyond high school. In May, the First Lady joined more than 2,000 San Antonio high school seniors for the community-wide event:

    The fact is, a generation ago our country had the highest percentage of college graduates in the world. But today, we have dropped all the way to 12th. And that’s unacceptable. That’s not who we are. And all of you have a role to play to help get us get back on top, because the education you get today won’t just help you compete; it’s going to help our entire country compete in a global economy. 

  • Today, the Obama administration is announcing a comprehensive set of new federal actions to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and protect public health. Additionally, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) is releasing a related report on Combating Antibiotic Resistance.

    The discovery of antibiotics in the early 20th century fundamentally transformed medicine; antibiotics now save millions of lives each year in the United States and around the world. Yet bacteria repeatedly exposed to the same antibiotics can become resistant to even the most potent drugs. These so-called antibiotic-resistant bacteria can present a serious threat to public health, national security, and the economy.

    In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic-resistant infections are associated with an additional 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses in the United States each year. The estimated annual impact of antibiotic-resistant infections on the national economy is $20 billion in excess direct health care costs, and as much as $35 billion in lost productivity from hospitalizations and sick days. Antibiotics are also critical to many modern medical interventions, including chemotherapy, surgery, dialysis, and organ transplantation.

  • On Monday, President Obama welcomed 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee co-champions Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe to the Oval Office.

    Sriram Hathwar, an eighth grader from Painted Post, New York, and Ansun Sujoe, a seventh grader from Fort Worth, Texas, were named co-champions of the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 29. The co-champions went through a series of regional competitions and preliminary rounds before making it to the nationally televised championship, becoming the first co-champions of the “Bee” in over 50 years.

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    President Obama travelled to Tampa, Florida to speak to service men and women at MacDill Air Force Base about the U.S. strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, a terrorist organization that is killing innocent, unarmed civilians  in both Iraq and Syria. ISIL, also known as ISIS or the Islamic State, is also responsible for the brutal murders of American journalists Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.

    "In a world where technology provides a small group of killers with the ability to do terrible harm, it is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists,” he told servicemembers. To effectively do so, the U.S. will execute a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy that will empower the international community and local leaders to decimate these terrorists. 


    "If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven."


  • On September 17, 1787, the U.S. Constitutional Convention signed and adopted the Constitution at Philadelphia's Independence Hall. What exactly does that mean?

    We've got the facts for you, courtesy of the Constitution page at WhiteHouse.gov.

    What did the Constitution aim to do?

    As drafted, the Constitution's purpose was to create a government that had enough power to act on a national level, but without so much power that individuals' fundamental rights would be at risk.

    The Constitution accomplished this, in part, by separating the government's power into three branches, and then including checks and balances on each of those separate powers to make sure no single branch would gain supremacy. Each branch's powers are spelled out in the Constitution, and the powers not assigned to them are reserved for the states.

    This was all no coincidence -- it was based largely on the experience that the Constitutional delegates had previously had with the King of England and his powerful Parliament.

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    This afternoon, during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, President Obama spoke on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and announced a major increase in our efforts to help the international community fight the outbreak.

    While starting off by reiterating that the chances of an Ebola outbreak happening in the U.S. are extremely low, he made clear that West Africa faces "a very different situation," especially in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea -- the countries that have been hardest hit by the current outbreak:

    [CDC Director Tom Frieden] and others recently returned from the region, and the scenes that they describe are just horrific.  More than 2,400 men, women and children are known to have died -- and we strongly suspect that the actual death toll is higher than that.  Hospitals, clinics and the few treatment centers that do exist have been completely overwhelmed.  An already very weak public health system is near collapse in these countries.  Patients are being turned away, and people are literally dying in the streets.

  • Today, fulfilling a commitment under the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Obama Administration is announcing new private sector commitments and executive actions to reduce emissions of hydroflourocarbons (HFCs), powerful greenhouse gases that exacerbate climate changeTaken together, these commitments will reduce cumulative global consumption of HFCs by the equivalent of 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide through 2025. That’s an amount equal to 1.5% of the world’s 2010 greenhouse gas emissions—or, in other words, it’s like taking nearly 15 million cars off the road for 10 years.

    HFCs, used primarily in air conditioning and refrigeration, are greenhouse gases with up to 10,000 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Unless we act, U.S. emissions of these potent greenhouse gases would nearly double by 2020 and triple by 2030.

    Announced today, U.S. industries are leading the way in helping fulfill the President’s pledge by investing billions of dollars to develop and deploy the next generation of safe, cost-effective alternatives to HFCs, and by incorporating these climate-friendly technologies into the cars, air conditioners, refrigerators, foams and other products they manufacture and use.

  • All across the United States, there is living evidence that scientists and engineers are not the nerdy, all-male, lab-coat-wearing, wallflowers pictured in the history books but include the full diversity of the nation. Bringing these images out of the shadows will inspire further diversity in STEM fields, as young people see inspiration in their teachers, communities, and mentors. 

    Some of the talented young women who competed for this year’s Miss America title have dreams not only of a crown but of solving the toughest health, technology, and environmental challenges facing the world. Competing for a coveted few STEM scholarships from the Miss America organization, the finalists have stories like many young women around this country inspired to pursue STEM. Sporting some serious STEM credentials, we will have a conversation about inspiration, goals, and overcoming challenges with these young women who are on career pathways to be scientists, engineers, doctors, and entrepreneurs.

  • New data out this morning from the National Center for Health Statistics show that health insurance coverage increased sharply in the first quarter of 2014, reflecting the significant progress made in expanding access to affordable insurance coverage during the first part of the Affordable Care Act’s inaugural open enrollment period.

    These first official data on insurance coverage in 2014 do not capture the full scope of the gains in insurance coverage that have occurred so far in 2014 because most of the underlying interviews occurred well before the “March surge” in plan selections on the Health Insurance Marketplace. But when taken together with private survey data showing that coverage continued to expand in the second quarter of 2014, other recent data showing continued slow growth in health care costs, and ongoing improvements in health care quality, the overall picture is clear: the Affordable Care Act is working and well on its way to ensuring that all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable health care.

    Today’s results from NCHS show large coverage gains, with larger gains ahead.

    In detail, today’s results from the NCHS’ National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) show that the share of Americans without health insurance averaged 13.1 percent over the first quarter of 2014, down from an average of 14.4 percent during 2013, a reduction corresponding to approximately 4 million people. The 13.1 percent uninsurance rate recorded for the first quarter of 2014 is lower than any annual uninsurance rate recorded by the NHIS since it began using its current design in 1997.

    As striking as this reduction is, it dramatically understates the actual gains in insurance coverage so far in 2014. The interviews reflected in today’s results were spread evenly over January, February, and March 2014. As a result, the vast majority of the survey interviews occurred before the surge in Marketplace plan selections that occurred in March; 3.8 million people selected a Marketplace plan after March 1,with many in the last week before the end of open enrollment on March 31. Similarly, these results only partially capture the steady increase in Medicaid enrollment during the first quarter.

  • Today’s report from the Census Bureau shows that key indicators of poverty and family income improved in 2013. Moreover, there is reason to believe that this progress has continued into 2014, as the labor market has strengthened and millions have gained health insurance coverage. At the same time, the data also offer a clear illustration of the large amount of work that remains to strengthen the middle class in the wake of the worst recession since the Great Depression. To address this challenge, the President will continue to do everything in his power to ensure that hard work pays off with decent wages and financial security. And he will also continue to push Congress to take constructive steps that invest in job creation, boost wages, and ensure equal pay for equal work.

    FIVE KEY POINTS IN TODAY’S REPORT FROM THE CENSUS BUREAU

    1. The overall poverty rate declined to 14.5 percent in 2013 due to the largest one-year drop in child poverty since 1966. The poverty rate for people under age 18 fell by 1.9 percentage point from 2012 to 2013, equivalent to 1.4 million young people lifted out of poverty. Poverty rates for other age groups (18-64 and 65+) were little changed. The official poverty rate for 2013 remains above its pre-recession rate. This official poverty rate does not reflect the full effect of anti-poverty policies because it excludes the direct effect of key measures like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Notably, the EITC was expanded in 2009, and those expansions were subsequently extended. Accounting for such policies would reduce the number of people counted as being in poverty by millions. 

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