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  • This afternoon, in a 97-0 vote, the Senate confirmed Robert "Bob" McDonald to serve as the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

    In a statement, President Obama applauded the Senate for the confirmation, noting that McDonald is "uniquely equipped" to lead the Department:

    I applaud the overwhelming, bipartisan confirmation of Bob McDonald as our next Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  As a veteran himself and a proud member of a military family, Bob is deeply committed to serving our veterans and their families.  And as an executive with decades of private-sector experience, he is uniquely equipped to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, and to help change the way the VA does business.  As a country, we have a solemn duty to serve our veterans as well as they have served us.  I know Bob will help us honor that commitment and make sure every veteran gets the care they deserve, the benefits they’ve earned, and the chance to pursue the American Dream they’ve risked so much to protect.  

  • This summer, President Obama is traveling across the country to meet with everyday Americans who have written him about what's going on in their lives.

    Ahead of the President's trip to Kansas City this evening, White House Press Secretary and Kansas City native Josh Earnest called a few people in the area and invited them out to dinner with the President.

    Watch the Press Secretary give them a call, and hear their reactions -- we're sure you'll enjoy it:

    Watch on YouTube

    (And of course, if you want to write the President a note, you can do that right here.)

  • Today at the White House, I was delighted to host a roundtable discussion with leaders from across the aging community who came together to discuss the White House Conference on Aging, which will take place in 2015 – the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security.

    Just yesterday, the Medicare Trustees released their annual report finding that, since their report last year, the life of the Medicare Trust Fund has been extended by four additional years to 2030. When this Administration first took office, the Trust Fund was projected to go bankrupt more than a dozen years sooner, in 2017. The Trustees also project that – for the second year in a row – Part B premiums will not increase, allowing seniors to keep more of their Social Security cost-of-living increase.

    Thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, we have improved the affordability of the program, while at the same time helping Medicare work better for seniors. For example, we are closing the prescription drug coverage gap or “donut hole” to make medications more affordable for Medicare beneficiaries. Just today, we learned that 8.2 million seniors and people with disabilities saved $11.5 billion since 2010 – over $1,000 on average for people hitting the donut hole. Additionally, Medicare now provides coverage without cost-sharing for many preventive benefits to help keep older Americans healthy. The Affordable Care Act also responds to older Americans’ desire to remain independent in their communities by creating incentives for states to provide the services and supports that help people remain at home as they age.

  • Labor Secretary Tom Perez is traveling with Education Secretary Arne Duncan to Toledo, Ohio, today to see first-hand model programs and partnerships that are equipping Americans with the knowledge, skills and industry-relevant education they need to get on the pathway to a successful career.

    We want to make sure you see what they see, too. Follow along today to see live updates and highlights from their day.

    First stop: The Toledo Technology Academy.

    The path to good jobs begins in grade school. Students in grades 7 – 12 receive an intense integrated academic and technical education that prepares them for a rewarding, life-long career in engineering or manufacturing technologies. Along with more “typical” high school classes, they receive hands-on training in plastics technologies, automated systems, manufacturing operations, computer-automated design, electronics and other manufacturing technologies. The academy works closely with employers – including the local GM plant – to provide students with industry recognized credentials and certification. Students also can earn advanced credit at local 2- and 4-year colleges. In April, the Toledo Public School System was awarded a $3.8 million Youth CareerConnect grant that will expand the Toledo Technology Academy’s model to serve more students.

    ...Where students on the robotics team earn a varsity letter.

  • The signs of climate change are all around us. The average temperature in the United States during the past decade was 0.8° Celsius (1.5° Fahrenheit) warmer than the 1901-1960 average, and the last decade was the warmest on record both in the United States and globally. Global sea levels are currently rising at approximately 1.25 inches per decade, and the rate of increase appears to be accelerating.

    The scientific consensus is that these changes, and many others, are largely consequences of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases that have led to a warming of the atmosphere and oceans.

    The Council of Economic Advisers released a report today that examines the economic consequences of delaying implementing policies to reduce the pace and ultimate magnitude of these changes; the findings emphasize the need for policy action today. The report was written under the leadership of Jim Stock, who recently resigned as a Member of the Council of Economic Advisers to return to his teaching position at Harvard University.

    KEY POINTS IN TODAY’S REPORT FROM THE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS

    1. Immediate action substantially reduces the cost of achieving climate targets. Taking meaningful steps now sends a signal to the market that reduces long-run costs of meeting the target. Such action will reduce investments in high-carbon infrastructure that is expensive to replace and will spur development of new low- and zero-emissions technologies. For both reasons, the least-cost mitigation path to achieve a given climate target typically starts with a relatively low price of carbon to send these signals to the market, and subsequently increases as new low-carbon technologies are developed and deployed. An analysis of research on the cost of delay for hitting a specified climate target suggests that net mitigation costs increase, on average, by approximately 40 percent for each decade of delay.

  • Climate change is not a distant threat – we're already experiencing its harmful impacts. That's why President Obama has taken action to cut carbon pollution by moving to cleaner sources of energy and improving the energy efficiency of our cars, trucks, and buildings. But further steps are urgently needed to ensure that we leave our kids a planet that’s not polluted or damaged.

    Today, the White House released a new report from the Council of Economic Advisers that breaks down the economic consequences of delaying action to combat climate change. The report finds that delaying policy actions by a decade increases total climate change mitigation costs by about 40%, and failing to take any action would risk substantial economic damage.

    So how will this affect you and your community? Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, is taking to Twitter to answer your questions. Today, July 29 at 2:30 p.m. ET, join him for a Twitter Q&A on the economic impacts of climate change on his Twitter handle, @CEAChair.

    Here's what you need to know:

    • Ask your questions now and during the live event on Twitter with the hashtag #WHClimateChat
    • Follow the Q&A live through the @CEAChair Twitter handle
    • If you miss the live Q&A, the full session will be posted on WhiteHouse.gov and Storify.com/whitehouse

    Learn more about President Obama's plan to combat climate change at WhiteHouse.gov/climate-change, and then join Jason Furman, @CEAChair, for a Twitter chat today, July 29, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

  • Today, in a major step to advance the President’s Climate Data Initiative, the Obama administration is inviting leaders of the technology and agricultural sectors to the White House to discuss new collaborative steps to unleash data that will help ensure our food system is resilient to the effects of climate change.

    More intense heat waves, heavier downpours, and severe droughts and wildfires out west are already affecting the nation’s ability to produce and transport safe food. The recently released National Climate Assessment makes clear that these kinds of impacts are projected to become more severe over this century.

    Food distributors, agricultural businesses, farmers, and retailers need accessible, useable data, tools, and information to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of their operations – from water availability, to timing of planting and harvest, to storage practices, and more.

    Today’s convening at the White House will include formal commitments by a host of private-sector companies and nongovernmental organizations to support the President’s Climate Data Initiative by harnessing climate data in ways that will increase the resilience of America’s food system and help reduce the contribution of the nation’s agricultural sector to climate change.

  • Watch on YouTube

    This afternoon, the President and the First Lady honored the 2013 National Medals of the Arts and Humanities recipients at the White House. The President told the recipients that their "accomplishments enrich our lives and reveal something about ourselves and our country."

    This year's recipients consisted of a diverse array of indidivuals and groups who have done groundbreaking work in the arts and humanities, including architecture, choreography, East Asian Studies, and documentary filmmaking – all of whom have made significant contributions to the human experience.

  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Transportation's blog. See the original post here.

    Like many Americans, when Jesus "Jay" Valentin – a UPS driver – goes to sleep at night in his New Jersey home, he's got a lot on his mind.

    He thinks about tomorrow's deliveries and worries about what the traffic will be like and what the weather will mean for road conditions. He calculates how much next month's mortgage payment will leave his family – his wife Jenny and four kids – for savings. He wonders how he will pay for his daughter Tiffany’s college education – she’s 16 now and thinking toward the future.

    Last Friday, I had the chance to meet Jay and some of his coworkers at the UPS hub in Secaucus, New Jersey. It was an eye-opener in many ways.

    Secretary Anthony Foxx meets with UPS staff (1)

    (Photo via the U.S. Department of Transportation)

  • President Barack Obama delivers remarks and answers questions at the Young African Leaders Initiative town hall

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks and answers questions at the Young African Leaders Initiative town hall in Washington, D.C., July 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    President Obama’s town hall today with 500 of Africa’s most promising young leaders provided an inspiring window into what the future holds for Africa, and the world.

    The 500 participants in the Washington Fellowship program were selected from nearly 50,000 applicants from across Africa, as part of the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). YALI was launched by President Obama in 2010, as part of a long-term investment in the next generation of African leaders. It aims to sharpen their skills, to improve their networks, and to strengthen partnerships between the United States and Africa for years to come.

    The President announced during the town hall that the Washington Fellowship was being renamed as the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, in honor of the former South African President, Nelson Mandela. Mandela Washington Fellows represent the best and brightest from communities across Africa, and fields ranging from education, medicine, law, business, and beyond. These are the young leaders whose skills, passion, and visions for the future, will help shape the fate of their countries and the world. It is in everyone’s best interest to help them prepare with the tools they need to build a healthier, more secure, more prosperous, and more peaceful Africa, which is why President Obama launched YALI in the first place. 

  • When it comes to investing in our infrastructure, the President’s message has been loud and clear: We must upgrade our roads and rails and bridges to grow our economy and create good American jobs. Over the last five decades, U.S. investments in transportation have fallen by nearly 50 percent as a percentage of GDP. So it is not surprising that in the most recent World Economic Forum rankings, the U.S. has fallen from 7th to 18th overall in the quality of our roads in less than a decade.

    Earlier this month, we released a report that shows our transportation infrastructure system is in dire need of investment. The data tells an important story: 65 percent of America’s major roads are rated in less than good condition; one in four bridges require significant repair or cannot handle today’s traffic; and 45 percent of Americans lack access to transit.

    We know what we need to do – and there are two compelling reasons for doing it right now. First, our global competiveness is directly linked to the strength of our infrastructure – investing in it can serve as a clear source of competitive advantage. Second, these investments will create jobs, help American businesses, and grow our economy. The President has put forth a long-term proposal that would make these investments and pay for them by closing unfair tax loopholes and making commonsense reforms to our business tax system. The President’s GROW AMERICA Act would support millions of jobs and position our economy for lasting growth. 

  • Today’s annual report from the Medicare program’s Boards of Trustees brings good news about the program’s financial future: Its Trust Fund will last four more years, to 2030, and projected Part B premiums for 2015 will not increase for the second year in a row.

    As we celebrate Medicare’s 49th birthday this week, we will recommit to ensuring that the program continues providing health and economic security for the nation’s elderly and people with disabilities through the 21st century and beyond. Today’s news shows that we are on the right track, and we are optimistic that the promising results we’ve seen in recent years can continue into the future.

    In 2009, the Trustees projected the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund would not be able to pay its bills in 2017 – just three years from now. Today’s new date is 2030, 13 years later than that projection – an improvement that is thanks in part to reforms in the Affordable Care Act (Chart 1). The law implemented changes to promote value-based payments, reduce waste and fraud, and strengthen the program’s benefits. These changes, for example, have reduced hospital spending on preventable readmissions, helping to lower hospital costs, which constitute a significant portion of trust fund spending.  

  • It’s no secret that the American economy is changing, and some of the most in-demand skills today barely existed a generation ago. The average worker graduated high school around twenty years ago, when the personal computer was in its infancy, and only the most technical professions demanded a fluency in information technology (IT).

    But times have changed, and some of the best ladders to well-paying, middle-class jobs are in IT fields across our economy. That’s because the average salary in a job that requires IT skills -- whether in manufacturing, advertising, hospitality, or banking -- is more than one and a half times higher than the average private-sector American job.

    This week, the President and Vice President are announcing important reforms in the way Federal programs train and retrain workers. To meet the demand for IT and cybersecurity skills, we will also be kicking off a significant new effort focused on bridging the gap between workers, technology skills, and employers.

  • Today, President Obama kicks off a three-day Summit of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the flagship program of the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The Washington Fellowship gives 500 of sub-Saharan Africa’s most prominent young leaders the opportunity to engage with U.S. government officials, entrepreneurs and civil society representatives, as well as leaders in international development.

    Watch President Obama's town hall below -- and tune in for events throughout the week with First Lady Michelle Obama, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, and more.

  • This week, the President visited Los Angeles Trade Technical College to deliver a clear message: we need to train more hard-working Americans to fill the jobs our businesses are creating. The President explained:

    I’m here for every American who works their tail off; who does everything right; who believes in the American Dream and just wants a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their families. You are why I ran for President in the first place. 

    In his 2014 State of the Union address, the President tasked Vice President Biden with leading a review of job training programs, with the aim of making them more job-driven. That review is complete and earlier this week, the President and Vice President announced significant reforms in the way Federal programs train and retrain workers.

    As a result of this review, the Administration is kicking off a significant new public-private effort to help hard-working Americans get ahead through an initiative we are calling “upskilling”: working with employers, educators, tech innovators, unions, training providers, cities, states, and non-profits to help turn low-wage and entry-level jobs across the country into stepping stones to the middle class.

  • President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Map Room of the White House, July 25, 2014.

    President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Map Room of the White House, July 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    In this week’s address, the President continued his call for our nation to rally around an economic patriotism that says rather than protecting wasteful tax loopholes for a few at the top, we should be investing in things like education and job training that grow the economy for everybody.

    The President highlighted the need to close one of the most unfair tax loopholes that allows companies to avoid paying taxes here at home by shifting their residence for tax purposes out of the country. The President has put forth a budget that does just that, and he has called for business tax reform that makes investment in the United States attractive, and creates incentives for companies to invest and create jobs here at home. And while he will continue to make the case for tax reform, the President is calling on Congress to take action and close this loophole now.

    Transcript | mp4 | mp3

  • This week, some astronauts stopped by the White House (hint: think 1969), we talked about "inversions" (more on that later), the President awarded the Medal of Honor, and the Vice President got a marker and white board and gave us a little bit of history on our nation's infrastructure.

    Check out what else you may have missed in this week's wrap up.


    "You Are Why I Ran for President in the First Place"

    Yesterday, President Obama spoke under sunny skies at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. He talked about the progress that we've made since he took office and training our workers for a 21st-century economy.

    Watch on YouTube

    The President called for a new sense of optimism and collective patriotism in this country: "Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice. And if we can work together, I promise you there's no holding America back."

    He also talked about something known as "inversions." What's an "inversion," you ask? Learn more here.

  • This week, the President introduced a historic Executive Action for LGBT rights, continued to address the ongoing conflicts in the Ukraine and Gaza, hosted a town hall in support of his My Brother's Keeper Initiative, and traveled to California to deliver his response to some very striking letters he'd received ... in person. 

    Watch on YouTube

  • This afternoon, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, took to Tumblr to answer some of your questions on the President's newest Executive Order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. She also answered your questions on marriage equality, bullying prevention, Star Wars, and more.

    If you missed the live event, you can check out a full recap right here:

  • Last year, over 114,000 of you made your voice heard and petitioned the Administration to restore a basic consumer freedom: to take your mobile service — and a phone or tablet you already own — to the carrier that best suits your needs. 

    It's common sense, good for competition and innovation, and essential to consumers.  That's why the Administration declared last March that "It's time to legalize cell phone unlocking," and today the President commended Congress for doing just that:

    I applaud Members of Congress for passing the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. Last year, in response to a "We the People" petition from consumers across our country, my Administration called for allowing Americans to use their phones or mobile devices on any network they choose. We laid out steps the FCC, industry, and Congress should take to ensure copyright law does not undermine wireless competition, and worked with wireless carriers to reach a voluntary agreement that helps restore this basic consumer freedom. The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget. I commend Chairmen Leahy and Goodlatte, and Ranking Members Grassley and Conyers for their leadership on this important consumer issue and look forward to signing this bill into law.

    Everyone has done their part to get here -- from the FCC convening carriers, to the industry agreeing to voluntary steps to make their unlocking process transparent and reliable.  And as he said today, the President looks forward to signing this bill into law. It's just one more way he is taking the lead in making life a little easier for the middle class, and ensuring our technology remains the envy of the world.

    You called, the President answered, and together we made cell phone unlocking happen.

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