Read all posts from January 2009

  • Yesterday, President Obama issued a series of Executive Orders:
    On Wednesday, The President also issued orders on Presidential Records and Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel.
    We will post all of the President's Executive Orders on WhiteHouse.gov. To read more about these Executive Orders and keep up to date with future orders, click here.

  • Yesterday, President Obama delivered his Inaugural Address, calling for a "new era of responsibility."  Watch the video here:
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    Inaugural Address
     
    By President Barack Hussein Obama
    My fellow citizens:  I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you've bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. 
    I thank President Bush for his service to our nation -- (applause) -- as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
    Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.  The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace.  Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.  At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears and true to our founding documents. 
    So it has been; so it must be with this generation of Americans.
    That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood.  Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.  Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.  Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered.  Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many -- and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
    These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics.  Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land; a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.
    Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real.  They are serious and they are many.  They will not be met easily or in a short span of time.  But know this America:  They will be met.  (Applause.)
    On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.  On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.  We remain a young nation.  But in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.  The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea passed on from generation to generation:  the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.  (Applause.)
    In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given.  It must be earned.  Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less.  It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those that prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.  Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. 
    For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.  For us, they toiled in sweatshops, and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip, and plowed the hard earth.  For us, they fought and died in places like Concord and Gettysburg, Normandy and Khe Sahn. 
    Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life.  They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions, greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
    This is the journey we continue today.  We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth.  Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began.  Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week, or last month, or last year.  Our capacity remains undiminished.  But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed.  Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.  (Applause.)
    For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.  The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift.  And we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.  We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.  We'll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.  We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.  And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.  All this we can do.  All this we will do.
    Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans.  Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.  What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. 
    The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.  Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward.  Where the answer is no, programs will end.  And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
    Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill.  Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.  But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control.  The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.  The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity, on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.  (Applause.)
    As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.  Our Founding Fathers -- (applause) -- our Founding Fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man -- a charter expanded by the blood of generations.  Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience sake.  (Applause.)
    And so, to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born, know that America is a friend of each nation, and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.  And we are ready to lead once more.  (Applause.)
    Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.  They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.  Instead they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
    We are the keepers of this legacy.  Guided by these principles once more we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations.  We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan.  With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.
    We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense.  And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken -- you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.  (Applause.)
    For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.  We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers.  We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
    To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.  To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.  (Applause.)  
    To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.  (Applause.)
    To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.  And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect.  For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
    As we consider the role that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who at this very hour patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains.  They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. 
    We honor them not only because they are the guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service -- a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. 
    And yet at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.  For as much as government can do, and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.  It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours.  It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child that finally decides our fate.
    Our challenges may be new.  The instruments with which we meet them may be new.  But those values upon which our success depends -- honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old.  These things are true.  They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. 
    What is demanded, then, is a return to these truths.  What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.
    This is the price and the promise of citizenship.  This is the source of our confidence -- the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.  This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall; and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served in a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.  (Applause.)
    So let us mark this day with remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.  In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river.  The capital was abandoned.  The enemy was advancing.  The snow was stained with blood.  At the moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words to be read to the people: 
    "Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."
    America:  In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words.  With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come.  Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
    Thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

  • Following the same route that Abraham Lincoln rode 150 years ago, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Dr. Jill Biden made their way to the inauguration on a whistle stop train tour that wove its way from Philadelphia through Delaware and Maryland on its way to Washington.
    "To the children who hear the whistle of the train and dream of a better life -- that's who we're fighting for. That's who needs change," President Obama said at one stop along the way. "And those are the stories that we will gather with us to Washington."
    Watch a short video of the tour now:
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  • Yesterday, with Washington and the country eagerly awaiting the Inauguration, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and their families spent the day honoring the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. by serving others. After spending the morning with wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Medical Center, President Obama traveled to the Sasha Bruce Youthwork shelter for homeless teens in Northeast Washington where he helped renovate "safe space" housing.
    After leaving the shelter, the President and Mrs. Obama attended a reception with volunteers at Coolidge Senior High School, where President Obama spoke about the challenges ahead and how every one person can contribute to fighting them.
    "Dr. King taught us that we could no longer view our own day-to-day cares and responsibilities as somehow separate from what was happening in the wider world that we read about in the newspaper and saw on TV," the President said at the reception. "Because ultimately, for each of us, our own story and the American story are not separate, they are shared. And they are both strengthened and enriched each time we stand up and answer the call to help meet the challenges of our new century."
    Earlier in the day, Michelle Obama, Malia and Sasha Obama, and Dr. Jill Biden and Ashley Biden participated in a service project for American soldiers stationed overseas. All told, the volunteers at RFK Memorial Stadium, where the First and Second Families were working, created more than 85,000 care packages. Vice President Biden worked with Habitat for Humanity -- with about 50 AmeriCorps volunteers, firefighters, police officers, and others -- creating homes for families in need in Northeast Washington, D.C.
    In all, more than 11,000 service events were held across the nation yesterday. Traditionally, Martin Luther King Jr. Day has often been referred to as a National Day of Service, but the President emphasized that the commitment must extend beyond a single day. "Government will do its part to open up more opportunities for citizens to participate," he said. "And in return, I ask you to play your part – to not just pitch in today, but to make an ongoing commitment that lasts far beyond one day, or even one presidency."
    Read President Obama's full remarks below:

     
    Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama
    Day of Service Luncheon at Coolidge High School
    January 19, 2009
    Washington, DC 20009
    I want to start by thanking all of you for coming together from across this community – people who are young and old, of every race and background and faith – and taking part in the great American tradition of giving of yourselves to lift up your community.
    We meet at a moment when this work could not be more urgent. Today, we face challenges like never before in our lifetime. A lot of folks here in DC and across America are hurting and filled with uncertainty about what the future holds. And as I prepare to take that oath tomorrow, I know my Administration has our work cut out for us.
    But I also know this: that however well government does its job; however hard we work to make good plans and policies and restore a sense of responsibility to Washington, our problems cannot be solved by government alone – or even mostly by government. It’s going to take all of us, putting our shoulder to the wheel, doing our part to remake this nation.
    That’s why we’ve called on the American people to come together and devote their time and effort to work in their communities today. And that’s why we chose this particular day, when we honor a man who lived his life as a servant to his fellow citizens – and whose greatness can be measured not just in his own extraordinary contributions, but in how he inspired others to contribute.
    Dr. King taught us that we could no longer view our own day-to-day cares and responsibilities as somehow separate from what was happening in the wider world that we read about in the newspaper and saw on TV. Because ultimately, for each of us, our own story and the American story are not separate, they are shared. And they are both strengthened and enriched each time we stand up and answer the call to help meet the challenges of our new century.
    So today, I am asking you to roll up your sleeves and join in the work of remaking this nation. I pledge to you that government will do its part to open up more opportunities for citizens to participate. And in return, I ask you to play your part – to not just pitch in today, but to make an ongoing commitment that lasts far beyond one day, or even one presidency.
    And to those who are skeptical about whether this will happen – to anyone who thinks that the American people are selfish or apathetic – I invite them to come here to Coolidge High School and to the more than 11,000 other places across this country where people have spent today fixing up schools and renovating homes and organizing food drives and blood drives and so much more. I see what the American people are doing today and every day. So don’t tell me that we can’t usher in a new spirit of service in this country.
    I know we can do this. America is a great nation precisely because Americans have been willing to stand up when it was hard; to give when they had little left to give; to rise above moments of great challenge and terrible trial.
    And I know that I am here today – as are so many of you – because somebody, at some point, decided that loving their community and their country meant doing something to change it.
    That’s what we are called to do once again, in this moment – our moment – in history. So today, in the words of Dr. King, "Let us rise up…with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be."
    Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

  • Welcome to the new WhiteHouse.gov. I'm Macon Phillips, the Director of New Media for the White House and one of the people who will be contributing to the blog.
    A short time ago, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States and his new administration officially came to life. One of the first changes is the White House's new website, which will serve as a place for the President and his administration to connect with the rest of the nation and the world.
    Millions of Americans have powered President Obama's journey to the White House, many taking advantage of the internet to play a role in shaping our country's future. WhiteHouse.gov is just the beginning of the new administration's efforts to expand and deepen this online engagement.
    Just like your new government, WhiteHouse.gov and the rest of the Administration's online programs will put citizens first. Our initial new media efforts will center around three priorities:
    Communication -- Americans are eager for information about the state of the economy, national security and a host of other issues. This site will feature timely and in-depth content meant to keep everyone up-to-date and educated. Check out the briefing room, keep tabs on the blog (RSS feed) and take a moment to sign up for e-mail updates from the President and his administration so you can be sure to know about major announcements and decisions.
    Transparency -- President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history, and WhiteHouse.gov will play a major role in delivering on that promise. The President's executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review, and that’s just the beginning of our efforts to provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government. You can also learn about some of the senior leadership in the new administration and about the President’s policy priorities.
    Participation -- President Obama started his career as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, where he saw firsthand what people can do when they come together for a common cause. Citizen participation will be a priority for the Administration, and the internet will play an important role in that. One significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.
    We'd also like to hear from you -- what sort of things would you find valuable from WhiteHouse.gov? If you have an idea, use this form to let us know. Like the transition website and the campaign's before that, this online community will continue to be a work in progress as we develop new features and content for you. So thanks in advance for your patience and for your feedback.
    Later today, we’ll put up the video and the full text of President Obama’s Inaugural Address. There will also be slideshows of the Inaugural events, the Obamas’ move into the White House, and President Obama’s first days in office.

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