Read all posts from April 2009

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    Today, after being introduced by Defense Secretary Gates, the President gave a few remarks on the South Lawn before kicking off the "White House to Light" House Wounded Warrior Soldiers Ride. The race raises public awareness of the challenges facing veterans as they recover from life-altering injuries, and it drew quite a crowd, including Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, National Security Advisor General Jim Jones, and Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Tammy Duckworth.
    The President gave a little more background:
    Now, like a lot of great ideas, this one was conceived in a bar. (Laughter and applause.) A young bartender on Long Island named Chris Carney began talking about biking across the country to raise funds and awareness for returning troops and wounded warriors. And his boss said to him, "If you don't do it, I'll find somebody who will."
    So Chris hopped on his bike for what became the first annual Soldier Ride. The next year, a couple of wounded warriors joined him. A year later, even more. Civilians started to ride along. Grateful Americans began lining the streets to cheer and show their support. More rides were added, and more money was raised.
    And five years after that first ride, I'm honored to have 40 wounded warriors gathered here on the South Lawn to kick off the third annual "White House to the Lighthouse" Challenge. Over the next three days -- (applause) -- over the next three days these men and women, along with family and supporters, will ride from here to Annapolis on bicycles and in wheelchairs, raising money and awareness for others returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious injuries.
    Keep in mind that today's riders once faced down the possibility that they might never have an active lifestyle again. Some are missing limbs, coping with nerve damage, living with Traumatic Brain Injury or blindness. Some have endured painful rehabilitation, some still are, and some have battles yet to come.
    These wounded warriors didn't get to choose the direction their lives would take the instant they were injured. But now they choose to prove that life after injury isn't about what you can't do -- it's about what you can. They choose to keep their faith with the future. They choose to keep fighting for their brothers and sisters and show them that they're not alone.
    We also remember that so many are supported by spouses and children, parents and siblings who suffered the absence of a loved one, and then stood by their side through their recovery. These military families are heroes, too. And they are a top priority for Michelle and me, and they will always have our support.
    To anyone who's along their route this weekend, I ask you to go out there and cheer. Salute. Say thank you. And we'll do our part to support our troops, their families, and all who have worn the uniform of the United States of America -- because when it comes to their service and sacrifice, warm words and gestures are more than warranted, but they're not nearly enough.
     
    The 'White House to Light House' Wounded Warrior Soldier's Ride
    (President Barack Obama applauds the cyclists at the start of the 'White House to Light House' Wounded Warrior Soldier's ride on the South Lawn of the White House Thursday, April 30, 2009.  Also taking part in the ceremony were Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, and Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth.  Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

  • On Tuesday the President welcomed the Teachers of the Year to the White House, Dr. Jill Biden tells us about the time she spent with them.
    It’s been a really inspiring week in Washington– because the teachers are in town! This week I had the true honor of welcoming some very special guests to Washington DC: the 2009 Teachers of the Year. 55 of them traveled to DC representing all of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense, American Samoa, the Marianna Islands, and the Virgin Islands. I’ve been a teacher for 28 years, so I know how hard these teachers work and was thrilled to meet them and welcome them to our home, the Vice President’s Residence.
    Dr. Jill Biden hosts the Teachers of the Year(Dr. Jill Biden, an educator of 28 years, addresses the 2009 National Teachers of the Year reception at the Vice President's residence in Washington D.C. Photo by Joshua Hoover)
    On Monday night – all of the teachers came (by bus of course) for a reception and a "class photo."  I felt so at home with this group – we could have talked for hours about our work, our students, and our teaching experiences.  Our dog Champ Biden even made an appearance to congratulate the teachers. As I told the group on Monday, each of these teachers deserves recognition for being the best in their state or region - but I must say that every teacher is a ‘teacher of the year’ in my experience, and I have nothing but admiration for all of my colleagues around the country.
     
    Dr. Jill Biden hosts the Teachers of the Year, a Group Photo(Dr. Jill Biden poses with the 2009 National Teachers of the Year at a reception in their honor at the Vice President's Residence in Washington D.C. Photo by Joshua Hoover)
    On Tuesday morning, I taught two English classes at my community college in Virginia, quickly changed in the school bathroom, and raced to the White House so that I could be there to celebrate the teachers and congratulate Anthony Mullen, the final winner along with President Obama, Michelle Obama, and Arne Duncan. Anthony teaches Special Education to 9-12th graders in Connecticut.  I used to teach at-risk students in the high schools, so I was truly excited to spend time with him and his family. It was a beautiful day in the Rose Garden and I know that everyone there left feeling inspired.

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    As I told the group of teachers on Monday night, the greatest thing about this Administration is that the President and my husband Joe not only believe in education, they are investing in it. I know that teachers have many challenges in their classrooms, but we’re going to keep working together to make things better. I hope someone reading this post might even be inspired to become a 2010, 2015, or 2020 Teacher of the Year. You won’t regret it and our country needs you.

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    As a PSA, here are the President’s remarks on the H1N1 flu virus during the opening of last night’s press conference:

    Before we begin tonight, I just want to provide everyone with a few brief updates on some of the challenges we're dealing with right now.
    First, we are continuing to closely monitor the emergency cases of the H1N1 flu virus throughout the United States.  As I said this morning, this is obviously a very serious situation, and every American should know that their entire government is taking the utmost precautions and preparations.  Our public health officials have recommended that schools with confirmed or suspected cases of this flu strongly consider temporarily closing.  And if more schools are forced to close, we've recommended that both parents and businesses think about contingency plans if their children do have to stay home.
    I've requested an immediate $1.5 billion in emergency funding from Congress to support our ability to monitor and track this virus and to build our supply of antiviral drugs and other equipment, and we will also ensure that those materials get to where they need to be as quickly as possible.
    And finally, I've asked every American to take the same steps you would take to prevent any other flu:  Keep your hands washed; cover your mouth when you cough; stay home from work if you're sick; and keep your children home from school if they're sick.
    We'll continue to provide regular updates to the American people as we receive more information, and everyone should rest assured that this government is prepared to do whatever it takes to control the impact of this virus.
    The President at a press conference
    (President Barack Obama speaks at a press conference in the White House on April 29, 2009. 
    White House Photo/ Chuck Kennedy)
    He was also asked about the government’s response during the question-and-answer portion:
    Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  With the flu outbreak spreading and worsening, can you talk about whether you think it's time to close the border with Mexico, and whether -- under what conditions you might consider quarantining, when that might be appropriate?
    THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, as I said, this is a cause for deep concern, but not panic.  And I think that we have to make sure that we recognize that how we respond -- intelligently, systematically, based on science and what public health officials have to say -- will determine in large part what happens.
    I've consulted with our public health officials extensively on a day-to-day basis, in some cases, an hour-to-hour basis.  At this point they have not recommended a border closing.  From their perspective it would be akin to closing the barn door after the horses are out, because we already have cases here in the United States.  We have ramped up screening efforts, as well as made sure that additional supplies are there on the border so that we can prepare in the eventuality that we have to do more than we're doing currently.
    But the most important thing right now that public health officials have indicated is that we treat this the same way that we would treat other flu outbreaks, just understanding that because this is a new strain we don't yet know how it will respond.  So we have to take additional precautions -- essentially, take out some additional insurance.  That's why I asked for an additional $1.5 million, so that we can make sure that everything is in place should a worst-case scenario play out.
    I do want to compliment Democrats and Republicans who worked diligently back in 2005 when the bird flu came up.  I was part of a group of legislators who worked with the Bush administration to make sure that we had beefed up our infrastructure and our stockpiles of antiviral drugs like Tamiflu.  And I think the Bush administration did a good job of creating the infrastructure so that we can respond.  For example, we've got 50 million courses of antiviral drugs in the event that they're needed.
    So the government is going to be doing everything that we can.  We're coordinating closely with state and local officials. Secretary Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security, newly installed Secretary Sebelius of Health and Human Services, our Acting CDC Director -- they are all on the phone on a daily basis with all public health officials across the states to coordinate and make sure that there's timely reporting, that if as new cases come up that we are able to track them effectively, that we're allocating resources so that they're in place.
    The key now I think is to make sure that we are maintaining great vigilance, that everybody responds appropriately when cases do come up.  And individual families start taking very sensible precautions that can make a huge difference.  So wash your hands when you shake hands.  Cover your mouth when you cough.  I know it sounds trivial, but it makes a huge difference.  If you are sick, stay home.  If your child is sick, keep them out of school.  If you are feeling certain flu symptoms, don't get on an airplane.  Don't get on any system of public transportation where you're confined and you could potentially spread the virus.
    So those are the steps that I think we need to take right now.  But understand that because this is a new strain, we have to be cautious.  If this was a strain that we were familiar with, then we might have to -- then I think we wouldn't see the kind of alert levels that we're seeing, for example, with the World Health Organization. 

  • A lot of people were taking stock today of the change that the President has so far. But throughout the federal government change has been unfolding at the agency level in thousands of ways you have likely never even heard about. Take a look at the agency reports for whatever issues you are most interested in:

    We will update this list as more come in.

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    Today the President was in Arnold, Missouri for a town hall, and took a moment to be retrospective in his opening remarks:
    Today marks 100 days since I took the oath of office to be your President.  (Applause.)  One hundred days.  It's a good thing.  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

    Now, back in November, some folks were surprised that we showed up in Springfield at the end of our campaign.  But then again, some folks were surprised that we even started our campaign in the first place.  (Laughter.)  They didn't give us much of a chance.  They didn't think we could do things differently.  They didn't know if this country was ready to move in a new direction.

    But here's the thing -- my campaign wasn't born in Washington.  My campaign was rooted in neighborhoods just like this one, in towns and cities all across America; rooted in folks who work hard and look after their families and seek a brighter children -- future for their children and for their communities and for their country.

    He spoke at length of progress he believed he had made in this short time, from the Recovery Act to the Budget Resolution, but quickly added: "I want to warn you, there will be setbacks.  It will take time.  But I promise you I will always tell you the truth about the challenges that we face and the steps that we are taking to meet them." 

    The questions covered a wide range of topics.   On the auto industry, and Chrysler in particular, he made clear that he strongly believes America should have a vibrant auto industry:

    We don't know yet whether the deal is going to get done.  I will tell you that the workers at Chrysler have made enormous sacrifices -- enormous sacrifices -- to try to keep the company going.  One of the key questions now is, are the bond holders, the lenders, the money people, are they willing to make sacrifices, as well?  We don't know yet, so there's still a series of negotiations that are taking place.
    Asked about the challenges facing America’s educational system, he noted how impressive the Teacher of the Year he spoke with last night was, and discussed how he believed we could make sure more teachers are like him:
    The deal I've got to strike with teachers, though -- I may not get as much applause on this -- (laughter) -- is I would like to work with teachers and the teachers unions, because I'm a union guy, but I do believe -- (applause) -- but I do believe that it's important for the unions to work flexibly with school districts in a consensual fashion to find ways so that if you've got a really excellent teacher, after 15, 20 years, they can get paid a little bit more -- right? -- if they're doing a really good job.  (Applause.)   And now the flip side -- I'm telling you, I'm getting to the point where I'm not going to get applause.  (Laughter.)  If you've got a bad teacher who can't -- after given all the support and the training that they need is just not performing up to snuff, we've got to find that person a new job.  (Applause.)
    Asked about the future of Social Security, he reiterated his long-standing support for raising the cap on the payroll tax for wealthy Americans and saying that Social Security is actually the easy fix compared to health care costs:
    What we face long term, the biggest problem we have is that Medicare and Medicaid -- health care costs are sky-rocketing, and at the same time as the population is getting older, which means we're using more health care -- you combine those two things, and if we aren’t careful, health care will consume so much of our budget that ultimately we won't be able to do anything else.  We won't be able to provide financial assistance to students; we won't be able to help build green energy; we won't be able to help industries that get into trouble; we won't have a national park system; we won't be able to do what we're supposed to do on our veterans.  Everything else will be pushed aside because of Medicare and Medicaid.  That's the problem that we really confront.

    That's why I've said we've got to have health reform this year -- (applause) -- to drive down costs and make health care affordable for American families, businesses and for our government.  (Applause.) 

    So, you know, when you see -- those of you who are watching certain news channels that -- on which I'm not very popular -- (laughter) -- and you see folks waving tea bags around -- (laughter) -- let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we're going to stabilize Social Security.  Claire and I are working diligently to do basically a thorough audit of federal spending.  But let's not play games and pretend that the reason is because of the Recovery Act, because that's just a fraction of the overall problem that we've got.

    Having taken questions directly from the public this morning, the President returns to the White House tonight for a prime time press conference.  Watch it streamed at 8:00 at WhiteHouse.gov/live.

    UPDATE: The President met with several people who submitted their stories of service through our site after the town hall.

    The President and people committed to service through whitehouse.gov(President Barack Obama poses for a photo with service volunteers Wednesday, April 29, 2009, at Fox High School in St. Louis, Mo. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, drops by to talk about progress on ethics and transparency since the President was sworn in.

    The President promised across-the-board change in Washington and all of us in the White House have been pleased to help deliver. In the ethics and government reform arena, we have worked hard to help the President impose strict new ethics rules for all employees; foster a culture of compliance and respect for the law; promote greater transparency (including through our first-ever instant electronic release of personal financial disclosure forms); and implement historic revolving door limits for lobbyists and others.

    But don't just take our word for it.  Members of the government reform community have issued a statement praising the President for the "groundbreaking government integrity reforms he has put in place" and recognizing that "the President has demonstrated in his first hundred days through words and deeds that he is serious about changing the rules of the game in Washington and increasing the voice of citizens in the governing process."
    Click through and read the complete statement by members of the government reform community acknowledging the administration's historic opening efforts.  

     

  • Posted by Joe Kennedy, Staff Assistant, White House Office of Public Engagement

    Thursday was one of those days where I pinch myself.  As a former baller on the Northwestern basketball team (although a lot of my time was watching not playing), sports is a major part of my life.  Thursday was the first event where the President welcomed a sports championship team to the White House during his Administration! 

     
    What was especially inspiring for the staff in the Office of Public Liaison was that the President’s call to service was already being heeded in Gainesville.  The Gators football program does hundreds of hours of community service, based mainly around working with local schools and children.  The players talk about healthy living, personal development, and the importance of staying in school.  And there is no doubt the players care about their community.  Just look at the video form after the event…
     

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    These kinds of activities and leadership, "Community Champion" behavior as they call it, is echoed in much of the community work the Florida Gators have done, like the Gator Club service at Shands Pediatric Unit where they visit the kids in the pediatric unit. In Gator Literacy, which is designed to promote reading and literacy in Alachua County, players will read stories to children during their lunch time.  They have also worked at local schools interacting with schools about programs designed to promote fitness and physical activity, and reading skills.
     
    In addition to celebrating the great accomplishment achieved by the Gator Nation, what's especially inspiring is all the work the Gators do off the field.  The President has always spoken about personal empowerment and the importance of being a good neighbor, being involved in your community, and when possible being a "Community Champion."  It's clear they get at least as much out of it as the people they lend a hand to.
     

  • Over at HealthReform.gov, they have started a new series of weekly updates -- watch the latest from Nancy-Ann DeParle, Director of the White House Office on Health Reform:


    We have highlighted a lot of what HealthReform.gov has to offer, from their reports demonstrating the urgency of reform, to the videos they house from the White House Forum on Health Reform and Regional Forums, to the stories they compiled from thousands of Americans across the country showing the unimaginable strain problems in the health care system can put on people's lives.  Pay them a visit to see why health reform has to happen this year, and why it is worth keeping on top of these updates every week.  You can also show  your support for the President’s commitment to pass comprehensive health reform this year, including controlling costs, guaranteeing choice of doctor, and assuring high-quality, affordable health care for every American.

  • Pete Souza and the White House Photo Office bring us an exclusive, massive, unique look at the President’s term so far.  Take a few minutes to get a different perspective from the images on television every day.

  • Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gets to work(The new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, is briefed on the 2009 H1N1 flu by John Brennan, assistant to the President for Homeland Security, in the Situation Room of the White House on April 28, 2009. Sebelius was sworn in moments earlier in the Oval Office. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, right, and National Security chief of staff Mark Lippert are in background. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gets to work
    (The new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, is briefed on the H1N1 flu by John Brennan, assistant to the President for Homeland Security, in the Situation Room of the White House on April 28, 2009.  Sebelius was sworn in moments earlier in the Oval Office.  Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • A Proclamation issued this afternoon:
    THE WHITE HOUSE
    Office of the Press Secretary
    ------------------------------------
    For Immediate Release          April 28, 2009

    NATIONAL EQUAL PAY DAY, 2009
    - - - - - - -
    BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
    A PROCLAMATION

    Harriet Beecher Stowe helped galvanize the abolitionist movement with her groundbreaking literature. Frances Perkins advised President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and led the Department of Labor during one of its most challenging periods in history. Barbara McClintock helped unlock the mysteries of genetics and earned a Nobel Prize. These and countless other women have broken barriers and changed the course of our history, allowing women and men who followed them the opportunity to reach greater heights.
    Despite these achievements, 46 years since the passage of the Equal Pay Act and 233 years since our Nation was established with the principle of equal justice under law, women across America continue to experience discrimination in the form of pay inequity every day. Women in the United States earn only 78 cents for every dollar a man earns, and today marks the inauspicious occasion when a woman's earnings finally catch up with a man's from the previous year. On National Equal Pay Day, we underscore the importance of this issue to all Americans.
    If we wish to honor our Nation's highest ideals, we must end wage discrimination. The Founders established a timeless framework of rights for the American people. Generation after generation has worked and sacrificed so that this framework might be applied equally to all Americans. To honor these Americans and stay true to our founding ideals, we must carry forward this tradition and breathe life into these principles by supporting equal pay for men and women.
    Wage discrimination has a tangible and negative impact on women and families. When women receive less than their deserved compensation, they take home less for themselves and their loved ones. Utilities and groceries are more difficult to afford. Mortgages and rent bills are harder to pay. Children's higher education is less financially feasible. In later years of life, the retirement that many women have worked so hard for—and have earned—is not possible. This problem is particularly dire for women who are single and the sole supporters of their families. Women should not and need not endure these consequences.
    My Administration is working to advance pay equity in the United States. The first bill I signed into law as President, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, allows more women to challenge pay discrimination by extending the timeline within which complaints can be filed. This law advances the struggle
    for equal pay, but it is only an initial step. To continue this progress, I issued an Executive Order establishing the White House Council on Women and Girls. This high-level body, composed of Cabinet members and heads of sub-Cabinet agencies, is charged with advancing the rights and needs of women, including equal pay.
    Still, Government can only advance this issue so far. The collective action of businesses, community organizations, and individuals is necessary to ensure that every woman receives just treatment and compensation. We Americans must come together to ensure equal pay for both women and men by reminding ourselves of the basic principles that underlie our Nation's strength and unity, understanding the unnecessary sacrifices that pay inequity causes, and recalling the countless women leaders who have proven what women can achieve.
    NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 28, 2009, as National Equal Pay Day. I call upon American men and women, and all employers, to acknowledge the injustice of wage discrimination and to commit themselves to equal pay for equal work.
    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.
    BARACK OBAMA

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    Today the President visited FBI Headquarters in DC to commend FBI employees on their work, and elaborate on the theme he discussed with CIA employees that upholding American values while keeping the country safe is not only possible, but essential:
    In so many ways, the FBI is a unique institution.  You're unique because the FBI is both an intelligence agency and a law enforcement agency.  You must both prevent danger and help us pursue those who carry it out.  You protect us and you protect the civil liberties that we cherish.

    But after all, that is why America is unique -- because of that fundamental belief that we are committed both to our security and to the rule of law; because of that hard-earned truth that we are always stronger when we act in concert with our most deeply held values.

    I have no illusions that this is simple or easy.  Many of you made enormous sacrifices and are incredibly dedicated.  Living our values means that we must hold ourselves to higher standard than our enemies.  We face a long struggle against a determined adversary.  We know that al Qaeda is not constrained by a constitution, or by allegiance to anything other than a hateful ideology and a determination to kill as many innocents as possible.  But what makes the United States of America so special is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and our ideals not just when it's easy, but when it's hard; we've been called to serve in such a time.  (Applause.)

    And I have to say that I am heartened but what I see here today.  Each of you has made the decision to serve your country, and you are dong so at a critical time.  And you know, none of us can know with certain [sic] what the future will hold.  But I do know that the FBI can and will continue to adapt to new dangers, that you will be critical in leading the way in keeping this country safe.  And we are counting on you.

  • The President speaks with Senator Specter(President Barack Obama speaks by phone to Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania on April 28, 2009 about the Senator's decision to become a member of the Democratic Party. White House Photo, Pete Souza)

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    Speaking at the National Academy of Sciences, the President paid due tribute to the wonder, history, and inspiration of science in America.  But he also made the connection between science and the news being discussed all across America right now to make clear that science is no afterthought or hobby:
    At such a difficult moment, there are those who say we cannot afford to invest in science, that support for research is somehow a luxury at moments defined by necessities.  I fundamentally disagree.  Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been before.  (Applause.) 
    And if there was ever a day that reminded us of our shared stake in science and research, it's today.  We are closely monitoring the emerging cases of swine flu in the United States. And this is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert.  But it's not a cause for alarm.  The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency as a precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively.  And I'm getting regular updates on the situation from the responsible agencies.  And the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control will be offering regular updates to the American people.  And Secretary Napolitano will be offering regular updates to the American people, as well, so that they know what steps are being taken and what steps they may need to take.

    But one thing is clear -- our capacity to deal with a public health challenge of this sort rests heavily on the work of our scientific and medical community.  And this is one more example of why we can't allow our nation to fall behind.

    Unfortunately, that's exactly what's happened. 
     

    The President gave the all-too-familiar statistics about math and science education, and lamented the politicization of science that has too often stunted American ingenuity. He pledged to address those problems head on:
    I believe it is not in our character, the American character, to follow.  It's our character to lead.  And it is time for us to lead once again.  So I'm here today to set this goal:  We will devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development.  We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science.  (Applause.)

    This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history. 

    Just think what this will allow us to accomplish:  solar cells as cheap as paint; green buildings that produce all the energy they consume; learning software as effective as a personal tutor; prosthetics so advanced that you could play the piano again; an expansion of the frontiers of human knowledge about ourselves and world the around us.  We can do this.
     

    And of course as mentioned earlier, the President also pointed people to OSTP's revamped site where a conversation is ongoing on the President's memo on scientific integrity.  Read much more about the President's commitment to science in the White House fact sheet, and meet the members of his Science and Technology Advisory Council.

  • In the spirit of transparency, Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, asked us to pass along this update on the President’s restrictions on lobbyist contacts regarding the Recovery Act.
    President Obama has made historic commitments to putting the public interest first and to cracking down on special interests and, in particular, lobbying abuses. To accomplish that, he has put forward the toughest rules in history closing the revolving door between K Street and the Executive Branch and putting contacts with lobbyists regarding projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on the internet for all Americans to see. 
    We know some people think the Administration has been too tough in keeping lobbyists out of government jobs, and too tough in making lobbyist contacts about Recovery Act projects fully transparent. We don’t think so. We think our restrictions are correct to promote the public interest ahead of special interests. As the President has noted, one of the hallmarks of being tough is that you not only talk to the people you agree with—you talk to the ones you disagree with. So we want to hear from everyone affected during the 60-day initial evaluation period for the stimulus lobbying restrictions. We have heard from those that support these rules. On Friday, we met with several groups who disagree with the rules. These groups included Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the American League of Lobbyists (ALL). Present at the meeting were the following, each representing the entity noted:
    Michael W. Macleod-Ball, Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); Melanie Sloan, Executive Director, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW); Adam Rappaport, Senior Counsel, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW); David Wenhold, President, American League of Lobbyists (ALL); Kenneth A. Gross, Partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (representing ALL);
    and
    Norman Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform; Preeta Bansal, General Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Management and Budget; Michael Mongan, Deputy Counsel to the Vice President; and members of their staffs.   
    We told them we believed the restrictions were tough but fair to make sure that lobbyist communications are as transparent as possible, and that stimulus decisions are based on the merits. They agreed with our objectives -- any differences we have are over the best means to achieve those goals. They took exception to some of the specifics of the restrictions and we had an honest exchange about our differences. We noted that others, including in the reform community, strongly support the restrictions and we have heard from them too as part of the 60 day evaluation period mandated by the President's Memorandum.

  • As the President delivered his remarks to the National Academy of Sciences this morning, the Office of Science & Technology Policy was launching its new blog around a push for conversation and public comment on the President’s memorandum on scientific integrity issued in March.
    Go give your comment, and have a look around the new OSTP blog.
    OSTP blog banner
    The President gave the context in his remarks:
    On March 9th, I signed an executive memorandum with a clear message: Under my administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over. Our progress as a nation – and our values as a nation – are rooted in free and open inquiry. To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy. It is contrary to our way of life.
    That’s why I have charged John Holdren in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy with leading a new effort to ensure that federal policies are based on the best and most unbiased scientific information.  I want to be sure that facts are driving scientific decisions – and not the other way around.
    As part of this effort, we’ve already launched a website that allows individuals to not only make recommendations to achieve this goal, but to collaborate on those recommendations; it is a small step, but one that is creating a more transparent, participatory and democratic government.

  • UPDATE: This briefing has concluded, read the transcript

    Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano:

    "The first thing I want to announce today is that the Department of Health and Human Services will declare today a public health emergency in the United States.  That sounds more severe than really it is.  This is standard operating procedure and allows us to free up federal, state, and local agencies and their resources for prevention and mitigation; it allows us to use medication and diagnostic tests that we might not otherwise be able to use, particularly on very young children; and it releases funds for the acquisition of additional antivirals."
     
    *********
    The Office of the Press Secretary issued the following advisory this morning concerning a special White House Briefing to discuss the reported swine flu cases.  Watch it streamed at 12:30pm EDT at WhiteHouse.gov/live, and find up-to-the-minute information through the HHS/ CDC swine flu widget.

     

    THE WHITE HOUSE
    Office of the Press Secretary
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                   SUNDAY, April 26, 2009
    White House Briefing to Discuss Reported Swine Flu Cases – Today at 12:30pm EDT
    WASHINGTON – Obama administration officials will host an on-camera briefing this afternoon in the White House Press Briefing Room to provide an update on swine influenza in the United States and the government response.
    WHO:     Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security; Dr. Richard Besser, Acting Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security; White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
    WHEN:      Sunday, April 26, 2009, 12:30pm EDT
    WHERE:     White House Press Briefing Room

     

  • This week the President reiterates a theme that has been a hallmark of his career, namely that "old habits and stale thinking" will simply not help us solve the new and immense problems our country faces. Listing off several specific changes he intends to bring, he describes his guiding principle: "To help build a new foundation for the 21st century, we need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative. That will demand new thinking and a new sense of responsibility for every dollar that is spent."
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  • Courtesy of HHS and CDC:


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    Now, some of you have probably seen how this proposal was greeted by the special interests.  The banks and the lenders who have reaped a windfall from these subsidies have mobilized an army of lobbyists to try to keep things the way they are.  They are gearing up for battle.  So am I.  They will fight for their special interests.  I will fight for Stephanie, and other American students and their families.  And for those who care about America's future, this is a battle we can't afford to lose.
    The proposal he was talking about would cut the middle man out of student lending by shifting federal support entirely to the Direct Loan program, and away from the program that cushions bank profits. The proposal follows on significant action already taken: together, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the President’s Budget provide about $200 billion in Pell Grant scholarships and tax credits over the next decade, including giving millions of families up to $2,500 each to help pay for college. The Middle Class Task Force also held their most recent meeting going in depth into precisely this issue of college affordability.
    He once again explained that he was not motivated by any ideology from the right or the left, but by simple common sense:
    In the end, this is not about growing the size of government or relying on the free market -- because it's not a free market when we have a student loan system that's rigged to reward private lenders without any risk.  It's about whether we want to give tens of billions of tax dollars to special interests or whether we want to make college more affordable for eight and a half million more students.  I think most of us would agree on what the right answer is.

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