Jesse LeeAugust 24, 2009
04:01 PM EDTThis morning PCAST, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, released a new report assessing the Obama Administration’s preparations for this fall’s expected resurgence of H1N1 and outlining key steps government can take in the coming weeks and months to minimize the flu’s impact on the country. The report said the Administration’s preparation has been thorough and scientifically-based, and laid out predictions as best it could.The report concludes that the 2009-H1N1 flu is unlikely to resemble the deadly flu pandemic of 1918-19. But in contrast to the benign version of swine flu that emerged in 1976, the report says the current strain "poses a serious health threat" to the nation. The issue is not that the virus is more deadly than other flu strains, but rather that it is likely to infect more people than usual because it is a new strain against which few people have immunity. This could mean that doctors’ offices and hospitals may get filled to capacity.Among the group’s prime recommendations: accelerate the preparation of flu vaccine for distribution to high-risk individuals; clarify guidelines for the use of antiviral medicines; upgrade the current system for tracking the pandemic’s progress and making resource allocation decisions; accelerate the development of communication strategies—including Web-based social networking tools—to broadcast public health messages that can help mitigate the pandemic’s impact; and identify a White House point person with primary authority to coordinate key decisions across the government as the pandemic evolves. An overarching message of the new report is that through their behavior, individuals can have a potentially big impact on the flu season’s severity. Frequent hand-washing and staying home from school or work when sick will be crucial. The report recommends intensive public education campaigns to reinforce those key behaviors, and also calls for policy adjustments that can reduce economic and other incentives that might encourage people to risk infecting others. For example, workplaces could liberalize rules for absenteeism so employees don’t feel pressured to come to work when sick and school districts could arrange alternative means of distributing lunches to children who are sick but who normally depend on school meals for adequate nourishment.
Jesse LeeAugust 24, 2009
02:12 PM EDTAnother myth and another correction from our Health Insurance Reform Reality Check site. Today, Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist for the Vice President and Executive Director of the Middle Class Task Force, debunks the myth that we can’t afford health insurance reform. To the contrary, not only has the President demanded that reform not add to the deficit in the short term, but reform is the only way to get skyrocketing health care costs under control that will be devastating not for families , businesses, and for government deficits in the long term under the status quo.
Jesse LeeAugust 22, 2009
12:01 AM EDTPresident Obama debunks the myths around health insurance reform, and discusses the public option proposal in which many of them are rooted -- but he focuses his address on the stark moral and historical turning point at which we find ourselves: "This is our chance to march forward. I cannot promise you that the reforms we seek will be perfect or make a difference overnight. But I can promise you this: if we pass health insurance reform, we will look back many years from now and say, this was the moment we summoned what’s best in each of us to make life better for all of us. This was the moment we built a health care system worthy of the nation and the people we love. This was the moment we earned our place alongside the greatest generations. And that is what our generation of Americans is called to do right now."
August 21, 2009
09:15 AM EDTAs the new crescent moon ushers in Ramadan, the President extends his best wishes to Muslim communities in the United States and around the world.
Each Ramadan, the ninth month on the lunar calendar, Muslims fast daily from dawn to sunset for 29 or 30 days. Fasting is a tradition in many religious faiths and is meant to increase spirituality, discipline, thankfulness, and consciousness of God's mercy. Ramadan is also a time of giving and reaching out to those less fortunate, and this summer, American Muslims have joined their fellow citizens in serving communities across the country. Over the course of the month, we will highlight the perspectives of various faiths on fasting and profile faith-based organizations making real impacts in American cities and towns.This month is also a time of renewal and this marks the first Ramadan since the President outlined his vision for a new beginning between America and the Muslim world. As a part of that new beginning, the President emphasizes that our relationship with Muslim communities cannot be based on political and security concerns alone. True partnerships also require cooperation in all areas – particularly those that can make a positive difference in peoples’ daily lives, including education, science and technology, health, and entrepreneurship - fields in which Muslim communities have helped play a pioneering role throughout history.The President's message is part of an on-going dialogue with Muslim communities that began on inauguration day and has continued with his statement on Nowruz, during trips to Ankara and Cairo, and with interviews with media outlets such as Al Arabiya and Dawn TV.As this dialogue continues and leads to concrete actions, the President extends his greetings on behalf of the American people. Ramadan Kareem.
Translations of the President Obama's message:
Rashad Hussain is Deputy Associate White House Counsel.
Valerie JarrettAugust 20, 2009
07:45 PM EDTOne of the greatest honors I've had working with the President here has been being able to travel and be his ears and eyes, to listen to the stories of people from every kind of background, and have them tell me what they want out of their government. One of my favorite people that I’ve met was Loralee - a mother, a blogger, a self-described moderate Republican, and somebody who has lived courageously through some of the most tragic elements of what's wrong with our health care system.I just wanted to write my post here to encourage you to go read her post, and see a real example of how we can all benefit from real conversations where we try to see eye-to-eye rather than just trying to win an argument (you can also see my response to her here.)Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement
August 20, 2009
02:46 PM EDTWhile discussion about needed reforms to the health care system continues across the country, the Recovery Act made an investment today that will help hospitals provide more efficient care. Specifically, Vice President Biden announced the availability of $1.2 billion in grants to help health care providers implement and use electronic health records:
With electronic health records, we are making health care safer; we’re making it more efficient; we’re making you healthier; and we’re saving money along the way. These are four necessities we need for healthcare in the 21st-century.
As HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, these investments are a much-needed step towards modernizing the country’s health care system:
Electronic health records can help reduce medical errors, make health care more efficient and improve the quality of medical care for all Americans. These grants will help ensure more doctors and hospitals have the tools they need to use this critical technology.
The Recovery Act is also funding projects outside of health care, creating jobs and stimulating the economy by financing public improvement projects across the country:Limestone, Alabama Plans to Use Stimulus Funds To Pay Workers to Perform Plumbing, Construction, and Bridge Repairs, And To Purchase Law Enforcement Technology. "Limestone County will spend its share by improving a bridge, helping create an events center, improving energy efficiency in county buildings, linking county computers via fiber-optic cable and buying video equipment for use by law-enforcement officials. The money …comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009… Limestone County Commission Chairman David Seibert said he is not sure how much the county will receive until it receives the checks, however, he does have some estimates: $300,000 in road money to improve a county bridge; $250,000 to build a new senior center at Tanner; $100,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission to create a faster and more reliable connection between telephones and computers between county buildings; this improvement also allows judges to arraign jail prisoners via videoconference, which saves time and prevents having to transport prisoners to the courthouse. Within the next year to 18 months, the videoconference equipment will be used for industrial recruitment, said Revenue Enhancement Director Rodney Jackson who worked with Grant Coordinator Sonya Anthony to obtain the stimulus money. $100,000 for heating, cooling and plumbing for the event center to be constructed just west of the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives. That work should be under way within 90 days, Jackson said. $59,400 from a juvenile accountability grant to pay for ankle bracelets with global positioning units that are used to monitor some offenders and for outpatient drug program; $17,884… for video equipment, which county commissioners accepted Monday. Jackson said the county would have been eligible for the Justice Department grant and other grants in previous years but this year it was paid with stimulus funds. Money for the Rails-to-Trails project… City and county residents did benefit from stimulus money the state received because it was spent to improve U.S. 31."
Jasper County’s Highway 16 Is Be Resurfaced Thanks To Stimulus Funds. "Traffic has been disrupted near Monticello and will continue to be for the next 90 days or so while Hwy. 16 is being reseurfaced [sic] in Jasper County from the Butts County line to Forsyth Street at the Square. The work is a $1.4 million Jasper County resurfacing project funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The project includes almost nine miles of resurfacing and shoulder reconstruction."
Nebraska Will Use Stimulus Funds to Pay for Repairs, Site Upgrades In State Forests. "Nebraska will be getting $644,000 from the federal stimulus package for deferred maintenance projects at recreation sites in the state. The office of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday announced awards to Nebraska and 35 other states. More than 100 projects were funded at a total of nearly $95 million. The USDA has been authorized to spend $1.15 billion nationally for forest projects on federal, state and private land. In Nebraska, the money will be used to repair and update sites on the grasslands and in the state's national forest land. The projects will bring the facilities up to current standards and improve accessibility. And new drinking water wells will be installed in some areas."
Ground Broken On Stimulus Funded Interstate Highway 81 Project To Improve Efficiency; "Will Create Dozens Of Jobs." "Transportation, border security and elected officials gathered Wednesday morning to break ground on a $1.3 million highway project to improve efficiency at the Interstate 81 border crossing station on Wellesley Island. Funding for the project will come from the $1.1 billion New York state received for highway and bridge projects through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act…The project itself aims to alleviate congestion at the border by expanding from two lanes to four the roadway that funnels traffic into eight manned U.S. Customs and Border Protection check-in stations. Construction will begin immediately and should be complete by the end of the year, said Michael R. Flick, state Department of Transportation Region 7 spokesman…The economic benefits of the project are twofold, Sen. Aubertine said after the ceremony. In addition to the immediate job creation, ‘the smoother we can make the transition going from Canada to the U.S., the more people are going to take advantage of it.’ Ms. McNeely, representing the contractors' union, said the project will create about a dozen jobs. Luck Brothers Inc., Plattsburgh, will do the work."
Rhinelander Received Stimulus Funds For A New Wastewater Treatment Center And An Addition At The Rhinelander Fire Department. "Funds will be used to build new wastewater treatment facility and fire department addition. Governor Jim Doyle was in Rhinelander Wednesday afternoon presenting checks totaling over $33 million to the city…He presented two checks, one for construction of the new wastewater treatment facility and force main and the other for the addition at the Rhinelander Fire Department. ‘I am happy to be here in Rhinelander to announce major investments in the water system that will create local jobs and benefit local water infrastructure needs," Governor Doyle said. "I’m also pleased to announce that with the help of the Recovery Act, the Rhinelander fire station will be constructing a new addition that will allow them to provide ambulance services to people in need in this community. These important projects made possible through the Recovery Act will help revitalize the local economy and benefit future generations.’ The wastewater check, for $32,912,640, represents $16.4 million in grant money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with the rest coming in the form of a low interest loan from the state. Doyle said the allocation is one of the largest in the state."
Jesse LeeAugust 20, 2009
12:25 PM EDTYou probably aren’t used to seeing headlines like this come out of Washington:
Austan Goolsbee of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers talks about the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 - also known as the Credit Card Bill of Rights - which the President signed in May and which starts kicking in today. Watch the video to get a taste of the types of credit card headaches you won't have to deal with anymore.
- "Consumers to benefit as credit card law debuts" (Reuters)
- "Upcoming credit card changes can help you take charge" (Dallas Morning News)
- "Credit card relief: Phase one" (CNNmoney)
- "Card Users, Take Heart: One Penalty Is Vanishing" (New York Times)
Goolsbee did a thorough interview on this legislation around the time of the signing with the Consumerist, for more information go check it out.
Jesse LeeAugust 20, 2009
09:44 AM EDTSome behind-the-scenes footage of 2008 Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson giving the President a look under the hood of his Chevy, and cracking a few jokes about what it's like to be inside during a race:
You can also watch the President's remarks from the event yesterday.
Jesse LeeAugust 19, 2009
07:47 PM EDTThis afternoon the President gave a few remarks at the White House honoring three-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson, and took a few moments to look back at NASCAR's history dating back to "its humble beginnings, when moonshiners raced on the sands of Daytona Beach during prohibition." Giving a nod to the Wounded Warriors in the audience, he commended NASCAR for all they do for veterans and the commitment to service in the culture generally:After all, one of the core values of the NASCAR community is the belief that service isn't just something you do once in a while when it's convenient -- it's a way of life. I think Jeff Gordon put it best when he said, simply, "Any person out there should do something some way to give back to their community."And that's what folks from more than 150 countries see around the world when they tune in to your races -- not just your speed and your skill, but also your compassion, your dedication to your families and our communities, how much you love this country and how strongly you support the heroes who serve it. That's the face of America that you show to the world.
Jesse LeeAugust 19, 2009
03:33 PM EDTThere are a couple stories out today which, when put in contrast, highlight why we need the Health Insurance Reform Reality Check site, and why we need you to help get the word out about it. (Get the site badge on the right here, by the way.)The first is a post at the New York Times’ health blog from Oncology nurse Theresa Brown entitled "A Nurse’s View of Health Reform. ""I could offer a tableau of stories, but instead I will tell just one," she says, relaying the story of a patient she once got to know well during his three-month stay in the hospital with leukemia. His good spirits and determination were under a constant weight even beyond his illness:This patient’s six weeks turned into two months, and then three months, as one chemo regimen after another made no headway against his disease.During periods when he was feeling sort of O.K., he was constantly on the phone and the Internet trying to find a way to pay his mounting hospital bills. He told me, "I know there’s money out there; I just have to find it." He was confident that he could locate money for his care and that he would "beat" the cancer.And then I came to work one day, and he was dead as a result of pneumonia. During the fraught and too quick final three months of his life, the cost of his care weighed on him as heavily as his possible death. His wife lost her husband. In addition to mourning him, is she also saddled with a medical debt that will burden her for years to come?Can we all agree that the worry provoked by any kind of serious illness should not be compounded with the concern that we cannot afford the treatment we need?She brings her point home by discussing one of the eight consumer protections the President has been highlighting, ending the lifetime cap on benefits, and making clear how real these issues are:So I ask the people who oppose health care reform to consider what they would do if they found themselves in my patient’s situation — because they very well could, sooner than they know. Any of us could wake up sick, without the coverage we need, in danger of losing the very job that gives us health insurance. Our lifetime cap on insurance, which we never thought we would approach, can be brought so near that the question of costs cannot be separated from the treatment needed to stay alive.The second story out today stands as a disturbing contrast, a demonstration of the efforts opponents of reform have gone to in order to derail help for working Americans in situations like the one Theresa Brown recalls. Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, the headline "NBC Poll: Myths Endure on Health Care, Highlighting Doubts on Overhaul":Nearly half of Americans believe that a proposed overhaul of the health care system means the government will decide when to stop providing medical treatment to senior citizens, according to the latest polling by NBC News released this evening. Some 45% said they believe the plan is likely to include such a provision that has become known as "death panels" despite bipartisan efforts by President Barack Obama and the provision’s author, Republican Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson to dispel the idea. (Isakson, in a recent interview with the Washington Post called the confusion "nuts.")This is an astounding number, and other polls have shown smaller but still alarming percentages --nonetheless it shows just how necessary your efforts are to ensure there is an honest conversation and debate on health insurance reform. So far we have done two Reality Check videos touching on this issue alone, one from Melody Barnes taking on Republican claims, and one out today from Linda Douglass answering a question from outside the President’s New Hampshire town hall. Help get the word out about those videos and others debunking myths you may have heard, this is our best chance for reform in decades and we need to do everything we can to ensure those protecting the status quo don’t win based on dishonest claims as they always have in the past.
Kori SchulmanAugust 19, 2009
02:30 PM EDT
Yesterday President Obama welcomed President Mubarak of Egypt to the White House for the first time since taking office. The Presidents first met in Cairo where President Obama delivered a speech on America's relationship with Muslim communities around the world.
The President emphasized the longstanding partnership between the United States and Egypt and the work that must be done together to "help advance the interest of peace and prosperity around the world."
He discussed common concerns and the work that is already being done to promote the interests of the American and Egyptian people:
The Arab-Israeli situation is something that has been of ongoing interest and we had an extensive conversation about how we could help to jumpstart an effective process on all sides to move away from a status quo that is not working for the Israeli people, the Palestinian people, or, I think, the region as a whole.
We discussed our common concerns about the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region, including the development of nuclear weapons by Iran, and how we could work together on those fronts. We discussed Iraq -- and I want to thank the government of Egypt for being an Arab country that has moved forward to try to strengthen Iraq as it emerges from a wartime footing and a transition to a more stable democracy.
And we continued to talk about how we can work together on economic development issues, education issues, health issues, that can promote the interests of both the American people as well as the Egyptian people. Just to take one example, we have agreed to work together with the Organization of Islamic States to eradicate polio, something that we've been able to successfully deal with here in the United States but still has impact on populations throughout the Muslim communities around the world.
And so these are the kinds of partnerships that we want to continue to build. There are some areas where we still have disagreements, and where we do have disagreements we have a frank and honest exchange.
Jesse LeeAugust 19, 2009
12:41 PM EDTDuring last week's town hall on health insurance reform in New Hampshire, we wanted to make sure as many people as possible had a chance to ask their questions. So in addition to all the questions the President took inside Portsmouth High School, we also took several questions from people hanging out outside the school. What we heard was somewhat surprising, and a lesson in how far some of the misinformation spread by those invested in the status quo has spread. Those asking the questions were clearly sincere though, and deserve an answer to their concerns, so Linda Douglass of the White House Office of Health Reform took some time to sit down and address them.We're releasing the videos through our Reality Check page as "Face to Face Reality Checks" – go have a look, and if you've heard any of these myths from friends, relatives, or associates help us spread the word via email, twitter, Facebook or whatever avenue you choose. As the President wrote, "We are bound to disagree, but let's disagree over issues that are real."
- Reality Check, Face to Face: Congress did not vote to exempt themselves from reform
- Reality Check, Face to Face: Reform will expand your choices, not limit them
- Reality Check, Face to Face: There is no panel to decide end-of-life care
- Reality Check, Face to Face: No bill puts off care for the disabled for "further study"
August 18, 2009
03:37 PM EDT
I wanted to record this new video for the "Reality Check" site and write this post to debunk the myth that the Indian Health Service (IHS) is a government health plan gone wrong. It is truly unfortunate that recent press stories seek to scare Americans about health insurance reform by highlighting the IHS system.
First, the IHS system is not an insurance plan. And comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges. IHS provides comprehensive health care services to approximately 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives living on or near reservations in 35 states. Some of these health services include doctor visits and check-ups, dental and vision care, diabetes prevention and treatment, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and home health care. IHS also helps construct hospitals and clinics and provides safe drinking water and sanitation facilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Health insurance, by contrast, provides individuals a guarantee to a defined set of benefits for a price. While the IHS accepts insurance payments for care it provides, it is not an insurance plan.
Second, national health reform will not dismantle IHS. American Indians and Alaska Natives will continue to have access to their Indian health service facilities. And third, while Indian health has been is historically underfunded, several tribes have developed innovative and award winning approaches to provide health care to their communities. These sites serve as successful models for other rural and public health programs. President Obama supports IHS which is why he proposed a 13% increase in the FY 2010 budget, and invested $590 million in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Kimberly Teehee is Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs at the White House Domestic Policy Council.
Nancy SutleyAugust 18, 2009
03:07 PM EDTThis week I have joined other Administration officials for an Arctic Observance tour to learn more about how climate change is affecting the Arctic region. We left Washington, DC early Monday morning with our team, which includes Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, Deputy Assistant to the President on Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal, and DOI Deputy Secretary David Hayes, and received a detailed briefing about the specifics of our trip to Alaska and what to expect in the coming days.
Upon our arrival in Nome, we were greeted by local officials, citizens and members of our armed forces. Immediately following, we met with local scientists on coastal erosion affecting the region.
Today we flew to Fairbanks and went to the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, for presentations on the diversity of the Arctic Ocean and how climate change is impacting the region. Later today we will travel to the Permafrost Tunnel, a unique research facility that allows scientists to study the composition and behavior of ice structures and frozen bioorganics dating over 40,000 years old! Over the next three days we will continue our journey andmeet with local leaders, citizens and scientists who will share their knowledge on these issues.
Our outreach in Alaska will culminate on Friday August 21st with the first in a series of Ocean Policy Task Force Public Meetings in Anchorage. The President has charged the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force with developing a recommendation for a national policy that ensures protection, maintenance, and restoration of oceans, our coasts and the Great Lakes. It will also recommend a framework for improved stewardship, implementation options, and effective coastal and marine spatial planning. These public forums are a key component to establishing a comprehensive ocean policy.
You can find more information on the Ocean Policy Task Force Public Meeting in Anchorage here.
You can also follow the Coast Guard’s blog, photos, Twitters, Facebook, and YouTube videos about our trip.
Nancy Sutley is the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.
August 18, 2009
12:49 PM EDTCountry music star Brad Paisley discusses his visit to the White House and performs his new single "Welcome to the Future." This performance was part of the White House's Music Series.
Today Secretary Duncan participated in a conversation on arts education with supportmusic.org and nearly 300 affiliate organizations. Secretary Duncan reinforced the department's support for arts education and highlighted the White House music series as a demonstration of the Administration's ongoing efforts to promote arts in school.
Kalpen ModiAugust 18, 2009
10:56 AM EDTThis past weekend, the President issued two Messages: one on the Independence of Pakistan, and the other on Indian Independence. The Messages discuss the shared history among freedom fighters in India, Pakistan, and the United States, and address the many ways in which Americans of Pakistani and Indian descent contribute to the mosaic of American life. Take a look below:INDIA INDEPENDENCE DAYMESSAGEAs Indians stood ready to claim their own fate on August 15, 1947, Prime Minister Nehru declared that a "tryst with destiny," forged years ago, would finally be fulfilled. His words recalled a history of struggle and future filled with hope. Today, sixty-two years since this appraisal, his words still exemplify India’s ongoing journey as it strives to reach new heights.The history to which the Prime Minister alluded took root in a decades-long struggle for independence. In the 19th century, efforts to challenge aspects of colonial rule reached climaxes in the 1857 rebellion and the founding of the Indian National Congress. The struggle culminated in the civil disobedience movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, and the cause of independence achieved its goal when British rule ended peacefully. Praising Gandhi’s leadership of this movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. remarked, "if this age is to survive, it must follow the way of love and non-violence that he so nobly illustrated in his life."India has attained unprecedented milestones as its democracy has matured. Boasting a vast diversity of ethnicities and languages, India constitutes the largest democratic union the world has ever known. Indian politics have given voice to women and countless minorities, and have demonstrated that Indians stand unified in their commitment to human dignity.Economically, India is also forging a new path. Fulfilling the promise of internationally-competitive institutes of higher education, Indian professionals are leading their nation into a new phase of growth. From Bangalore to Boston, Indian scientists, engineers, and thinkers are generating ideas and prosperity that improve and save lives across India and the globe. In Bollywood and Hollywood, Indians contribute to films that captivate audiences in every corner of the world. As the Indian economy continues along this promising road, millions are being lifted out of poverty and are carrying the hope for a brighter future.This vibrant and promising India has a natural friend in the United States. Our people are bound by common values and ideals, and Indian Americans contribute to all aspects of American life. Our fates are tied by the interconnected nature of our world and a shared vision of peace, prosperity, and respect for human rights. Marking Indian Independence Day, the United States and its people celebrate the realization of the vision Prime Minister Nehru described and the bright future it continues to portend for the people of India.PAKISTAN INDEPENDENCE DAYMESSAGEAt the stroke of midnight on August 14, 1947, a new Nation emerged from the plateaus of Balochistan and the mountains of the North West Frontier Province. More than one hundred years after colonial rule had arrived, it departed. The Quaid-i-Azam would later explain, "The story of Pakistan, its struggle and its achievement, is the very story of great human ideals..." Over the course of its history, Pakistan has encountered and overcome great challenges, and Pakistanis have brought life to the great ideals that Muhammad Ali Jinnah described.In the earliest days of the Independence Movement, Muslims, Hindus, and other religious groups banded together to turn back the yoke of British rule. In the early 20th century, many Muslims began to pursue a separate homeland for the subcontinent’s Muslims. This pursuit, lead by the Muslim League, ultimately pointed a people towards self-determination and, out of this effort, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was born.Since its founding, Pakistan has changed a great deal, but its people still carry forward the proud traditions of their forbears. The unmistakable rhythm of the qawwali and melody of the ghazal reverberate and inspire audiences in Pakistan and across the globe. Pakistani artists and poets elucidate the human experience as they explore time-honored themes such as devotion and love. World-class cricket, field hockey, and polo players participate in regional and international competitions, impressing all those who witness their skill.The United States has been a friend to Pakistan over the course of much of this storied history, and the American and Pakistani people share deep ties and common aspirations. Americans and Pakistanis have both made sacrifices in the service of justice, democracy, opportunity, and the rule of law. Our Nation knows well the heritage of Pakistanis because of our own proud Pakistani American populations. Living in cities large and small, from the shores of New York to the sands of Hawaii, Pakistani Americans enrich our Nation’s diversity. Their professional contributions, family values, and religious traditions have strengthened our economy and enriched our culture.As Pakistan enters the next chapter in its history, the United States supports the great human ideals to which we both aspire. Our children deserve the opportunity to receive an education and to achieve their dreams. Our families deserve the right to live freely in peace, to practice their faith without fear of insecurity, and to enjoy respect for the full range of their human rights. Today, as we mark the proud birth of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the American people recognize our common future, and reaffirm our unyielding support for Pakistan’s democratic institutions and the Pakistani people. Working together, we can ensure that Pakistan rises above its challenges just as it has so many times before.Kalpen Modi is Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement
Macon PhillipsAugust 17, 2009
Jesse LeeAugust 17, 2009
05:21 PM EDTSpeaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the President expressed humility standing before an audience that represents perhaps the greatest American tradition: "Whether you wear the uniform today, or wore it decades ago, you remind us of a fundamental truth. It's not the powerful weapons that make our military the strongest in the world. It's not the sophisticated systems that make us the most advanced. The true strength of our military lies in the spirit and skill of our men and women in uniform. And you know this."He honored every generation that has taken part in that tradition, including the current generation that has served so nobly in Iraq and Afghanistan. He noted that as one percent of the American population, the troops have shouldered the massive burden of American security almost exclusively on their own, and explained that his commitment to diplomacy and engagement is a commitment to sharing the sacrifice, if even slightly, across the other 99%:So the responsibility for our security must not be theirs alone. That is why I have made it a priority to enlist all elements of our national power in defense of our national security -- our diplomacy and development, our economic might and our moral example, because one of the best ways to lead our troops wisely is to prevent the conflicts that cost American blood and treasure tomorrow.He pledged that our military would only be engaged as an absolute last resort, that every resource would be dedicated to ensure they have the equipment they need, and that "we will plan responsibly, budget honestly, and speak candidly about the costs and consequences of our actions."He gave a straight-forward assessment of our two wars:In Iraq, after more than six years, we took an important step forward in June. We transferred control of all cities and towns to Iraq's security forces. The transition to full Iraqi responsibility for their own security is now underway. This progress is a testament to all those who have served in Iraq, both uniformed and civilian. And our nation owes these Americans -- and all who have given their lives -- a profound debt of gratitude. (Applause.)Now, as Iraqis take control of their destiny, they will be tested and targeted. Those who seek to sow sectarian division will attempt more senseless bombings and more killing of innocents. This we know.But as we move forward, the Iraqi people must know that the United States will keep its commitments. And the American people must know that we will move forward with our strategy. We will begin removing our combat brigades from Iraq later this year. We will remove all our combat brigades by the end of next August. And we will remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. And for America, the Iraq war will end.By moving forward in Iraq, we're able to refocus on the war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's why I announced a new, comprehensive strategy in March -- a strategy that recognizes that al Qaeda and its allies had moved their base from the remote, tribal areas -- to the remote, tribal areas of Pakistan. This strategy acknowledges that military power alone will not win this war -- that we also need diplomacy and development and good governance. And our new strategy has a clear mission and defined goals: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies.In the months since, we have begun to put this comprehensive strategy into action. And in recent weeks, we've seen our troops do their part. They've gone into new areas -- taking the fight to the Taliban in villages and towns where residents have been terrorized for years. They're adapting new tactics, knowing that it's not enough to kill extremists and terrorists; we also need to protect the Afghan people and improve their daily lives. And today, our troops are helping to secure polling places for this week's election so that Afghans can choose the future that they want.Now, these new efforts have not been without a price. The fighting has been fierce. More Americans have given their lives. And as always, the thoughts and prayers of every American are with those who make the ultimate sacrifice in our defense.As I said when I announced this strategy, there will be more difficult days ahead. The insurgency in Afghanistan didn't just happen overnight and we won't defeat it overnight. This will not be quick, nor easy. But we must never forget: This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is a -- this is fundamental to the defense of our people.He then returned to a theme he and his Secretary of Defense have harped on since his presidency began – that fiscal responsibility and a strong defense go hand in hand:So this is pretty straightforward: Cut the waste. Save taxpayer dollars. Support the troops. That's what we should be doing. (Applause.) The special interests, contractors, and entrenched lobbyists, they're invested in the status quo. And they're putting up a fight. But make no mistake, so are we. If a project doesn't support our troops, if it does not make America safer, we will not fund it. If a system doesn't perform, we will terminate it. (Applause.) And if Congress sends me a defense bill loaded with a bunch of pork, I will veto it. We will do right by our troops and taxpayers, and we will build the 21st century military that we need. (Applause.)Towards the end of his remarks, he spoke at length of his dedication to ensure that no area of a veteran’s life goes neglected by that veteran’s government. For those suffering from physical or psychological injury, better care, more treatment centers, and a health system that stays with them from their time of service throughout their life; for those seeking an education for a new life, a new GI Bill; for those struggling, a commitment to end homelessness amongst veterans – all of that just as a start.To crystallize his point, his closed with a story:These are commitments that we make to the patriots who serve -- from the day they enlist to the day that they are laid to rest. Patriots like you. Patriots like a man named Jim Norene.His story is his own, but in it we see the larger story of all who serve. He's a child of the Depression who grew up to join that greatest generation; a paratrooper in the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne; jumping in a daring daylight raid into Holland to liberate captive people; rushing to Bastogne at the Battle of the Bulge where his commanding general -- surrounded by the Germans and asked to surrender -- declared, famously, "Nuts."For his bravery, Jim was awarded the Bronze Star. But like so many others, he rarely spoke of what he did or what he saw -- reminding us that true love of country is not boisterous or loud but, rather, the "tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime."Jim returned home and built a life. He went to school on the GI Bill. He got married. He raised a family in his small Oregon farming town. And every Veterans Day, year after year, he visited schoolchildren to speak about the meaning of service. And he did it all as a proud member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. (Applause.)Then, this spring, Jim made a decision. He would return to Europe once more. Eighty-five years old, frail and gravely ill, he knew he might not make it back home. But like the paratrooper he always was, he was determined.So near Bastogne, he returned to the places he knew so well. At a Dutch town liberated by our GIs, schoolchildren lined the sidewalks and sang The Star-Spangled Banner. And in the quiet clearing of an American cemetery, he walked among those perfect lines of white crosses of fellow soldiers who had fallen long ago, their names forever etched in stone.And then, back where he had served 65 years before, Jim Norene passed away, at night, in his sleep, quietly, peacefully -- the "tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime."The next day, I was privileged to join the commemoration at Normandy to mark the day when the beaches were stormed and a continent was freed. There were Presidents and prime ministers and veterans from the far corners of the earth. But long after the bands stopped playing and the crowds stopped cheering, it was the story of a departed VFW member that echoed in our hearts.
Eddie LeeAugust 17, 2009
03:10 PM EDTOn August 10, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes joined Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for the Department of Education’s summer reading initiative, "Read to the Top!" During the event, Barnes read "10 Things I Can Do to Help My World" to encourage students to take practical steps to save our planet. Rahm Emanuel read "Duck for President," a story about a duck who overcomes the odds to take the highest office in the country. After the event, the students snacked on popsicles and read their own books in the shade – a welcomed break from the summer heat.
The event was part of a weekly reading series aimed at combating summer reading loss. Previous White House participants include: Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu, First Grandmother Marian Robinson and White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod.Eddie Lee is Director of New Media at the Department of Education
August 17, 2009
02:25 PM EDTToday is a very exciting day. We rolled out a new Rural Tour web site to enhance public engagement and share information from the road. There has been such a positive reception to the Rural Tour events, we needed a new way to connect with individuals across the nation beyond the actual events.That's where new media comes in.It's much more than sending a tweet or feeding blog content through Facebook. We’re interested in sharing information beyond traditonal press releases and finding out what people have to say, as well.There are a few new features I’m particularly excited about on the Rural Tour site.
On Flickr, we’re starting out with a Rural Tour collection but will soon be adding the best of the best from our expansive photo collection. Soon visitors will find photos of animals, forests, research and everything in between. Our YouTube page is growing, as well. We also have a Facebook fan pagefor people to connect with USDA.With more than 100,000 employees and 7,000 offices worldwide, there is always something new to see and learn from the Department. Check it out and stay tuned, there will be more to come.We hope that these tools are useful and you learn something new, lend your voice and stay connected.Amanda Eamich is Director of New Media (acting) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Join the Conversation – Although we’d like to, we can’t visit every state and every town. Whether we make it to your town or not, this is the place to make your voice heard.
- What’s Working – Beyond Recovery Act reports, there are important stories to tell about what the USDA is doing in communities across the nation. This is the place to a sample of what’s happening.
- Stay Connected – We’re offering new ways for people to stay up to date with the Department and the tour.
A unique view of 2012