Read all posts from August 2009

  • We have just arrived in Kansas City where, tomorrow, we will continue our discussion of smart growth and smart planning for America’s metropolitan areas. Special Assistant to the President on Urban Policy Derek Douglas, Special Advisor for Green Jobs Van Jones, and I will be joined by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari. Together, we will meet with local elected officials, stakeholders, and community members to discuss the development of the Green Impact Zone, an initiative which is using federal and local resources to invest in components of sustainable living and to create jobs in one of the city’s most challenged communities. This program, supported partially by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, has already become a model for green investment.
     
    With the leadership of Congressman Emanuel Cleaver in partnership with the Mid-America Regional Council and community members, the Green Impact Zone is a comprehensive place-based plan to invest public and private funding to transform a neighborhood plagued by high rates of poverty and violence, unemployment and abandoned property. The Green Impact Zone will improve housing conditions through the rehabilitation and weatherization of the entire 150 block area neighborhood, develop a green workforce through the training of residents from the urban core in green technology, and invest in sustainable transportation through a green bus rapid transit system. Moreover, investors of the Green Impact Zone believe that the effort will break down cost barriers that make "going green" a luxury. The Green Impact Zone provides lessons for investments in sustainability, workforce development, neighborhood stabilization, transportation, energy efficiency, and inclusion.
     
    We are excited about tomorrow’s discussion and learning first-hand from the American people’s ingenuity that continues to bubble-up around the country, whether it’s providing access to fresh food to underserved communities or transforming challenged neighborhoods into beacons for green living and green jobs.
     
    For questions or ideas for the Urban Tour, please feel free to send a message to urbanaffairs@who.eop.gov.
     
    Adolfo Carrión, Jr. is the Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs and Deputy Assistant to the President

     

  • To the troops deployed to CENTCOM:
    First, thank you.  Thank you for being deployed away from love ones; for protecting our nation’s security; and for setting an example of service and sacrifice that we all look up to.  As I hope you know, President Obama believes there is no greater honor than serving as our nation’s Commander-in-Chief.  He understands that he commands the finest military that history has ever known and takes great pride in doing so.
    As you stand on the front lines of two wars, we want to make sure we are hearing from you and communicating clearly. The White House and the Department of Defense are proud to launch a joint project called "Troop Town Hall."  This initiative allows troops from across Central Command to submit their questions by email, text or video and allows participants to vote for the questions that think are the most important.   At the conclusion of the program, the President and Secretary Gates will answer the top questions (President Obama promises not to give all the hard ones to Secretary Gates).  
    As a veteran who deployed to CENTCOM for OIF and OEF, I never had this opportunity.  I understand the demands placed on you, but hope you can make time to participate in this project.  The program ends in late September.   At that time, we will provide a link to all of the questions and the answers.  In the meantime, here is a video of the President introducing the program:

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    Matt Flavin is the White House's Director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy

     

  • So I’m driving along a Pennsylvania highway two weeks ago on my summer vacation, radio blasting, and what do I see but one of those Recovery Act signs, touting a highway project.  Jeez, I thought.  Can’t a guy get away from that stuff for a couple of days!?
    Don’t worry.  I quickly reverted to my economist self and applauded the infrastructure improvement, lecturing my wife and kids on the considerable multiplier effects of such spending (which led to them turning the radio up even louder).
    The fact is, what I saw was a small dose of the medicine from the Recovery Act making its way through one of the nation’s arteries.   And that road project in Pennsylvania is one of out 3,350 highway projects currently underway across the country. 
    But what about the larger patient, i.e., the macro-economy?  What are economic analysts saying about the impact of the Recovery Act thus far?
    As I’ll show you in a moment, they’re saying good things.  The Act is having its intended effect of offsetting some—by no means all—of the damage caused by the deepest downturn since the Great Depression.  And in tandem with our other interventions in financial and housing markets, it’s helped to pull us back from that very dangerous precipice.  
    As Mark Zandi, a highly respected economist (and former advisor to the McCain campaign) put it in a recent analysis, "The fiscal stimulus is providing the fodder for better sales. Lower payroll tax withholding, checks to Social Security recipients, and more financial help to unemployed workers are buoying household incomes. The cash for clunkers program has juiced up vehicle sales, and the housing tax credit has boosted home sales. It is no coincidence that the recession is ending just when the stimulus is providing its maximum economic benefit." (Emphasis mine).
    And other economists agree about the positive effect that the Recovery Act is already having.  Moody’s Economy.com (where Zandi is Chief Economist), IHS Global Insight, and the Economic Policy Institute all estimate that the Recovery Act has created or saved from 500,000 to 750,000 jobs so far. 
    The economists at Goldman Sachs think the package added 2.2 percentage points to real GDP growth (annualized) in the second quarter of 2009 and will add 3.3 points in the current quarter.  That implies even more jobs saved or created during the current quarter compared to the last one.  It also means that were it not for the boost the Recovery Act is giving to the economy right now, GDP would have contracted at a 3.2% rate in the last quarter instead of a 1% rate.
    Which raises a really, really important point—and don’t even think about turning up the radio.  Suppose you were, oh, I don’t know … politically motivated to argue that the Recovery Act wasn’t working.  You’d probably point to that 1% decline in GDP and say, "How can it be working if the economy is still contracting"  Or maybe you’d point to the 247,000 jobs lost last month.
    Now, the President has stressed consistently that as far as we’re concerned, any degree of economic contraction is too much, and even more importantly, any job losses are too many.  But the independent findings cited above make the critical point that if you’re only noticing that things are still bad without noticing that they’re getting better, you’re looking at the wrong benchmarks.  The question is not, Are we still in hole?  Of course we are; it took years to dig in, and it’s going to take a long time to dig out. 
    The relevant question is, Are we digging out faster thanks to the Recovery Act and our other economic policies?  To that question, these independent analysts, and many others, unequivocally answer, "Yes."
    Just take a look at some "then and now" indicators:
    Then vs. Now

    Indicators
    Then
    Now
    Real GDP (1)
    -6.4%
    -1.0%
    Job Losses (2)
    -741,000
    -247,000
    Industrial Production (3)
    -2.2%
    0.5%
    Home Prices (4)
    -2.1%
    0.7%
    New Home Sales (5)
    -10.2%
    9.6%
    Consumer Confidence (6)
    37.4
    54.1

    1: Real annual growth rates, 2009q1 and 2009q2
    2: Payroll employment declines from January 2009 and July 2009.
    3: Monthly percent change, Jan 09 and July 09
    4: Case-Schiller, monthly percent change, Jan 09 and June 09
    5: Monthly percent change, Jan 09 and July 09
    6: Conference Board Index, 1985=100, Jan 09 and Aug 09
     
    GDP was tanking earlier this year; it fell much less quickly in the second quarter and the consensus among private forecasters is for real GDP growth to break into positive territory in the current quarter.
    We’re still losing far too many jobs, but the rate has significantly slowed.  The fact is, you don’t go from losing upwards of 700K jobs on net per month to adding jobs without passing through a period just like this one, where the loss rate slows.
    Home sales and prices are showing stabilizing signs. The sales data, by the way, have gotten a nice boost from our First Time Home Buyers Credit.  And consumer confidence is solidly up, too.
    Let me be very clear about all this: We are not out of hole yet.   It’s important to be realistic about what the Recovery Act has and hasn’t accomplished thus far.  We’ve pulled the economy back from the brink, provided critical relief to families, communities, and states, and are now beginning to lay the foundation for a stronger, more broadly shared expansion. 
    But we are not there yet.   There are more job losses to come.  Key economic indicators may have bottomed out, but they’ve done so at historically low levels.   The economy remains fragile.
    But as we slowly climb out of the hole that greeted us when we got here on January 20th, let’s also be sure to take note of what’s working. 
    OK…NOW you can blast the radio.
     
    Jared Bernstein is the Executive Director of the Middle Class Task Force and the Vice President's Chief Economist
     
     

  • Since ground-breaking and initial tilling in March, we've been documenting the progress of the first garden on White House grounds since Eleanor Roosevelt's Victory Garden during World War II. This new garden was planted with the help of local elementary school children and has yielded a constant supply fresh produce for the First Family and White House events. Hear and see the story of the garden first-hand from First Lady Michelle Obama and White House chef Sam Kass.

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    download .mp4 (131 MB)
     
    This is the second installment of our "Inside the White House" series of videos that show you a glimpse behind the scenes at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

  • Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House launched a Flu Prevention PSA contest, and in just a few weeks we received 240 entries uploaded to the HHS YouTube channel. Last week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and a panel of experts reviewed the entries to ensure they followed the contest criteria, and from there picked the top 10 best videos.
    Now it’s your turn. Please go to the HHS YouTube channel and cast your vote for the best video. Keep in mind that the goal of this PSA is to help remind our friends, family and communities that the 2009 H1N1 flu could impact all of us, so make one of your criteria how well it gets the message out on how to prevent the flu.  The winner will get a $2,500 cash prize and their video PSA will be broadcast on national television. The contest ends on September 16th – have fun!

  • This morning we released a new Reality Check video from Vice President Biden. The myth he takes on is, as one Member of Congress opposing reform put it, that "This is not a major issue among the American people." The Vice President asks for your help with this one – after you watch, upload a video in response through YouTube helping him bust the myth by telling us why reform is important to you.

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    We've also put together something new.   It's a little bit like those quizzes that get passed around on Facebook or through email – a "What's In Reform for You" quiz. Just answer a few simple questions and find out what somebody like you will get out of reform. Even if you've been following the debate closely you should check it out, you'll be surprised at everything you'll get.

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    download .mp4 (161 MB) | read the transcript
     

    The President's full remarks at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Roxbury, Massachusetts:

    THE PRESIDENT:  Your Eminence, Vicki, Kara, Edward, Patrick, Curran, Caroline, members of the Kennedy family, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
     
         Today we say goodbye to the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy.  The world will long remember their son Edward as the heir to a weighty legacy; a champion for those who had none; the soul of the Democratic Party; and the lion of the United States Senate -- a man who graces nearly 1,000 laws, and who penned more than 300 laws himself.
     
         But those of us who loved him, and ache with his passing, know Ted Kennedy by the other titles he held:  Father.  Brother.  Husband.  Grandfather.  Uncle Teddy, or as he was often known to his younger nieces and nephews, "The Grand Fromage," or "The Big Cheese."  I, like so many others in the city where he worked for nearly half a century, knew him as a colleague, a mentor, and above all, as a friend.
     
         Ted Kennedy was the baby of the family who became its patriarch; the restless dreamer who became its rock.  He was the sunny, joyful child who bore the brunt of his brothers' teasing, but learned quickly how to brush it off.  When they tossed him off a boat because he didn't know what a jib was, six-year-old Teddy got back in and learned to sail.  When a photographer asked the newly elected Bobby to step back at a press conference because he was casting a shadow on his younger brother, Teddy quipped, "It'll be the same in Washington."
     
         That spirit of resilience and good humor would see Teddy through more pain and tragedy than most of us will ever know.  He lost two siblings by the age of 16.  He saw two more taken violently from a country that loved them.  He said goodbye to his beloved sister, Eunice, in the final days of his life.  He narrowly survived a plane crash, watched two children struggle with cancer, buried three nephews, and experienced personal failings and setbacks in the most public way possible.
     
         It's a string of events that would have broken a lesser man.  And it would have been easy for Ted to let himself become bitter and hardened; to surrender to self-pity and regret; to retreat from public life and live out his years in peaceful quiet.  No one would have blamed him for that.
     
         But that was not Ted Kennedy.  As he told us, "…[I]ndividual faults and frailties are no excuse to give in -- and no exemption from the common obligation to give of ourselves."  Indeed, Ted was the "Happy Warrior" that the poet Wordsworth spoke of when he wrote:
     
         As tempted more; more able to endure,
         As more exposed to suffering and distress;
         Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.
     
         Through his own suffering, Ted Kennedy became more alive to the plight and the suffering of others -- the sick child who could not see a doctor; the young soldier denied her rights because of what she looks like or who she loves or where she comes from.  The landmark laws that he championed -- the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, immigration reform, children's health insurance, the Family and Medical Leave Act -- all have a running thread.  Ted Kennedy's life work was not to champion the causes of those with wealth or power or special connections.  It was to give a voice to those who were not heard; to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity; to make real the dream of our founding.  He was given the gift of time that his brothers were not, and he used that gift to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow.
     
         We can still hear his voice bellowing through the Senate chamber, face reddened, fist pounding the podium, a veritable force of nature, in support of health care or workers' rights or civil rights.  And yet, as has been noted, while his causes became deeply personal, his disagreements never did.  While he was seen by his fiercest critics as a partisan lightning rod, that's not the prism through which Ted Kennedy saw the world, nor was it the prism through which his colleagues saw Ted Kennedy.  He was a product of an age when the joy and nobility of politics prevented differences of party and platform and philosophy from becoming barriers to cooperation and mutual respect -- a time when adversaries still saw each other as patriots.
     
         And that's how Ted Kennedy became the greatest legislator of our time.  He did it by hewing to principle, yes, but also by seeking compromise and common cause -- not through deal-making and horse-trading alone, but through friendship, and kindness, and humor.  There was the time he courted Orrin Hatch for support of the Children's Health Insurance Program by having his chief of staff serenade the senator with a song Orrin had written himself; the time he delivered shamrock cookies on a china plate to sweeten up a crusty Republican colleague; the famous story of how he won the support of a Texas committee chairman on an immigration bill.  Teddy walked into a meeting with a plain manila envelope, and showed only the chairman that it was filled with the Texan's favorite cigars.  When the negotiations were going well, he would inch the envelope closer to the chairman.  (Laughter.)  When they weren't, he'd pull it back.  (Laughter.)  Before long, the deal was done.  (Laughter.)
     
         It was only a few years ago, on St. Patrick's Day, when Teddy buttonholed me on the floor of the Senate for my support of a certain piece of legislation that was coming up for vote.  I gave my pledge, but I expressed skepticism that it would pass.  But when the roll call was over, the bill garnered the votes that it needed, and then some.  I looked at Teddy with astonishment and asked how had he done it.  He just patted me on the back and said, "Luck of the Irish."  (Laughter.)
     
         Of course, luck had little to do with Ted Kennedy's legislative success; he knew that.  A few years ago, his father-in-law told him that he and Daniel Webster just might be the two greatest senators of all time.  Without missing a beat, Teddy replied, "What did Webster do?"  (Laughter.)
     
         But though it is Teddy's historic body of achievements that we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss.  It was the friend and the colleague who was always the first to pick up the phone and say, "I'm sorry for your loss," or "I hope you feel better," or "What can I do to help?"  It was the boss so adored by his staff that over 500, spanning five decades, showed up for his 75th birthday party.  It was the man who sent birthday wishes and thank-you notes and even his own paintings to so many who never imagined that a U.S. senator of such stature would take the time to think about somebody like them.  I have one of those paintings in my private study off the Oval Office -- a Cape Cod seascape that was a gift to a freshman legislator who had just arrived in Washington and happened to admire it when Ted Kennedy welcomed him into his office.  That, by the way, is my second gift from Teddy and Vicki after our dog Bo.  And it seems like everyone has one of those stories -- the ones that often start with "You wouldn't believe who called me today."
     
         Ted Kennedy was the father who looked not only after his own three children, but John's and Bobby's as well.  He took them camping and taught them to sail.  He laughed and danced with them at birthdays and weddings; cried and mourned with them through hardship and tragedy; and passed on that same sense of service and selflessness that his parents had instilled in him.  Shortly after Ted walked Caroline down the aisle and gave her away at the altar, he received a note from Jackie that read, "On you the carefree youngest brother fell a burden a hero would have begged to been spared.  We are all going to make it because you were always there with your love."
     
         Not only did the Kennedy family make it because of Ted's love -- he made it because of theirs, especially because the love and the life he found in Vicki.  After so much loss and so much sorrow, it could not have been easy for Ted to risk his heart again.  And that he did is a testament to how deeply he loved this remarkable woman from Louisiana.  And she didn't just love him back.  As Ted would often acknowledge, Vicki saved him.  She gave him strength and purpose; joy and friendship; and stood by him always, especially in those last, hardest days.
     
         We cannot know for certain how long we have here.  We cannot foresee the trials or misfortunes that will test us along the way.  We cannot know what God's plan is for us.
     
         What we can do is to live out our lives as best we can with purpose, and with love, and with joy.  We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves.  We can learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures.  And we can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that someday, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we know that we spent it well; that we made a difference; that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of others.
     
         This is how Ted Kennedy lived.  This is his legacy.  He once said, as has already been mentioned, of his brother Bobby that he need not be idealized or enlarged in death because what he was in life -- and I imagine he would say the same about himself.  The greatest expectations were placed upon Ted Kennedy's shoulders because of who he was, but he surpassed them all because of who he became.  We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office.  We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy -- not for the sake of ambition or vanity; not for wealth or power; but only for the people and the country that he loved.
     
         In the days after September 11th, Teddy made it a point to personally call each one of the 177 families of this state who lost a loved one in the attack.  But he didn't stop there.  He kept calling and checking up on them.  He fought through red tape to get them assistance and grief counseling.  He invited them sailing, played with their children, and would write each family a letter whenever the anniversary of that terrible day came along.  To one widow, he wrote the following:
     
         "As you know so well, the passage of time never really heals the tragic memory of such a great loss, but we carry on, because we have to, because our loved ones would want us to, and because there is still light to guide us in the world from the love they gave us."
     
         We carry on.
     
         Ted Kennedy has gone home now, guided by his faith and by the light of those that he has loved and lost.  At last he is with them once more, leaving those of us who grieve his passing with the memories he gave, the good that he did, the dream he kept alive, and a single, enduring image -- the image of a man on a boat, white mane tousled, smiling broadly as he sails into the wind, ready for whatever storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon.  May God bless Ted Kennedy, and may he rest in eternal peace.  (Applause.)
     
    The President at Senator Kennedy's funeral
    President Barack Obama attends the funeral mass for Senator Edward Kennedy at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston, Massachusetts, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

  • The President discusses the steps being taken to finish the job of recovery from Hurricane Katrina as the fourth anniversary approaches.  He points to local citizens working hard alongside responsible government to make real progress in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and pledges that the lessons of Katrina will not be forgotten.
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    download .mp3 |download .mp4 (90 MB) | read the transcript

  • Learning to Lead, Leading to Serve. This is the White House Internship Program motto. Created by the inaugural internship class and presented to the First Lady, the motto embodies the spirit of the internship: a hands-on program designed to mentor and cultivate today’s young leaders, strengthen their understanding of the Executive Office and prepare them for future public service opportunities.

    This week we are excited to announce the launch of our updated website, an informational video about the program and our 2010 Spring Application. The spring application deadline is September 20, 2009. Visit whitehouse.gov/internships to learn more about the program and how you can apply to join our team.

    Download Video: mp4 (32MB)
    Rachel Haltom-Irwin is the Director of the White House Internship Program

     

  • Grab your video camera and get the lead out! 
    The dangers of lead poisoning are very serious, and health problems caused by lead can impact a child for a lifetime.
    We want you to help us get the word out about lead poisoning prevention, by creating videos to educate people on what they can do to prevent lead poisoning.  We’re looking for 30-60 second video on anything from the dangers of lead poisoning; how to get rid of lead hazards in homes; or the importance of children being tested for harmful levels of lead in their blood. 
    Entries will be accepted until October 1st. 
    We’ll post the best videos on the EPA, HUD and CDC web sites to get the message out about lead poisoning. The best video will receive a $2,500 First Prize. 
    Most importantly, you’ll be helping us get the word out on an important health issue.
    In young children, lead exposure can cause learning disabilities, decreased intelligence, as well as speech, language, and behavioral problems. In older children and adults, brain and nervous system disorders, high blood pressure, and reproductive problems have all been associated with lead exposure.
    EPA is taking action on a number of fronts to protect children from the lead dangers. We’ll be proposing new requirements to protect children from lead-based paint poisoning including requiring more buildings to use lead-safe work practices during renovation projects, and requiring tests to ensure the renovation cleanup work meets EPA lead dust standards. 
    We’re also working to address lead exposures associated with the manufacture of lead wheel weights used to balance tires. That will help prevent more than 2,000 tons of lead from being released into the environment from tire weights that fall off of automobiles. 
    But we need your help in getting the word out. Please send us your best, most creative video to help to inspire individuals, businesses, communities, and everyone else to avoid dangerous exposure to lead.
    Remember: all entries are due October 1st, and First Prize is $2500.
    Read the details at here.
    We look forward to seeing your video and thanks for helping to protect kids from lead poisoning.
    Steve Owens is EPA Assistant Administrator for Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances

  • For those who have worked on Capitol Hill it was almost a perk of the job to occasionally see Senator Kennedy walking the Portuguese Water Dogs he loved so much.  And for a man who left almost as sweeping a legacy as one can imagine, the presence of Bo here at the White House might be a footnote, but it's a special footnote tied to one of the Senator's great joys in life.
    USA Today's pet blog ran a short piece on this on Wednesday:
    Politics aside, U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy will be remembered by many for his contributions to the nation and also for his love for his dogs Sunny and Splash, Portuguese Water Dogs.
    He told Harry Smith of CBS in a 2006 interview: "Splash is a part of our family, but he's part of the senate family as well. He comes to work with me every day with his little niece Sunny and members of the senate dome. He's not allowed to go on the senate floor. He's troubled by that... because he thinks, he says that they won't let him on because people will say that they don't think he knows how to behave. But actually, he says that he behaves a lot better than most senators."
    He gave President Obama his puppy, a Portuguese Water Dog, named Bo.
    Kennedy wrote a children's book My Senator and Me in Sunny's voice. One of his greatest joys was sailing with his wife Vicki and the dogs on his sloop Mya.
    Indeed, Bo came from the same lineage as Senator Kennedy’s dogs. Here’s a (rare) photo of the Senator and his wife greeting Bo in the White House:
    Senator and Mrs. Kennedy with Bo
    Sen. Ted Kennedy and his wife Vicki greet Bo in the Outer Oval Office of the White House April 21, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

  • From New York to California, the White House Open Government Initiative is pleased to see states and cities increasing transparency and civic engagement. On June 5th, New York State announced Empire 2.0, modeled on the President’s Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government. Three weeks later, Mayor Bloomberg announced a series of transparency initiatives, including NYC Big Apps, a new annual prize for innovative applications based on city data.  Now, San Francisco, too, is taking bold steps towards greater openness.
    Last week, San Francisco launched DataSF.org. Modeled on our very own Data.gov, DataSF.gov provides easy access to a clearinghouse of structured, raw and machine-readable government data.  San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said he hopes the city’s coders and entrepreneurs will use the data to create new innovative services "never imagined within the walls of government":
    "The idea behind the site is to open up San Francisco government and tap into the creative expertise of our greatest resource – our residents.  We hope DataSF.org will create a torrent of innovation similar to when the developer community was given access to the platforms behind popular technologies and devices like Facebook and Apple’s iPhone."
    States and cities have always served as a laboratory for democracy. The examples mentioned here are but a handful of open government initiatives cropping up across the country.  If your town, county, state, or region is launching a new open government initiative or perfecting a successful model, we want to hear about it. We look forward to hearing your comments over at the OSTP blog.
    Robynn Sturm is United States Assistant Deputy Chief Technology Officer

  • It is no coincidence that for all of the diversity in President Obama’s Cabinet, virtually every member has been touched in a profound way by the life of Senator Ted Kennedy. Below is a sample of statements that have been issued today.
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
    "Today I join all Americans in mourning the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, one of our nation’s finest statesmen and a dear friend. My thoughts and prayers are with Senator Kennedy’s wife Vicki, his children, grandchildren, and all the members of the extended Kennedy family.
    "For five decades, Senator Kennedy was at the heart of our greatest debates, serving on the front lines of democracy. With optimism and courage, he helped us meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of our times. He was a champion for women and families, for health care, education, civil rights and the environment. He inspired generation after generation of young Americans to enter public service, to stand up for justice and to fight for progress. And he was a legislator without peer, who understood both when to stand his ground and when to seek out the common ground on which compromise and progress is built.
    "When I was First Lady, we worked together to provide health insurance for America’s children. When I arrived in the Senate, he was a generous mentor and a thoughtful colleague. We worked together to raise the minimum wage, improve education, and champion the cause we shared so deeply: ensuring that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care. And as Secretary of State, I valued his counsel on how to make America a force for peace and progress around the world.
    "I will always treasure the memory of his friendship and the time we spent together, from the Massachusetts waters he loved so much, to the floor of the Senate that will feel empty without his booming voice and broad smile.
    "We have lost Ted, but his life’s work will shape our nation for years to come. His legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans who are freer, healthier, and more prosperous because of his efforts. As he said, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."
    National Security Advisor General James L. Jones:
    "As a young Senate Liaison officer during the early 1980’s, I had the opportunity to get to know Senator Edward Kennedy who was then a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Senator Kennedy and his staff were among some of the best supporters the Marine Corps ever had on Capitol Hill.  Despite his many responsibilities, he always made time for me on issues of importance to Marines and their families.  Always gracious and well informed, the Senator was instrumental in the passage of the landmark legislation known as Goldwater-Nichols and military pay reforms, which ushered in the most comprehensive reforms of our military and defense establishment since the end of World War II.
    "Senator Kennedy, among the many things he will be remembered for, deserves to be honored for his genuine care and compassion for our men and women in uniform – his tireless work and his voting record clearly supports this distinction.  While he never shied from challenging our senior military leadership during hundreds of committee hearings, he could always be counted on to be fair and open-minded in letting witnesses like me make our case to the committee and to the American people.  He contributed a great deal to my "Washington education", and I’m sure he is most proud of the contributions many of his former staff members continue to make to our nation today. "   
    HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius:
    "I join Americans across the country in mourning the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy and extending my deepest condolences to the Kennedy family. The Kennedys are a part of my family's political history. I vividly remember my parents’ joyous celebration when President Kennedy was elected in 1960. I was proud to serve as one of Senator Kennedy's Kansas campaign co-chairs in 1980 and it was a tremendous honor to work with him throughout the course of my career.
    "Senator Kennedy spent his career fighting to improve the health of the American people and extend services to those in need. His work touches all of us and almost every corner of the Department of Health and Human Services. Today, because of his work, senior citizens who would otherwise go hungry will receive meals. Millions of children across the country will have access to medical care and Head Start. And our nation is a fairer and more just place because of his tireless efforts to promote civil rights and end discrimination.
    "Ensuring that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care was one of the causes of Senator Kennedy’s life and we will carry his mission forward. We will honor his incredible legacy of advocacy and accomplishment through our work. Senator Kennedy never let us forget our most important charge as public servants: representing the American people and giving voice to those who have been ignored or forgotten. We will always remember that lesson and his incredible service to our nation."
    Attorney General Eric Holder:
    "Senator Edward Kennedy was one of the most extraordinary, influential and kind people who ever served our country.  His steadfast advocacy for civil rights, rule of law and fairness in the criminal justice system has always been an inspiration to me, as I know it remains today for countless employees of the Department of Justice.  His loss is an immeasurable one and on this sad day my thoughts and prayers are with his family.
    "Every day I look at the portrait of his brother Robert that hangs in my office and I am reminded that the Kennedy family has shown to America, through its actions, the importance of fighting for what is right even in the face of difficult odds.  I would not be in the office I now hold were it not for their contributions and commitment to our nation.  Senator Kennedy’s accomplished life came to a close last night but in the struggle to provide justice and equality for all Americans we will work every day to ensure that his cause endures and that his dreams for a better America never die."
    Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today issued the following statement regarding the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy:
    "Last night we lost a hero, and I lost a friend.  The passing of Sen. Edward Kennedy is an indescribable loss for our nation and the world. 
    "In 2000, I had the great honor of being presented the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award by the senator. And, I will always remember his insights and advice during my confirmation hearing.
    "A tireless champion of working people, Sen. Kennedy dedicated his life to making America a better place.  Over the past half century, his efforts shaped every major piece of legislation advancing the labor and civil rights, education, health and economic well-being of past, current and future generations.  

    "His leadership, commitment and ability to work across the aisle set the standard for policymakers.  And he made progress a reality for everyone in America.

    "It is difficult to think of our country without ‘Ted Kennedy.’ Such is the passing of one who has done so much good for so many. Our hearts go out to his wife, Vicki, and his children, Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara. And we find comfort in knowing his legacy will endure as long as justice, fairness and opportunity for all remain the core of America’s values."
    Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:
    "Senator Kennedy was a tireless agent of change on behalf of the American people.  His passing marks a great loss for both the United States Senate and the Nation.
    "He dedicated his life in public service to ensuring fairness and opportunity for all people. I drew inspiration from Senator Kennedy throughout my career, and will miss his voice as a champion of education reform.
    "My wife Karen and I extend our prayers and condolences to the Kennedy family, especially with Senator Kennedy’s wife Vicki, and with Kara, Teddy Jr. and Patrick."
    Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar:
    "We have lost a great leader and a great man today.  Senator Kennedy was not just a colleague but a friend who inspired me, as he inspired so many, to serve this great country, to seek justice, and to care for the least among us.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family.  He will be sorely missed."

  • If you read the report or even skimmed the headlines coming out of Monday's findings on H1N1 from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, you probably have a good idea of why the Administration has been so insistent on highlighting this issue even as it has largely faded into the media background.
    One community that might understandably be particularly concerned is pregnant women, which is why HHS and Flu.gov are hosting a Webcast to discuss how pregnant women and new mothers can prepare for H1NI as flu season approaches.  Secretary Sebelius of HHS and Tina Tchen from the White House will be joined by experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Health, and an OB/GYN.

  • Some shots of Senator Kennedy’s time with the Obamas and in the White House this year:
    play
    The President also just issued the Proclamation below:
    DEATH OF SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY
    - - - - - - -
    BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
    A PROCLAMATION
                    Senator Edward M. Kennedy was not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy. Over the past half-century, nearly every major piece of legislation that has advanced the civil rights, health, and economic well-being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts. With his passing, an important chapter in our American story has come to an end.
     
    As a mark of respect for the memory of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on August 30, 2009. I also direct that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff until sunset on the day of his interment. I further direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same periods at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
     
                    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-sixth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.

     

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    The Vice President spoke with great emotion and depth this morning on the passing of his good and long-time friend Senator Kennedy. He spoke at length, and the full transcript is posted here -- read an excerpt below:
    He and I were talking after his diagnosis.  And I said, I think you're the only other person I've met, who like me, is more optimistic, more enthusiastic, more idealistic, sees greater possibilities after 36 years than when we were elected.  He was 30 years-old when he was elected; I was 29 years-old.  And you'd think that would be the peak of our idealism.  But I genuinely feel more optimistic about the prospect for my country today than I did -- I have been any time in my life. 
    And it was infectious when you were with him.  You could see it, those of you who knew him and those of you who didn't know him.  You could just see it in the nature of his debate, in the nature of his embrace, in the nature of how he every single day attacked these problems.  And, you know, he was never defeatist.  He never was petty -- never was petty.  He was never small.  And in the process of his doing, he made everybody he worked with bigger -- both his adversaries as well as his allies.
    Don't you find it remarkable that one of the most partisan, liberal men in the last century serving in the Senate had so many of his -- so many of his foes embracing him, because they know he made them bigger, he made them more graceful by the way in which he conducted himself.
    You know, he changed the circumstances of tens of millions of Americans -- in the literal sense, literally -- literally changed the circumstances.  He changed also another aspect of it as I observed about him -- he changed not only the physical circumstance, he changed how they looked at themselves and how they looked at one another.  That's a remarkable, remarkable contribution for any man or woman to make.  And for the hundreds, if not thousands, of us who got to know him personally, he actually -- how can I say it -- he altered our lives as well.
    Through the grace of God and accident of history I was privileged to be one of those people and every important event in my adult life -- as I look back this morning and talking to Vicki -- every single one, he was there.  He was there to encourage, to counsel, to be empathetic, to lift up.  In 1972 I was a 29 year old kid with three weeks left to go in a campaign, him showing up at the Delaware Armory in the middle of what we called Little Italy -- who had never voted nationally by a Democrat -- I won by 3,100 votes and got 85 percent of the vote in that district, or something to that effect.  I literally would not be standing here were it not for Teddy Kennedy -- not figuratively, this is not hyperbole -- literally.
    He was there -- he stood with me when my wife and daughter were killed in an accident.  He was on the phone with me literally every day in the hospital, my two children were attempting, and, God willing, thankfully survived very serious injuries.  I'd turn around and there would be some specialist from Massachusetts, a doc I never even asked for, literally sitting in the room with me.
    You know, it's not just me that he affected like that -- it's hundreds upon hundreds of people.  I was talking to Vicki this morning and she said -- she said, "He was ready to go, Joe, but we were not ready to let him go."

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    The President spoke at 9:57 this morning at Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, Massachusetts:
    THE PRESIDENT:  I wanted to say a few words this morning about the passing of an extraordinary leader, Senator Edward Kennedy.
    Over the past several years, I've had the honor to call Teddy a colleague, a counselor, and a friend.  And even though we have known this day was coming for some time now, we awaited it with no small amount of dread.
    Since Teddy's diagnosis last year, we've seen the courage with which he battled his illness.  And while these months have no doubt been difficult for him, they've also let him hear from people in every corner of our nation and from around the world just how much he meant to all of us.  His fight has given us the opportunity we were denied when his brothers John and Robert were taken from us:  the blessing of time to say thank you -- and goodbye.
    The outpouring of love, gratitude, and fond memories to which we've all borne witness is a testament to the way this singular figure in American history touched so many lives.  His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives -- in seniors who know new dignity, in families that know new opportunity, in children who know education's promise, and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just -- including myself.
    The Kennedy name is synonymous with the Democratic Party.  And at times, Ted was the target of partisan campaign attacks.  But in the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle.  His seriousness of purpose was perpetually matched by humility, warmth, and good cheer.  He could passionately battle others and do so peerlessly on the Senate floor for the causes that he held dear, and yet still maintain warm friendships across party lines.
    And that's one reason he became not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy.
    His extraordinary life on this earth has come to an end.  And the extraordinary good that he did lives on.  For his family, he was a guardian.  For America, he was the defender of a dream.
    I spoke earlier this morning to Senator Kennedy's beloved wife, Vicki, who was to the end such a wonderful source of encouragement and strength.  Our thoughts and prayers are with her, his children Kara, Edward, and Patrick; his stepchildren Curran and Caroline; the entire Kennedy family; decades' worth of his staff; the people of Massachusetts; and all Americans who, like us, loved Ted Kennedy.

  • A Statement from President Obama:
    Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.
    For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.
    I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.
    An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time.
    And the Kennedy family has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad.
    Our hearts and prayers go out to them today--to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.

     

  • I wanted to take a minute today to introduce you to the new White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) webpage. We hope you will visit here often for updates on our progress in developing a National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and in helping the President to advance his HIV-related policy agenda. You can also use this page to provide feedback regarding the NHAS and other HIV/AIDS issues.

    From this page, you can use the tabs to navigate to other pages to learn more about the ONAP team, our plans for developing the NHAS, how to submit comments and public input for the NHAS, and how to contact us.

    Every nine-and-a-half minutes, someone in the United States becomes infected with HIV…resulting in more than 56,000 new infections each year. We also have more than 1.2 million people in this country who are living with HIV/AIDS, many of whom require services and support. Clearly, we continue to face a very serious public health challenge in responding to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic. Working together, I am confident that we can stop the spread of HIV and ensure that those affected get the care and support they need.

    Jeffrey S. Crowley is the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy
     

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    This morning the President announced the nomination of Ben Bernanke for a second term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  In his announcement in Martha’s Vineyard, the President put Bernanke’s service in context:
    THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. I apologize for interrupting the relaxing that I told all of you to do, but I have an important announcement to make concerning the Federal Reserve.
    The man next to me, Ben Bernanke, has led the Fed through one of the worst financial crises that this nation and the world has ever faced. As an expert on the causes of the Great Depression, I'm sure Ben never imagined that he would be part of a team responsible for preventing another. But because of his background, his temperament, his courage, and his creativity, that's exactly what he has helped to achieve. And that is why I am re-appointing him to another term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

    Ben approached a financial system on the verge of collapse with calm and wisdom; with bold action and out-of-the-box thinking that has helped put the brakes on our economic freefall. Almost none of the decisions that he or any of us made have been easy. The actions we've taken to stabilize our financial system, to repair our credit markets, restructure our auto industry, and pass a recovery package have all been steps of necessity, not choice. They've faced plenty of critics, some of whom argued that we should stay the course or do nothing at all. But taken together, this "bold, persistent experimentation" has brought our economy back from the brink. They're steps that are working. Our recovery plan has put tax cuts in people's pockets, extended health care and unemployment insurance to those who have borne the brunt of this recession, and is continuing to save and create jobs that otherwise would have been lost. Our auto industry is showing signs of life. Business investment is showing signs of stabilizing. Our housing market and credit markets have been saved from collapse.

    Of course, as I've said before, we are a long way away from completely healthy financial systems and a full economic recovery. And I will not let up until those Americans who are looking for jobs can find them; until qualified businesses, large and small, who need capital to grow can find loans at a rate they can afford; and until all responsible mortgage-holders can stay in their homes. That's why we need Ben Bernanke to continue the work he's doing, and that's why I've said that we cannot go back to an economy based on overleveraged banks, inflated profits, and maxed-out credit cards.

    For even as we've taken steps to rescue our financial system and our economy, we must now work to rebuild a new foundation for growth and prosperity. We have to build an economy that works for every American, and one that leads the world in innovation, in investments, and in experts -- exports.

    Part of that foundation has to be a financial regulatory system that ensures we never face a crisis like this again. We've already seen how lax enforcement and weak regulation can lead to enormous wealth for a few and enormous pain for everybody else. And that's why even though there is some resistance on Wall Street from those who would prefer to keep things the way they are, we will pass the reforms necessary to protect consumers, investors, and the entire financial system. And we will continue to maintain a strong and independent Federal Reserve.

    We will also keep working towards the reform of a health insurance system whose costs and discriminatory practices are bankrupting our families, our businesses, and our government. We will continue to build a clean energy economy that creates the jobs and industries of the future within our borders. And we will give our children and our workers the skills and training they need to compete for these jobs in the 21st century.

    Much like the decisions we've made so far, the steps we take to build this new foundation will not be easy. Change never is. As Ben and I both know, it comes with debate and disagreement and resistance from those who prefer the status quo. And that's all right, because that's how democracy is supposed to work. But no matter how difficult change is, we will pursue it relentlessly because it is absolutely necessary to lift this country up and create an economy that leads to good jobs, broad growth, and a future our children can count on. That's what we're here to do, and that's what we will continue to do in the months ahead. So I want to congratulate Ben on the work that he's done so far, wish him continued success in the hard work that he has before him. Thank you so much, Ben.

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