Our Top Stories
November 09, 2009
04:10 PM EDT
Just a quick post to report on a meeting today with a group of lobbyists and others who currently chair Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs). The group had objected to the Administration's new policies barring the appointment (and reappointment) of federally registered lobbyists to agency boards and commissions. Although we have previously addressed their views here and here, we feel it important to meet with those with whom we disagree to discuss their concerns face to face. Much of the discussion focused on the arguments offered in the letter the group sent us (pdf) and our response letter (pdf). Click here (pdf) for the list of attendees.
We explained to the ITAC chairs that this issue is not about the few corrupt lobbyists or specific abuses by the profession, but rather concerns the system as a whole. For too long, lobbyists and those who can afford their services have held disproportionate influence over national policy making. The purpose of the President’s agenda to change the way business is done in Washington is to level the playing field to make sure that all Americans and not just those with access to money or power are able to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed by Washington.
We explained that in deciding to limit the ability of lobbyists to serve in government positions, including as members of agency advisory boards and commissions, we considered various arguments and counterarguments. We weighed the options, and considered the alternatives. In the end, we decided that while lobbyists have a right to petition the government, it would best serve the interests of a fairer and more representative democracy if we limited their ability to do so from special positions of privileged access within the government.
The result will be a Washington that is more reflective of all of America. We have already begun the process of recruiting new voices to advise the government through these agency boards. We believe small- and medium-sized business owners will be excited by the opportunity to help serve their country and advocate for their interests.
To make it even easier for those with valuable insight and expertise to offer to join this process from outside the Beltway, the Administration is working to develop tools to utilize internet technologies to make federal advisory committee proceedings accessible online. For example, the most recent meeting of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) was watched online by 5000 people. This Administration is committed to seeking out those voices and bringing the change they represent into the decision making process in Washington.
We explained this to the ITAC chairs and asked for their help in reaching out to broaden and diversify these boards and commissions. We informed them that while we will always seek ways to improve good policies, we do not intend to rescind this decision. The ITAC chairs, although expressing their disagreement, are willing to assist in finding qualified replacements and we thank them for their commitment to working together to make the system work better for everyone.
Norm Eisen is special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform
Terrell McSweenyNovember 09, 2009
04:09 PM EDT
On Thursday at the Center for American Progress in Washington D.C., Vice President Biden moderated an in-depth discussion focusing on the long-term, structural challenges facing middle class families in today’s economy. Joined by a panel of policy experts, the group focused on broader issues such as the overall labor market in recent decades; shifting gender roles and the need for work-life balance in today’s economy; economic inequality and mobility; the increased gap between productivity and wages, and much more.
Going forward, the Middle Class Task Force will continue working with these panelists, among other outside experts, developing policy ideas to help lift the living standards of working families. As the Vice President put it Thursday: "That dynamic—where the economy’s moving forward as middle class families fall back—that just doesn’t work for the president, for me, and, certainly, for millions of families who are finding the system to be working against them, not for them."
Check out the video below:
Terrell McSweeny is Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President.
November 09, 2009
12:33 PM EDT
The President hosted a remarkable group of wounded veterans a few weeks ago on the White House basketbal court. These "Wounded Warriors" from Walter Reed Army Medical Center showed President Obama a thing or two about wheelchair basketball. Check out the impressive moves that can be performed on four wheels:
Jesse LeeNovember 09, 2009
10:54 AM EDT
It's no secret that institutions of all stripes focus their communications on certain messages day to day. We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published what our focus will be for the day, along with any related articles, documents, or reports. Today we publish our second batch.
Supporting website: "Affordable Health Care for America Act," Speaker.gov
Talking Points: Passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act
- Saturday night, in an historic vote, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would finally make real the promise of quality, affordable health care for the American people.
- The Affordable Health Care for America Act provides stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality affordable options for those who don't; and brings down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and the government while strengthening the financial health of Medicare.
- It is also fully paid for and will reduce our long-term federal deficit.
- Thanks to the hard work of the House, we are just two steps away from achieving health insurance reform in America.
Talking Points: Closer to Reform than Ever Before
- The House of Representatives' historic step brings us far closer to comprehensive health insurance reform than ever before.
- Now it's time for the United States Senate to follow suit. We are absolutely confident that it will and President Obama looks forward to signing reform into law by the end of this year.
- Thanks to the long hours and hard work the Senate has already put in, it too is close to passing reform legislation. And the level of agreement between the House and Senate versions of reform is remarkable.
- Like the House bill, the Senate legislation would provide unprecedented security and stability for Americans with insurance. It would provide quality, affordable options for Americans without insurance. And it would lower costs for families, businesses, and the nation as a whole.
- And like the House version, the Senate proposal is also fully paid for and would reduce our national deficit.
Jesse LeeNovember 07, 2009
05:33 PM EDT
Today the House reaches another major milestone in the effort to pass health insurance reform, and effort decades in the making.
Predictably, opponents of reform are taking their misleading claims to new heights. For example, they claim that CEA Chair Christina Romer has said that reform would cost millions of jobs. This is flatly false, as demonstrated by the independent watchdog Politifact and Romer's own statement.
Opponents of reform have also manufactured a chart attempting to depict reform as some sort of maze of bureaucracy. This is also false. Here is a chart that accurately reflects the President's plan:
Jesse LeeNovember 07, 2009
12:00 AM EDT
The President condemns the "despicable" attacks at Fort Hood, honoring those who were killed and injured. He also commends those who stood up to help and console those affected: "even as we saw the worst of human nature on full display, we also saw the best of America."
Secretary Hilda SolisNovember 06, 2009
06:20 PM EDT
This morning the Department of Labor released its Employment Situation report for October and while the numbers are disappointing, they are not surprising. Analysts have known for some time that the unemployment rate could reach this level, but it remains an unacceptable situation.
When this administration began its work in January 2009, the economy was in a freefall, shedding 700,000 jobs a month. We met these challenges head on by immediately putting a plan into action to create jobs and drive economic growth. As a result, housing markets are now showing signs of recovery, credit is flowing again and just last week we saw that the economy is growing, rather than shrinking, for the first time in a year.
Unfortunately, there are still millions of Americans who want employment but cannot find it. We are committed to supporting these Americans as they look for work and struggle to raise their families and pay their bills.
Earlier today, the President signed legislation that expands unemployment benefits as well as provides an additional tax cut for struggling businesses to help save and create jobs. Extended UI benefits will strengthen our economy further. By helping struggling families pay for groceries and other household needs, economists say that these benefits are one of the best ways to stimulate economic activity.
In addition to this extension, we’ve worked over the past months to revolutionize the unemployment insurance (UI) system. The Recovery Act made $7 billion available in incentives to states to modernize their UI systems. As a result, more workers, including part-timers, and people upgrading their skills are now eligible for benefits for the very first time. These efforts have not only have strengthened the safety net but make it possible for unemployment insurance to be a stepping stone to a better future for millions of Americans.
To be sure, we have a long way to go. There are still millions of Americans who need and want work but can’t find it. There are still too many families struggling. But you can’t have job growth until you have growth in economic output. That is what the policies of this Administration are designed to create and I will make sure that the Department of Labor is supporting workers every step of the way.
Hilda Solis is the Secretary of Labor
Jesse LeeNovember 06, 2009
02:07 PM EDT
This morning the President gave some brief remarks in the Rose Garden, and before discussing the news on job numbers that also concern all Americans, gave an update on his response to the tragic incident at Fort Hood yesterday:
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I want to begin by offering an update on the tragedy that took place yesterday at Fort Hood.
This morning I met with FBI Director Mueller and the relevant agencies to discuss their ongoing investigation into what caused one individual to turn his gun on fellow servicemen and women. We don't know all the answers yet and I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts.
What we do know is that there are families, friends and an entire nation grieving right now for the valiant men and women who came under attack yesterday in one of the worst mass shootings ever to take place on an American military base. So from now until Veterans Day I've ordered the flags at the White House and other federal buildings to be flown at half-staff. This is a modest tribute to those who lost their lives even as many were preparing to risk their lives for their country. And it's also recognition of the men and women who put their lives on the line everyday to protect our safety and uphold our values. We honor their service, we stand in awe of their sacrifice, and we pray for the safety of those who fight and for the families of those who have fallen. And as we continue to learn more about what happened at Fort Hood, this administration will continue to provide you updates in the coming days and weeks.
UPDATE: The President has just issued the following proclamation:Honoring the Victims of the Tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas
- - - - - - -
By The President of the United States of America
Our Nation's thoughts and prayers are with the service members, civilians, and families affected by the tragic events at Fort Hood, Texas. The brave victims, who risked their lives to protect their fellow countrymen, serve as a constant source of strength and inspiration to all Americans. We ask God to watch over the fallen, the wounded, and all those who are suffering at this difficult hour.
As a mark of respect honoring the victims of the tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the 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, Tuesday, November 10, 2009. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time 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 sixth day of November, 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.
Jesse LeeNovember 06, 2009
11:59 AM EDT
Like military moms across the country, Dr. Jill Biden looked for small ways to send the comforts of home to son Beau during his deployment: she and Vice President Biden sent him a Christmas stocking stuffed with candy and playing cards; she baked him his favorite brownies for his birthday; she helped him keep up with children Natalie and Hunter by mailing artwork and photos of soccer games. This Veterans Day, with Beau safely home after almost a year in Iraq, Dr. Biden expresses her gratitude for the sacrifices of all military families in an essay published today in USA WEEKEND Magazine, and shares how she plans to honor the men and women who risk their lives for our country:
It helps that families such as ours realize we're never alone, as I've seen this year how powerful the support of the community can be: A local restaurant provides pizzas at a welcome-home event; a minor-league baseball team, the Wilmington Blue Rocks, dedicates a game night in support of our troops; one of our schools adopts a military unit. Then, there's an organization I've worked with in the past few years called Delaware Boots on the Ground. It started as a group of military moms and spouses who came together to support our Delaware National Guard members and their families. "Boots" now performs simple acts of service for deployed soldiers and their families, like supporting summer camps for children who have a deployed parent. There are just so many ways that each American can lend a hand and make a difference.
Beau came home safely Sept. 25, after almost a year in Iraq. My family feels so blessed.
Joe and I plan to visit Arlington National Cemetery this Veterans Day and spend time with veterans and soldiers to show our thanks. On Veterans Day and every day, it's our duty to show appreciation for their service and remember that each of us has the ability to make a difference in the life of a service member. Even though Beau's deployment is complete, I still consider myself a member of the military family. I always will.
Jesse LeeNovember 06, 2009
10:41 AM EDT
During a visit yesterday to the Department of Energy, First Lady Michelle Obama was all smiles as she praised employees for their bright ideas, innovation, and hard work—all in the name of making the United States a more energy-efficient country. She also made sure to highlight the importance of investing in the future scientists of the country—the children who today sit in math and science classes across the country, and tomorrow will be working in our labs:
But whether it's doing groundbreaking scientific research; or ensuring our nuclear security; making our homes, our offices, our cars, appliances more efficient; or fighting to turn the tide on climate change, what you're doing here couldn't be more urgent. Your work is critical for our economy and our national security and preserving our environment for our kids and our grandkids. That's the work that you do.
And it's not easy. Everyone knows it's not easy. And I know that most of what you're working on right now, as hard as you're working, probably won't even be finished this year, or maybe not even this administration, or even during the course of your careers here at the Department. You may not see the final outcome of the work that you're doing.
So in the coming decades, you all will be passing the torch to the next generation. Truly, you're going to be handing over what you've begun to a lot of young people who are right now just beginning to develop -- those future scientists and public servants. And it truly will be up to that next generation, it's going to be up to them, our children, our grandchildren, the young people that we mentor, it's going to be up to them to carry all of this wonderful work forward.
Christina RomerNovember 06, 2009
09:30 AM EDT
Today's employment report contained both signs of hope for recovery and painful evidence of continued labor market weakness.
Payroll employment declined 190,000 in October, continuing the steady trend of moderating job loss that began last spring. Furthermore, the employment loss in both August and September was revised down substantially. Importantly, employment in temporary help services, typically one of the first industries to see job gains, increased by 33,700. The motor vehicle industry also posted employment gains. These are hopeful signs that the unprecedented policy actions are working to stabilize the economy and put us on a path toward recovery.
The unemployment rate, however, rose four-tenths of a percentage point, to 10.2 percent. That this occurred despite the rise in real GDP last quarter reflects both the typical lag between GDP growth and unemployment decline, and the recent exceptional increases in productivity. Having the unemployment rate reach double-digits is a stark reminder of how much work remains to be done before American families see the job gains and reduced unemployment that they need and deserve.
Christina Romer is Chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisers
Jesse LeeNovember 05, 2009
06:13 PM EDT
This morning, when the President gave his opening remarks at the Tribal Nations Conference, the day looked very different. By 5:02 EST when he was scheduled to give closing remarks, it was clear that all Americans were rightly concerned with the tragedy in Texas, and the President took his time to give his thoughts and prayers:
Now, I have to say, though, that beyond that, I plan to make some broader remarks about the challenges that lay ahead for Native Americans, as well as collaboration with our administration, but as some of you might have heard, there has been a tragic shooting at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas. We don't yet know all the details at this moment; we will share them as we get them. What we do know is that a number of American soldiers have been killed, and even more have been wounded in a horrific outburst of violence.
My immediate thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and with the families of the fallen, and with those who live and serve at Fort Hood. These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis. It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.
I've spoken to Secretary Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and I will continue to receive a constant stream of updates as new information comes in. We are working with the Pentagon, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, all to ensure that Fort Hood is secure, and we will continue to support the community with the full resources of the federal government.
In the meantime, I would ask all Americans to keep the men and women of Fort Hood in your thoughts and prayers. We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident. And I want all of you to know that as Commander-in-Chief, there's no greater honor but also no greater responsibility for me than to make sure that the extraordinary men and women in uniform are properly cared for and that their safety and security when they are at home is provided for.
So we are going to stay on this. But I hope in the meantime that all of you recognize the scope of this tragedy, and keep everybody in their thoughts and prayers.
Jesse LeeNovember 05, 2009
04:14 PM EDT
With the House having put forth their actual legislation, organizations that have withheld final judgment now have something solid to evaluate. And the floodgates have opened.
Today the President made surprise stop by the daily press briefing to commend two particular endorsements, from the AARP and the AMA. Ask yourself who you trust to tell the truth on reform and on your health – these massive organizations of doctors and seniors throwing their support behind it, or the health insurance industry, their lobbyists, and their handmaidens coming out against it.
THE PRESIDENT: Hey! Hello, everybody. Please sit down. Good afternoon, everybody. I wanted to come down and just talk a little bit about health care before Robert gives his regular briefing.
I am extraordinarily pleased and grateful to learn that the AARP and the American Medical Association are both supporting the health insurance reform bill that will soon come up to a vote in the House of Representatives.
When it comes to the AARP, this is no small endorsement. For more than 50 years, they have been a leader in the fight to reduce the cost of health care and expand coverage for our senior citizens. They are a non-partisan organization, and their board made their decision to endorse only after a careful, intensive, objective scrutiny of this bill. They're endorsing this bill because they know it will strengthen Medicare, not jeopardize it. They know it will protect the benefits our seniors receive, not cut them. So I want everybody to remember that the next time you hear the same tired arguments to the contrary from the insurance companies and their lobbyists. And remember this endorsement the next time you see a bunch of misleading ads on television.
The AARP knows this bill will make health care more affordable. They know it will make coverage more secure. They know it's a good deal for our seniors. And that's why we're thrilled that they're standing up for this effort.
The same is true for the doctors and medical professionals who are supporting this bill today. These are men and women who know our health care system best and have been watching this debate closely. They would not be supporting it if they really believed that it would lead to government bureaucrats making decisions that are best left to doctors. They would not be with us if they believed that reform would in any way damage the critical and sacred doctor-patient relationship.
Instead, they're supporting reform because they've seen firsthand what's broken about our health care system. They've seen what happens when patients can't get the care they need because some insurance company has decided to drop their coverage or water it down. They've seen what happens when a patient is forced to pay out-of-pocket costs of thousands of dollars that she doesn't have to get the treatment she desperately needs. They've seen what happens when patients don't come in for regular check-ups or screenings because either their insurance company doesn't cover them or they can't afford health insurance in the first place. And they've seen far, far too much of their time spent filling out forms and haggling with insurance company bureaucrats.
So the doctors of America know what needs to be fixed about our health care system. They know that health insurance reform would go a long way toward doing that.
We are closer to passing this reform than ever before. And now that the doctors and medical professionals of America are standing with us; now that the organizations charged with looking out for the interests of seniors are standing with us, we are even closer.
I want to thank both organizations again for their support, and I urge Congress to listen to AARP, listen to the AMA, and pass this reform for hundreds of millions of Americans who will benefit from it. Thank you.
November 05, 2009
03:22 PM EDT
More than 14,000 federal and military personnel participated in the GreenGov Challenge - submitting over 5,300 ideas and casting more than 165,000 votes. Today at 3:30pm EST, some of the top ideas are being presented to the Steering Meeting on Federal Sustainability, a group comprised of a senior official from each agency who is responsible for delivering their agency’s sustainability plan.
Tune-in at Whitehouse.gov/GreenGov to learn how we’re turning your GreenGov ideas into action.
[UPDATE: This event has now concluded. You can watch the video below.]
Secretary Arne DuncanNovember 05, 2009
02:18 PM EDT
In President Obama's address to the Muslim world delivered from Cairo in June, he called for the creation of an online network so "a teenager in Kansas can communicate instantly with a teenager in Cairo."
Yesterday, teenagers from Washington, DC and Amman did exactly that.
Dr. Waleed Al-Ma'ani, the Jordanian Minister of Education and I moderated a discussion by a dozen students from Bell Multicultural Early College High School in Washington and their counterparts in Jordan via videoconference.
Before this dialogue, the students were asked to identify a common challenge facing students in America and Jordan. The American and Jordanian students chose climate change. They corresponded before the event, writing questions to ask each other and sharing their research. The students from both countries were well-prepared and thoughtful in speaking to climate change and encouraging to each other when it was their turn to speak.
I was impressed by how quickly the students recognized the challenges climate change is presenting both countries and their individual lives.
At the end of the discussion, the students asked each other how they could keep up the dialogue. They talked about setting up a Facebook group for themselves and they made plans for a second videoconference in June. They're also talking about a joint project to set up recycling programs or public awareness campaigns about climate change at their schools.
It was tremendously exciting for me to see the President's vision becoming real. It was clear that the last statement from America to Jordan summarized the students' feelings about the event: "You all are amazing."
President Obama said in Cairo that "all of us share common aspirations - to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God." Students from both countries showed that we all believe that education can change lives.
Arne Duncan is Secretary of Education
Jesse LeeNovember 05, 2009
12:10 PM EDT
At 4:45 EST today the White House and Deputy Assistant to the President on Economic Policy Jared Bernstein welcome Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio for a live video chat. They'll be answering the questions the Senator gets most from Ohioans on health insurance reform, as well as questions taken live from our Facebook chat application.
November 05, 2009
11:42 AM EDT
Yesterday afternoon in the historic State Dining Room, First Lady Michelle Obama, honorary chair of the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities, presented 15 programs from around the world with the Coming Up Taller Award. Given to arts and humanities organizations that reach underserved youth, the award is a reminder of the meaningful role cultural activities play in the lives of our children. This year's recipients include the Shakespeare Remix program in New York, where inner-city teens adapt and perform Shakespearean texts to reflect their own lives, and the Harmony Project in Los Angeles, which provides free music instruction to at-risk children.
Speaking to a crowd of teachers, program workers, and students, the First Lady highlighted the positive impact these programs have in the lives of children around the world:
Because of you, teens in Arizona are publishing their own magazine, and children in central and south Los Angeles are learning to play instruments and performing in orchestras. Because of the work that you do, students in New York City are mastering Shakespeare. And in my hometown of Chicago, there are students learning traditional Mexican art forms. There are young people in Egypt who are learning basket weaving and storytelling, calligraphy and photography.
And you're not just connecting young people with music, dance, poetry and drama. But because of your work, you're connecting people, these young people to mentoring, to tutoring, to social services, and college counseling. You don't just show them the power of their imagination, but you show them the power of discipline and hard work and of teamwork, as well.
And these young people don't just become accomplished singers and painters and authors. They also become better students, they become better leaders, and they become better citizens, enriching not just themselves but their communities, teaching younger children the skills that they've learned, beautifying neighborhoods with murals and lifting their communities with their performances.
Ultimately, each of your programs is using achievement in the arts as a bridge to achievement in life. And you see all this every day, each and every one of you working so hard. You see this in your students as they become more confident and more engaged and more willing to take risks and to take responsibility for their futures. You see it when their academic performance improves, when you see improving attitudes and higher GPAs. And you see young people who never saw themselves as college material, you see them getting those acceptance letters and you see them going on to pursue their degrees. So we all know in this room the power of the arts to change young people's lives.
Jesse LeeNovember 05, 2009
09:19 AM EDT
All day today we will be live streaming the White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of the Interior, including opening and closing remarks from the President and discussions ranging from jobs to energy to housing to health care. As part of President Obama’s sustained outreach to the American people, this conference will provide leaders from the 564 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with the President and representatives from the highest levels of his Administration. Each federally recognized tribe has been invited to send one representative to the conference.
UPDATE: During the President’s opening remarks, he discussed the Memorandum he was about to sign:
And that's why representatives of multiple agencies are here today -- because if we're going to address the needs of Native Americans in a comprehensive way, then we've got to mount a comprehensive response.
A major step toward living up to that responsibility is the presidential memorandum that I'll be signing at this desk in just a few moments. In the final years of his administration, President Clinton issued an executive order establishing regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration between your nations and the federal government. But over the past nine years, only a few agencies have made an effort to implement that executive order -- and it's time for that to change. (Applause.)
The memorandum I'll sign directs every Cabinet agency to give me a detailed plan within 90 days of how -- the full implementation of that executive order and how we're going to improve tribal consultation. (Applause.) After all, there are challenges we can only solve by working together, and we face a serious set of issues right now.
He also discussed how tribes face the same kinds of challenges all of America faces, and how he plans to address those challenges. In closing, he made clear that he is an ally:
So there's a lot of work to be done today. But before we get at it, I want to close with this. I know you've heard this song from Washington before. I know you've often heard grand promises that sound good but rarely materialize. And each time, you're told this time will be different. But over the last few years, I've had a chance to speak with Native American leaders across the country about the challenges you face, and those conversations have been deeply important to me.
I get it. I'm on your side. I understand what it means to be an outsider. I was born to a teenage mother. My father left when I was two years old, leaving her -- my mother and my grandparents to raise me. We didn't have much. We moved around a lot. So even though our experiences are different, I understand what it means to be on the outside looking in. I know what it means to feel ignored and forgotten, and what it means to struggle. So you will not be forgotten as long as I'm in this White House. (Applause.) All right. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Together, working together, we're going to make sure that the First Americans, along with all Americans, get the opportunities they deserve. So with that, if I'm not mistaken, I am in a position now to start signing this memorandum, and then we're going to do a little Q&A. So get everything set up -- how many pens do you want me to use? Eight pens. (Laughter.) I don't know who's getting the pens, but --
(The memorandum is signed.)
Jesse LeeNovember 04, 2009
05:37 PM EDT
Earlier today, President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Wright Middle School in Madison, Wisconsin to spotlight one of the most exciting and innovative initiatives in education reform history: the Race to the Top Award. Designed to reward schools that take initiative to improve, the award provides grants—there is $4 billion on the table—to districts that demonstrate a commitment to advancement and higher standards. As he almost always does, he took some time to talk directly to the kids there about how invaluable education has been to both him and the First Lady: "So that's the reason why we are spending a lot of time talking to folks like you, because we want all of you to understand that there's nothing more important than what you're doing right here at this school." \
During his more formal remarks, the President discussed how the Race to the Top Award will make schools accountable to parents and students:
There's always excuses for why these schools can't perform. But part of what we want is an environment in which everybody agrees -- from the governor to the school superintendent, teachers, principals, and most importantly parents and students -- that there's no excuse for mediocrity. And we will take drastic steps when schools aren’t working. (Applause.)
So these are the kinds of vigorous strategies that are necessary to turn around our most troubled schools: transforming our lowest-performing schools; using timely information to improve the way we teach our children; outstanding teachers and principals in our classrooms and our schools that are getting the support they need; higher standards and better assessments that prepare our kids for life beyond a classroom. These are the challenges, the four challenges that states have to take up if they want to win a Race to the Top award.
And these are the four challenges that our country has to meet for our children to outcompete workers around the world, for our economy to grow and to prosper, and for America to lead in the 21st century.
November 04, 2009
04:57 PM EDT
Cross-posted from the Department of State's blog.
On October 19, Secretary Clinton, accompanied by Ambassador Rice and myself, released the Obama Administration’s new comprehensive strategy to confront the serious and urgent situation in Sudan. As mentioned in my past blog post, the strategy focuses on three major areas: ending the conflict in Darfur, implementing the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and ensuring that Sudan does not become a safe haven for terrorists.
This approach involves engaging with all stakeholders, in and out of Sudan, and calls for addressing the myriad set of issues facing Sudan in a coordinated and comprehensive way, based on verifiable progress on the ground.
Today, we continue this engagement and conversation in a new and unique way.
The Sudan advocacy community is extremely active and deeply committed to raising critical awareness about the situation in Sudan. The Obama Administration is eager to continue an active dialogue with the advocacy community, and as such the White House and the State Department are partnering with the Save Darfur Coalition and STAND to launch “Ask U.S.”
“Ask U.S.” is an effort to reach out to the advocacy communities and to solicit questions on the U.S. Sudan policy from activists deeply and passionately engaged on this critical issue. As part of the “Ask U.S.” campaign, the Save Darfur Coalition and STAND will collect questions from their members over the course of this week and weekend. Next Tuesday, November 10, leaders from these organizations will come to the White House and, in a live streamed video event, will pose selected questions to myself and Samantha Power, NSC Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs.
I would like to invite you to join the conversation and to watch the live stream at 3:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, November 10. Through the State Department page on Facebook you can watch as members of the advocacy community have their questions posed to us, and I also encourage you to participate by inviting your friends and family on Facebook to join in the chat as this conversation unfolds.
We look forward to opening up this dialogue, listening and learning and ultimately building ways that we can work together to support the Sudanese people in their quest for peace, security and prosperity.
The advocacy community has had a major impact by raising awareness about the situation in Sudan. By maintaining an open conversation and working together, we can make a real difference with real progress for the Sudanese people. We hope you will join us.
Major General (Ret) Scott Gration serves as the President’s Special Envoy to Sudan.