April 13, 2010
05:34 PM EDT
In the last 15 months, President Obama and his Administration have made significant progress in changing the way America thinks about energy and the environment, making the vision of a 21st century clean energy economy a reality. From historic investments in clean energy infrastructure and technology; improved efficiency for buildings, appliances and automobiles; more diverse energy production from domestic and renewable sources; and reduced emissions that contribute to climate change – the President’s comprehensive strategy has put Americans back in control of their energy future, created new jobs and laid the foundation for long-term economic security, and led by example in exercising good stewardship of our environment.
To continue the progress, we need your help. President Obama believes, "...that change won’t come from Washington alone. It will come from Americans across the country who take steps in their own homes and their own communities to make that change happen." So today, in honor of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, President Obama is challenging Americans to take action to change our nation’s energy and environmental future.
Visit WhiteHouse.gov/earthday to learn more about what you can do in your homes, communities, schools and businesses to answer the President’s call-to-action to help lay a new foundation for energy and the environment.
Anthony Russell is the Communication Advisor for the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change
Dan PfeifferApril 13, 2010
04:20 PM EDT
It’s that time of year where we’re all filling out our tax forms to get them in under the deadline, so we thought it would be worth taking a step back and looking over how two of the President’s top priorities – health reform and the Recovery Act – are helping to give a little relief to middle class families. While some critics and media outlets may want to mislead the public, or cherry-pick provisions to give another impression, there is no debating the fact that making the tax code more fair for the middle class, and helping working families get through these tough economic times has been the central plank of the President’s agenda.
Health Reform: The health reform legislation signed into law by President Obama includes the largest health care tax cut in history for middle class families, helping to make insurance much more affordable for millions of families. Here’s a more extensive list of how health reform helps ease the financial burden on the middle class:
- The largest health care tax cut in history for middle class families.
- Americans buying the same coverage they have today in the individual market will see premiums fall by 14 to 20 percent compared to what they would pay without health insurance reform and by as much as 3% for those who get coverage through their employers.
- The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit can cover up to 35 percent of the premiums a small business pays to cover its workers. In 2014, the rate will increase to 50 percent
- Reduces out-of-pocket expenses so insurance doesn’t still leave families holding the bag
- Bans lifetime limits on coverage
The Recovery Act: As the President noted in his last Weekly Address, you can get a good handle on how the Recovery Act might help you out on your taxes through our Tax Savings Tool. Here’s a glance at how the numbers break down nationwide:
- Over $160 Billion - Tax relief provided through the Recovery Act so far to families and businesses.
- Nearly $3,000 - The record average tax refund taxpayers are seeing this tax season, something the IRS says is largely due to the Recovery Act.
- Nearly 10% - The percentage average tax refunds are up this year - something the IRS says is largely due to Recovery Act tax credits.
- 95% - The percentage of working families benefiting from the Recovery Act's Making Work Pay tax credit, making it the broadest tax credit in the history of the country.
- $800 - The amount most married couples are collecting through their paychecks this year thanks to the Recovery Act's Making Work Pay tax credit. Individuals collected $400 this year thanks to Making Work Pay.
- Up to $2,500 - The expanded amount eligible taxpayers can collect with the American Opportunity Credit to help cover college expanses thanks to the Recovery Act.
- Up to $8,000 - The amount new homebuyers can collect this year for purchasing their first home thanks to the Recovery Act's expansion of the First-Time Homebuyers Tax Credit.
- Up to $1,500 - The amount homeowners can collect this year on improvements made to their homes like energy-efficient windows, doors and insulation thanks to Recovery Act tax credits.
- 65% - The amount by which the Recovery Act cut the cost of COBRA health insurance premiums for unemployed workers last year through an up-front tax credit.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
Jen PsakiApril 13, 2010
04:15 PM EDT
As we continue to work toward reforming Wall Street and making it accountable, we’re going to see the usual suspects try to misrepresent the legislation.
These same opponents of reform are pushing for loopholes and carve-outs in the bill large enough to drive a truck through.
The reality is that there’s a clear choice in this debate: to stand with American families or stand on the side of the big Wall Street banks and their lobbyists who are defending the status quo. Opponents of reform are protecting the big banks at the expense of American families -- so they’re going to do whatever they can to keep the present system in place and leave the American taxpayer with the bill.
One false criticism we’re hearing is this: that the Senate bill will allow endless taxpayer-funded bailouts of financial firms. What they won’t tell you is that they are taking their marching orders from a partisan political consultant who has told them that the best way to oppose real reform is to link it to the bank bailouts. In fact, the polling memo they’re working from explicitly states that “the best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the Big Bank Bailout.” No matter what the bill actually does, they’re going to call it a bailout because that’s what the polls tell them to do.
Here are the facts: this bill does the exact opposite of what these critics say it does. The Senate bill explicitly mandates that a large financial firm that faces failure will be allowed to fail, and it explicitly prohibits the use of any funds to “bail out” a failing firm. Under the Senate bill, large financial firms facing insolvency in times of crisis will be shut down or broken apart. Management will be replaced. Creditors will suffer losses. Equity holders will be wiped out. And large financial firms, not taxpayers, will be required to bear the costs. Under the Senate bill, the taxpayers will never be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s irresponsibility.
President Obama has been committed to enacting real Wall Street reform since well before taking office, and he believes that momentum is on the side of greater accountability for Wall Street and strong protections for consumers. The idea that we would walk away learning no lessons from this financial crisis – after over 8 million Americans lost their jobs and trillions in household wealth disappeared – is simply unacceptable. It’s time to set new rules of the road to fix the behavior that led to this crisis, because the American people have suffered too much to enact reform that does too little. Inaction is simply not an option.
Jen Psaki is Deputy Communications Director
Jesse LeeApril 13, 2010
01:53 PM EDT
Today the President and delegations from 46 other nations are working to address the most dire threat of our time: nuclear terrorism. It is the second day of the Nuclear Security Summit, following a first day during which several nations made significant commitments which will strengthen the global effort to maintain nuclear security and nonproliferation. For instance:
- Chile has shipped its highly enriched uranium to the United States; Ukraine has agreed to ship its highly enriched uranium out of the country within two years; and Canada has agreed to ship its used highly enriched uranium to the United States.
- The United States and Russia have reached an agreement on plutonium disposal, a deal that has been stalled since 2000, and which commits both countries to eliminate enough total plutonium for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons.
- Recognizing the importance of this summit, and that its goals require a long-term commitment, South Korea has agreed to host the next Nuclear Security Summit in 2012.
And of course this summit follows two major steps on the issues of nuclear security, non-proliferation, and the threat of nuclear terrorism: the release of the Nuclear Posture Review and the signing of the New START Treaty with Russia. This morning the President addressed the first of two major Plenary Sessions, offering his condolences to the people of Poland for their recent losses, and once again laying out the scope of the threat before closing on his vision for progress.
So today is an opportunity -- not simply to talk, but to act. Not simply to make pledges, but to make real progress on the security of our people. All this, in turn, requires something else, which is something more fundamental. It will require a new mindset -- that we summon the will, as nations and as partners, to do what this moment in history demands.
I believe strongly that the problems of the 21st century cannot be solved by any one nation acting in isolation. They must be solved by all of us coming together.
At the dawn of the nuclear age that he helped to unleash, Albert Einstein said: “Now everything has changed…” And he warned: “We are drifting towards a catastrophe beyond comparison. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”
That truth endures today. For the sake of our common security, for the sake of our survival, we cannot drift. We need a new manner of thinking -- and action. That is the challenge before us. And I thank all of you for being here to confront that challenge together, in partnership.
And with that, I’m going to ask that we take a few moments to allow the press to exit before our first session.
UPDATE: From the course of the day, read the President's statement on Russia shutting down its final plutonium reactor, as well as the Trilateral Announcement Between Mexico, the United States, and Canada on Nuclear Security.
April 13, 2010
12:00 PM EDT
Moments ago First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti – a visit to underscore to the Haitian people and the Haitian government the enduring U.S. commitment to help recover and rebuild, especially as we enter the rainy and hurricane seasons. Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden will thank the women and men across the whole of the U.S. government for their extraordinary efforts in Haiti during the past three months and reach out to the UN and international relief communities in recognition of the truly global effort underway to help Haiti.
Check back later tonight for photo and video updates from the trip.
Katie McCormick Lelyveld is Press Secretary to First Lady Michelle Obama
April 13, 2010
10:14 AM EDT
One of the goals of President Obama's Strategy for American Innovation is to harness science and technology to address the "grand challenges" of the 21st century in areas such as health, clean energy, national security, and education and life-long learning. Grand challenges are important national goals like putting a man on the Moon or sequencing the human genome that require advances in science and technology to achieve. They also have the potential to drive sustainable economic growth and the creation of quality jobs.
Examples of specific goals that have been previously articulated by the President and others include early detection of dozens of diseases from a saliva sample, solar cells as cheap as paint, and educational software that is as compelling as the best video game and effective as a personal tutor.
In February 2010, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Economic Council released a "Request for Information" to collect input from the public regarding the grand challenges identified in the President's innovation strategy, other possible grand challenges, and the partners (e.g. companies, universities, non-profit organizations) that would need to collaboration to achieve these ambitious goals. The deadline for responses is Thursday, April 15th.
Harnessing the expertise of the American people is a key element of President Obama's open government agenda.
I'm delighted that Expert Labs, a project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has developed some great tools to help the government (and anyone else, for that matter) capture the ideas and insights of participants in social networks. For example, you can send your idea via twitter by replying to @whitehouse and including the #whgc hashtag (a tip: check out other ideas with this search).
You can also email your ideas to email@example.com.
We are really looking forward to reviewing your ideas, and to sharing the progress that we make in the weeks and months ahead to reach these ambitious goals.
Thomas Kalil is Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Jesse LeeApril 13, 2010
09:44 AM EDT
[UPDATE: This event has now concluded.]
After a series of productive bilateral meetings and a working dinner yesterday, the Nuclear Security Summit continues today with the two major Plenary Sessions. The first day saw significant progress, including work towards consensus on Iran and Ukraine’s landmark decision to get rid of all of its stockpile of highly enriched uranium -- a goal for the United States going back 10 years -- by the time of the next Nuclear Security Summit in 2012.
At 1:00PM EDT today we want to give you a chance to engage on these issues of nuclear security, non-proliferation, and the threat of nuclear terrorism. Join Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication, in a live video discussion directly from the Summit itself.
April 12, 2010
05:18 PM EDT
Before a lunch meeting with foreign leaders and dignitaries, Vice President Biden delivered remarks about the significance of the Nuclear Security Summit and the “historic task of creating a better and a safer world for all our peoples.” He discussed the goal of reducing the number of nuclear weapons arsenals worldwide and the importance of controlling nuclear materials to prevent extremists groups from gaining access to them. He also talked about the United States’ support for peaceful benefits of nuclear power and technology.
The United States of America stands fully committed to supporting the promotion of peaceful benefits of nuclear power, in the context though -- in the context of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. But, again, here we can all agree that those who have developed nuclear technology should do so -- are going to develop a peaceful nuclear technology must do so wisely, with a proper attention to security, good governance, and as safely as it can possibly be done.
As countries seeking to develop your nuclear sectors, we stand ready to support you, to share our experience with you.
And we recognize that it is not a problem for governments alone to control this fissile material, it requires good regulations and public-private partnerships to get it right.
More than half the world’s dangerous nuclear materials are owned not by governments but by industry. And we will work with them, as we will work with you, to address our common concerns.
Later this week, the Vice President will host a roundtable discussion with leading nuclear industries to talk about forming partnerships and working to guarantee safety and security. Today, the President is holding several bilateral discussions with world leaders at the Nuclear Security Summit.
Jesse LeeApril 12, 2010
12:13 PM EDT
Last week saw marked progress on one of the President's key long-term foreign policy objectives to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to secure vulnerable nuclear materials. On April 8th, President Obama signed the New START Treaty which will require the United States and Russia to reduce -- by 30 percent below the levels in a treaty signed in 2002 -- the number of nuclear warheads they have deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-based ballistic missiles, and bombers. A year in the making, this treaty marked an important step towards the goal of eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons to humanity, a goal the President recognizes may not be reached in his lifetime but which will never happen if we do not strive for it. The New Start Treaty was signed two days after the Department of Defense released the new Nuclear Posture Review, which establishes as a goal of America's foreign policy "to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and focus on reducing the nuclear dangers of the 21st century, while sustaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent for the United States and our allies and partners as long as nuclear weapons exist," as the President put it in his statement.
This morning the President arrived at the Nuclear Security Summit with leaders from around the world to pursue a comprehensive nuclear security agenda to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world within four years. As Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes explained in previewing the summit, "Obviously no one nation is capable of taking the actions necessary to secure vulnerable nuclear materials that are in many different countries and in many different regions of the world. Similarly, no one nation is capable of pursuing the kind of nuclear security measures that can prevent the transit, illicit transit, of those types of materials." The summit will focus on collective action to achieve these goals, and as the largest gathering of countries by an American President dedicated to a specific issue in decades, it represents a recognition by the President and so many other leaders of the seriousness of the threat posed by nuclear terrorism.
The work of the summit began yesterday with a number of bilateral meetings, with more scheduled today with King Abdullah of Jordan, Prime Minister Mohamed Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia, President Serzh Sargsian of Armenia, and President Hu Jintao of China. The President will welcome each head of delegation late this afternoon, and the summit will begin in earnest with a working dinner tonight to be followed with much more tomorrow.
Ben RhodesApril 10, 2010
12:48 PM EDT
In a terrible accident, President Lech Kaczynski of Poland was killed in a plane crash along with his wife, and an extraordinary and distinguished delegation of Polish civilian and military leaders. This morning, President Obama called Prime Minister Tusk of Poland to express his deepest condolences for the tragic loss suffered by the Polish people. President Obama expressed the full and strong support of the American people for our close friend and ally Poland, and he released the following statement.
Today, I called Polish Prime Minister Tusk to express Michelle's and my deepest condolences to the people of Poland on the tragic deaths this morning of President Lech Kaczynski, First Lady Maria Kaczynski, and all who were traveling with them to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kaczynski family, the loved ones of those killed in this tragic plane crash, and the Polish nation.
Today’s loss is devastating to Poland, to the United States, and to the world. President Kaczynski was a distinguished statesman who played a key role in the Solidarity movement, and he was widely admired in the United States as a leader dedicated to advancing freedom and human dignity. With him were many of Poland’s most distinguished civilian and military leaders who have helped to shape Poland’s inspiring democratic transformation. We join all the people of Poland in mourning their passing.
Today, there are heavy hearts across America. The United States cherishes its deep and abiding bonds with the people of Poland. Those bonds are represented in the strength of our alliance, the friendships among our people, and the extraordinary contributions of Polish-Americans who have helped to shape our nation.
It is a testament to the strength of the Polish people that those who were lost were travelling to commemorate a devastating massacre of World War II as the leaders of a strong, vibrant, and free Poland. That strength will ensure that Poland emerges from the depths of this unthinkable tragedy, and that the legacy of the leaders who died today will be a light that continues to guide Poland – and the world – in the direction of human progress.
Ben Rhodes is Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications
Melody BarnesApril 10, 2010
12:38 PM EDT
We had a great meeting yesterday! We had teachers and child advocates, doctors and nurses, business leaders and public servants, researchers and health experts talking together about what we can do to solve the problem of childhood obesity. Cabinet officials – Education Secretary Duncan, Interior Secretary Salazar, and Office of Management and Budget Director Orszag – along with the Surgeon General and others talked about what this epidemic could cost us in the long run, how we can make our schools healthier, and how to get kids moving after school and in their communities. We then broke up into smaller groups so the participants could share their thoughts on the most important steps we can take together to combat childhood obesity. Here are some of their thoughts:
- Parents should be able to raise their kids in an environment that empowers them to make healthy choices. That includes the messages they’re receiving from advertising and marketing and the labels on the food they’re buying. Parents and other caregivers also need clear, consistent messages about the simple steps they can take to build a healthy life for their kids from day one.
- The food supply coming into schools must be improved, and we need everyone from the person working on the lunch line every day to the superintendent engaged in making sure that schools are healthy places. Kids also need to be involved in the process, and actively learning about healthy eating.
- Improving access to healthy, affordable food is a complex task, but key elements include tailoring strategies to local communities (for example, bringing mobile grocery stores to rural areas that don’t have the population to support a supermarket); expanding access to nutrition assistance programs, since hunger and obesity often co-exist; and remembering that breast milk is the first healthy food that we can provide to our children.
- We can get our children physically active by building that opportunity into the structure of the school day; through better land use planning so that children have safe routes to a playgrounds and parks; and by putting the fun back in physical activity for all of us, parents and children.
In the meantime, you were listening at home and weighing in on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We asked you to tell us your ideas to end childhood obesity within a generation and we heard from thousands of you. Here are some of the things we heard:
- “Use school as the springboard. Have kids taste and appreciate different foods in class.”
- “Educate parents. Children make the choices they are given. If the parents do not eat well, neither will the child.”
- “The Presidential Fitness Program really needs to make a comeback.”
Our report detailing an action plan to solve this problem is due to the President in about a month. We’re going to take all this feedback and, together with all the expertise around the federal government, turn it into a roadmap for how we can move in the right direction together.
P.S. We’ve been reading through the thousands of written comments we got back from a few weeks ago and people sent in some great information. For instance, we heard from children in a 2nd grade class in California who plant their own fruits and vegetables, and then host a monthly harvest where they learn about the nutrients in these healthy foods and then get to snack away on them. Stay engaged – it’s stories like this that we all like to hear and that spark our imagination.
Melody Barnes is Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy
Jesse LeeApril 10, 2010
06:00 AM EDT
As April 15th approaches, the President discusses several of the tax breaks for middle class families he has signed into law. Find out more about the Making Work Pay tax credit, breaks for first-time homebuyers, rewards for making your home more energy efficient and more through our Tax Savings Tool.
April 09, 2010
05:29 PM EDT
The White House held a Child Obesity Summit this afternoon, attended by food experts, industry leaders, and people from different communities to share and discuss ideas on how to create a healthier environment to combat childhood obesity.
The First Lady, who launched her Let’s Move campaign to address the growing epidemic, gave the opening remarks at the summit, saying that “we all need to do our parts as well, because the fact is, is that our kids didn’t do this to themselves.” At the summit, the First Lady discussed the goals of her childhood obesity initiative and the significance of getting everyone's input to create a nationwide response to the problem:
We’re working with the private sector to reach a very ambitious goal, and that is to completely eliminate food deserts in this country.
And finally, there is much, much more that we can do to help kids stay physically active, not just in school but outside of school as well.
And if we can make real progress in these four areas, then there’s so much more else we can do. But these four areas, as a country, we can reach our ultimate goal, and the ultimate goal for “Let’s Move” is to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation so that children born today grow up at a healthy weight with better notions of what is healthy, with better habits, who are incorporating exercise into their lives on a more regular basis, so there are more kids like the ones that Melody described, who know what it even means to eat healthy. That's our goal.
And to achieve this goal, we are going to need all of you. We’re going to need all of you -- your insight, your experience, your guidance. And that’s why we are so excited about this gathering here today, because you all know this issue better than just about anyone. So many of you have dedicated your lives to fighting this battle, and many of you have just -- are just thankful that there’s someone else shining the spotlight on what you have known for a long, long time.
This -- folks in this room, all of you working together, can do more than just about anyone to help us tackle this issue. What we have done is started a national conversation. We’ve started an important national conversation. But we need your help to propel that conversation into a national response.
The forum’s overall goal was to brainstorm ways to provide healthier choices for children in schools and access to healthy, affordable foods in local communities. The separate sessions focused on ways to empower parents and caregivers, serve healthier food in schools, provide access to healthier foods, and increase opportunities for physical activities. Many ideas were shared, including suggestions to change children's ways of thinking, begin urban gardening, and provide incentives for people to purchase fruits and vegetables.
To learn more about childhood obesity and how the Administration is working to raise a healthier generation of kids, visit LetsMove.gov.
April 09, 2010
05:16 PM EDT
Drum roll please …
This afternoon, we announced, in coordination with the Department of Education, the top six finalists for the first annual Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge:
- Blue Valley Northwest High School (Overland Park, Kansas)
- Clark Montessori Junior High and High School (Cincinnati, Ohio)
- Denver School of Science and Technology (Denver, Colorado)
- Environmental Charter High School (Lawndale, California)
- Kalamazoo Central High School (Kalamazoo, Michigan)
- MAST Academy (Miami, Florida)
We launched the Commencement Challenge this past February -- inviting high schools across the country to compete to have President Obama speak at their graduation. Today’s finalists were chosen for best demonstrating their dedication to academic excellence and preparing students to graduate ready for college and career choices.
Yesterday afternoon, I watched my colleagues Lauren Paige and Laura Schifter call each of the six finalists to share the good news. Take a look at some of their – let’s say – more than enthusiastic responses:
As part of today’s announcement, President Obama gave special thanks to all the high schools that submitted applications:
I thank all of the schools that submitted applications for the first Commencement Challenge and I congratulate the six finalists for demonstrating effective approaches to teaching, learning and preparing students to graduate ready for college and a career. The quality of the applications we received is a testament to the exciting work happening in schools throughout the country, and I look forward to visiting and speaking at the winning school later this spring.
So, what happens next? You get to vote. In the coming weeks, we’ll feature the six finalists on WhiteHouse.gov and let you vote for your favorites. The top three schools will then be sent to the President for the final selection.
Stay tuned to WhiteHouse.gov so you can help choose the winning high school.
Jesse LeeApril 09, 2010
03:40 PM EDT
This afternoon, President Obama commented on the news of Justice John Paul Stevens' retirement before he addressed the recent tragedy in West Virginia. The President recognized Justice Stevens as an "impartial guardian of the law" who served his tenure with "honor and humility." Stating that he views the process of selecting a Supreme Court nominee as one of his “most serious responsibilities as President,” he expressed his hopes that the Senate will “move quickly in the coming weeks” to confirm the nominee to be seated in time for the fall term.
As Justice Stevens expressed to me in the letter announcing his retirement, it is in the best interests of the Supreme Court to have a successor appointed and confirmed before the next term begins. And so I will move quickly to name a nominee, as I did with Justice Sotomayor.
Once again, I view the process of selecting a Supreme Court nominee as among my most serious responsibilities as President. And while we cannot replace Justice Stevens’ experience or wisdom, I will seek someone in the coming weeks with similar qualities -- an independent mind, a record of excellence and integrity, a fierce dedication to the rule of law, and a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people. It will also be someone who, like Justice Stevens, knows that in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. Much like they did with Justice Sotomayor, I hope the Senate will move quickly in the coming weeks to debate and then confirm my nominee so that the new Justice is seated in time for the fall term.
The President then offered his condolences to the family and friends of those who lost their lives in the mine devastation, acknowledging the dangers that workers in mines and their families face every day.
Because mining is a tradition that’s often passed down through generations, it’s not uncommon to see an entire family choose this line of work. And sadly, when a tragedy like this occurs, it’s also not uncommon to lose almost an entire family all at once.
I spoke to some surviving members of one such family on Wednesday. This week, Tim Davis, and two of his nephews, Josh, age 25, and Cory, age 20, were killed in the explosion in the Upper Big Branch mine.
Rescuers have reported that Tim and his two nephews were all found together. Two other members of their families that worked in the mine were able to escape unharmed.
Before he left for the mine on Monday, Josh wrote a letter for his girlfriend and young daughter. And in it, he said, “If anything happens to me, I’ll be looking down from heaven at you all. I love you. Take care of my baby. Tell her that daddy loves her, she’s beautiful, she’s funny. Just take care of my baby girl.”
Reflecting on that letter, and the losses she endured in just one week, Josh’s mother Pam simply said, “It is just West Virginia. When something bad happens, we come together.” When something bad happens, we come together.
Through tragedy and heartache, that’s the spirit that has sustained this community, and this country, for over 200 years. And as we pray for the souls of those we’ve lost, and the safe return of those who are missing, we are also sustained by the words of the Psalm that are particularly poignant right now. Those words read: “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” Thank you very much.
Secretary Ray LaHoodApril 09, 2010
01:54 PM EDT
The other day, I heard a great success story from a man who thanked me for the work DOT's Recovery Act grants had stimulated. He had in mind, specifically, our Federal Transit Administration grants that have allowed local and regional transit districts to upgrade and expand their fleets in times of strapped budgets.
Because of the Obama Administration's stimulus, he said, the Gillig Corporation, a 100% American bus manufacturer in California, had not only been able to retain its workforce in threatening times, but had added workers and was even working a shift on Saturdays.
Now, I've heard a lot of anecdotes like this in the past 14 months. Recovery Act grants have allowed transit agencies to purchase over 12,000 new buses, rail cars, and paratransit vans. In Tennessee, for example, a grant to the Memphis Area Transit Authority allowed them to order 26 new vehicles from Gillig.
So we decided to follow up on this story by calling Gillig and chatting with their President, Denny Howard. Here's what he had to say:
"I've been with Gillig for 32 years, so I've been watching the transit industry for decades. I meet with managers from transit agencies every day, and I have never seen the local funding in such desperate straits as today.
"A typical year industry-wide, agencies buy about 5,000 buses a year. With the stimulus, it's up to 7,000 for last year, this year, and next year. But, if the stimulus hadn't come through, the market would have dropped 40% to 3,000 buses a year for last year, this year, and at least through next year.
"That would have devastated our employees. I've heard the talk about the stimulus not creating enough jobs, but you never read a statistic about the number of jobs saved. We would have had to lay off 175 workers--more than 25% of our people.
"And there's a multiplier effect, too. Every base manufacturing job is worth five jobs down the supply chain. You can imagine how that would have knocked our suppliers.
"So even if we hadn't added workers, I'd call the Recovery Act a success. But we did. We added 40 people last year, and we know we're keeping them through at least 2011. And that has the same multiplier effect with our suppliers, but in a positive direction.
"Typically, we produce 25 vehicles a week. With the stimulus, we're up to more like 30. Without it, we'd be down to 20. There's a big difference between 20 and 30, a big difference.
"There's not a worker in our plant who doesn't know someone who's been laid-off. The fact that our people are not only secure but getting the opportunity to work some overtime on Saturdays is just phenomenal. I mean, they are eager to come to work on a Saturday.
"The stimulus has been just a tremendous success. We're one of the last made-in-America busmakers, we've been in business since we started making buggies and carriages in 1890, and we've had a great cooperative relationship with our workers.
"You can't imagine how this industry would have been decimated without that stimulus. It would have jeopardized everything we've worked to build in the last 120 years.
"Instead, we're stronger, we've added jobs, and America gets a better, safer fleet of buses."
Thank you, Denny Howard and Gillig, for doing your part and sharing your story.
After listening to Mr. Howard, we also talked to Rome Aloise, Western Regional Vice President for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and he confirmed everything we had heard.
"I travel around to transit districts, urging them to buy American," said Aloise, "because there's a ton of competition from foreign manufacturers. Having a partner like Gillig really makes that job easier for me."
"And the Recovery Act does, too," he added. "It offers cash-strapped agencies the incentive they need to upgrade their fleets. Until now, it's been the only thing standing between us and complete disaster. Going forward, it will ensure employment."
As I said, I've heard a lot of these anecdotes, but it's great to talk at length with industry people to get the real scoop on the Recovery Act's effectiveness. And it inspires all of us at DOT as we continue working hard to create more good jobs for American workers.
Ray LaHood is Secretary of Transportation
Kori SchulmanApril 09, 2010
01:17 PM EDT
Today the White House will host a meeting on childhood obesity, bringing together experts and industry leaders from across the country to discuss ways to combat the growing health epidemic. First Lady Michelle Obama, Administration officials and Childhood Obesity Task Force members will discuss healthier food in schools, access to healthy, affordable food, empowering parents and more.We want to hear from you too. Today the White House is collaborating with GOOD to ask:What are your ideas to end childhood obesity within a generation?Tell us your ideas on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. We look forward to hearing from you will feature some of the most interesting responses on the blog.Please note that the username, personal identifier or icon affiliated with responses may be posted.
Tune in to a livestream of the Childhood Obesity Forum today on WhiteHouse.gov/live
1:30 PM EDT: Opening Session with First Lady Michelle Obama
2:30 PM EDT: Breakout Sessions:
- Empowering Parents and Caregivers
- Healthier Food in Schools
- Access to Healthy, Affordable Food
- Increased Opportunities for Physical Activities
April 09, 2010
01:00 PM EDT
Last fall, the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) asked Americans to give us their input for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which will be released in the coming months. From the beginning, ONAP recognized that community feedback would be invaluable to our National HIV/AIDS Strategy development so we hosted 14 community discussions and meetings throughout the United States, in addition to launching an online portal for Americans to send their comments directly to the White House. In the end, we received over 1000 written responses from nearly every state and U.S. territory, from people affected by or living with HIV, from men, women, and transgender individuals, from young and old, and from respondents of various ethnicities, racial backgrounds and sexual orientation.
Despite the diversity in setting and respondents, a core set of common themes emerged across all of the recommendations. Today, we are releasing a report of the major themes that we heard from the public .
Throughout this process we heard that people want to bring the issue of HIV/AIDS back into the forefront of the American psyche through efforts such as social marketing campaigns and comprehensive HIV prevention and education for youth, injection drug users, communities of color, and gay and bisexual men. Access to care was also commonly discussed. Specifically, expanding support services for people living with HIV and the need to diagnose and treat co-occurring conditions such as Hepatitis, substance use, mental health, and markers of economic instability (e.g. housing, joblessness).
Even when access to treatment is available, the stigma surrounding an HIV diagnosis may be too great for people to get tested or enroll in care. We heard from many people living with HIV who spoke about the stigma associated with being HIV-positive and its effect on their daily lives. Many people discussed the ways in which stigma and discrimination contributed to HIV-related racial, geographic, and gender disparities. People also described personal accounts of discrimination and stigma from providers and difficulties in accessing a range of services, including dental care and prenatal care.
Last, many expressed the importance of coordinating HIV prevention and treatment activities across the Federal government. Many also expressed the importance of evaluating current HIV prevention and care efforts and making sure that these evaluation activities help guide Federal, state and local activities and funding.
These recommendations are only a subset of the input that we had received and many more recommendations for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy are detailed in the community discussions report. Not all of the recommendations, however, will appear in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. To be effective, the strategy must include a small number of high payoff items that will address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States. Nevertheless, we intend for this community report to provide a baseline for the status of the domestic epidemic and serve as a planning tool and resource for Federal, State and local agencies. We are grateful for the many Americans who helped make this report possible and for the many insightful recommendations that will go a long way in ensuring that the National HIV/AIDS Strategy is a success.
April 09, 2010
11:19 AM EDT
Bravo to the World Health Organization (WHO) for focusing global attention on the impact of urbanization on health. On April 7th the WHO recognized World Health Day 2010 with the "1000 Cities - 1000 Lives" campaign, calling on cities around the world to hold events that open up streets for activities promoting health and wellness.
Smart investment in the built environment is the foundation of a healthy community. The location of your parks, supermarket, and schools (among other things) directly affect the health of an individual. And as people gravitate toward urban areas across the globe, we see increased demand on infrastructure, housing, and services. Global urbanization magnifies the responsibility of planners, governments and communities to develop more livable, walkable and active environments.
Our Administration is working each day to bring federal agencies together to promote comprehensive investments in communities that enhance health and quality of life. The Sustainable Communities Partnership with Housing & Urban Development, Transportation and Environmental Protection is an interagency effort to support community plans that will reduce vehicle miles traveled; connect green, safe, and affordable housing options to transportation; and create inclusive and inspiring community spaces. We are aligning housing, education, safety and health and human service policies such that every child grows up in a rich and nurturing community.
World Health Day also speaks to the key role urban leaders can play in a cultural shift toward healthy living. The First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative is an example of such an effort here in the US. The WHO’s “1000 Cities Initiative” urges cities across the world to do the same. This weekend I plan a long bike ride with the kids in support of global health and wellness.
Are you ready? Let’s Move!
Adolfo Carrión, Jr. is the Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs
Arun ChaudharyApril 09, 2010
07:36 AM EDT
This morning’s West Wing Week was uploaded to you from location in Prague, Czech Republic, specifically from the American Ambassador's residence where the President hosted a dinner for a dozen regional allies. Since this event happened concurrently with uploading WWW, it will not be a part of this video.
Even though this event came after a very long day of bilateral meetings and treaty ceremonies (following an exhausting overnight plane flight), President Obama personally met each leader at their motorcade and escorted them into the residence where they enjoyed dinner and open conversation. They discussed the mutual interests America shares with the nations of Central and Eastern Europe. After another meeting in the morning the President will return to Washington, DC, and the rest will be the subject of next week’s West Wing Week.
Here is a rundown of links from West Wing Week – April 9
Friday, April 2nd
Saturday April 3rd and Sunday April 4th
Monday, April 5th
Tuesday, April 6th
- West Virginia Condolences / Easter Prayer Breakfast
- Easter Prayer Breakfast (video only)
- VPOTUS Recovery Act
Wednesday, April 7th
Thursday, April 8th
Arun Chaudhary is the official White House videographer
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