Our Top Stories
Kori SchulmanJune 11, 2010
04:23 PM EDT
First Lady Michelle Obama delivered heartfelt remarks at the Anacostia Senior High School Commencement Ceremony, a school she's visited before with her mentoring activities. Mrs. Obama stressed that no matter what the students are doing next year, they must push themselves, take risks and seize every opportunity.
Her message to family members: offer support. It is only with support from family, teachers and mentors that Mrs. Obama, and the President, are where they are today:
I remember my mom pushing me and my brother to do things she’d never done herself; things she’d been afraid to do herself. What I can remember is my father getting up every day and going to work at the water filtration plant, even after he was diagnosed with MS, even after it got hard for him to button his shirt, and to get up and walk. See, I remember my parents sacrificing for us, pouring everything they had into us, being there for us, encouraging us to reach for a life they never knew.
And it’s because of them and because of the support I got from teachers and mentors that I am standing here today.
And if Barack were here, he’d say the same thing was true for him. He’d tell you it was hard at times growing up without a father. He’d tell you that his family didn’t have a lot of money. He’d tell you he made plenty of mistakes and wasn’t always the best student. But he’d also tell you he turned things around, thanks to his mother, his grandparents, and people who cared about him.
And listen, graduates, the reason that he and I invest so much of our time and energy in young people like you is because we see ourselves in each and every one of you.
We are living proof for you that with the right support, it doesn’t matter what circumstances you were born into, or how much money you have, or what color your skin is, if you’re committed -- if you are committed to doing what it takes, anything is possible. It’s up to you.
In closing, Mrs. Obama set some high expectations for the Class of 2010:
I believe in you. The President of the United States of America believes in you. (Applause.) When times are hard for us, you inspire us. You keep us going. And we are expecting big things from you in the years to come. Big things! We are counting on you to be the very best people that you can be. We’re expecting you to show the same perseverance, the same caring, the same spirit that made it possible for you to be here today.
We’re expecting you to show the same commitment to a better life that has always made this country great. We are expecting you not only to claim your own destiny, but to help others across Anacostia, across D.C., across America claim theirs. And we are confident that what you’ll do is exactly that. We know that you’ll make us proud –- because you already have.
Read the full remarks here.
June 11, 2010
02:45 PM EDT
Next week, the United States will welcome to San Francisco negotiators from seven countries for the second round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations.
TPP is an exciting opportunity for the Obama Administration and the United States, because at heart TPP is about shaping America’s economic future. We know that the Asia-Pacific is the most economically dynamic region in the world and will likely drive global growth in years to come. Given this region’s critical importance, we should set enduring economic ties with the Asia-Pacific in a way that creates good jobs and sustainable growth in the United States. In the TPP, we can sit down with seven like-minded nations to build a platform for economic integration across the Asia Pacific that works for Americans today and in the future. We are looking forward to productive discussions with our counterparts from Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Last week I met with all seven TPP trade ministers in Japan, and we directed our negotiators to work hard to build on the momentum from the first negotiating round in March in Melbourne, Australia. While negotiations are in an early stage, we have already been doing new and innovative things in the TPP. For example, we are doing everything we can to bring Americans’ priorities to the negotiating table. We have an unprecedented partnership with Congress to best represent their priorities, and we have been sitting down with Americans around the country to hear their views. In just the past few months, I have met with farmers in Sacramento, port operators in Philadelphia, and manufacturers and service providers Kansas City. Next week I’ll be hearing from businesses and other stakeholders in Rhode Island and Connecticut. We’ll continue this outreach across the country throughout this year.
We are also bringing greater transparency to the talks. We have built a terrific webpage at ustr.gov/tpp, where we are posting a wealth information and hearing from folks around the country. The site recently hosted an online chat with our chief negotiator, and we will do more online chats in the future. We have also invited stakeholders to the negotiating round in San Francisco to make sure they are informed as negotiations progress and will be updating those across America through a dedicated webpage at ustr.gov/tpp-san-francisco.
Building on this unprecedented outreach and transparency, we are working to build the TPP into a 21st century trade agreement that reflects our nation’s economic strengths as well as its values. We want the TPP to work for all Americans – workers, farmers, ranchers, service providers, and businesses large and small.
We are looking forward to a productive week of talks. And I look forward to hearing from you.
Ambassador Demetrios Marantis is the Deputy United States Trade Representative
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusJune 11, 2010
01:53 PM EDT
We are making important progress in implementing the Affordable Care Act, helping to lower costs and give Americans more control over their own care. But unfortunately there is much work remaining to do, especially when it comes to skyrocketing insurance premiums. We learned earlier this week that Pennsylvania regulators had found a pattern of rate increases by the state’s nine largest health insurers suggesting the companies are trying to bolster revenues before health reforms take effect. Based on the regulators’ findings, the companies’ rate increases are questionable at best, and appear to have been targeting some of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable groups through health profiling, a tool the Affordable Care Act will prohibit starting in 2014.
I want to applaud Governor Ed Rendell and his partners in Pennsylvania for investigating the companies and fighting back against the kind of unreasonable rate increases that have made health insurance unaffordable for many American families.
I recently sent a letter to every Governor and State Insurance Commissioners encouraging them to review their state laws and work with their partners in their states to strengthen their oversight abilities. I also cited a recent example in California - where the insurance commissioner determined that a major insurer was making faulty assumptions to justify an almost 40% rate increase for more than 800,000 California residents. In light of the company’s error, I asked officials in other states where this insurer is doing business to double check this company's math to ensure consumers don’t face faulty or unreasonable premium increases. Given this week’s news out of Pennsylvania, I am urging states once again to provide stepped up oversight to ensure this kind of rate inflation isn't happening to their citizens.
Several provisions in the Affordable Care Act strengthen HHS’s and states’ oversight of insurance premiums and rate hikes. These include the Medical Loss Ratio provision requiring insurers in the individual and small group markets to spend at least 80 percent of the premium dollar on health care, and insurers in the large group market to spend at least 85 percent of the premium dollar on health care.
This week, I announced the availability of $51 million in Health Insurance Premium Review Grants through the Affordable Care Act to help states like Pennsylvania create or strengthen insurance review processes that help hold insurers accountable to consumers. These monies will fund the first round of grants available to states through a new $250 million grant program to create and strengthen state insurance rate review processes. These grants will help empower state leaders with the resources they need to shift power away from insurers and back to families. I encourage other states to follow Pennsylvania’s lead, and will continue to work alongside our state partners to ensure American families get the quality, affordable coverage they need, and deserve.
Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of Health and Human Services
Jared BernsteinJune 11, 2010
11:50 AM EDT
An opinion piece by David Brooks in today’s New York Times reminded me of the old adage, “everyone has a right to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.”
Particularly in regard to the Recovery Act, Brooks gets the facts wrong and in so doing, presents a misleading picture of where we’ve been, where we are, and what the best next steps should be.
Jobs Saved or Created: Brooks cites a model that “suggests the stimulus will create about a half-million jobs.” That’s demonstrably wrong based on Recovery Act recipients’ own reports, and way off the consensus of outside estimates. Each of these facts is, btw, a mouse click away.
For example, click here and learn that according the Congressional Budget Office, the nation’s premiere, independent, nonpartisan scorekeeper, as of the first quarter of this year, the Recovery Act saved or created as many as 2.8 million jobs.
The CBO evaluates the jobs created by the full scope Recovery Act programs, from direct spending on road projects, to teacher-job preservation, to tax cuts, and so on. But there’s another source worth examining here: recipient reporting on Recovery.gov. Click on the link and you will see the number 681,825. These are the number of jobs reported by a subset of Recovery Act recipients, those whose jobs came through direct spending (missing, for example, jobs created by tax cuts or jobs created indirectly through spending by direct beneficiaries).
Note two things about this number: first, it reflects jobs created or retained with less than a fifth of the Act’s spending, and second, even though it only covers a small part of Recovery Act spending, it’s a lot higher than “half-a-million.”
Brooks may have objections to these facts, but it is misleading in the extreme to simply omit them.
Brooks then incorrectly cites the work of economist Ed Glaeser to suggest that there’s no relationship between stimulus spending and job creation. Glaeser finds nothing of the sort—the raw relationship Glaeser reports is that unemployment has risen less where the stimulus was larger (see here for a discussion of Ed’s work). I spoke to Ed this morning and he certainly believes the stimulus created jobs in states across the country.
Current Conditions: The other lynchpin of Brook’s argument is the fact that in the last jobs report, of the 431,000 net jobs created in May, only 41,000 were private sector jobs. In March and April, however, the number of private sector jobs created were 158,000 and 218,000, respectively. Every economist who follows these numbers knows they bounce around, so cherry-picking one month to make your case is just bad analysis (see here for a gaggle of economists making this important point). Presumably, Brooks wouldn’t have made this point last month, and it’s implausible that the stimulus worked in April but not in May.
The average of private sector job growth over the past three months has been about 140,000 per month. One year ago, that same average was negative 575,000…per month! Over the past three months, we’ve gained over 400,000 private sector jobs. Over that same period last year, we lost 1.7 million.
Economists across the spectrum widely agree that the Recovery Act played a key role in that reversal. Mark Zandi, one of the most frequently cited economists in America (and an economist who previously advised the McCain campaign), called the Recovery Act “the catalyst for the transition from recession to recovery.”
We know we have a long way to go before working Americans once again have the economic opportunities they need and deserve, and the President is working aggressively to build off of the momentum described above. But we can’t effectively plan next steps if we fail to objectively and factually evaluate where we’ve been.
Jared Bernstein is Chief Economic Advisor to the Vice President
Arun ChaudharyJune 11, 2010
12:00 AM EDT
Thanks for checking out the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Walk step by step with the President as he speaks about job growth at K. Neal Trucks, makes his third visit to the Gulf Coast, announces his new Director of Intelligence, meets with Cabinet Secretaries about the BP oil spill, delivers the commencement address at Kalamazoo High School,holds a live tele-town hall with seniors about health care and much more.
Find more video, photos, and information on the events featured in this episode below:
Friday, June 4, 2010
- The President and Vice President tour K. Neal International Trucks
- The President's 3rd trip to the Gulf Coast
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
- The President meets with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority
- The President speaks about the United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Arun Chaudhary is the official White House videographer
Dan PfeifferJune 10, 2010
05:23 PM EDT
One of the little-noticed efforts of the past 16 months has been what President Obama and his team have done to change how Washington does business – bringing a new sense of responsibility for taxpayer dollars by eliminating what doesn’t work, cracking down on waste, and making government more transparent and responsive to the American people.
Since before he came to the Senate, the President believed that for too long the government has allowed ineffective programs to accumulate, duplicate, and ultimately undermine the purposes for which they were created in the first place. Indeed, driving this initiative is not the dollars it may produce to reduce the deficit, but a deeply-held belief that it is the obligation of government not to waste taxpayer money regardless of whether the budget is in surplus or deficit.
With this in mind, the Administration has been developing a wide array of efforts over the past year to cut waste, streamline how government works, and make the federal government more responsive to the American people. And this week, we rolled out a group of them.
On Monday, we announced our intention to create a new incentive for agencies to save on administrative expenses by allowing them to keep half of any savings they identify with the other half going to deficit reduction. The Pentagon already has a similar authority which is assisting Secretary Gates in his efforts to cut waste in the Defense Department, and this would add to that and apply to all agencies.
On Tuesday, we put out budget guidance for the 2012 fiscal year which reasserted the President’s commitment to the non-security discretionary budget freeze. In addition, Budget Director Peter Orszag and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel sent a memo to all agencies asking them to identify their bottom-performing 5 percent of programs.
Also, that day, Director Orszag laid out how the Administration plans to use information technology to save money and make government services as convenient and cost-effective as all the online and mobile services we use in our daily lives. And the President directed the Department of Health and Human Services to cut the Medicare payment error rate in half over the next three years.
And just today, the President issued a memo to all agency heads directing them to take steps to better use and get rid of excess real estate holdings – from warehouses to office buildings and shacks on the Appalachian trail. And the US Department of Agriculture announced a reform of the crop insurance program which, over the next decade, will produce $4 billion for deficit reduction and $2 billion for high-priority farm programs.
All these moves build on efforts we have already taken including: identifying approximately $20 billion in terminations, reductions, and savings in each budget we have proposed; asking Congress for a new expedited rescissions authority to give us a new tool to stop wasteful and unnecessary spending; signing into law statutory pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) legislation; charging federal departments and agencies with saving $40 billion annually in contracting by Fiscal Year 2011 (a goal we are well on the way to meeting); and going after $100 billion in improper payments that go out from the federal government each year.
In the weeks to come, look for more efforts to save money and modernize government that we’ll be announcing because creating a government that is effective and efficient, open and responsive is a continuing commitment of this Administration.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
Jesse LeeJune 10, 2010
02:42 PM EDT
This morning the President hosted Congressional leaders from both parties to talk through the months ahead and make sure they are as productive as possible. As the President made clear in remarks afterwards, the top priorities have to be the BP oil spill and putting people back to work:
Obviously the top of our list was our continued response to the crisis in the Gulf and what’s happening with the oil spill. We gave them an update on all the measures that are being taken, the single largest national response in United States history to an environmental disaster. But we had a frank conversation about the fact that the laws that have been in place have not been adequate for a crisis of this magnitude. The Oil Pollution Act was passed at a time when people didn’t envision drilling four miles under the sea for oil.
And so it’s going to be important that, based on facts, based on experts, based on a thorough examination of what went wrong here and where things have gone right, but also where things have gone wrong, that we update the laws to make sure that the people in the Gulf, the fishermen, the hotel owners, families who are dependent for their livelihoods in the Gulf, that they are all made whole and that we are in a much better position to respond to any such crisis in the future.
So that was a prominent part of the discussion, and I was pleased to see bipartisan agreement that we have to deal with that in an aggressive, forward-leaning way.
Even as we deal with that crisis, we’ve still got an economy that’s on the mend, but there are a lot of people out there who are still out of work. There are a lot of families who are still struggling to pay the bills. And so a major part of our discussion was how could we continue to build on the progress that’s been made in the economy and, in particular, how can we make sure that that has an impact on job growth and the day-to-day improvements that people are seeing in their own lives.
The President talked about the urgency of passing extensions for unemployment insurance and other measures to help families stay above water while they’re looking for work, which will in turn make sure the recovery continues with some stability. He also expressed confidence that a strong package to help small businesses grow and hire is coming together.
Also on the agenda is finishing financial reform, a supplemental to fund our troops, and continued work on ways to reduce the deficit, an area the President was particularly hopeful of finding bipartisan solutions on.
The President closed speaking passionately about the need for a new energy policy for the long term to begin now:
In that same category of thinking about the next generation, I want to close by just talking about my personal belief that we have to move on an energy agenda that is forward-looking, that creates jobs, that assures that we are leaders in solar and wind and biodiesel, but recognizes that we are going to be reliant on fossil fuels for many years to come, that we are going to still be using oil and we’re still going to be using other fossil fuels, but that we have to start planning now and putting the infrastructure in place now, putting the research and development in place now so that we end up being leaders in our energy future.
I’m actually going to have a group of CEOs this afternoon who’ve come in from a wide range of different industries -- people from Bill Gates of Microsoft to the former chairman of DuPont who have come up with a series of recommendations about how we need to move much more aggressively on the energy agenda.
And although obviously our immediate task is to deal with a crisis that is affecting millions of people down in the Gulf, we can’t keep our eye off the importance of having an energy policy that meets the needs of the next generation and ensures that the United States is the leader when it comes to energy policy. We are not yet that leader, and that’s what I want us to do.
June 10, 2010
01:46 PM EDT
Dr. Biden concluded her Kenya visit this morning with a stop at the Starehe Girls Centre in Nairobi.
This is a boarding school for teenage orphan girls from across Kenya. It's a model school training young women in academics, athletics, arts and agriculture. With help from USAID and partners like the Global Give Back Circle, this school is giving girls across Kenya the skills they need for a brighter future for them and their families.
Dr. Biden toured a computer lab, visited an English classroom and watched a singing and dance performance before addressing the school and faculty.
Watch this video and hear directly from Dr. Biden on how these young girls inspired her - and how she's leaving Kenya with a renewed sense of the resilience of the human spirit.
We're now on our way to South Africa and the World Cup. Stay tuned for more "On Board" updates from the Vice President and Dr. Biden's trip.
Annie Tomasini is Press Secretary to Dr. Jill Biden
Carol BrownerJune 10, 2010
12:13 PM EDT
The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster – and its economic and ecological implications could be devastating. I know many of you have questions about how the government is responding to this crisis.
President Obama has asked me to spend some time answering your questions directly, so tomorrow at 12:30 PM EDT, I will be hosting a live chat. You can watch the chat live on WhiteHouse.gov/live, and you can submit your questions in advance via Facebook, Twitter or our webform.
From day one our focus has been capping the leak, containing and cleaning up the oil that has spilled, and restoring the lives and livelihoods of the people in the Gulf Coast region. You can track our response efforts and find additional information and resources on the on the ongoing government-wide response here.
Carol Browner is Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.
June 09, 2010
09:55 PM EDT
Ed. Note: For more information on federal response resources, volunteer opportunities, and assistance for those in affected areas visit WhiteHouse.gov/Deepwater-BP-Oil-Spill.
This afternoon, the President received a briefing on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill from Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner in the Oval Office. On Monday, June 14, and Tuesday, June 15, the President will travel back to the Gulf Coast for his fourth trip to the region since the BP oil spill. The President will visit Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to further assess the latest efforts to contain and clean up the oil and restore the Gulf Coast.
President Barack Obama receives a briefing on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill from Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner in the Oval Office. With Browner are Counsel to the President Bob Bauer and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. June 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Today, National Incident Commander Admiral Allen meet with BP claims officials to assert claims oversight and ensure BP meets commitments to restore Gulf Coast communities. Read more of the latest in the ongoing Administration-wide response provided by the Joint Information Center below.
Heidi Avery is White House Deputy Homeland Security Advisor
June 09, 2010
06:58 PM EDT
Ed. Note: On Monday, President Obama announced the winners of the 2009 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. This year the award was given to 103 math and science teachers from across the country teaching 7th through 12th graders. Nate Childers, a science teacher at Hart Middle School in Rochester, Michigan is one of the recipients of the award.
Wow, what a feeling! I never would have guessed 20 years ago that I would be awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. At that time, I was working on a marketing degree and working for General Motors. After realizing that the corporate environment wasn’t for me and having a chance interaction with my old high school principal, I decided to pursue a career in education. It’s the best decision I ever made.
I love teaching because I can make science come alive in students' lives. In my classroom, I use real-world scenarios to engage students:
- In “Quakeville,” students are part of an architectural team trying to learn about a city's seismic activity and then designing and constructing a building for the city at the site they proposed.
- In “Handling a Hurricane,” students are community members in a city with an approaching hurricane. They must track the hurricane, make decisions about evacuation and also design and construct a house that can withstand hurricane force winds.
The tragic events around the world this year have brought a new level of relevance to the topics we study. For example, the earthquake in Haiti hit as we were studying plate tectonics. I put together a presentation and brought together students from other science classes to show the students the events that led to the destruction. The Icelandic volcanic eruption occurred after my students learned about volcanoes and during their study of climate. Now, there is the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Even though the full extent of the impact on marine life and the environment will not be known for some time, I have used the opportunity to help students see how interacting earth systems are impacted by human activities.
My classes also do real-world science: since 1994, my students have monitored chemical and biological indicators at a local stream. They compile and analyze trends from the collected data in order to draw conclusions about the health of the stream. This data is sent to our local watershed council and is used by local and state officials to make land use decisions. In fact, after uncovering a problem at our monitoring site in 1999, the state issued a cease and desist order to a construction site until proper erosion control measures were put in place. It was very empowering for students to see that they can make a difference in their community through science.
I find that bringing media and technology into the classroom is another way to grab students’ attention and improve learning. For example, I use an interactive whiteboard daily to present information, show video clips, and compile class data for analysis. I also use electronic student response systems to assess student understanding quickly and then tailor instruction to their needs. Being aware of new tools that are available and not being afraid to try them in the classroom has really improved my students’ experience.
I constantly search for technology that will enhance what the students are learning, and am on an endless quest for new ways to teach challenging concepts and help science come alive for my students. I am never satisfied and always strive to make things better, more relevant, and more engaging.
Many tremendous people have helped me mature into a confident teacher over the years: my middle school and high school principal, Gary Doyle, motivated me to become a teacher years after I graduated; I still hear Dan Hickey’s wise advice 15 years after he hired me; and - most importantly - my wife, also a teacher, constantly offers great ideas, advice, and support. For any new teachers out there, I’d offer two bits of advice that have helped me: surround yourself with positive people and whenever you are making a decision, choose what is best for the student.
I have been blessed to work at a great school with very motivated, hard working people. They inspire me every day to do more for students, for our school, and for our profession. I am honored and humbled by this recognition, and I only hope that all teachers get the recognition and respect they deserve.
Nate Childers is a science teacher at Hart Middle School in Rochester, Michigan.
Elizabeth AlexanderJune 09, 2010
06:15 PM EDT
Today was the day of the Vice President’s big speech in Kenya to area university students. This speech was a centerpiece of his visit because he spoke directly to the Kenyan people about the importance of the constitutional referendum coming up in August, which could lead to major reforms in the country.
He started with a profound message: “I come here as a representative of the United States to say one thing: We stand with you on your journey to a secure, free, democratic, and prosperous Kenya.”
And he closed by quoting President Lyndon Baines Johnson in the end of his letter to Prime Minister Kenyatta on December 10, 1963 – the day of Kenya’s independence: “May the responsibilities of freedom wake the best that is in you, and may its benefits be known by generations yet unborn.”
Watch today’s video showing behind-the-scenes footage of the Vice President as he reviews, prepares and delivers today’s speech.
Elizabeth Alexander is Press Secretary to the Vice President
June 09, 2010
04:48 PM EDT
Ed Note: Food banks across the country are facing severe shortages, just as summer leaves more children without school nutrition programs. As part of the second annual Summer Service Initiative, Federal employees are stepping up to meet the challenge. Learn more about Feds Feed Families.
All across America children are excitedly counting down the days to summer vacation; summer is a time each year when children and families can relax, play, and explore their creative interests together. We are, however, keenly aware that summer is also the time when the healthy habits and knowledge that our children developed during the school year are most likely to stall.
Research shows that many of our young people suffer learning set-backs and develop unhealthy eating habits during the summer break. Children can lose more than two months’ progress in reading achievement over the summer, and inactivity during the summer months can cause children to gain weight three times faster than during the school year.
This summer, the Corporation for National and Community Service is launching the United We Serve: Let’s Read, Let’s Move. initiative to change that – we’re focused on strengthening our kids’ minds and bodies.
The goal of Let’s Read. Let’s Move. is simple, yet transformative. With partners including the Departments of Education, Agriculture, Interior, and Health and Human Services, as well as the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, we are expanding opportunities to engage young people in summer reading and physical activities, as well as providing access to healthy, affordable food.
Yesterday afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off Let’s Read. Let’s Move. during a service event with over a dozen Members of Congress and their families. Watch a video of the First Lady’s call to action and read the remarks.
United We Serve: Let’s Read. Let’s Move. needs your help. Keeping our kids fit for school and fit for life requires us all to work together, and there are plenty of ways to make a difference. We’re already hearing about people across the country cleaning up walking trails and playgrounds, tending to communities gardens, organizing book drives, and reading to young children. I encourage each of you to consider how you could make an enduring difference in your own community.
Visit Serve.gov to find a volunteer activity in your community.
Patrick Corvington is CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service
Jesse LeeJune 09, 2010
02:46 PM EDT
Speaking in the Diplomatic Room, the President wasted no time in getting to the substance of his remarks:
Today, the United Nations Security Council voted overwhelmingly to sanction Iran for its continued failure to live up to its obligations. This resolution will put in place the toughest sanctions ever faced by the Iranian government, and it sends an unmistakable message about the international community’s commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.
For years, the Iranian government has failed to live up to its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has violated its commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency. It has ignored U.N. Security Council resolutions. And while Iran’s leaders hide behind outlandish rhetoric, their actions have been deeply troubling. Indeed, when I took office just over 16 months ago, Iranian intransigence was well-established. Iran had gone from zero centrifuges spinning to several thousand, and the international community was divided about how to move forward.
The President recounted the repeated attempts from his Administration and the world to engage Iran diplomatically: “In short, we offered the Iranian government the prospect of a better future for its people, if – and only if – it lives up to its international obligations.” Just as consistently, however, these offers were refused and ignored, leading to the vote today that saw support from nations in five continents, including Russia and China:
So let me repeat: We recognize Iran’s rights. But with those rights come responsibilities. And time and again, the Iranian government has failed to meet those responsibilities. Iran concealed a nuclear enrichment facility in Qom that raised serious questions about the nature of its program. Iran further violated its own obligations under U.N. Security Council resolutions to suspend uranium enrichment. Instead, they’re enriching up to 20 percent. It has failed to comply fully with IAEA’s requirements. Indeed, Iran is the only NPT signatory in the world -- the only one -- that cannot convince the IAEA that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes.
That’s why the international community was compelled to impose these serious consequences. These are the most comprehensive sanctions that the Iranian government has faced. They will impose restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, its ballistic missile program, and, for the first time, its conventional military. They will put a new framework in place to stop Iranian smuggling, and crack down on Iranian banks and financial transactions. They target individuals, entities, and institutions -– including those associated with the Revolutionary Guard –- that have supported Iran’s nuclear program and prospered from illicit activities at the expense of the Iranian people. And we will ensure that these sanctions are vigorously enforced, just as we continue to refine and enforce our own sanctions on Iran alongside our friends and our allies.
The President said that while nobody expects these sanctions to change behavior overnight, the vote was a concrete demonstration of the consequences of the Iranian government’s actions, and that it should give an additional push for Iran to engage diplomatically rather than be an excuse to avoid it. He also said clearly that “these sanctions are not directed at the Iranian people,” reminding all of what happened last year:
Saturday will mark one year from the day that an election captivated the attention of the world -– an event that should have been remembered for how the Iranian people participated with remarkable enthusiasm, but will instead be remembered for how the Iranian government brutally suppressed dissent and murdered the innocent, including a young woman left to die in the street.
Actions do have consequences, and today the Iranian government will face some of those consequences. Because whether it is threatening the nuclear non-proliferation regime, or the human rights of its own citizens, or the stability of its own neighbors by supporting terrorism, the Iranian government continues to demonstrate that its own unjust actions are a threat to justice everywhere.
June 09, 2010
12:43 PM EDT
On Monday, my classmates and I were lucky enough to see President Obama speak at our high school graduation. Our school, Kalamazoo Central High School, was the winner of the first Race to the Top Commencement Challenge. We had approximately 290 students walk proudly across that stage. I cannot speak for all of them, but as one of the essay writers involved with the contest, I can at least share my story.
During my four years at Kalamazoo Central I have been involved, challenged, and profoundly affected. From my time as a freshman, I have had teachers who supported me in my endeavors and felt a strong sense of community with my classmates regardless of differences in private lives. At Central I have been involved in National Honor Society, PeaceJam, Activists for Action, and a wide variety of art and AP classes. These clubs offer the benefit of a sense of involvement in the outer community and the opportunity to help others (through service projects, recycling, and community fund-raisers) that can be found at no other school. The classes both challenged me and others, and helped us to find innovative ways to solve problems and provided valuable art experience. The great thing about Central is that there is no status quo. Every group has an important place; these organizations are only one type of possible experience. We stand out as a diverse and accepting climate ultimately focused on success.
At the start of the competition, a small group of us students met to discuss the application and the possibility of submitting our own essays. Looking at the requirements on the essay application, we realized that though we did not always succeed academically or in numbers, it was the effort to constantly better ourselves that made us great. As the Commencement Challenge progressed, our school and community banded together, everyone made a little closer by the potential for greatness. Though confident in this potential, it was a shock to discover that we were the winners of the Commencement Challenge. No one could stop smiling for the day or even the week that it was announced.
When the big day finally came and President Obama surprised us and arrived in our holding room a few hours before schedule, it was surreal, not only for the chance to hear the President speak but to have him mere inches away from us in a private setting. It was more than anyone could have dreamed of. The initial excitement never faded. Later, seeing him on stage joking with our principal, listening to our valedictorian and salutatorian speak, and finally giving us a speech that showed that he had read our essays and paid attention to our community was incredible; an experience none of us graduates or our families will soon forget. The honor went far beyond the President simply coming to our graduation or even shaking our hands. It was the fact that he made the experience wholly about us, using no political campaigns or agendas, that made it a truly special ceremony.
Next year, I plan to attend the University of Michigan for a double major in Theatrical Design and Production and Communications. Could double majoring even have been possible without the Kalamazoo Promise? It is dubious. The Kalamazoo Promise is a scholarship open to all Kalamazoo Public School grads that pays full tuition for public Michigan universities. It is integral to the success of our graduates and the winning of the Commencement Challenge. The opportunity to pursue these career paths have been shaped by my community and school and even by my work on the Commencement Challenge. A Communications degree could even be used for work on future Commencement Challenges; only this time, from the White House.
Kelsey Socha is a member of the class fo 2010 at Kalamazoo Central High School, the winner of the 2010 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge.
Stephanie CutterJune 09, 2010
12:00 PM EDT
Yesterday, seniors across the country participated in President Obama’s tele-town hall meeting on the Affordable Care Act. Tens of thousands of seniors listened or watched the event while others gathered at more than 100 watch parties, some of which were attended by senior Obama Administration officials.
At the event, President Obama knocked down the misinformation campaign opponents of reform have been waging for a year. Here’s what he said:
Now, this debate got pretty contentious at times last year. I think you remember. And just when you were looking for accurate information about what this reform would mean for you, there were a lot of opponents of health care reform generally that sought to deny you that information. And they ran some pretty nasty rumors in hopes that it would scare folks. I know that’s hard to imagine in politics -- but that’s what happened.
So here’s the truth: First and foremost, what you need to know is that the guaranteed Medicare benefits that you’ve earned will not change, regardless of whether you receive them through Medicare or Medicare Advantage. Your guaranteed benefits will not change. Eligibility won’t change. Medicare will continue to cover your costs the way it always has. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.
He discussed how the Affordable Care Act will help seniors across the country and strengthen Medicare.
This new law gives seniors and their families greater savings, better benefits and higher-quality health care. That’s why it ensures accountability throughout the system so that seniors have greater control over the care that they receive. And that’s why it keeps Medicare strong and solvent -– today and tomorrow.
And the President also answered questions about Medicare Advantage:
…Here’s what we did under the law. What we said was, you can maintain Medicare Advantage, but we are going to say to the insurance companies that you can’t use this just to pad your profits or to pay higher CEO bonuses. Eighty-five percent of what you spend has to actually be for health services. We’re going to review the rates that are applied. We’re going to set a rate that is fair and appropriate so that Medicare Advantage isn’t costing people who aren’t in Medicare Advantage.
This morning, local papers across the country are reporting on the recent events. Some highlights:
“If Obama's intention was to re-assure seniors, it appeared to have worked for the crowd at the White Rose center. Afterward, in response to a request by the National Council on Aging, they conducted a poll by show-of-hands.
“Nineteen of the assembled seniors raised their hands when asked how many feel they will be better off as a result of the new law. None raised their hands when asked how many feel they will be worse off."
“Following the meeting, which lasted just over an hour, residents of the Christian Health Care Center had mostly favorable things to say about the speech…
“Lorene Snodderly called the speech ‘very good,’ and said she liked the way [President Obama] answered questions.
“‘He hits the concerns older people have,’ she said.”
“‘When the Medicare prescription drug benefit was passed a few years ago because of budgetary concerns, Congress created this gap in coverage,’ said Rima Cohen, counselor to the Secretary for Health Policy at the Department of Health and Human Services, who came to New Mexico to help answer questions…
“Seniors will be enrolled automatically and receive a check when they reach the $2,800 spending cap, so seniors won't won't have to provide their social security number, Medicare number, or any money.”
North Carolina: "President talks with seniors about health care," WWAY-TV
“Today President Obama held a town hall meeting with senior citizens via telecast. Some folks in Southport came to the Brunswick Center to watch.
“The meeting focused on the affordable care act. One of the first efforts to ease the cost of Medicare on senior citizens is a $250 rebate check for those who fall into the prescription drug coverage gap called ‘the donut hole.’ Sally Turner was glad to finally have some answers.
“‘I think it answers a lot of questions about the Medicare bill, the new Medicare bill,’ she said. ‘And it helps kinda clear up the air a little bit about what's happening to Medicare, what's happening to Social Security, what's going to happen to our children as far as Social Security and Medicare, and I was glad to hear the answer was positive.’”
“Senior centers around the nation, including one in our backyard, participated in a tele-town hall meeting on the Affordable Care Act with President Barack Obama this afternoon…
“The president discussed what the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act meant to seniors to ensure that they have accurate information about the new law, which passed in March. The health care legislation gives seniors better benefits, they will see a cost savings and higher quality health care, Obama said. Preventative care services like colorectal cancer screenings, mammograms and annual wellness visits will be available free to seniors.”
Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects
Secretary Tom VilsackJune 09, 2010
10:40 AM EDT
Today I released our first comprehensive report on USDA’s deployment of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for rural broadband. It showed that the 68 investments we have already made will bring broadband access to an estimated 530,000 households, 93,000 businesses, and 3,300 anchor institutions like hospitals, schools, community centers and libraries. They will create 5,000 jobs immediately. And they will cover an area larger than the state of California.
President Obama and I are deeply committed to bringing advanced Internet capacity to all corners of rural America. We must do this because it will generate wealth and economic opportunities in rural communities as we help build a stronger future for rural America.
Access to broadband internet will help local businesses be competitive in domestic and world markets. It allows rural residents to have access to educational and health care opportunities that simply won’t otherwise. In many parts of the country farmers and ranchers are already using these technologies to improve crop production, marketing and distribution of commodities. We need to expand that access so that anyone, anywhere, can be a successful farmer, rancher, or business owner.
As I mentioned last week during our National Rural Summit in Missouri, we need to create an economic environment that ensures opportunities for young people in rural communities. And part of creating those opportunities will be ensuring access to the latest technologies. We need our best and brightest to be at home in the community where they grew up – we need their talent to create a strong, vibrate regional economies. The expansion of broadband funded by President Obama’s Recovery Act will help ensure that we build those 21st Century rural communities where folks want to live, work and raise their families.
Tom Vilsack is Secretary of Agriculture
June 09, 2010
09:34 AM EDT
Ed. Note: For more information on federal response resources, volunteer opportunities, and assistance for those in affected areas visit WhiteHouse.gov/Deepwater-BP-Oil-Spill.
On Monday, June 14, and Tuesday, June 15, the President will make his fourth trip to the Gulf Coast—traveling to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to further assess the latest efforts to counter the BP oil spill.
Below is the latest in the ongoing Administration-wide response provided by the Joint Information Center.
Heidi Avery is White House Deputy Homeland Security Advisor
June 08, 2010
05:58 PM EDT
Dr. Jill Biden toured the Kibera area of Nairobi, Kenya earlier today. It’s one of the largest slums in the world at just about 1.5 million people living in an area about 2 square miles total. Very few people have electricity or running water and many of the residents are living with HIV.
Watch this slideshow and hear directly from the Second Lady about her impressions of the day, meeting with the young women, and her walk through the village.
We’ll be in Kenya for a couple more days – be sure to check back for more "On Board" updates from the Vice President and Dr. Biden's trip.Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
Annie Tomasini is Press Secretary to Dr. Jill Biden.
Elizabeth AlexanderJune 08, 2010
04:27 PM EDT
The Vice President was in Kenya today at a pivotal moment--just weeks before a major constitutional referendum. Earlier this morning he met jointly with Kenya's President and Prime Minister to encourage their active support for reform (Watch their statement to the press after the meeting here). He also stopped by Kenya's Parliament to meet privately with the Speaker, as well as the Reform Caucus. Both the Vice President and Dr. Biden visited the August 7th Memorial Park to lay a wreath in memory of the more than 200 people killed by the 1998 embassy bombing in Nairobi.
Next up--The Vice President gives a major speech on Wednesday on U.S.-Kenyan relations at the Kenyatta International Conference Center.
Elizabeth Alexander is Press Secretary to the Vice President