Read all posts from December 2010

  • In September 2009, the President announced that – for the first time in history – the White House would routinely release visitor records. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in September 2010. Today’s release also includes several visitor records generated prior to September 16, 2009 that were requested by members of the public during November 2010 pursuant to the White House voluntary disclosure policy. This release brings the grand total of records that this White House has released to over 950,000 records. You can view them all in our Disclosures section.

    Ed. Note: For more information, check out Ethics.gov.

  • In this special edition of West Wing Week, look back over the last year, watch the President sign a law getting those loud TV ads under control, and find out the answers to a couple burning questions from the mailbag.

    Download Video: mp4 (130MB)
     
     

  • We've just uploaded our year-end digital slide show on the official White House photo stream. I tried to include photographs that show President Obama in a variety of behind-the-scenes situations and ones that also represent the successes and challenges he faced during the year. A few playful moments, some with his family, are also included. I wrote first-person captions to accompany each photograph to hopefully give the viewer some added context where needed. Taken together, the slide show will hopefully provide people with a window into the Obama presidency from 2010. Special thanks to White House photo editor Alice Gabriner, who has worked tirelessly editing my photos for the past two years and is leaving the administration to work as a senior photo editor at National Geographic magazine.

    Pete Souza is Chief Official White House Photographer and Director of the White House Photography Office

  • At the signing of the bill to repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" last week, the sense of history and enthusiasm was palpable throughout the audience.  While we were there we had a chance to talk to Captain Jonathan Hopkins, who was discharged under the policy, as well as Rep. Patrick Murphy who led the charge in the House of Representatives, and Melody Barnes who played an integral role here at the White House.  The video gives a glimpse of what it was like there:

    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.

  • Every year around the holidays, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts selects and celebrates individuals who have, through their lifetime achievement in the arts, contributed to enriching and enhancing culture in America.   On December 5th, 2010, the Kennedy Center Honors 33rd Annual National Celebration of the Arts was held and videotaped for a television broadcast, which airs tonight on CBS. Before the gala event at the Kennedy Center, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a reception for this year's recipients in the East Room of the White House. 

    Watch this video which features behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the honorees at the White House - Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Merle Haggard, Bill T. Jones, and Jerry Herman.

    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.

  • A couple photos of the President and First Lady at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua and the Vice President along with Dr. Biden at Walter Reed on Christmas.

    President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua on Christmas

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet service men and women, along with their families, during Christmas dinner in the mess at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua, Hawaii, December 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden on Christmas Day at Walter Reed

    Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden visit with troops and their families on Christmas Day at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., December 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • President Obama and the First Lady wish families across the country a “Merry Christmas” and encourage everyone to support the troops and their families this holiday season.  Visit www.serve.gov to find ideas for what you can do to help our servicemen and women and their families.

  • A quick look at the week of December 20, 2010:

    Holidays at the White House: The White House celebrates Simple Gifts this holiday season. You're invited to tour the Christmas decorations, watch behind-the-scenes videos, share a Season's Greetings message with the troops and more.

    Thank you cards for servicemen and women are collected during a holiday tour

    Thank you cards for servicemen and women are collected during a holiday tour in the East Wing Entrance of the White House, Dec. 8, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    Tracking Santa: The Department of Energy's Los Alamos lab uses state of the art technology to track Santa Claus as he circles the globe.

    West Wing Week Video: “AKA Santa Claus” -- walk step by step with the President as he signs the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” reads to kids for the Holidays, and receives the Census report.

    5 Achievements: As the President said, it’s been the most productive post-election period we’ve seen in decades. Here are five post-election achievements you should know about.

    White House Staff: It Gets Better Video: Inspired by President Obama’s It Gets Better video, several LGBT White House staffers decided to add their voices to the project.

  • Cross posted from the Energy Blog.

    Every year since 1998, the Department of Energy's Los Alamos lab has been using state of the art technology to track Santa Claus as he circles the globe the night before Christmas. You'll be able to start monitoring St. Nick's journey here starting at 6 AM ET on Christmas Eve.

    This week, I got a chance to talk to Santa Tracker Head Researcher (and Cibola Flight Experiment Project Leader) Diane Roussel-Dupre to get a little more insight into the program.
     
    Q: How did you get into this line of work? Did you always expect Santa tracking to be a core specialty in your career?

    Diane Roussel-Dupre: Developing and flying small experimental satellites to help keep America safer has been a unique career opportunity never envisioned when I was in school.  When we first started tracking Santa, we did so to help with his flight safety just in case he had troubles along the way.

    Q: What is the hardest part of keeping track of Santa?

    Diane Roussel-Dupre: Because of his wish to surprise, Santa does not file a flight path with the Federal Aviation Administration, so we never really know where he will be.

    Q: What technologies do you use?

    Diane Roussel-Dupre: We believe that Rudolph's glowing, bright red nose puts out optical and infrared light that makes him easy to detect, allowing an optical camera on FORTE to give us a glimpse of Santa and his team. Also, the Federal Aviation Administration requires Santa to fly with a radio transponder on his sleigh, similar to what airplanes use, to ensure flight safety around the world. This transponder can be detected with the radio receiver that flies on-board both the FORTE and Cibola Flight Experiment (CFE) satellites. We will also be using the star cameras on the CFE satellite to look for Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh.

    Q: Are those technologies advancing each year? Would you consider them clean technologies at this point?

    Diane Roussel-Dupre: Because it takes a long time to develop, launch and fly a satellite, it is sometimes difficult to be able to have the most advanced technology in space to use to track Santa. However, our newest small satellite, Cibola Flight Experiment, launched March 2007 has a new type of on-board supercomputer that enables us to continuously develop new capabilities after launch to enhance our ability to search for Santa. Because we can continue to advance our detection capability with this new computer, new launches are not as necessary. Thus, if adopted by other space projects, the Cibola Flight Experiment technology can provide significant cost savings in addition to being green. We would like to be able to launch and fly a much smaller satellite (10cm x 10cm x 30cm) based upon improved CFE technologies in the future to allow us to continue to help track Santa as our older satellites reach old age and are turned off.

    Q:  Do you think Santa knows you're able to monitor his movements and does he mind?

    Diane Roussel-Dupre: Santa certainly knows he is being monitored as he travels around the world and Mrs. Claus is happy there are additional "elves" like us helping to assure his safe travels. However we occasionally notice Santa in an evasive maneuver, trying to throw off our ability to track him just to see if we can keep up with him.

    Q: I'll be in Durham, New Hampshire, for Christmas this year. What time can I tell my nephew and niece to expect Santa's visit?

    Diane Roussel-Dupre: Santa always does his best to arrive around local midnight, so they had better be in bed already with no peaking. And don't forget the cookies and milk.

  • Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Walk step by step with the President as he signs the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” looks back at an historic lame duck session, reads to kids for the Holiday season, and receives the Census report.

    Download Video: mp4 (108.2MB)

    Learn more about the events featured in this edition of West Wing Week...

    December 17, 2010

    December 20, 2010

    December 22, 2010

    Arun Chaudhary is the official White House videographer

  • As the President said, it’s been the most productive post-election period we’ve seen in decades, capping off two of the most productive years in the history of Congress. Democrats and Republicans came together and made progress on some very big and important issues. Here are five post-election achievements you should know about (and so should your friends, family and neighbors):

    1. Overturned Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. 

    This was the right thing to do for our military, and it was the right thing to do for our country. No longer will thousands of patriotic Americans in uniform be forced to live a lie or leave the military because of their sexual orientation. We are a nation that believes all men and women are created equal. That principle of equality is now enshrined in law.

    President Barack Obama signs the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010

    President Barack Obama signs the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 during a ceremony at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., Dec. 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    2. Got the New START Treaty Through

    The most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades was passed in a bipartisan fashion. In doing so, we’ve strengthened American leadership on non-proliferation issues, reinforced our relationship with a vital ally, and made our country safer.

    Toasting the New START Treaty

    President Barack Obama shares a toast in the Oval Office with the members of his National Security Staff who worked on the New START nuclear arms control agreement, Dec. 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

     

    3. Signed Extension of Middle-Class Tax Cuts & Unemployment Insurance 

    The package will spur jobs, businesses, and growth. While not everyone was happy with every part of this package, the bipartisan support it received indicates that when taken as a whole, this is a good deal for the American people and the American economy. And economists across the political spectrum agree.

    President Barack Obama signs the middle-class tax cuts bill

    President Barack Obama, joined by Republican and Democratic members of Congress, signs the middle-class tax cuts bill in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. December 17, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    4. A New a Bipartisan Food Safety Bill

    It constitutes the biggest upgrade of America’s food safety laws since the Great Depression.

    5. Finally Got the 9/11 Health Bill Through

    It will help cover the health care costs of the first responders who rushed to the World Trade Center to help, and inhaled toxic air as a result.

    President Barack Obama holds a press conference in the South Court Auditorium

    President Barack Obama holds a press conference in the South Court Auditorium, Dec. 22, 2010, (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    While we’ve made significant achievements, it’s true that we didn’t get everything done. The President is disappointed that Congress wasn’t able to pass the DREAM Act or come together around a budget to fund our government over the long run.

    Despite these setbacks, the past few weeks have proven that Washington is not doomed to gridlock. “I know there will be tough fights in the months ahead,” said President Obama, “But my hope heading into the New Year is that we can continue to heed the message of the American people and hold to a spirit of common purpose in 2011 and beyond. And if we do that, I’m convinced that we will lift up our middle class, we will rebuild our economy, and we will make our contribution to America’s greatness.”

  • UN Security Council and Youth 1

    U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice leads a special UN Security Council event in New York City. December 21, 2010.

    On December 21 at the United Nations, Ambassador Susan E. Rice presided over an unprecedented meeting between the United Nations Security Council and a packed house full of young people representing China, Austria, Japan, and the four corners of the UN’s own diverse back yard – Lower Manhattan, Harlem, Brooklyn and Queens.

    The subject of debate? Future threats to global peace and security.

    More than four months had passed since President Obama kicked off a forum with young African leaders by reasoning that the world’s young people – “who are going to be providing the energy, the new initiatives, the new ideas” – deserve a seat at the table.

    With “Voices of a New Generation,” which began with an appeal by Ambassador Rice to send videos and essays on matters of peace and security, the United States introduced the same concept within the halls of the United Nations.

    “Your lives are being shaped and sculpted by a world of challenge and change,” Ambassador Rice said in her opening remarks on Tuesday. “And by bringing your voices into this room, we remind ourselves not only that real lives are at stake in our deliberations. We remind ourselves that we, the grown-ups, are only the temporary stewards of the Earth, and that we owe it to you, the next generation, to provide a more peaceful world of growing prosperity, equality, democracy, and opportunity.”

    UN Security Council and Youth 2

    Students listen as members of the UN Security Council speak during a meeting with young people in New York City. December 21, 2010.

    Ambassador Rice then introduced three videos, concluding a two-week-long review of more than 900 entries from more than 90 countries. They belonged to:

    Responding to the videos, Council members addressed the concerns of these young people: the link between economic development and security, the persistence of gender inequality, the root causes of terrorism. Later on in the program, she introduced a video montage of submissions from 13 others who were exceptionally original and relevant to the matters at hand. You may view the montage below:

    “I hope this is not the last time that the Security Council has the opportunity not just to hear from young people,” Ambassador Rice said, “but to work on behalf of young people, very consciously and very directly.”

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (320MB) | mp3 (31MB)

    In the opening remarks of his press conference, the President lamented the fact that the DREAM Act was successfully obstructed by Republicans in the Senate, and readily acknowledged that there will be tough fights over how to cut spending where it's not needed while maintaining the investments critical to our economy and out future -- but nonetheless expressed hope in the massive slate of accomplishments from the last few weeks.

    The list began with the New START Treaty on nuclear proliferation with Russia, which had just been approved by the Senate:

    First of all, I’m glad that Democrats and Republicans came together to approve my top national security priority for this session of Congress – the new START Treaty. This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades, and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia. With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases. So we will be able to trust but verify;  and to continue to advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges – from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran, to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. This treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them.

    But that was only the beginning:

    In the last few weeks, we also came together across party lines to pass a package of tax cuts and unemployment insurance that will spur jobs, businesses, and growth.  This package includes a payroll tax cut that means nearly every American family will get an average tax cut next year of about $1,000 delivered in their paychecks. It will make a difference for millions of students, and parents, and workers, and people still looking for work. It’s has led economists across the political spectrum to predict that the economy will grow faster than they originally thought next year.  

    In our ongoing struggle to perfect our Union, we also overturned a 17-year old law and a longstanding injustice by finally ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As I said earlier today, this is the right thing to do for our security. And it is the right thing to do, period.

    In addition, we came together across party lines to pass a food safety bill – the biggest upgrade of America’s food safety laws since the Great Depression. And I hope the House soon joins the Senate in passing a 9/11 health bill that will help cover the health care costs of police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, and residents who inhaled toxic air near the World Trade Center on that terrible morning, and the days that followed. 

    So, I think it’s fair to say this has been the most productive post-election period we’ve had in decades, and it comes on the heels of the most productive two years we’ve had in generations.

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (253MB) | mp3 (24MB)

    With his signature today, the President put in motion the end of a policy that has hurt our military as a whole, that has forced thousands of those who serve to do so under a cloud of anxiety and isolation, and that has stood as a symbol of the barriers to unity and equality in our country.  As the President put it, "For we are not a nation that says, 'don't ask, don’t tell.' We are a nation that says, 'Out of many, we are one.'"

    A Man in the Audience Tears Up At Signing of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" Repeal

    People in the audience listen as President Barack Obama speaks before signing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 during a ceremony at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C. December 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – one of many to receive a standing ovation during the signing ceremony – has made the case consistently on the effect this policy has had on thousands of our troops, and the President quoted him saying “Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well.”  The President added:

    I want to express my gratitude to the men and women in this room who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Services.  (Applause.)  I want to thank all the patriots who are here today, all of them who were forced to hang up their uniforms as a result of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” -- but who never stopped fighting for this country, and who rallied and who marched and fought for change.  I want to thank everyone here who stood with them in that fight. 

    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen at Signing of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" Repeal

    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen is acknowledged before President Barack Obama signs the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 during a ceremony at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C. December 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    The entire event was profound, and the President's remarks are well worth reading in full, but perhaps the most moving part of the President’s remarks was a story he opened with:

    You know, I am just overwhelmed.  This is a very good day.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank all of you, especially the people on this stage, but each and every one of you who have been working so hard on this, members of my staff who worked so hard on this.  I couldn’t be prouder.

    Sixty-six years ago, in the dense, snow-covered forests of Western Europe, Allied Forces were beating back a massive assault in what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge.  And in the final days of fighting, a regiment in the 80th Division of Patton’s Third Army came under fire.  The men were traveling along a narrow trail.  They were exposed and they were vulnerable.  Hundreds of soldiers were cut down by the enemy. 

    And during the firefight, a private named Lloyd Corwin tumbled 40 feet down the deep side of a ravine.  And dazed and trapped, he was as good as dead.  But one soldier, a friend, turned back.  And with shells landing around him, amid smoke and chaos and the screams of wounded men, this soldier, this friend, scaled down the icy slope, risking his own life to bring Private Corwin to safer ground. 

    For the rest of his years, Lloyd credited this soldier, this friend, named Andy Lee, with saving his life, knowing he would never have made it out alone.  It was a full four decades after the war, when the two friends reunited in their golden years, that Lloyd learned that the man who saved his life, his friend Andy, was gay.  He had no idea.  And he didn’t much care.  Lloyd knew what mattered.  He knew what had kept him alive; what made it possible for him to come home and start a family and live the rest of his life.  It was his friend. 

    And Lloyd’s son is with us today.  And he knew that valor and sacrifice are no more limited by sexual orientation than they are by race or by gender or by religion or by creed; that what made it possible for him to survive the battlefields of Europe is the reason that we are here today.   (Applause.)  That's the reason we are here today.  (Applause.)

    The President stressed for the sake of those in uniform now that he, the Defense Secretary and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs still need to certify that the military has made any needed preparations for the transition before repeal goes into effect, but also gave this assurance: “I have spoken to every one of the service chiefs and they are all committed to implementing this change swiftly and efficiently.  We are not going to be dragging our feet to get this done.”  He went on to express complete confidence that those who serve in our military will easily adapt, quoting one service member who contributed to the Pentagon’s exhaustive study:

    As one special operations warfighter said during the Pentagon’s review -- this was one of my favorites -- it echoes the experience of Lloyd Corwin decades earlier:  “We have a gay guy in the unit.  He’s big, he’s mean, he kills lots of bad guys.”  (Laughter.)  “No one cared that he was gay.”  (Laughter.) And I think that sums up perfectly the situation.  (Applause.)  

    The President and Vice President Shake Hands with the Audience After Signing Repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell"

    President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden shake hands with people in the audience after signing the Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. December 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

  • This morning, hundreds of people came together to watch as the President signed the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell into law.  Throughout the week, media outlets across the country have called the repeal a significant moment in civil rights history.  Here a few of the online posts and editorials we've seen.

    Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic: Obama's Long Game: 65-31

    “Without the Pentagon study, it wouldn't have passed. Without Obama keeping Lieberman inside the tent, it wouldn't have passed. Without the critical relationship between Bob Gates and Obama, it wouldn't have passed. It worked our last nerve; we faced at one point a true nightmare of nothing ... for years. And then we pulled behind this president, making it his victory and the country's victory, as well as ours.”

    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Making good history

    “When Obama signs a bill repealing the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ rule, it will be an event as significant for gay rights as President Harry Truman’s order integrating the U.S. military was for black Americans. Obama’s signature will mark historic progress for a nation that has for too long denigrated gay Americans. Our hope is that it is the death knell for one of the last frontiers of bigotry.”

    Denver Post: For gays in the military, a measure of equality

    “A basic civil right will finally be extended to thousands of men and women serving our nation in the military.”

    Detroit Free Press: Another policy of prejudice rejected

    “[F]or anyone whose soul is still stirred by the words of America's founding declaration, the end of DADT marks a monumental step toward the equality and justice its drafters sought to secure. And the process by which it was achieved highlights both the enduring strength of the American democratic process and the wisdom of its current stewards.”

    Seattle Times: Gays in the military, an injustice repealed

    “This is history making on the order of racial integration of the armed services and expanded roles for women in uniform.”

    Los Angeles Times: 'Don't ask, don't tell': lessons of a long fight

    “Support for repeal among the public and in Congress also reflected changing attitudes that can be credited not only to gay rights campaigners but also to ordinary gay and lesbian Americans who, by embracing their identity, made it harder for their friends, families and co-workers to cling to anti-gay prejudices.”

    Las Vegas Review Journal: Closing this chapter

    “President Obama is correct that sexual orientation places no limits on the ability of an American to display strength, courage and character. Despite the prohibition, gays have served and fought honorably in many armies -- and have essentially been integrated in the military for decades. Irrational prejudice is a thing to be confronted and overcome.”

    Louisville Courier-Journal: Repealing bigotry

    “’It is time to close this chapter in our history,’ Mr. Obama said last Saturday. ‘It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly.’  A lot had to happen for an American commander in chief to be able to make that remarkable statement. Public attitudes had to change, and they have. Brave men and women had to risk everything in trying to end this discrimination, and they did. Public officials had to stand against storms of criticism, and they stood. The military establishment had to rectify a long-standing injustice, and it bent toward justice.”

    AMERICAblog Gay: Tanya Domi: 'we stand on the shoulders of many who have not lived to see this day'

    "But ultimately this vote and ultimate victory, belongs to the veterans and active duty service members who would not relent to the inaccurate political belief that we should not allow gays to openly serve during the course of two ongoing wars."

    Miami Herald: So long, 'don't ask, don't tell'

    “At least 25 nations allow gays and lesbians to serve in the military -- including Great Britain, Canada and Israel. Surely, the time has come for the United States to adopt the same enlightened policy. With two ongoing wars, the U.S. military simply can’t afford to exclude any individual able and more than willing to serve.”

    Virginian-Pilot: Good riddance to ban on gays

    “The military will adapt to this change, just as it did to racial integration and to allowing women to serve. In both those cases, critics predicted the sky would fall. It didn't. It won't this time, either.”

    Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Victory in battle: Reason and equality win on 'don't ask, don't tell'

    “The majority of military men and women surveyed, plus the top brass, said they favored repealing the policy. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, supported ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’  What counts is that a good soldier is a good soldier.”

    Houston Chronicle: A salute: Finally, all American troops can serve their country openly

    “It (the repeal vote) was a rare display of principle over politics, especially in the bitterly divisive climate of this rough-and-tumble lame-duck session.  Good for them, good for our troops, and good for our country. Let's hope it's catching.”

    New Orleans Times-Picayune: Allowing gay men and lesbians to serve with integrity

    “Gay men and lesbians are already demonstrating their valor and patriotism in the armed forces, something that members of the military clearly recognized, based on their responses in a recently released Department of Defense report. Allowing them to do so honestly is only right.”

    Billie Jean King, The Huffington Post: Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell Is a Big Deal

    "I am proud to be an American and I am honored to have the men and women who serve in our armed forces put their lives on the line to protect our nation. Their race, gender or sexual orientation does not matter to me. What matters most is their commitment to our country.  And that is a big deal."

    Towleroad: Photo: Crowd Awaits Obama 'DADT' Signing Outside Dept. of Interior

     

     

     

     

  • As someone who came to this country as a teenager, and worked long hours to create a better life for myself and my family, I know America’s greatness flows not just from its laws and leaders, but from the extraordinary acts of everyday citizens. 

    For more than 20 years – working with and for people from all walks of life who are striving to live the American dream – I have seen that greatness firsthand. As CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, I know that everyday, in communities across America, citizens are finding solutions to community problems.

    That is America’s way. Americans have always believed in the idea that we can change things, we can make things better, we can solve problems, when we join together. 

    Today, as so many Americans face hardship, we need that spirit more than ever.  In difficult times, national service and volunteerism are smart strategies that tap the energy and ingenuity of our greatest resource – the American people – to solve problems and get things done.

  • For the past decade, Americans have seen double-digit health insurance premium increases.  From 2000 to 2010, premiums rose 114 percent and nothing suggests that the quality of insurance coverage improved.  In many cases, insurance companies had free reign and weren’t held accountable when they attempted to raise rates on consumers. Only 26 states and the District of Columbia can reject premium increases that are excessive or unjustified, and many of these states lack the resources to use this authority to protect consumers.

    That’s beginning to change.  Here’s how:

    First, the Affordable Care Act gives states $250 million to enhance their rate review procedures so they can better protect consumers and stop unreasonable premium hikes from taking effect. 46 states and the District of Columbia have already received a share of these resources and they’re using the new funds to make more information about premiums available to the public and get the authority they need to oversee the insurance marketplace and protect consumers.

    Second, the Affordable Care Act brings new transparency to the health insurance market by requiring insurance companies to publicly justify any unreasonable premium increases.  Under the new rules, if an insurance company proposes to raise rates by 10% or more, they must publicly disclose on their own, as well as HHS’ website the justification for the increase. The appropriate state insurance commissioner or, if a State does not have an effective rate review process, HHS, will then review the insurance company’s justification to determine whether or not the increase is justified.  In some states like, Washington and Maine, all new insurance premium rates, regardless of whether they are below 10% need to be approved by the state insurance commissioner’s office ahead of time, and will continue to be reviewed moving forward.

    Shining a bright light on health insurance premium increases and conducting aggressive rate review will help control costs for American families. And we know rate review works. States like Washington and Maine have strong review laws that have been effective at protecting their residents from out-of-control premium increases.  And just recently, Connecticut regulators recently rejected a proposed 20 percent rate increase that would have impacted 48,000 consumers after their review found that such an increase was unjustified and excessive. 

    Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has recorded a new White House White Board video to explain just how this new rule works, and how rate review helps states review and crack down on unjustified premium hikes and protect consumers:

    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.

    Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects

  • President Obama Signs CAPTA

    President Barack Obama signs S. 3817, the “CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010,” (Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act) in the Oval Office, (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    This afternoon, I stood in the Oval Office and watched as President Obama signed the reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) which includes the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA.)  As he signed this crucial bill into law, the President was surrounded by Senators and Representatives, both Democrats and Republicans, and national advocates who work every day to end domestic violence and child abuse. 

  • Ed. Note: President Obama, Vice President Biden and Administration officials recorded their own video messages to give support to young people who are being bullied because of their sexual orientation. Visit WhiteHouse.gov/itgetsbetter for more videos and resources.

    Inspired by President Obama’s It Gets Better video, several LGBT White House staffers decided to add their voices to the project. President Obama has more LGBT appointees than any previous Administration and he is committed to making his Administration reflect the diversity of our nation.

    Resources

    If you’re a young person who’s been bullied or harassed by your peers, or you’re a parent or teacher who knows a young person being bullied or harassed, here are a few resources that can help you:

    The Trevor Project 

    The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LBGTQ youth by providing resources and a nationwide, 24 hour hotline.  If you are considering suicide or need help, call: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).

    BullyingInfo.org

    BullyingInfo.org is a project of the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP) focused on providing tools and resources for youth, parents, teachers and mental health providers to prevent and address bullying. 

    It Gets Better Project

    President Obama's video and Vice President Biden’s video are just a couple of the thousands of videos submitted by people across the country to inspire and encourage LGBT youth who are struggling.  You can watch more videos at ItGetsBetterProject.com.

    For even more information and resources visit or call:

  • Rather than the traditional, honorary trip to the White House this year, the 2010 World Champion Los Angeles Lakers teamed up with NBA Cares and President Obama last week to join members of The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washingon for an afternoon of education and service projects.

    Take a behind-the-scenes look as the President and the Lakers assemble care packages and write letters for wounded military servicement and women, put together supplies for DC homeless, and compete in the "Big Brain Academy Challenge" game which builds skills in thinking, memorization, computation, analysis, and identification.

    Download Video: mp4 (22MB)

    Following the activities with the kids, President Obama congratulated the Los Angeles Lakers on their 2010 NBA Championship in a brief ceremony.  If you missed it, watch it here or read the transcript.

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