Read all posts from January 2011

  • This morning, Senior Advisor to the President David Plouffe sent a reminder to the White House email to tune into President Obama's State of the Union Address tonight and to watch the live Open for Questions event immediately following the speech.  Check out the email below, and if you didn't get it, be sure you sign up for the White House email list

    Tonight at 9 p.m. EST, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union Address and outline his vision for putting aside the politics that divide us and moving forward to create jobs, up our game to out-compete in the global economy, and win the future for our children and our country.  

    This year we're trying something new.  As President Obama addresses the Nation, we'll offer a companion stream of visual aids, including charts and quick stats about what’s happening in the country.  You can view this feature at

    Immediately following the speech, stay tuned for our live Open for Questions event with policy experts from the White House answering your questions about key issues in the speech.

    Watch the speech and submit your questions:

  • Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series where readers can meet average Americans already benefiting from the health reform law, the Affordable Care Act.

    James Howard from Katy, Texas was diagnosed with brain cancer in March, 2010 and later thought his lack of health insurance was a death sentence. One of his prescription drugs alone cost $10,000 a week and he had no idea how he would afford the costs of prescriptions, doctor’s visits, tests and treatments. James searched, but could not find affordable health insurance until he discovered the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. Here’s how the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan works:

    The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is a bridge to 2014, when the health insurance exchanges will offer people like James and small businesses a competitive marketplace where they can shop for more affordable insurance based on price and quality. In addition, in 2014, denying coverage or charging higher premiums based on a pre-existing condition will be prohibited.

    But we know that people like James need immediate relief. Between now and 2014, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan offers health insurance to Americans who have been uninsured for at least six months and have a pre-existing condition or have been denied health coverage because of their health condition. Depending on where you live, the plan is operated by either your state or the Department of Health and Human Services.

    James is grateful for the coverage the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan offers and says that without it, he would not have been able to continue his treatments.

    Tonight, you’ll be able to spot James as he watches the State of the Union address here in Washington with First Lady Michelle Obama and other Americans from across the country. You can listen to his story now:

    Download Video: mp4 (2.4MB)

    Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects.

  • Ed. Note: Cross posted from DipNote, the U.S. Department of State Official Blog.

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

    On the heels of the China State Visit to Washington, DC, Obama Administration officials created a high-tech bridge across the Pacific to discuss the recent trip and other important issues with Chinese bloggers. Connecting live via video from the Situation Room in the White House to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes and National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Jeff Bader engaged in an interactive, spirited web chat with a group of Chinese bloggers based in Beijing.

  • Ever wanted to know how President Obama tackles his State of the Union address?  Our latest Inside the White House feature takes you into the West Wing offices of Jon Favreau, a longtime speechwriting aide to the President, and Senior Advisor David Axelrod to get a rare glimpse at how the process works -- and how the President is approaching tonight's speech.

    You'll also learn about the history of the State of the Union address from U.S. House of Representatives Historian Matthew Wasniewski, and see archival footage of Addresses from decades past.

    After you hear the the history of this event, make sure you don't miss out on what's new. When President Obama delivers his Address to the nation at 9 p.m. EST, be sure to check out the first-ever Enhanced State of the Union -- a visual companion of related charts and other content as the President speaks.

    Immediately after the speech, we'll take you back to the White House for an event with a panel of policy experts who will take your questions via the web. And throughout the week, there will be a number of ways citizens can engage and ask their questions to the President and senior Administration officials.

  • For nearly three decades, extraordinary Americans who exemplify the themes and ideals laid out in the State of the Union Address have been invited to join the First Lady in her viewing box. From small business owners to young innovators, military heroes to health care reform beneficiaries – use the interactive feature below to learn more about the remarkable individuals who will join First Lady Michelle Obama for the 2011 State of the Union Address.

    First Lady's Box at the 2011 State of the Union

    Rollover to learn more about each guest invited
    to sit with the First Lady.

    First Lady Michelle Obama

    Michelle Obama is the First Lady of the United States. Continuing a longstanding tradition, extraordinary Americans who exemplify the themes and ideals laid out in the President’s State of the Union Address attend the event as guests of the First Lady.

    Read her full bio here.

    Dr. Jill Biden

    Jill Biden is the wife of Vice President Biden. An educator and a proud Blue Star mom, Dr. Biden works to highlight the importance of community colleges, to raise awareness about the sacrifices made by military families, and to bring attention to women’s health issues.

    Read her full bio here.

    Phil Schiliro

    Philip M. Schiliro is Assistant to the President and the Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs. Schiliro was the Director of Congressional Relations for the transition team of President-elect Barack Obama and a senior advisor to Senator Obama's presidential campaign. He has worked in the United States Congress for more than 25 years.

    Gary and Robert Allen
    Rochester Hills, MI

    Gary and his brother Robert have been partners in the family business, Allen Brothers Inc., a roofing products manufacturing company, for 25 years. With the help of $500,000 from the Recovery Act, the Allen brothers were able to retool half of their manufacturing facility in order to manufacture solar shingles and launch a whole new business, Luma Resources.

    Ursula M. Burns
    Norwalk, CT

    Ursula M. Burns is the chief executive officer of Xerox Corporation. Ms. Burns was named by President Obama to help lead the White House national campaign on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in November 2009, and is on the board of Change the Equation, a coalition of over 100 CEOs focused on STEM education that the President announced in September 2010. She was appointed vice chair of the President’s Export Council in March 2010.

    Amy Chyao
    Richardson, TX

    Amy, a sixteen-year-old high school junior from Richardson, Texas, has developed a photosensitizer for photodynamic therapy (PDT), an emerging cancer treatment that uses light energy to activate a drug that kills cancer cells. With her work, Amy won the first place Gordon E. Moore Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public, in May 2010. Amy met the President at the October 2010 White House Science Fair.

    Learn More

    Kendra Baker and Zachary Davis
    Santa Cruz, CA

    Business partners Kendra Baker and Zachary Davis had a dream of opening an organic, homemade ice cream shop in Santa Cruz, California. With the help of a Recovery Act SBA loan of $250,000, Kendra and Zack were able to open the doors to The Penny Ice Creamery in August 2010. The SBA Recovery Act funding allowed them to not only open the shop, but also to employ eleven people, purchase American-made equipment, and to hire nearly twenty local businesses to design and renovate the space.

    Learn More

    Brandon and Julie Fisher
    Berlin, PA

    Brandon Fisher is the owner Center Rock, a small business in Berlin, Pennsylvania that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology. Last summer, Center Rock manufactured the drill bits and other equipment used to find and rescue the 33 trapped Chilean miners. The technology enabled a considerable shortening of the rescue timeline. Brandon and his wife, sales director Julie, spent 37 days in Chile working to drill the rescue shaft. Brandon, along with some of the Americans involved in the Chilean mine rescue efforts, met the President in October 2010.

    Brandon Ford
    Philadelphia, PA

    Brandon, a junior at West Philadelphia High School, is a leader of the West Philly Hybrid X Team, which includes students from an afterschool program at the West Philadelphia High School Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering. Brandon and the Hybrid X team recently entered two cars in the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE competition, a global challenge that sought to deliver production-ready, highly fuel efficient vehicles. They successfully went head-to-head with corporations, universities and other well-funded organizations, even advancing to an elimination round with their Ford Focus that got an official 65.1 MPGe.

    The Green Family
    Tucson, AZ

    John and Roxanna are the parents of eleven-year-old Dallas and the late Christina Taylor, the nine-year-old girl killed when a gunman opened fire on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson earlier this month. At just nine years old, Christina Taylor already had big plans to one day serve her country. Christina Taylor was born on 9/11 and had used her birthdate as a source of inspiration during her short life.

    Learn More

    Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta
    Hiawata, IA

    Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, a native of Hiawatha, Iowa, enlisted in the United States Army in November 2003. Staff Sergeant Giunta has completed two combat tours to Afghanistan totaling 27 months of deployment. He received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan in October 2007.

    Learn More

    Daniel Hernandez
    Tucson, AZ

    Daniel Hernandez is a student advocate and political activist from Tucson, Arizona. He currently serves as a Congressional Intern for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a Director with the Arizona Students’ Association. Born in 1990, Daniel attended public schools in the Sunnyside Unified School District and is earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science as a junior at the University of Arizona.

    Learn More

    Jim Houser
    Portland, OR

    Jim Houser and his wife have owned an auto repair shop in Portland, Oregon for over 25 years, and they don’t want to lose valuable employees. That’s why Jim has always provided health insurance to his employees. But in the last ten years, Jim has been forced to contend with skyrocketing premium increases, with premiums making up over 20 percent of his payroll. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Jim and small business owners like him are getting immediate relief. The health reform law provides tax credits for small businesses that offer employees health insurance. Jim estimates that the tax credits will save him over $10,000.

    James Howard
    Katy, TX

    James Howard was diagnosed with brain cancer in March and later thought his lack of health insurance was a death sentence. Fortunately, he was able to join the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan and is now getting the treatment he needs.

    Staff Sergeant Brian Mast and Brianna Mast
    Washington, DC

    Staff Sergeant Brian Mast is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Four years ago he joined the Special Forces and was trained in bomb disposal. Staff Sergeant Mast deployed to Afghanistan in July 2010. He was seriously injured by a roadside bomb on September 19, 2010. He lost both legs just below the knee and an index finger. Staff Sergeant Mast suffered a broken arm, shrapnel wounds, and a damaged ear drum in the blast and is currently recovering at Walter Reed. Staff Sergeant Mast, his wife, Brianna, and their son, Magnum, met the Vice President and Dr. Biden at a Thanksgiving dinner for military families.

    Gunnery Sergeant Nicole Mohabir
    Fort Lee, VA

    Gunnery Sergeant Mohabir enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in December 1991. Gunnery Sergeant Mohabir made her first deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) from December 2002 to June 2003 with Combat Service Support Group-12. In 2004, she made her second deployment in support of OIF and was assigned to Headquarters and Service Battalion, 1st Force Service Support Group at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq. Gunnery Sergeant Mohabir deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in March 2010 and is currently back at her duty station in Fort Lee, Virginia.

    Mikayla Nelson
    Billings, MT

    Mikayla Nelson is currently a freshman at Central Catholic High School in Billings, Montana. As a middle schooler at Will James Middle School, she led her Science Bowl team to a 1st place finish at the National Science Bowl for the design document of their solar car. They also won 5th place in the U.S. Dept of Energy’s Junior Solar Sprint. Mikayla met the President at the October 2010 White House Science Fair where she represented her Science Bowl team and exhibited their solar car.

    Learn More

    Kathy Proctor
    Winston-Salem, NC

    Kathy Proctor grew up in Trinity, North Carolina where, after graduating, she went to work in the furniture industry like many others in the area. When she was laid off in 2009, Kathy began taking classes in biotechnology at Forsyth Technical Community College. Kathy will graduate in July 2011, with an Associate Degree in Science, and hopes to attain a job working as a bio-fuels analyst. Kathy met the President when he visited Forsyth Tech in early December 2010.

    Learn More

    Dr. Peter Rhee
    Tucson, AZ

    Dr. Peter Rhee is a United States Navy veteran and military surgeon, currently serving as the Chief of Trauma at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Rhee oversaw the medical care associated with Arizona's recent shooting tragedy, including the care of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Rhee has handled hundreds of battlefield injuries in two war deployments beginning in 2001.

    Learn More

    Diego Vasquez
    Phoenix, AZ

    Diego Vasquez, currently a freshman at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona, was a member of the team from Cesar Chavez High School in Laveen, Arizona that won a grant through the Lemelson-MIT Program’s InvenTeams initiative for their design of a fully adjustable motorized chair for persons who could primarily use it for physical therapy. Diego met the President at the October 2010 White House Science Fair where he represented his team and demonstrated their chair.

    Learn More

    Wendell P. Weeks
    Corning, NY

    Wendell P. Weeks is chairman and chief executive officer of Corning Incorporated. He was named chief executive officer in April 2005 and chairman of the board in April 2007. He has been a member of the company’s board of directors since December 2000. Mr. Weeks began his career with Corning in 1983 in the corporate control group and moved through a variety of financial and business development roles.


    Check out for an enhanced viewing experience of President Obama's State of the Union address and for opportunities to engage online with White House officials and even President Obama himself.

    Read the full press release here.

  • Ed. Note: Recently the Department of Energy (DOE) launched a new version of to better showcase the information and services DOE provides online. Be sure to check it out at

    Sometimes when one gets so focused on the daily tasks at hand, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture around us. But when you take a step back, it is an impressive canvass. Thanks to the hard work of everyone at the Department of Energy over the past year, we’ve made remarkable progress in laying the foundation for a new energy future, advancing groundbreaking science, and reducing the nuclear dangers facing the world. In the process, we’ve begun to change the way the Department does business so we accomplish our work more efficiently and more effectively.

  • Secretary Mabus at Green Hornet Flight

    Secretary Ray Mabus at the Green Hornet flight on Earth Day in 2010.

    In October 2009, as Secretary of the Navy, I established five ambitious goals to reduce fossil fuel consumption in the Navy and Marine Corps and increase the use of alternative energy to at least 50% of our energy requirements no later than 2020.  These goals support the President’s objective to create a new energy future and a clean energy economy for the United States, and the reasons for doing so are clear and compelling:

    • Reducing our reliance on foreign sources of energy makes the country more secure.  Competition over fossil fuel resources has been one of the leading sources of conflict for thousands of years.  Today, little has changed – whether it is oil, natural gas, or electricity – disruptions in the flow of energy can cause major economic havoc and negatively affect both our national security and international stability.
    • Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels makes our people safer.  Getting fossil fuels to our troops on the front lines is one of the most dangerous things we do.  In fact, we import more gasoline into Afghanistan than any other product. Moving fuel to our Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) means convoys, which means protecting our convoys with Marines and Sailors, taking them away from doing what we sent them to Afghanistan to do and making them vulnerable to IEDs and ambush.  If we can reduce the number of convoys by making our systems more efficient, or generating power from solar energy at the FOBs, we make our troops safer.
    • Increasing energy efficiency makes our ships, aircraft, and vehicles more tactically capable.  A better engine on a plane means it can go farther, and stay airborne longer.  Better engines on ships results in less time spent refueling in vulnerable locations in port or at sea – a lesson we learned all too clearly with the USS COLE.
    • Increasing alternative energy use by the Navy and Marine Corps helps create an alternative energy market.  The Navy uses a third of the fossil fuels consumed by the Federal Government, which in turn uses about two percent of fossil fuels in America.  The Navy and Marine Corps’ plan helps spur private investment and ultimately moves the country toward a clean energy economy.
    • Reducing the energy footprint of the Navy and Marine Corps significantly reduces our carbon footprint.

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (289MB) | mp3 (28MB)
    I wanted to spread the word about a very important event that the President, the First Lady and I hosted today at the White House in case you missed it. We gathered together with members of the Cabinet, military service members and their families to highlight the efforts of the federal government to support our nation’s military families.

    I was so pleased to have several of my own special guests join us today – people who represent the strength and courage that I have seen in so many military families around the country.

    People like Jessica Sanders who I met two weeks ago at a Deployment Ceremony for members of the Delaware Army National Guard’s 126th Aviation Regiment. Jessica’s fiancé, Captain Mark Thomas, will deploy in the coming weeks to Afghanistan where he and his unit will provide medical evacuations for troops, allies and Afghan civilians.  

    And people like Sandra Norris, the wife of Colonel John Norris who I met when I traveled to Iraq last summer.  Sandra has volunteered thousands of hours of her time and expertise over the past 20 years – leading Family Readiness Groups and supporting other Army families as an advisor and friend – all while raising two sons and coping with John’s 42 months in combat.

    President Obama Speaks on Support for Military Families

    President Barack Obama looks over at First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden as he delivers remarks in the East Room of the White House unveiling efforts to better coordinate and strengthen the Federal government’s support for military families, Monday, January 24, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • We're putting the finishing touches on a new feature for that will offer an enhanced viewer experience for President Obama's State of the Union address.

    As President Obama addresses the Nation, will offer a companion stream of visual aids, like charts and quick stats to provide context and emphasize key points.  Anyone will be able to use this feature by heading to and using the "Enhanced" tab.

    You ain't seen a State of the Union Address like this before

    This "Enhanced SOTU" feature is just one of many ways we are working to provide as much information as possible and answer your questions about the speech. As Dan pointed out Friday, there are a variety of opportunities to engage online with White House officials and even President Obama himself. Immediately after the speech (as in, you don't even have to leave the webpage because the video feed will automatically switch) policy experts will answer questions submitted via the web and a live audience at the White House.  And for the rest of the week, we're working with a wide range of online communities to surface even more feedback about the President's speech and the state of our union.

    So Tuesday night at 9 p.m. EST, be sure to load to make your State of the Union experience as informative and interactive as possible.  Want a reminder?  Sign up for email updates and we'll be sure to send you one.

  • Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series where readers can meet average Americans already benefiting from the health reform law, the Affordable Care Act.

    Jim Houser and his wife have owned an auto repair shop in Portland, Oregon for over 25 years, and it’s important to them to retain their employees and keep them healthy. They invest time, energy and money to train their workers and they don’t want to lose valuable employees. 

    That’s why Jim has always provided health insurance to his employees. But in the last ten years, Jim has been forced to contend with skyrocketing premium increases, with premiums making up over 20% of his payroll.

    Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Jim and small business owners like him are getting immediate relief.

    The health reform law provides tax credits for small businesses that offer employees health insurance. Up to 4 million small businesses could be eligible for relief from high health insurance premiums and, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office, the tax credit will save small businesses $40 billion by 2019. And small business owners like Jim are benefiting from the tax credit today. Jim estimates that the tax credits will save him over $10,000.

    Tax credits aren’t the only benefit for small businesses in the Affordable Care Act. The law creates new, competitive state-based insurance Exchanges.  Exchanges will enable individuals and small businesses to pool together and use their market strength to buy coverage at a lower cost, the same way large employers do today, giving them the freedom to launch their own companies without worrying whether health care will be available when they need it.

    Small businesses are the engine of our economy and President Obama and his team will continue to do all we can to help small businesses grow, create jobs and succeed. That’s why the President called on Congress to eliminate the overly burdensome 1099 reporting requirement requires businesses to report to the IRS all purchases that exceed $600.  

    As Jim notes, the Affordable Care Act is already helping businesses like his “offer the kind of support that keeps employees with your company.” Listen to his story:

    Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects.


  • Vice President Biden Honors R. Sargent Shriver at His Funeral Mass

    Vice President Joe Biden delivers a eulogy at the funeral of Sargent Shriver in Potomac, Maryland, January 22, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Since the passing of R. Sargent Shriver on Tuesday, the outpouring of emotion has befitted the life of the first director of the Peace Corps, a man who dedicated himself to his fellow men.  At his funeral mass today, those in attendance knew him best not just as a great humanitarian but as a great, reliable friend who was always up to make you laugh.  Throughout his eulogy, the Vice President spoke to Shriver's loving children:

  • President Obama discusses the steps he is taking to make America competitive in the short and long terms, and why he chose GE CEO Jeff Immelt to head up the new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

  • A quick look at the week of January 17, 2011:

    Quote: “Dr. King obviously had a dream of justice and equality in our society, but he also had a dream of service, that you could be a drum major for service, that you could lead by giving back to our communities.” Read the Post. Watch the video.

    First Lady Michelle Obama Surprises White House Visitors

    First Lady Michelle Obama surprises visitors on a public tour in the Blue Room of the White House, Jan. 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (187MB) | mp3 (18MB)

    Today, President Obama travelled to Schenectady, New York where he visited a General Electric (GE) plant building high-tech wind turbines and discussed about the importance of spurring innovation at home and selling our goods and services abroad. As the President said today “America is still home to the most creative and most innovative businesses in the world,” and we must harness our spirit of innovation and creativity to compete in the global economy.

    The President also announced that GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt will join his team of economic advisors as the head of the new White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness -  a board to get Americans back to work and strengthen our economy.

    In his remarks, President Obama discussed the importance of increasing exports of American goods and services abroad in order to accelerate growth and create jobs at home:

  • Ed. Note: Cross-posted from  the Fastlane Blog.

    The transportation sector accounts for two-thirds of of US oil use and contributes about one-third of our greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, transportation professionals have a special obligation to take action.

    The good news is that transportation's pressure on these twin problems creates an obvious opportunity for our sector to help work toward solutions. And, with President Obama's leadership on energy independence and climate change, the Department of Transportation has been doing precisely that.

    Here are a few of DOT's efforts toward greater sustainability and a cleaner environment that you may have heard about last year:

  • On Tuesday, January 25, at 9 p.m. EST, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol.  We have been working on a number of ways citizens can get involved in the State of the Union and ask their questions of President Obama and senior Administration officials.  You can find all the details on our brand new State of the Union page.  

    Here’s the lineup of events next week.  Be sure to tune in to watch the speech live at 9 p.m. on Tuesday and find a way get involved.

    Tuesday at 9 PM: Live Stream of the State of the Union

    Watch the live stream of the State of the Union Address on

    Tuesday Immediately After the Speech: Open for Questions

    Immediately following the State of the Union Address, stay tuned for a live Open For Questions event where Senior White House officials will answer your questions about key issues addressed in the speech live from the White House. Panelists include:

    • Brian Deese, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council
    • Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy
    • David Simas, Director and Aide to the Senior Advisor
    • Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications. 

    Submit your questions on Twitter by replying to @whitehouse using the hashtag #sotu, on Facebook, or on our webform.

    Wednesday: Twitter Interview with Press Secretary Gibbs

    Press Secretary Robert Gibbs will be taking your questions via Twitter before his post-State of the Union briefing on Wednesday, January 26.  Follow @PressSec on Twitter to find out when he’ll be taking your questions, then respond to @PressSec using the hashtag #1Q and watch for his video responses. 

    Thursday at 2:30 PM: Live YouTube Interview with President Obama

    President Obama will answer your questions during a live YouTube interview at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday January 27. Submit your questions on

    Thursday: Open for Questions Policy Roundtables

    Throughout the day on Thursday, January 27, policy experts from the White House and around the Administration will be answering your questions key issue areas.  You can submit your questions during the event on Facebook or ahead of time with participating sites.  Check out the line up below:

    Vice President Joe Biden Answers Your Questions from Yahoo!

    Vice President Joe Biden will be taking questions from Yahoo! readers.  Be sure to check out The State of the Union page next week to find out how to submit your questions and watch for the answers.

  • Download Video: mp4 (21.1MB)

    In honor of President Hu's State Visit, President Obama presented the Chinese leader with a painting created by the Zhou Brothers. Based in President Obama’s hometown of Chicago, Illinois, DaHuang and Shan Zuo Zhou are distinguished Chinese American contemporary artists known for their unique collaborative work process. Their thinking, aesthetic and creativity are a symbiosis of Eastern and Western philosophy.

    It’s an original multi-textural oil painting on canvas measuring 86 inches wide and 68 inches high – 8 and 6 are lucky numbers that coincide with China’s country code 86. From the Great Wall of China to the portraits of the eight U.S. Presidents since President Nixon’s historic trip to China in 1972, the painting is replete with imagery and motifs that represent 5,000 years of Chinese culture and the friendship that our two countries have shared and will continue on together into the future.

    The Zhou Brothers were on hand Tuesday night for the gift exchange between the two Presidents. With White House and State Department staff huddled around, the Zhou brothers explained the significance of the painting, what the gift symbolizes, and their passion for and love of America.

  • Ed. Note: Watch a live stream of President Obama’s announcement and remarks on the economy from General Electric in Schenectady, New York on at 1:05 PM EST today.

    This afternoon, in Schenectady, New York, President Obama will announce the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness – a board to get Americans back to work and strengthen our economy that will be chaired by Jeff Immelt, the CEO and Chairman of General Electric.

    For the past two years under the leadership of Paul Volcker, the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB), has provided outside advice and counsel as the administration has taken bold steps to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. On February 6, 2011, the PERAB two-year mandate will expire, as scheduled.

    As we enter a new phase in our economic recovery, the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness will have a new composition and new mission. The Council will focus on finding new ways to promote growth by investing in American business to encourage hiring, to educate and train our workers to compete globally, and to attract the best jobs and businesses to the United States.

    Here’s what President Obama said about the new Council:

  • Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series where readers can meet average Americans already benefiting from the health reform law, the Affordable Care Act.

    Paul Horne and his wife from Indianapolis, Indiana, have spent a lot of their time thinking about or making life decisions based on their health care coverage.

    A few years ago, Paul went without medical treatment for the better part of a year because he didn’t have enough coverage, or money to pay for it. As a result his condition worsened.

    Now Paul is on Medicare and his health has improved, but he has been forced to contend with the prescription drug coverage gap known as the donut hole. Hitting the donut hole has devastating consequences for millions of seniors. In some cases, Americans in the donut hole are forced to choose between paying their mortgage bill, buying groceries or getting the medicine they needed.

    But that’s changing thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act has already provided a $250 rebate check to more than 3 million seniors like Paul who hit the donut hole. This year, seniors who hit the donut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on their brand name prescription drugs. And by 2020, the donut hole will be closed completely.

    If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, the donut hole will remain and seniors will pay more for their prescription drugs.  But under the new law, Paul won’t have to struggle to afford the prescription drugs he needs.

    Paul’s family is also benefiting from the other provisions in the Affordable Care Act that prohibit insurance companies from limiting the amount of care you can receive even if you need it. Paul’s wife’s policy had a one million dollar lifetime limit on the amount of care she could receive. Paul says the provision in the law that eliminates lifetime limits “kind of freeing, makes you think your health care [plan] actually has something to it.”

    Listen to his story:

    Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects.


  • Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Watch as the President welcomes the presidents of China and Pakistan, serves the D.C. community in observance of Martin Luther King Day, speaks in remembrance of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and President John F. Kennedy, and more.

    Download Video: mp4 (136.7MB)

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

    January 14th, 2011:

    January 17th, 2011:

    January 19th, 2011: