Read all posts from January 2011

  • As Congress returns to work, the President calls on them -- and all of us -- to debate our differences vigorously but to live up to the spirit of common cause we felt following the tragedy in Arizona.

  • A quick look at the week of January 10, 2011:

    Tragedy in Arizona: On Saturday, January 8th, 2011, senseless acts of violence committed in Tucson, Arizona claimed innocent lives. At a memorial event, President Obama asked Americans to channel their emotions toward the pursuit of a more perfect union, saying that "If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate -- as it should -- let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost." Watch the video.  View the photo gallery.  Read an open letter to parents from the First Lady.

    President Obama Addresses the Memorial Service

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a memorial service for the victims of Saturday’s shootings, during the event at the University of Arizona’s McKale Memorial Center in Tucson, Ariz., Jan. 12, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    MLK Day: Find opportunities in your communityto honor Dr. King and mark the 25th anniversary of the holiday by volunteering with a service project near you.

    In Numbers: Less than a month after President Obama signs the tax cut compromise, millions of American workers are already seeing the impact show up in their paychecks from the payroll tax cut – here are some numbersto help you understand what that means.

    Changes for Cuba and America: The President directs the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Homeland Security to take a series of steps to continue efforts to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country’s future. Read the announcement.

    Honoring Holbrooke: The President joins countless others in honoring legend of American diplomacy Richard Holbrooke. Read the remarks.

    West Wing Week: Preview of "Dispatches from Sudan": This week, an historic referendum took place in Sudan and West Wing Week takes you there. Join General Scott Gration, President Obama's Special Envoy to Sudan, for a unique look at the vote that could result in the world's newest nation. Watch the video.

    VP Visits Afghanistan: Vice President Biden spends the week in Afghanistan to assess progress toward full independence for Afghanistan, meet with our partners, and commend our troops. Read the post.View the gallery.

    Haiti: One Year Later: A statementfrom the President. A look backon the last year and on toward the future from the highest-ranking Haitian-American official in the Obama Administration. 

  • This Monday, Americans across the nation will honor Dr. King and mark the 25th anniversary of the holiday that bears his name.  Sixteen years ago, Congress passed legislation transforming the King holiday into a national day of service.  We’ve seen it grow from a handful of local events to well over 13,000 projects taking place this year in all 50 states.

    In Philadelphia, more than 70,000 volunteers will come together to beautify schools, refurbish computers, and serve meals to the homeless.  In Los Angeles, more than 1,000 community and corporate volunteers will revitalize the campus of an elementary school and AmeriCorps members will help to transform a hangar at the Compton airport into a multi-person service center to help those in need.  

    In Atlanta, Dr. King’s hometown, the King Center and Hands On Atlanta are leading an effort to feed 10,000 hungry Georgians.  Projects like these are planned across the country.  They are a way to honor Dr. King’s legacy and keep his dream of “the beloved community” alive.  

  • Moments ago the White House announced that the President has ordered significant changes to policies regarding Cuba.  Full announcement below:

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (347MB) | mp3 (33MB)

    Few have left such a towering legacy as a face of America to the world as Richard Holbrooke, and the mourners at his memorial this afternoon -- from current and former Presidents to foreign heads of state to what might have been taken for America's entire diplomatic corps -- reflected that legacy.

    President Obama began his remarks looking to the family that loved him:

    To Kati, Anthony, David and Elizabeth, to all the friends and admirers of Richard, we come together to celebrate an extraordinary life.

    In 1999, at the height of the crisis in Kosovo, Richard gave an interview in which he addressed the question of why the United States was engaged in bringing peace to that war-torn corner of the world.  Why bother?  His answer was simple:  “Because we could make a difference.”  Because we could make a difference.

    That is the story of American leadership in the world.  And that is also the story of Richard Holbrooke.  He made a difference.

    President Obama, Former President Clinton, Secretary Clinton and Samantha Power at Richard Holbrooke's Memorial

    President Barack Obama, with from left; Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, for President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Samantha Power, NSC Director of Multilateral Affairs, listen to one of the speakers at Ambassador Richard Holbrooke’s memorial service at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., January 14, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    That story began in Vietnam where he served as a Foreign Service Officer, and criss-crossed the world making history as it went:

  • This week, the Council on Women and Girls created a special “Women and Girls and the Obama Administration” photo gallery. We see how often the First Family and other Administration Officials work with - and on behalf - of women and girls and we wanted you to see that as well! This compilation is a small and powerful sample of our efforts. From lighting the White House pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month to speaking out on Violence Against Women to talking with members of the Girls National American Legion, this photo gallery gives you a glimpse into how the Administration is working to empower women and girls at home and abroad. See the full size version of the gallery and please share and enjoy the photos!

  • Less than a month after President Obama signed the tax cut compromise, millions of American workers are already seeing the impact show up in their paychecks from the payroll tax cut – here are some numbers on just that cut alone:

    • $695: Average expected benefit per worker.
    • $110 Billion: Total tax relief expected to go to working Americans.
    • 159 Million: Working Americans expected to receive larger paychecks this year than they would otherwise.

    To get a sense of how this will affect individual working people, the Treasury Department also put together a few hypothetical examples:

    • $1,362: The amount a married couple living in Detroit, Michigan – an automotive mechanic earning $38,300 and a preschool teacher earning $29,800 – would receive from the payroll tax cut.
    • $1,050: The amount another married couple, say this one lives in Wilmington, Ohio, would get if one of them earns $28,000 as a delivery truck driver earning and the other earns $24,500 as a nursing aide.
    • $490: The amount a single mother in Florida working as a hairdresser earning $24,500 would get.

    That money is already starting to show up in a lot of people’s paychecks just like them – not only can it help them make ends meet as the economy continues to recover, but as they spend it on things they need that will pump fuel directly into America’s larger economic engine.

  • President Barack Obama Meets with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan

    President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan in the Oval Office, January 14, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    This morning the President met with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan. The official readout is below:

    The President met with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan today at the White House. The discussion focused on our shared efforts to fight terrorism and promote regional stability, specifically on the importance of cooperating toward a peaceful and stable outcome in Afghanistan. The President underscored the importance of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and our continued support for Pakistan. The President said he is looking forward to visiting Pakistan later this year. President Zardari will attend Ambassador Richard Holbrooke’s memorial service this afternoon at the Kennedy Center.

  • This week, an historic referendum took place in Sudan and West Wing Week takes you there.  Watch a preview of "Dispatches from Sudan" and join General Scott Gration, President Obama's Special Envoy to Sudan for a unique look at the vote that could result in the world's newest nation.  Go behind the scenes at polling stations from Juba to Khartoum, meet some of the international community helping ensure the vote is fair and peaceful, travel to Darfur to inspect conditions on the ground, and learn about the commitment of the United States to peace in this region after decades of civil war. That's coming soon to, watch the preview now.

    Download Video: mp4 (20.9MB)

    See a few links below on the President's engagement on the issue:

    January 10, 2011:

    January 9, 2011:

    January 6, 2011:

    December 22, 2010

    September 24, 2010

    Arun Chaudhary is the official White House videographer

  • Dear parents,

    Like so many Americans all across the country, Barack and I were shocked and heartbroken by the horrific act of violence committed in Arizona this past weekend.  Yesterday, we had the chance to attend a memorial service and meet with some of the families of those who lost their lives, and both of us were deeply moved by their strength and resilience in the face of such unspeakable tragedy.

    As parents, an event like this hits home especially hard.  It makes our hearts ache for those who lost loved ones.  It makes us want to hug our own families a little tighter.  And it makes us think about what an event like this says about the world we live in – and the world in which our children will grow up.

    In the days and weeks ahead, as we struggle with these issues ourselves, many of us will find that our children are struggling with them as well.  The questions my daughters have asked are the same ones that many of your children will have – and they don’t lend themselves to easy answers.  But they will provide an opportunity for us as parents to teach some valuable lessons – about the character of our country, about the values we hold dear, and about finding hope at a time when it seems far away.

    We can teach our children that here in America, we embrace each other, and support each other, in times of crisis.  And we can help them do that in their own small way – whether it’s by sending a letter, or saying a prayer, or just keeping the victims and their families in their thoughts.

    We can teach them the value of tolerance – the practice of assuming the best, rather than the worst, about those around us.  We can teach them to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly those with whom they disagree. 

    We can also teach our children about the tremendous sacrifices made by the men and women who serve our country and by their families.  We can explain to them that although we might not always agree with those who represent us, anyone who enters public life does so because they love their country and want to serve it. 

    Christina Green felt that call.  She was just nine years old when she lost her life.  But she was at that store that day because she was passionate about serving others.  She had just been elected to her school’s student council, and she wanted to meet her Congresswoman and learn more about politics and public life.

    And that’s something else we can do for our children – we can tell them about Christina and about how much she wanted to give back.  We can tell them about John Roll, a judge with a reputation for fairness; about Dorothy Morris, a devoted wife to her husband, her high school sweetheart, to whom she’d been married for 55 years; about Phyllis Schneck, a great-grandmother who sewed aprons for church fundraisers; about Dorwan Stoddard, a retired construction worker who helped neighbors down on their luck; and about Gabe Zimmerman, who did community outreach for Congresswoman Giffords, working tirelessly to help folks who were struggling, and was engaged to be married next year.  We can tell them about the brave men and women who risked their lives that day to save others.  And we can work together to honor their legacy by following their example – by embracing our fellow citizens; by standing up for what we believe is right; and by doing our part, however we can, to serve our communities and our country. 


    Michelle Obama

  • Last night the President spoke to an emotional crowd at a memorial event in Tucson, Arizona. The grief for the victims of the tragic shooting there was overwhelming, but so too was the admiration for the heroes who risked their lives to prevent even greater loss, as well as the hope for the survivors to see full recoveries.  The President asked those in the hall and across America to channel their emotions toward the pursuit of a more perfect union, saying that "If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate -- as it should -- let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost."  Watch the President's remarks in full:

    One particularly hopeful moment in the President's speech came when he relayed the news that Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who he had visited earlier in the day, had just opened her eyes in her hospital bed for the first time.  On the flight back aboard Air Force One, two of Rep. Giffords' good friends in Congress -- Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- talked about what it was like to be there for that moment:

  • President Obama Meets with Prime Minister Hariri of Lebanon

    President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon in the Oval Office, January 12, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    This morning the President met with Prime Minister Hariri of Lebanon, the official readout is below:

    President Obama met today with Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon.  The President commended the Prime Minister for his steadfast leadership and efforts to reach peace, stability, and consensus in Lebanon under difficult circumstances.  The efforts by the Hizballah-led coalition to collapse the Lebanese government only demonstrate their own fear and determination to block the government’s ability to conduct its business and advance the aspirations of all of the Lebanese people. The President and Prime Minister reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, implementing all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and continuing a wide-ranging and long-term partnership between the United States and Lebanon.
    During their meeting, the President stressed the importance of the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as a means to help end the era of political assassinations with impunity in Lebanon.  The President and Prime Minister specifically discussed united efforts with France, Saudi Arabia, and other key international and regional actors to maintain calm in Lebanon and ensure that the work of the Tribunal continues unimpeded by third parties.  The President and Prime Minister expressed their determination to achieve both stability and justice in Lebanon during this challenging period of government volatility, and agreed that all parties should avoid threats or actions that could cause instability.


  • Today marks the one year anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti.  Nearly a quarter of a million lives were lost, more than three hundred thousand people were injured and more than a million people were left homeless. The President called it a “cruel and incomprehensible” blow to a nation that has known its share of hardship and suffering. None of us will soon forget the images of despair in the days after the earthquake, or the moments of hope as Americans joined together with people from around the world in a massive humanitarian effort.

    This is an important time for us to reflect on the important progress that’s been made, and the many players who have made it possible, while reaffirming the American commitment to Haiti and looking ahead to the work that remains to be done in cooperation with the Haitian people and international partners. 

    Today, we remember the Americans who were on the ground within 24 hours of the earthquake, starting the work of immediate lifesaving and rescues that would continue for weeks— a U.S. Coast Guard team, a disaster assistance response team and portions of two U.S. urban search and rescue teams.

    We remember the millions of Americans—one in every two American households—  who showed their tremendous generosity and compassion by sending contributions to Haiti.

    We remember the non-governmental organizations who swept in to provide immediate relief, and continue there today, helping to rebuild the country.

    And we recognize, especially, the Haitian people, who, through the unprecedented devastation of the earthquake itself, decades of widespread poverty, Hurricane Tomas, and cholera, have demonstrated dignity, strength and resilience. 

  • One-year anniversaries can sometimes seem an arbitrary symbolic moment, but being reminded of the devastation in Haiti in the wake of the earthquake one year ago serves as an example of why they can be so important as well.  The First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden witnessed that devastation on their trip captured below (view full size), and as the President makes clear in his statement today, their road back still stretches far ahead:

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    When the Vice President landed in Afghanistan yesterday, where he is spending most of the week, it was another chapter in the Vice President's role dealing with that country that has stretched not just throughout this Administation, but back to a visit nine years ago when the Taliban was first driven from power.  Vice President Biden was there to get a first-hand assessment of progress on the ground as the United States continues to move towards empowering Afghanistan for full independence, and his remarks in a joint press conference with President Karzai told the story of this tough endeavor:

  • Last Tuesday, President Obama signed into law the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Bill. The bill represents another step in the Administration’s continued commitment to ensuring that the men and women of our Armed Forces, who have served our country with distinction, receive the benefits they have earned.  It provides Veterans the ability to use their benefits for vocational and on-the-job training, expands eligibility for the benefit to National Guardsmen and women who are activated for domestic assistance, provides Active Duty troops with additional assistance to purchase books, and allows for severely injured Veterans and their caregivers to have additional time to use their benefits. 

    Since the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, over 400,000 Veterans and their families have taken advantage of the opportunity to pursue a higher education.  The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Bill will expand that opportunity, furthering the President’s promise to take care of our nation’s Veterans.  

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (135MB) | mp3 (13MB)

    Following a long-scheduled bilateral meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, President Obama spoke again on the tragedy that unfolded over the weekend in Arizona. 

    PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We'll, I’m very grateful to have my dear friend, Nicolas Sarkozy, here.  And I think Nicolas has agreed that at the top I want to just make a few comments about the situation in Tucson, Arizona.

    Obviously all of us are still grieving and in shock from the tragedy that took place.  Gabby Giffords and others are still fighting to recover.  Families are still absorbing the enormity of their losses.  We have a criminal investigation that is ongoing and charges that no doubt will be brought against the perpetrator of this heinous crime.

    I think it’s important for us to also focus, though, on the extraordinary courage that was shown during the course of these events:  a 20-year-old college student who ran into the line of fire to rescue his boss; a wounded woman who helped secure the ammunition that might have caused even more damage; the citizens who wrestled down the gunman.  Part of what I think that speaks to is the best of America, even in the face of such mindless violence. 

    And so, in the coming days we're going to have a lot of time to reflect.  Right now, the main thing we're doing is to offer our thoughts and prayers to those who’ve been impacted, making sure that we're joining together and pulling together as a country.  And as President of the United States, but also as a father, obviously I'm spending a lot of time just thinking about the families and reaching out to them.

    If you missed it, you can watch the President's remarks on Saturday after the news broke, or watch the President, First Lady, and White House staff observe a moment of silence this morning.

    President Barack Obama Speaks on the Arizona Shooting After Meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France

    President Barack Obama and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France make statements to the press in the Oval Office, January 10, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • This morning at 11:00AM EST President Obama, the First Lady and White House staff joined many across the country in observing a moment of silence to honor the innocent victims of the senseless tragedy in Tucson, Arizona, including those still fighting for their lives.  

    Download Video: mp4 (23MB) | mp3 (2MB)

    In addition to staying on top of the investigation and helping wherever possible, the President has been and will continue to be in close contact with those concerned, having made calls to Representative Gifford's husband, Mark Kelly, the families of Christina-Taylor Green and Gabe Zimmerman, as well as House Leadership and members of the Arizona delegation in both the House and Senate.

  • [Update: The President has issued a Proclamation that Federal Government flags will be flown at half-staff until sunset on January 14th, and observed a moment of silence on Monday, January 10th at 11:00AM EST.]

    The President speaks from the White House on the shootings in Arizona and on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  Full transcript below:

    THE PRESIDENT:  As many of you are aware, earlier today a number of people were shot in Tucson, Arizona, including several who were meeting at a supermarket with their congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords.  We are still assembling all the facts, but we know that Representative Giffords was one of the victims.  She is currently at a hospital in the area, and she is battling for her life.

    We also know that at least five people lost their lives in this tragedy.  Among them were a federal judge, John Roll, who has served America’s legal system for almost 40 years; and a young girl who was barely nine years old.

    I’ve spoken to Arizona governor Jan Brewer and offered the full resources of the federal government.  A suspect is currently in custody, but we don’t yet know what provoked this unspeakable act.  A comprehensive investigation is currently underway, and at my direction, Director Bob Mueller is en route to Arizona to help coordinate these efforts.  I’ve also spoken to the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House.

    Gabby Giffords was a friend of mine.  She is not only an extraordinary public servant, but she is also somebody who is warm and caring.  She is well liked by her colleagues and well liked by her constituents.  Her husband, Mark Kelly, is a Navy captain and one of America’s valiant astronauts. 

    It’s not surprising that today Gabby was doing what she always does -- listening to the hopes and concerns of her neighbors.  That is the essence of what our democracy is all about.  That is why this is more than a tragedy for those involved.  It is a tragedy for Arizona and a tragedy for our entire country.

    What Americans do at times of tragedy is to come together and support each other.  So at this time I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping all the victims and their families, including Gabby, in our thoughts and prayers.  Those who have been injured, we are rooting for them.  And I know Gabby is as tough as they come, and I am hopeful that she’s going to pull through.

    Obviously our hearts go out to the family members of those who have been slain.  We are going to get to the bottom of this, and we’re going to get through this.  But in the meantime, I think all of us need to make sure that we’re offering our thoughts and prayers to those concerned.

    Thank you.

    Also see statements from Vice President Joe BidenHomeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

    The President Discusses the Tucson, Arizona Shootings in the Situation Room

    President Barack Obama takes part in a conference call in the Situation Room of the White House concerning the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Az., Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. Pictured, left to right, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, incoming Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer, and Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs Phil Schiliro. Also taking part in the call were Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and FBI Director Robert Mueller (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • The President has issued the following statement:

    This morning, in an unspeakable tragedy, a number of Americans were shot in Tucson, Arizona, at a constituent meeting with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  And while we are continuing to receive information, we know that some have passed away, and that Representative Giffords is gravely wounded. 

    We do not yet have all the answers.  What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society.  I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers.