Read all posts from February 2011

  • Earlier today, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden spoke to the meeting of the National Governors' Association here at the White House about an issue important to both: military families. Over the past two years, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden have traveled around the country and around the world, visiting with service members and their families, hearing their stories firsthand. Today, they called on America's Governors and all Americans to join their effort. 

    "So we’re going to need your help," said First Lady Michelle Obama, "We’re going to need your support and encouragement to make this a reality.  We’re very excited about this initiative because we think that this will not only help our troops and their families, but it will help us as a nation link together and be even stronger."

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (190MB) | mp3 (18MB)

  • Editor's note: This post is part of the Celebrating Black History Month series, which highlights the work of African Americans from across the Administration who are contributing to the President's goals for winning the future.

    Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy challenged Americans to serve people in need around the world.   The eager response to Peace Corps ignited one of the signature service movements of our times.  Since 1961, more than 200,000 Americans have volunteered through the Peace Corps to fight poverty, disease, illiteracy and a host of other challenges in 139 countries around the world.   Although times have changed, the Peace Corps remains true to its mission or promoting world peace and friendship through 3 goals:  1. Helping the people of interested countries meet their needs for trained men and women; 2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of people served; 3. Helping promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans. 

    Every day, I am asked what it is like to volunteer.  Like most returned Peace Corps volunteer I know, we serve as recruiters to the next generation of volunteers through our actions, anecdotes and cross-cultural understanding.  For me, when I was coming out of college a few years ago, I was motivated by the legacy of public service as promoted by President Kennedy and Sargent Shriver.  I was eager to try something new.  The Peace Corps was the beginning of everything.  It was the door to the rest of my life.  I grew up on the south side of Chicago, and I was the first person in my family to finish college.  My family expected me to do something practical with my degree, to start my teaching career.  But I found myself drawn to the kind of public service that I had heard President Kennedy speak about. 

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (282MB) | mp3 (27MB)

    This morning the President & Vice President addressed America's Governors, following the First Lady and Dr. Biden.  They touched on topics ranging from rebuilding America's infrastructure to the changes in the health care law that the President endorsed, which would move the date up to 2014 when states could establish their own alternate systems outside the Affordable Care Act provided they can achieve the same results.  The President laid out his fundamental approach this way:

    You see, part of the genius of our Founders was the establishment of a federal system in which each of our states serves as a laboratory for our democracy.  Through this process, some of the best state ideas became some of America’s best ideas.  So whether it’s through Race to the Top, or improving the Affordable Care Act, or reforming the way that we approach social programs by ensuring that spending is tied to success, our approach has been to give you the flexibility that you need to find your own innovative ways forward.

  • Editor's note: This post is part of the Celebrating Black History Month series, which highlights the work of African Americans from across the Administration who are contributing to the President's goals for winning the future.

    As Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Policy and Special Projects for the First Lady, I help oversee the broad issue portfolio of the First Lady, including her work on childhood obesity, military families, mentoring, and work-family challenges.  This role provides a unique vantage point from which to advance the President’s vision, particularly the goal of improving and strengthening the lives of young people.  In our Let’s Move! initiative, we focus on educating youth about living healthy lives and making healthy choices.  In our military families work, we focus in part on ways to improve the educational opportunities and experiences of military children, and ensure they have the supports they need with one or both parents serving in the military.  In our mentoring initiative, we focus on exposing young people to new educational, career, and skills-building opportunities.  In all of this work our goal is to inspire young people to be all they can be, to take advantage of every educational opportunity, and to remind them that they are not defined solely by their circumstances but have unlimited potential.

    As a native of Washington, DC, working in the White House today is a special privilege -- something I dreamed about doing as a young person but was never quite sure truly would be possible.  My greatest influences growing up were my parents, both of whom worked for the federal government like so many in DC, and family members.  All believed in a strong work ethic and the power of education.  My parents made huge sacrifices to give me a wonderful education, from the National Cathedral School here in Washington, to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Harvard Law School.  Along the way I met teachers and professors and colleagues who encouraged and challenged me and helped open my eyes to new opportunities.   

    What sustained me then --  and now -- were those values instilled by my parents early in life.  Those that stressed the importance of fairness and mutual respect, commitment to community and our obligation to give back, having a healthy dose of humility and recognizing our own imperfections, and reaching for your dreams.   

  • As a former Governor, state legislator, and insurance commissioner, I know the ingenuity of state leaders to shape policies that fit the individual characteristics of their people, their industries, and their economies.  The Affordable Care Act, signed by President Obama almost a year ago, provides states with the flexibility, resources and tools they need to improve the health of their residents, reduce the growth of health care costs, and invest in the prevention strategies that will make our nation healthier and more productive. Many of the ideas contained in the Act were modeled on reforms initiated by states like my home state of Kansas. And you can read a report on the resources and flexibility available to states here.

    Today, President Obama announced his support for another crucial step in empowering states to lead – the bipartisan “Empowering States to Innovate Act,” sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts), and Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana). The President said:

    "This recognition – that states need flexibility to tailor their approach to their unique needs – is why part of the law says that, beginning in 2017, if you can come up with a better system for your state to provide coverage of the same quality and affordability as the Affordable Care Act, you can take that route instead…

    A few weeks ago, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, a Republican, and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, they proposed legislation that would accelerate that provision,  so it would allow states to apply for such a waiver by 2014 instead of 2017. I think that’s a very reasonable proposal.  I support it.  It will give you flexibility more quickly, while still guaranteeing the American people reform.  If your state can create a plan that covers as many people as affordably and comprehensively as the Affordable Care Act does – without increasing the deficit – you can implement that plan, and we’ll work with you to do it.  I’ve said before, I don’t believe that either party holds a monopoly on good ideas.  And I will go to bat for whatever works, no matter who or where it comes from." 

  • Last week, President Barack Obama announced the Administration’s action plan, under the America's Great Outdoors initiative, to achieve lasting conservation of the outdoor spaces that power our nation’s economy, shape our culture, and build our outdoor traditions. This initiative seeks to reinvigorate our approach to conservation and reconnect Americans, especially young people, with the lands and waters that are used for farming and ranching, hunting and fishing, and for families to spend quality time together.  Recognizing that many of these places and resources are under intense pressure, the President established the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative last April to work with the American people in developing a conservation and recreation agenda that makes sense for the 21st century.

    This report is the product of 51 listening sessions across the nation—21 specifically with young people—consisting of more than 10,000 participants spanning all ages and backgrounds, plus more than 100,000 comments from citizens across the nation sharing with us your priorities for the lands and waters that you know best. We built this plan with your input and your involvement doesn't stop there.

    On March 3, 2011, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and I will continue the conversation by hosting the first America’s Great Outdoors live chat.  You can join by video before the chat or by Facebook during the chat.  You can post your YouTube video questions by responding to the video above, or by sending your questions to  To submit by Facebook during the live chat, sign on to our Facebook chat application on Thursday March 3rd at 4:30 pm (EST).

    We look forward to talking to you!

    Nancy Sutley is Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality

  • Cross-posted from the Department of Energy blog.

    President Obama has recently been talking about his plan to “Win the Future.” Whether it’s taking steps to reform our education system, rebuilding our infrastructure, or encouraging breakthroughs in technology, the phrase is about marshaling the country’s best and brightest to solve today’s problems. As the President put it, “To win the future, we have to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world, tapping the creativity and imagination of our people."

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

    The ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit that kicks off today just outside of Washington, D.C. highlights the amazing ingenuity of our citizens and businesses. This annual summit showcases the most advanced and revolutionary breakthroughs in energy technology today. These aren’t base hits. They’re the potential home runs – the breakthroughs in clean energy innovation that could make it affordable to put solar panels on every house in America, put millions of electric vehicles on the road or even harness wind energy that’s miles and miles above the ground a lot sooner than you might think is possible. We’re talking about truly changing the world – and making the U.S. the global leader in clean energy technologies.