Administrator Lisa P. JacksonFebruary 03, 2011
06:19 PM EDT
Ed. note: This post is part of the Celebrating Black History Month series that highlights the contributions of African-Americans who are helping the President achieve his goal of winning the future.
I'm a proud native of New Orleans – I was raised in Pontchartrain Park in New Orleans’ Upper Ninth Ward. My family's home was flooded during Hurricane Katrina and, like many of our neighbors, it was uninhabitable and had to be gutted. Still, on one of my recent trips back I talked to folks about plans to rebuild the house and others as part of a green, sustainable neighborhood. I’m proud to have grown up in and been shaped by such a resilient community.
After high school at Saint Mary's Dominican in New Orleans, I stayed to go to Tulane University (Roll Wave!) and then got my master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton. My dream as a child and throughout school was to become a doctor because I had always wanted to help people when they got sick. But I came to realize that by protecting our environment I was approaching the same problem from a different angle - by making sure people didn’t get sick in the first place.
As the Administrator of the EPA, I oversee a staff of more than 18,000 employees working across the country with a single mission: to protect human health and the environment. I touch on everything from making sure the air we breathe and the water we drink is free from harmful toxins to assisting with response to environmental disasters.
Jesse LeeFebruary 03, 2011
05:47 PM EDT
The President's vision to "Win the Future" spelled out in his State of the Union Address was not one founded on vague dreams of a brighter day ahead -- it was founded on ideas, advancements, and principles already cropping up across the country that can help keep America on top if we only stand by them. That's what his visit to Penn State today was about:
And right here, right here at Penn State, a university whose motto is “making life better,” you’ve answered the call. (Applause.) So today you’re preparing to lead the way on a hub that will make America home to the most energy-efficient buildings in the world.
Now, that may not sound too sexy until -- (laughter) -- energy-efficient buildings. (Laughter.) But listen, our homes and our businesses consume 40 percent of the energy we use. Think about that. Everybody focuses on cars and gas prices, and that’s understandable. But our homes and our businesses use 40 percent of the energy. They contribute to 40 percent of the carbon pollution that we produce and that is contributing to climate change. It costs us billions of dollars in energy bills. They waste huge amounts of energy.
So the good news is we can change all that. Making our buildings more energy-efficient is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, combat pollution and create jobs right here in the United States of America. And that's what we’re going to do. (Applause.)
Specifically, the President was announcing the “Better Buildings Initiative,” which aims to achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020, reduce companies’ and business owners’ energy bills by about $40 billion per year, and save energy by reforming outdated incentives and challenging the private sector to act. The White House fact sheet fleshes out those goals, talks about the successes to be built upon from the last two years, and lays out these steps which will be included in the President's coming budget:
Jesse LeeFebruary 03, 2011
04:22 PM EDT
This morning, President Obama spoke at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. Presidents dating back to Dwight D. Eisenhower have attended the National Prayer Breakfast, joining faith leaders from around the country. The President spoke about his own faith, and how it has guided him through times of both triumph and trouble:
I want to begin by just saying a word to Mark Kelly, who’s here. We have been praying for Mark’s wife, Gabby Giffords, for many days now. But I want Gabby and Mark and their entire family to know that we are with them for the long haul, and God is with them for the long haul.
And even as we pray for Gabby in the aftermath of a tragedy here at home, we're also mindful of the violence that we're now seeing in the Middle East, and we pray that the violence in Egypt will end and that the rights and aspirations of the Egyptian people will be realized and that a better day will dawn over Egypt and throughout the world.
Read the President's full remarks and see some photos below:
Jesse LeeFebruary 03, 2011
04:10 PM EDT
During his gaggle with the press this morning aboard Air Force One, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs opened the session with pointed remarks about recent developments in Egypt:
MR. GIBBS: Let me -- if I can, let me just start with a few thoughts. I want to reiterate our administration and our country’s strong condemnation of the violence and the images that we’ve seen over the past many hours.
The government of Egypt has to ensure that peaceful protests can take place. We have obviously seen the remarks of the Prime Minister today and hope that his acknowledgment that anybody that is involved in this will be held accountable is something that the government is serious about.
I want to say a word for a second on the systematic targeting of journalists in Egypt. This also is completely and totally unacceptable. Any journalist that has been detained should be released immediately. I think we need to be clear that the world is watching the actions that are taking place right now in Egypt. And I’ll reiterate again that the actions of targeting journalists, that is unacceptable, and that those journalists should be, if they are detained, released immediately. I know the President has been briefed on this as part of the daily briefing this morning.
Next, I would like to again reiterate that the -- as we have said all along -- that the time for the transition in Egypt is now, and it is important that we all begin to see meaningful steps toward that transition and that negotiations take place between the government and a broadly based group of members of the opposition as we work through, as I said, the transition toward free and fair elections.
Elizabeth WarrenFebruary 03, 2011
03:13 PM EDT
Last summer, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. On July 21, the President signed it into law. One part of that law created the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The idea was to put a cop on the beat to enforce the laws on credit cards, mortgages, student loans, prepaid cards, and other kinds of consumer financial products and services. We’re also here to be a voice in Washington for consumers.
Now, everyone is hard at work setting up the new agency. We’re in the early stages of hiring a fantastic team, and we’ve moved into some temporary office space. There are still a lot of boxes lying around, but, from early morning until late at night, the lights are on with people working to get this new consumer bureau ready to go.
Today, I’d like to announce the launch of our new website: ConsumerFinance.gov.
With so much going on, some people suggested that we hold off on our website until July 21 of this year, when many of the consumer bureau’s legal powers become active. Besides, by then we would have a chance to hire more staff, get more settled in, and so on. But we wanted to launch the website now for one very important reason: it’s our first step in a conversation with you. We’ve even created this video, with the help of our friend, Ron Howard, to introduce ourselves.
February 03, 2011
06:15 AM EDT
Last week, the President visited manufacturers in Wisconsin who are focused on creating the clean energy products of the future. Today, he continues taking his agenda for innovation and a new energy economy on the road, visiting an Energy Innovation Hub in State College, Pennsylvania.
While visiting the researchers and developers at this facility, the President will announce his Better Building Initiative. This initiative aims to achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency in commercial buildings by 2020, improvements which will save American businesses $40 billion a year. Those savings will free up critical funds that businesses can use to expand, reach new markets, and create more American jobs.
One of the key parts of the Better Building Initiative is a program called Race to Green, a competitive grant process modeled after the highly successful Race to the Top program that has improved education across the country. Race to Green will encourage states and local governments to reform their building codes and make it easier to retrofit buildings with energy-saving technology. The best ideas to streamline regulations will receive grants from the federal government that will help put those ideas into practice.
The biggest, most world-changing innovations in this country's history have come from the private sector, and President Obama knows that that's where we'll find the next ones, too. Winning the future is going to require government and business to work together and foster the good ideas that become great inventions.
Jesse LeeFebruary 03, 2011
06:00 AM EDT
In this edition, Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, explains how the new Startup America program will help entrepreneurs overcome what’s often called the “valley of death” on the way to success and help America win the future.Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
February 02, 2011
05:06 PM EDT
Ed. note: This is the first blog post in a series that highlights African Americans from throughout the Administration who contribute to the President’s vision of winning the future through their work.
I’m lucky to have been raised by my parents, Raymond and Sue Ann Smith, who value education. As we celebrate Black History Month I reflect on the fact that I grew up in a period that offered me many more opportunities than my parents had when they were my age. This is one of the things that motivated me to return to public service, and inspires me to work every day to create opportunities for all Americans.
I grew up in Fort Worth Texas and earned a BS degree in Engineering Management from the United States Military Academy at West Point. I began my career as an officer in the U. S. Army and served tours with the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea and the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii. After leaving military service, I went on to work for Citibank and JPMorgan in New York City and London. While I was in England I earned an MBA from Cambridge University.
I spent the next eleven years in the oil industry, first with Texaco, then with Chevron. I spent most of that time leading international projects, including three years living in Bogotá Colombia negotiating offshore and pipeline agreements. The Secretary of Energy appointed me Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oil and Natural Gas in September of 2009.
Maureen Tracey-MooneyFebruary 02, 2011
02:36 PM EDT
Today the Department of Labor proposed a new rule that would help better protect Americans with one of the most dangerous jobs: miners.
For years, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has been overly restricted in its use of a powerful tool to protect the health and safety of our nation’s miners: putting a mine on a “Patterns of Violations” (or POV) status and using the additional enforcement tools that determination brings with it. The current system makes it much too difficult to identify such patterns -- too hard for both mine operators and the workers who need the protection this new rule would provide.
In the 30 years since the Mine Act’s passage no mine has ever been placed on a POV. That means that mines we know are consistently putting workers in danger are allowed to continue bad practices without making the needed systemic changes to protect workers. The current regulatory interpretation of the Mine Act fundamentally undermines its intent: to provide MSHA with the tools it needs to protect workers.
Jesse LeeFebruary 02, 2011
02:26 PM EDT
Today the President ratified a landmark nuclear arms treaty with Russia, New START. As the President said during the end of the last Congress, the treaty is "a national security imperative" as well as "a cornerstone of our relations with Russia" as we continue to work with them on everything from Iran to Afghanistan. With the Senate having approved the treaty with a strong bipartisan vote late last year, today's signing marks a final step in the process. That process began when President Obama and President Medvedev initially signed the agreement in Prague last April, a fitting location given that one year before that President Obama had been there for a major speech commiting to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.
Stephanie CutterFebruary 02, 2011
08:53 AM EDT
Instead of moving forward to create jobs and strengthen our economy, Senate Republicans want to refight the battles of the past and vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act – the new health reform law.
It’s important to remember what repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean to millions of Americans. Without the new law:
Arun ChaudharyFebruary 02, 2011
12:00 AM EDT
Today the official preliminary results from the historic referendum in Sudan were released. The people of Southern Sudan appear to have voted overwhelmingly in support of independence: total turnout was about 97 percent with almost 99 percent of voters casting their ballots to create the world’s newest nation. West Wing Week was on the ground in Sudan during the week-long referendum, traveling to all parts of the country with the President’s Special Envoy, General Scott Gration. We went behind the scenes at polling stations from Juba to Khartoum, met some of the international community who helped to ensure the vote was fair and peaceful, and traveled to Darfur to inspect conditions and learn about the commitment of the United States to peace in this region after decades of civil war.
Sarah BernardFebruary 01, 2011
08:20 PM EDT
Yesterday, the White House brought together a diverse group of 25 online programming leaders who touch millions of women across the country for a day of policy briefings and a candid discussion of how to work more closely together. Our challenge to the group was to find the right ways to keep women engaged with their government so that they are better informed and more active citizens.
Much of the day was spent with senior Administration officials taking the group through some key issues and priorities including: the White House Council on Women and Girls, military families, health care, the First Lady's Let's Move! initiative, education, the economy, opportunities for women business owners, workplace flexibility, and the to-be-launched Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.
President Obama was able to stop by, and Valerie Jarrett took questions as we closed out the day. All agreed that this was only the beginning of an ongoing dialogue and relationship.
As part of our continued efforts to engage more citizens online, the Women's Online Summit followed two previous gatherings that reached out to African American and Hispanic communities. (And I hope you didn't miss all of the activity last week around the State of the Union, as we brought 18 sites' communities into the mix for citizen-sourced interviews and roundtables.)
Thanks to everyone who came yesterday:
- Colleen Curtis, AOL
- Sarah Bryden-Brown, babble.com
- Linda Murray, BabyCenter.com
- Melissa Ford, BlogHer
- Jesse McGranahan, Burst Media
- Robyn Hessinger, care2.com
- Brooke Chaffin, Disney Interactive Media Group
- Emil Wilbekin, Essence.com
- Andrea Pippins, Fly
- Janice Brand, helium.com
- Kelly Wallace, iVillage
- Dr. Neil Izenberg, MD, kidshealth.org
- Laurie Berger, lifescript.com
- Sarah Gormley, marthastewart.com
- Jo-Ann Strangis, Medscape
- Chris Vander Sys, momswhothink.com
- Cyrus Krohn, MSN
- Samantha Youngman Meiler, Nickelodeon
- Stephanie Snipes, oprah.com
- Rachel Fishman Feddersen, parenting.com
- Chandra Turner, PARENTS magazine / parents.com
- Suzanne Murray, The Stir (by cafe mom)
- Clare Martorana, WebMD
- Carlos Lamadrid, womansday.com
- Lylah Alphonse, Yahoo!
February 01, 2011
08:15 PM EDT
"During National African American History Month, we recognize the extraordinary achievements of African Americans and their essential role in shaping the story of America. In honor of their courage and contributions, let us resolve to carry forward together the promise of America for our children," President Obama stated in a Proclamation today.
This month, Americans from around the country will celebrate the creativity, determination, and contributions that African Americans have made to our Nation’s identity and culture. This year’s celebration will be an opportunity not just to look back and recognize the achievements of our community, but also to honor the legacy of those that have come before us while fostering the leaders of tomorrow.
Throughout the month, we'll highlight African Americans from throughout the Administration on the White House blog. We look forward to sharing the stories of individuals who contribute to the President’s vision of winning the future by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building our global competition through their work.
Secretary Arne DuncanFebruary 01, 2011
05:27 PM EDT
President Obama and I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our generation. It is the one factor that can prevent a person’s zip code from determining his or her destiny. During Black History Month, it’s important to reflect on where we must go as a nation to ensure that all children, regardless of race or ethnicity, are given the world-class education they deserve.
Yesterday at Morehouse College in Atlanta, I shared a stage with some great leaders who reminded me that the struggle for education has always been a matter of civil rights and that now more than ever it is imperative that we work to ensure all children have access to an excellent education. I joined Congressman John Lewis, director Spike Lee, Morehouse President Dr. Robert Franklin, and MSNBC’s Jeff Johnson as we spoke to a crowd of nearly 800 young men – both high school and college students – who are deciding their career trajectory. All of us onstage encouraged these high-achieving men to answer the call to serve their country in the classroom.
Stephanie CutterFebruary 01, 2011
02:10 PM EDT
On Monday, Judge Roger Vinson issued a ruling in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The ruling comes after legal action in cases regarding the law in courts across the country. Twelve federal judges have already dismissed challenges to the constitutionality of the health reform law. Two federal judges – in the Eastern District of Michigan and Western District of Virginia – have fully upheld the law, and one federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia ruled against the individual responsibility provision but declined to bar full, continuing implementation.
The decision issued on Monday is one district court decision, and we believe it to be very wrong. The Department of Justice has made clear that it is reviewing all of its options in responding to this case, as it does in all cases. Implementation will continue.
Legal experts agree with our assessment of Judge Vinson’s ruling. Here’s what they are saying about the ruling and the case:
“The ACA and its accompanying incentives to buy insurance overcome a collective action problem among states. Thus, the ACA is easily distinguished from the court's parade of broccoli horribles; even if one thought that the federal government should deal only with uniquely national problems, the ACA easily meets that standard.”
“The issue that the court has ruled on has been specifically contradicted by two other district courts. So, the idea that the Obama administration should somehow stand down from implementing the act, based on a fourth district court, doesn't have any basis in law.”
“Consider the following train wreck of Necessary & Proper reasoning contained in Judge Vinson's opinion striking down the individual mandate:
• It is a legitimate end for Congress to regulate the insurance industry to prevent "insurers from excluding or charging higher rates to people with pre-existing conditions" (pages 60-61);
• The Individual Mandate in the ACA is "necessary" to enable Congress to regulate the insurance industry in this manner (page 63). Yet...
• "[T]he individual mandate falls outside the boundary of Congress’ Commerce Clause authority and cannot be reconciled with a limited government of enumerated powers."
Huh? How can a means that is conceded to be necessary for a legitimate end not be within Congress' implied powers to pursue that end? Judge Vinson never presents even the simulacrum of an argument: Instead, he engages in hand-waving.”
“I think Judge Vinson’s argument on the Necessary and Proper Clause is not persuasive…Rather, my point is that Judge Vinson should not have used a first principle to trump existing Supreme Court caselaw when that principle may not be consistent with existing caselaw. Either Justice Thomas is wrong or Judge Vinson is wrong, and Judge Vinson was not making a persuasive legal argument when he followed the first principle instead of the cases. Because Judge Vinson is bound by Supreme Court precedent, I would think he should have applied the cases.”
“Judge Vinson appeared to base the total nonseverability decision partly on what he took to be Congressional intent.… Judge Vinson's approach ought to be especially unappealing to the Supreme Court's “textualists,” who don't even like to speculate about what Congress subjectively intended by the language it enacted. How much worse it should be to speculate about what Congress might have done if it had known that a provision it enacted would subsequently be found invalid.”
Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President and Deputy Senior Advisor.
Melody BarnesFebruary 01, 2011
01:47 PM EDT
UPDATE: The deadline for the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge has been extended to March 11, 2011. This post has been updated to reflect that change.
Today, the President launched his second annual Race to the Top Commencement Challenge. The 2011 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge invites public high schools across the country to demonstrate how their school best prepares them for college and a career, helping America win the future by out-educating our competitors, preparing today’s students for the jobs of tomorrow, and achieving President Obama’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.
Last year, over 1000 schools applied and more than 170,000 people voted on short videos and essays from the six finalists. President Obama selected the national winner from the three high schools with the highest average ratings (you can see all the 2010 finalists here). This year, the President has renewed the challenge.
In order to participate, schools are asked to submit an online application at WhiteHouse.gov/commencement. The application consists of three short essay questions, relevant supporting data, and an optional video that demonstrate how their school successfully prepares students for academic and career success. Graduation rates, course offerings, and more will be used to select the winning school.
The deadline to submit applications is Friday, March 11, 2011 at 11:59 pm EST. Following the application deadline, the White House and Department of Education will select 6 finalists. Viacom, the Get Schooled Foundation and the White House will work with these six schools to create short videos that will be featured, along with the essay questions, on the White House web site. The public will then have an opportunity to vote for the three schools they think best meet the President’s goal. The President will select a national winner from these three and visit the winning high school to deliver the commencement address to the class of 2011. Senior administration officials will attend the commencements of the five runner-up schools.
Learn more about Race to the Top.
Jesse LeeFebruary 01, 2011
01:10 PM EDT
This morning President Obama spoke with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to discuss preparations for the winter storm coming to much of the country. For some guidance on getting your own preparations together, Ready.gov is there to help.
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