Jesse LeeMarch 22, 2011
12:23 PM EDT
“Latin America is at peace...”
“Latin America is democratic...”
“Latin America is growing...”
“Latin America is coming together to address shared challenges…”
“And increasingly, Latin America is contributing to global prosperity and security…”
With these refrains, the President described “the Latin America that I see today -- a region on the move, proud of its progress, and ready to assume a greater role in world affairs.” The speech in Santiago, Chile included perhaps his most expansive vision for strengthened alliances across our hemisphere, although as he pointed out, these relationships have been a priority since the beginning of his presidency as demonstrated by his trip in his first few months to Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas.
He began his remarks with a tribute to Chile as a leading example of today’s Latin America, emerging from decades of turmoil towards a future of hope and progress. He quoted legendary Chilean poet Pablo Neruda:
And in a world of sometimes wrenching pain -- as we’re seeing today in Japan -- it is the character of this country that inspires. “Our original guiding stars,” said Pablo Neruda, “are struggle and hope.” But, he added, “there is no such thing as a lone struggle, no such thing as a lone hope.” The Chilean people have shown this time and again, including your recovery from the terrible earthquake here one year ago.
He went on to discuss what has been the primary purpose of his trip, namely to find paths for joint economic growth and promote American exports:
Jeffrey ZientsMarch 22, 2011
11:26 AM EDT
The world has changed a lot since the 1950s, the last time a major reorganization of the federal government occurred. Our lives today are totally different from those of our grandparents and the era of black and white TV has given way to the information age – but while the times have changed, in many ways, our government hasn’t.
For example, following the 2000 Census, the Census Bureau decided to invest in developing handheld technologies to help workers do their counts. But after spending tens of millions of dollars, they ran into timing and development problems. So in 2010, in an era of smart phones and high-speed wireless, our census-takers were pounding the pavement with pens and paper.
Starting with his earliest days in office, the President has called for us to modernize government and make sure we are rooting out waste and operating as effectively and efficiently as possible. Today I spoke at the Brookings Institution’s Alfred Taubman Forum on Improving Government Performance about the steps we have taken since the beginning of the Obama Administration to make the Federal government work better. We have made significant progress, from improving government technology and developing a plan to sell off excess real estate that has remained on the books for years, to finally cutting contracting costs after more than a decade of escalating costs on the backs of American taxpayers.
In his State of the Union address , the President said that we must go even further, and take a hard look at how the federal government is organized -- because in order to win the future, we must reform our government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive and innovative America. In the time since our last major reorganization, our global competitors, including South Korea, the United Kingdom and Germany, have taken aggressive efforts to reorganize and streamline their governments to better promote trade and exports.
Today, our government has more than 12 different government agencies involved in trade and exports, many of which are doing the same thing. Not surprisingly, many businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized businesses, are confused about where to go for export assistance.
The President has set a goal of doubling exports by 2015. And we need to make sure that our government is doing everything possible to help our businesses meet that goal – to help them get their products to markets around the world so they can create jobs here at home. He set a 90-day timeline for us to report back to him with recommendations.
As we work to develop recommendations for the President, we are gathering ideas, input, and advice from as many stakeholders as possible. Because those on the frontlines often know best what’s really working and what isn’t, we are launching a website where government employees can share their advice and ideas. Similarly, we are asking businesses of all sizes about their experience with the government. We’re speaking with agency heads, former Cabinet Secretaries, unions and good government experts. And we’re starting to meet with Members of Congress and their staffs and will continue to do so going forward.
We have no illusions about how difficult any reorganization will be. But we also know that we are at a critical moment and failing to act simply isn’t an option. While we’re very much at the beginning stages of our work, and we don’t have any preconceived notions of what changes should be made, we know we can do better. We know that it’s been far too long since we’ve taken a hard look at the structure and organization of our government. We know we have a real opportunity here to better support our businesses, so we can create jobs and strengthen our economy. And we know that other countries are moving forward, and if we don’t act, they may soon join us at the head of the pack.
Jeffrey Zients is the Federal Chief Performance Officer and the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget.
Jesse LeeMarch 22, 2011
09:46 AM EDT
"If you want ideas on how to save money, ask the people who spend it. That’s what President Obama did when he began the SAVE Awards two years ago." That's the opening of Joe Davidson's Washington Post write-up of the SAVE Award, the collaborative process in which all federal employees were invited to submitted their ideas on how to save taxpayer dollars and streamline government, as well as vote and comment on others'. After a tough-but-fair crack about government acronyms, Trudy Givens gets her due recognition:
Trudy Givens, a Bureau of Prisons employee from Portage, Wis., submitted the winning suggestion. Like many of the other ideas, Givens’s suggestion is so simple, yet so effective, you wonder why [Uncle] Sam didn’t think of it earlier.
Her idea: Send the Federal Register — a daily compendium of government regulations and notices — to federal employees online, rather than by snail mail, with an estimated savings of $16 million through 2015.
As the SAVE Award winner, she got to meet the President and her agency head the Attorney General in the Oval Office -- here's a video we put together on that meeting and the process as a whole, give it a watch:Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
The Post also talks about the broader context, including quoting Chief Performance Officer Jeff Zients on how projects like the SAVE Award can help change the culture and make everybody more aware of what they can do to uproot the status quo and what they can do better. Along those lines, the reform and reoganization of government, announced by the President in his State of the Union and also being spearheaded by Zients, is using a similar process to get ideas for reform from federal employees on the front lines.
We were also happy to see the Post talk about some of the other finalists:
March 22, 2011
09:29 AM EDT
On the second day of the Better Benefits, Better Health initiative, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the important benefits seniors can receive. If you're over sixty-five, you are eligible for important new benefits thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
People on Medicare are now eligible to obtain certain preventive services, like mammograms and colonoscopies for free. Click here to find a list of preventive services that will be covered. Seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare can also get an annual wellness exam from their participating physician or health professional for free. Please speak with your doctor for more details.
Jesse LeeMarch 21, 2011
05:47 PM EDT
The President's trip to Latin America has been focused on joint economic opportunities and promoting American exports, and his time in Chile, a country he called "one of the great success stories of this region," was no exception. Nonetheless, it was probably not surprising that much of the Q&A period of his joint press conference with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera was focused on questions about the situation in Libya. Read the full transcript of those questions below, where he once again emphasized that the U.S. military involvement is limited to the grave and urgent humanitarian threat posed by Colonel Qaddafi to his people, and that the involvement will soon be led by our broad coalition of partners:
Sarah BernardMarch 21, 2011
04:00 PM EDT
Earlier this year, the White House launched the Startup America initiative to celebrate, inspire and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship around the country. As part of the effort, senior Administration officials are travelling across the country this month to hear directly from entrepreneurs about what processes and regulations we need to change or improve in order to foster a more nurturing environment for entrepreneurship and innovation.
For those of you who don't live near one of the Startup America: Reducing Barriers Roundtable cities, we're holding an online panel here at the White House to take and respond to your questions and suggestions, too. Submit your ideas for reducing burdens to entrepreneurship and innovation here at fastcompany.com or on twitter with the hashtag #startupamerica, and Fast Company editors will select as many as they can to pose to National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and SBA Administrator Karen Mills on Wednesday at 12:00pm ET on whitehouse.gov/live.
So that means...
Submit your questions for Gene Sperling and Karen Mills here.
Jesse LeeMarch 21, 2011
03:05 PM EDT
President Obama's first stop on his visit to Latin America was in Brazil, the largest country in the region in geography, population, and economic size. He spoke to the people of Brazil from the country's largest city, Rio de Janeiro, and addressed the shared economic goals of Americans and Brazilians:
Together we can advance our common prosperity. As two of the world’s largest economies, we worked side by side during the financial crisis to restore growth and confidence. And to keep our economies growing, we know what’s necessary in both of our nations. We need a skilled, educated workforce -- which is why American and Brazilian companies have pledged to help increase student exchanges between our two nations.
We need a commitment to innovation and technology -- which is why we've agreed to expand cooperation between our scientists, researchers, and engineers.
We need world-class infrastructure -- which is why American companies want to help you build and prepare this city for Olympic success.
In a global economy, the United States and Brazil should expand trade, expand investment, so that we create new jobs and new opportunities in both of our nations. And that's why we're working to break down barriers to doing business. That's why we're building closer relationships between our workers and our entrepreneurs.
The President also spoke of the tremendous progress Brazil has made in recent decades in the arena of democracy and human rights. President Obama reiterated the commitment of the United States to protecting the human rights of the people of Libya:
From the beginning, we have made clear that the change they seek must be driven by their own people. But for our two nations, for the United States and Brazil, two nations who have struggled over many generations to perfect our own democracies, the United States and Brazil know that the future of the Arab World will be determined by its people.
No one can say for certain how this change will end, but I do know that change is not something that we should fear. When young people insist that the currents of history are on the move, the burdens of the past can be washed away. When men and women peacefully claim their human rights, our own common humanity is enhanced. Wherever the light of freedom is lit, the world becomes a brighter place.
Nikki SuttonMarch 21, 2011
01:43 PM EDT
Today, President Obama is visiting Chile to meet with President Piñera to discuss how we can create even more jobs in America by deepening our economic relationship and expanding exports. Beginning at 2:05 p.m. EDT (3:05 p.m. CT), President Obama and President Piñera will hold a joint press conference which will be streamed live below:
Following the joint press conference, stay tuned for President Obama's speech at the Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda in Santiago, Chile. Watch the speech live beginning at 3:20 p.m. EDT (4:20 p.m. CT) at WhiteHouse.gov/live. Check out the President's schedule for more information on the First Family's visit to Chile.
March 21, 2011
10:14 AM EDT
This week, we will be marking the one year anniversary of enactment of the Affordable Care Act and kicking off the Better Benefits, Better Health Initiative. This initiative will highlight the important information consumers, families and businesses need to get the benefits of reform.
We’re kicking off the initiative by highlighting some important information for small business owners. Small business owners and their employees have always gotten the short end of the stick, paying an average of 18% more for insurance that often covers less than the policies sold to their larger competitors. And small businesses lack the purchasing power that larger employers have. That's changing thanks to the health care law signed by President Obama one year ago.
Thankfully, the Affordable Care Act is helping small business owners get quality affordable coverage for their families and their employees.
Nikki SuttonMarch 20, 2011
04:10 PM EDT
Ed. note: For President Obama's 2012 Nowruz message, click here.
President Obama sends an important message to those celebrating the holiday of Nowruz. At a time of great regional change and renewal, the President this year speaks directly to the Iranian people, in particular the Iranian youth. “...you – the young people of Iran – carry within you both the ancient greatness of Persian civilization, and the power to forge a country that is responsive to your aspirations. Your talent, your hopes, and your choices will shape the future of Iran, and help light the world. And though times may seem dark, I want you to know that I am with you,” he says.
May all those who celebrate Nowruz around the world embrace the power of youth, and have a peaceful and prosperous new year.
Kori SchulmanMarch 20, 2011
12:18 PM EDT
The President's trip to Latin America this weekend focuses on the importance of strengthening our economic partnership with the region to create good jobs at home, as he discussed in his weekly address. This afternoon, President Obama will deliver a speech at Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janiero, Brazil to discuss the deeply held values and interests that bind our countries together -- a relationship that is particularly important because of Brazil's role as a rapidly emerging power on the global stage.
Watch the President's remarks live at 1:30 PM EDT on WhiteHouse.gov/live.
Kori SchulmanMarch 20, 2011
11:46 AM EDT
Yesterday, President Obama delivered remarks on the United States' response to the situation in Libya, "authoriz[ing] the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians." Read the full remarks below:
Good afternoon, everybody. Today I authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun.
In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people. That coalition met in Paris today to send a unified message, and it brings together many of our European and Arab partners.
This is not an outcome that the United States or any of our partners sought. Even yesterday, the international community offered Muammar Qaddafi the opportunity to pursue an immediate cease-fire, one that stopped the violence against civilians and the advances of Qaddafi’s forces. But despite the hollow words of his government, he has ignored that opportunity. His attacks on his own people have continued. His forces have been on the move. And the danger faced by the people of Libya has grown.
Jesse LeeMarch 19, 2011
06:00 AM EDT
Even as the President maintains his focus on international crises in Japan and Libya, he discusses his trip to Latin America to open up markets for US products.
Kori SchulmanMarch 18, 2011
06:30 PM EDT
A quick look at the week that was on WhiteHouse.gov:
Standing with the people of Japan: After the tragic earthquakes and tsunami in Japan, President Obama spoke on the United States' commitment to support our friend and ally. He also visited the Japanese embassy and signed a condolence book. Find out more about what you can do to help at USAID.gov.
Education: President Obama visited a middle school in Arlington, Virginia, where he spoke on the need to reform the No Child Left Behind legislation before the beginning of the coming school year.
Sarah BernardMarch 18, 2011
06:05 PM EDT
As part of his ongoing effort to improve education for all Americans, President Obama will participate in a Univision-hosted town hall with students, parents and teachers on March 28 to discuss education and Hispanic educational attainment. The town hall is part of Univision's "Es el Momento" (The Moment is Now) initiative focused on creating a college-bound culture in the Hispanic community.
Do you have questions about better preparing students for college and 21st century careers? Or thoughts on how to increase parental enagement in education? Now's your chance. In advance of the town hall, you're invited to submit education-related questions here. Questions must be submitted by Sunday, March 27.
Then tune in to watch a live video stream from the event in either English or Spanish at EsElMomento.com, starting at 7:00 PM EDT on Monday, March 28.
Secretary Ray LaHoodMarch 18, 2011
05:50 PM EDT
Ed. Note: This post is part of a Sunshine Week series that highlights open government efforts from across the administration.
At the Department of Transportation, open government is not just a slogan we throw around. Instead, it’s something we practice every day. That’s because the public – the people we serve – has a right to know what we are doing and how we are doing it.
That is why I am so pleased to be able to report that at DOT, our team has accomplished so much in a very short time. Our professionals are encouraged to promote transparency, increase citizen engagement, and collaborate with others across the government and outside the government to benefit all Americans.
I invite you to visit www.dot.gov/open. Read my blog, Fast Lane, visit my Facebook page and check out my twitter feed. Let us know what else you need from DOT so you can get the transportation information you need.
Here are just a few of the important steps we have taken over the last two years:
Jesse LeeMarch 18, 2011
04:58 PM EDT
This afternoon, President Obama addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House, to outline America's response to the situation in Libya. You can read his remarks below:
Good afternoon, everybody. I want to take this opportunity to update the American people about the situation in Libya. Over the last several weeks, the world has watched events unfold in Libya with hope and alarm. Last month, protesters took to the streets across the country to demand their universal rights, and a government that is accountable to them and responsive to their aspirations. But they were met with an iron fist.
Within days, whole parts of the country declared their independence from a brutal regime, and members of the government serving in Libya and abroad chose to align themselves with the forces of change. Moammar Qaddafi clearly lost the confidence of his own people and the legitimacy to lead.
Instead of respecting the rights of his own people, Qaddafi chose the path of brutal suppression. Innocent civilians were beaten, imprisoned, and in some cases killed. Peaceful protests were forcefully put down. Hospitals were attacked and patients disappeared. A campaign of intimidation and repression began.
Ambassador Ron KirkMarch 18, 2011
02:33 PM EDT
President Obama has set an ambitious goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015, supporting at least two million additional American jobs. As the President departs for Latin America to promote U.S. exports and U.S. jobs, we at the Office of the United States Trade Representative are continuing to work on three pending free trade agreements – with Korea, Panama, and Colombia – that can support these National Export Initiative goals.
In December, President Obama announced that the United States and South Korea have finalized an historic trade deal that will increase U.S. exports to Korea by $11 billion annually while supporting 70,000 American jobs. The news has been met with high praise from a wide range of groups, including the United Auto Workers, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, the U.S. Chamber and the American Farm Bureau Federation, to name a few stakeholders. They know the positive impact this agreement will have on U.S. businesses and families, from auto workers to cattle ranchers to high-tech manufacturers and service providers.
The U.S.-Korea trade agreement would eliminate tariffs on more than 95 percent of industrial and consumer goods within five years, creating a more open and fair Korean market for U.S. auto companies and workers, and new opportunities for U.S. manufacturers, farmers and ranchers. In real terms, U.S. beef producers could expect to save $90 million annually with the progressive elimination of Korea’s existing tariff.
March 18, 2011
01:57 PM EDT
Yesterday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, hosted a live chat to answer your questions about the America's Great Outdoors initiative. The initiative seeks to reinvigorate our approach to conservation and reconnect Americans, especially our youth, with the lands and waters that are used for farming and ranching, hunting and fishing, and for families to spend quality time together, as well as education purposes. They took questions from YouTube videos and Facebook participants from across the country on ways to develop a conservation and recreation agenda that makes sense for the 21st century.
If you're a young person looking to get involved in the great outdoors, be sure to visit YouthGo.gov. For more information on America's Great Outdoors initiative, check out the full video below or skip to the questions you're interested in by using the links below.
Arun ChaudharyMarch 18, 2011
12:00 AM EDT
Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week, Education Month continued, with President Obama asking Congress to fix No Child Left Behind before the beginning of the coming school year. The President also updates the American people on relief efforts in Japan and pledges continued support. The Prime Minister of Denmark, Taoiseach of Ireland, and the Chicago Blackhawks also stopped by.
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