Read all posts from May 2011

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (44MB) | mp3 (4MB)

    Today, President Obama announced the nomination of John Bryson as the next Commerce Secretary. Bryson brings a wealth of experience to this role and understands what it takes for America to succeed in a 21st century global economy. In an announcement from the State Dining Room of the White House, the President said:

    As Commerce Secretary, John is going to be an important part of my economic team, promoting American business and American products across the globe.  By working with companies here at home, and representing America’s interests abroad, I’m confident that he’s going to help us meet the goal that I set of doubling our nation’s exports. 

    In this new role, John will be able to draw on decades of business experience across a range of industries -– from his role on the boards of major companies like Disney and Boeing, to his leadership in the clean energy industry.  That’s the expertise that will help us create new jobs and make America more competitive in the global economy. 

    With outgoing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke at his side, the President praised his success in the role and thanked him for his extraordinary service:

    Of course, John will be building on the success of outgoing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who has tirelessly advanced America’s economic leadership abroad, securing export deals that will mean hundreds of thousands of jobs here in America -– including an agreement with China, where Gary will now be serving as our next ambassador.  And we couldn't be prouder of him and we're confident he is going to be doing an outstanding job there.

  • Editor’s Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and help our country rise to the many challenges of the 21st century.

    As the President said in his 2011 State of the Union Address to Congress, "we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea – the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That's why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risk everything to come here...the future is ours to win. But to get there, we cannot stand still.”  Earlier this month, we held a roundtable discussion at the White House with Administration officials and a group of impressive community leaders who are helping the current generation of immigrants and refugees successfully integrate and thrive in their new communities.

    From San Diego, CA to Utica, NY, these leaders are true Champions of Change.  They are answering the President’s call. They are not standing still. They are working every day to connect immigrants with critical services to learn English and assist in the naturalization process. They are also helping these newcomers start businesses and obtain jobs in critical fields like the health care industry, allowing them to use the professional skills, expertise, and experience they brought with them to their new country, which benefits all Americans.  And by developing intergenerational programs that bring together elderly immigrants and young people and help students learn about the process of becoming a citizen, these Champions of Change are connecting newcomers to the communities where they are settling, promoting greater understanding, and inspiring pride in America. 

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (101MB) | mp3 (10MB)

    Yesterday morning, before traveling to Arlington National Cemetery for the Memorial Day Service, President Obama made a Department of Defense personnel announcement, nominating  Gen. Dempsey to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Winnefeld to be Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. Odierno as Army Chief of Staff. The President urged the Senate to confirm these nominees as soon as possible and explained what he values most in advisors:

  • On May 10th, President Obama issued a call to action to fix our broken immigration system so that it works for our 21st century economic and national security needs.  He asked Americans to elevate the debate on this issue and have a nation conversation about realistic solutions.  Over the past three weeks, we’ve had hundreds of Americans in all parts of the country and all walks of life participate in conversations about realistic solutions to fixing our broken immigration system. 

    Here is just a sampling of some of the great roundtables that have happened over the last few weeks:

    • On May 24th Mayor Paul Bridges of Uvalda, GA held a roundtable with a dozen leaders in his town of 600 – saying “All I can say is IT WAS AWESOME!  THANK YOU ALL for the idea of a Roundtable.  People are talking and people want Immigration Reform.” (see photo below)
    Immigration Roundtable - Uvalda, GA

    Uvalda, GA Mayor Paul Bridges convenes an immigration reform roundtable. Photo Credit: Montgomery Monitor May 24, 2011. (by Montgomery Monitor)

     
    • On May 11th in Dallas, Texas Assistant Secretary of State Jose Fernandez held a roundtable with business leaders talking about the imperative for business owners and leaders to be involved in the immigration reform debate.  Bert Kaufman from Business Forward who attended the roundtable writes "The need to fix the broken immigration system is on top of mind for business leaders across the country.  It is important to get outside of DC to listen to these folks because you learn just how seriously employers take the situation.  This issue has come up, without fail, in every roundtable that I've participated in across the 20 cities I've visited over the past 5 months."
    • Also on May 11th, Catholic Charities of Dallas convened a roundtable with key community leaders to discuss how they can lend their voice to the conversation saying, “We support the President’s initiative for this national conversation and will do what we can to promote more Roundtable discussions.”
    • On May 12th, Aneesh Chopra, Chief Technology Officer for the Obama Administration convened a roundtable with diverse stakeholders in Omaha, Nebraska (Yes, Omaha, Nebraska).  In a blog post summarizing the event, Aneesh wrote, “the message I heard was clear -- if we are to effectively compete in the global economy, we need access to the very best talent our communities can attract, especially in regions that lack the kind of talent concentration one finds in areas like Silicon Valley or Austin, TX.”
    • On May 20th, Cecilia Munoz, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs did a roundtable with key business leaders in Orlando, Florida discussing what immigration reform means to business owners. Cecilia said that, “Leaders of the Orlando business community illustrated very powerfully that immigration reform is an economic imperative.   CEOs and entrepreneurs in businesses both large and small reflected on both the human costs and the economic costs which add up every day that Congress fails to act on immigration reform.   I am so encouraged by the level of engagement in the business community. “
    • On May 24th, Aneesh Chopra held another roundtable with business leaders in the Silicon Valley and the importance reforming our immigration system is to our economy.   In a blog post he wrote: “Aneesh participated in a roundtable yesterday hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group where nearly half of the executives in the room were immigrants. They were unanimous in their call for action in the high skilled area -- a top priority for the group, along with a new service campaign to connect the  best and brightest in the Valley with  kids in need.  But they were also frustrated with our inability as a country to tackle these issues as it has been several years since they began such conversations.”
    • On May 25th a group of students from the University of Michigan convening a conversation to talk about what the broken immigration system means to them.

    These are just a sampling of how everyday Americans are elevating the debate around fixing our broken immigration system.  Our goal is to host at least one conversation in every single state.   Join the conversation and host one today by visiting www.whitehouse.gov/immigrationaction

     

  • On Wednesday June 1, 2011 at 3 p.m. EDT, Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy Jeffrey Crowley and Director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH, Dr. Carl Dieffenbach will be hosting a special live discussion on the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic.  Submit your questions in advance and tune in to WhiteHouse.gov/live to watch the discussion. 

    • What: Open for Question: 30 Years of AIDS
    • When: June 1 at 3 p.m. EDT
    • Who: Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy Jeffrey Crowley and Director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH Dr. Carl Dieffenbach
    • Where: Submit questions in advance, watch live at WhiteHouse.gov/live and submit live questions during the discussion on Facebook.

  • Watch the President's full remarks here.

    This Memorial Day, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama gathered in Arlington National Cemetery with military members, Gold Star families, veterans and other Americans who came to honor and remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. After presenting a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, the President spoke at the Memorial Day Service:

    To those of you who mourn the loss of a loved one today, my heart goes out to you.  I love my daughters more than anything in the world, and I cannot imagine losing them.  I can’t imagine losing a sister or brother or parent at war.  The grief so many of you carry in your hearts is a grief I cannot fully know.

    This day is about you, and the fallen heroes that you loved.  And it’s a day that has meaning for all Americans, including me.  It’s one of my highest honors, it is my most solemn responsibility as President, to serve as Commander-in-Chief of one of the finest fighting forces the world has ever known.  (Applause.)  And it’s a responsibility that carries a special weight on this day; that carries a special weight each time I meet with our Gold Star families and I see the pride in their eyes, but also the tears of pain that will never fully go away; each time I sit down at my desk and sign a condolence letter to the family of the fallen.

  • This morning, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, sent the email below to the White House email list encouraging all Americans to honor our brave men and women in uniform by supporting our military families and veterans.

    If you didn’t get the email, be sure to sign up for the White House email list.

    This Memorial Day, First Lady Michelle Obama and I are asking our fellow citizens to honor the brave men and women who have served and sacrificed so much for our country by supporting our military families and veterans.

    Will you join me in sending a note of thanks to our military families? You can submit your message on JoiningForces.gov:

    Our military families are true American heroes: they are parents who raise their kids alone while their spouse is deployed overseas, they are the grandparents who provide much needed support, and they are military kids who work hard in school while bravely awaiting their mom or dad's return from deployment. They serve our country bravely and without asking for recognition for their sacrifices.

    That's why the First Lady and I started Joining Forces, a national initiative to recognize, honor and support our military families.

    As a military mom, I know that a simple act of kindness can make a difference in the lives of our military families and veterans. Whether you offer to babysit or carpool, or just take a moment to say thank you, everyone can do something to support our service members and their families.

    We are working with employers, with communities, with faith leaders, with schools and so many others. We can all join forces.

    At JoiningForces.gov you'll find lots of ways to get involved. You can find service opportunities in your area, send a message of support to military families, or tell us your own story of service:

    http://www.JoiningForces.gov

    To all of our men and women in uniform, our veterans and our military families: thank you, we are so grateful for your commitment and sacrifice.

    Sincerely,

    Jill

    P.S. We've created a special email list for more frequent updates about the Joining Forces campaign.

    You can sign up here: WhiteHouse.gov/JoiningForcesEmail

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (291MB) | mp3 (28MB)

    Today, President Obama traveled to Joplin, Missouri to meet with those in the community who lost so much in the tornados last week and participate in a Memorial Service at Missouri Southern University.

    President Barack Obama Hugs a Woman in Joplin, Missouri

    President Barack Obama hugs a woman who lost a loved one, during the memorial service for victims of the tornado in Joplin, Missouri, May 29, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Before the Memorial Service, President Obama visited one of the neighborhoods that was devastated by the tornadoes. After seeing the extensive tornado damage the President spoke to the people of Joplin and reminded them that they are not alone in this tragedy:

    The main thing I just want to communicate to the people of Joplin is this is just not your tragedy.  This is a national tragedy and that means there will be a national response.   Craig Fugate, who has probably been the busiest man in the federal government over this last bit of months, has been on the ground since just the day after this happened, and he’s helping to coordinate with an outstanding team of state and local officials. We're going to do everything we can to continue whatever search and rescue remains.  We are doing everything we can to make sure that folks get the shelter that they need, the support that they need.

    President Barack Obama Makes a Statement to the Press in Joplin, Missouri

    President Barack Obama makes a statement to the press during his tour if neighborhoods devastated by last week’s tornado in Joplin, Missouri, May 29, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    The President also thanked all of the volunteers and community members who are lending a hand to their neighbors during this difficult time:

    So to all the volunteers who are helping out -- one of the things that’s been incredible is to see how many people from out of state have driven from as far a way as Texas, nearby Illinois, people just coming here to volunteer -- firefighters, ordinary citizens.  It’s an example of what the American spirit is all about.  And that gives us a lot of encouragement at a time when obviously people are going through a lot of hardship.

    During the Memorial Service, the President spoke of the strength of the community coming together in response to the storm:

    How we respond when the storm strikes is up to us.  How we live in the aftermath of tragedy and heartache, that’s within our control.  And it’s in these moments, through our actions, that we often see the glimpse of what makes life worth living in the first place. 

    In the last week, that’s what Joplin has not just taught Missouri, not just taught America, but has taught the world.  I was overseas in the aftermath of the storm, and had world leaders coming up to me saying, let the people of Joplin know we are with them; we’re thinking about them; we love them.  (Applause.) 

    Because the world saw how Joplin responded.  A university turned itself into a makeshift hospital.  (Applause.)  Some of you used your pickup trucks as ambulances, carrying the injured -- (applause) -- on doors that served as stretchers.  Your restaurants have rushed food to people in need.  Businesses have filled trucks with donations.  You’ve waited in line for hours to donate blood to people you know, but also to people you’ve never met. 

    Learn how you can lend your support to the people of Joplin.

    President Barack Obama at a Memorial Service in Joplin, Missouri

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a memorial in honor of the victims of the devastation from a F5 tornado on May 22nd in Joplin, Missouri, May 29, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

  • President Barack Obama and President Bronislaw Komorowski review troops

    President Barack Obama and President Bronislaw Komorowski review troops during the arrival ceremony in the courtyard of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, May 28, 2011. A member of the Ceremonial Army Garrison stands with them. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    Today President Obama was in Warsaw, Poland where he held a bilateral meeting  Polish President Bronisław Komorowski and participated a discussion on democracy with President Komorowski and NGO’s.

    President Barack Obama reaches to shake hands with President Bonislaw Komorowski

    President Barack Obama reaches to shake hands with President Bonislaw Komorowski of Poland following their statements to the press at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, May 28, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Later in the day, the President met Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and held a joint press conference. 

    President Barack Obama and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk

    President Barack Obama and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk make remarks during a press conference at the Chancellery Building in Warsaw, Poland, May 28, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    Before heading back to Washington, the President visited the memorial to the victims of the Smolensk plane crash at the Field Cathedral of the Polish Military.

    President Barack Obama pays his respects while visiting the memorial to the victims of the Smolensk

    President Barack Obama pays his respects while visiting the memorial to the victims of the Smolensk plane crash at Field Cathedral of the Polish Military in Warsaw, Poland, May 28, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

  • People Cheer at the Irish celebration at College Green in Dublin

    People cheer as President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are introduced during an Irish celebration at College Green in Dublin, Ireland, May 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    A quick look at the week of May 23 on WhiteHouse.gov:

    President Obama visits Dublin, Ireland, his first stop on a six—day trip to Europe, also visiting the United Kingdom, France and Poland.

    American Auto Comeback: Vice President Biden celebrates the success of the American auto industry after Chrysler pays back their loans.

    A Force of Families: First Lady Michelle Obama becomes the first First Lady to address West Point graduates.

    Fuel Economy Labels: A new fuel economy label empowers car buyers with better information about what they will spend or save on fuel costs when looking to purchase a new vehicle.

    West Wing Week: OCONUS III: A Homecoming of Sorts

    Tornadoes in Missouri and Across the Midwest: President Obama pledges support for those affected and on Sunday, the President will visit Missouri to talk with people on the ground.

    Joining Forces with Elmo: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden stop by Sesame Street for their initiative to support and honors our military and their families.

    21st Century Regulation: Federal agencies identify initiatives with the potential to eliminate tens of millions of hours in reporting burdens, and billions of dollars in regulatory costs. Weigh in on Agency plans.

    Home Energy Education Challenge: The Department of Energy harnesses the imagination and enthusiasm of America’s students to encourage home energy efficiency with a new challenge.

    What You Told Us About Immigration Reform: Following the President Obama's speech on immigration in El Paso, folks around the country share their feedback, or Advise the Advisor.

  • Vice President Joe Biden delivers the Weekly Address, celebrating the success of the American auto industry in the wake of Chrysler paying back their loans.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

  • Memorial Day is a time when our nation honors those fallen men and women of the military who have paid the ultimate price to defend the United States. It is also a time when we should reflect on what we can and are doing to support our active duty veterans who hope to one day successfully complete their missions and come home safely. These veterans are also seeking a piece of the “American Dream”  — to own a home, have a good job, and receive a good wage from jobs created for them by a grateful nation.

    To achieve this, I have begun an employment  campaign based on the vision of “Good Jobs for Everyone.”  Our goal is to assist veterans with resources and expertise necessary to obtain meaningful careers and maximize their employment opportunities. 

    Secretary Solis honors the men and women of the United States military.

    Secretary Solis honors the men and women of the United States military.

  • This morning, President Obama wrapped up the G-8 Summit in Deauville, France, and held a bilateral meeting with French President Nicholas Sarkozy of France.  In a statement following his meeting with President Sarkozy, President Obama commented on the “enormous convergence of approaches and views on the challenges that we face around the world” including changes in the Middle East and North Africa.  The President also discussed the progress made in Libya:

    We agreed that we have made progress on our Libya campaign, but that meeting the U.N. mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Qaddafi remains in Libya directing his forces in acts of aggression against the Libyan people.  And we are joined in resolve to finish the job.

    We discussed the enormous opportunities as well as challenges that are presented by the Arab Spring, and shortly we’ll be discussing in depth how we can fully support countries like Egypt and Tunisia, not only as they transition to democracy but also ensuring that that democratic transition is accompanied by economic growth, which can provide more opportunities for all the people, particularly the young people in the region.

    Later in the day, President Obama travelled to Warsaw, Poland where he participated in wreath laying ceremonies at both the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial.  The President also met with Jewish community leaders and Holocaust survivors at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial.

    President Barack Obama lays a wreath at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial

    President Barack Obama lays a wreath at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial in Warsaw, Poland, May 27, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    President Barack Obama visits with Jewish community leaders

    President Barack Obama visits with Jewish community leaders and Holocaust survivors at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial in Warsaw, , May 27, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

  • In September 2009, the President announced that – for the first time in history – the White House would routinely release visitor records. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in February 2011. Today’s release also includes several visitor records generated prior to September 16, 2009 that were requested by members of the public in April 2011 pursuant to the White House voluntary disclosure policy. This release brings the grand total of records that this White House has released to nearly 1.3 million records. You can view them all in our Disclosures section.

    Ed. Note: For more information, check out Ethics.gov.

  • As the second largest producer of hydropower in the United States, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation has a key role to play in President Obama’s blueprint for a secure energy future.  Reclamation’s staff of engineers, biologists, hydrologists and other professionals are working tirelessly to conserve water and improve energy efficiencies at our projects across 17 Western states.

    Recently, Reclamation announced $24 million in WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants for 54 projects. This federal funding, when combined with other non-federal resources, will total more than $76 million in projects that are expected to save more than 15 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, enough for more than 1,300 households.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden visited Sesame Street

    First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden visit Sesame Street as part of the "Joining Forces" Initiative and Sesame's military families project, to tape Public Service Announcements asking all Americans to support our military families. © 2011 Sesame Workshop. Photo by Richard Termine.

    First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden stopped by Sesame Street to film public service announcements for Joining Forces, their national initiative to support and honor our troops and their families. With Sesame favorites Elmo and Rosita, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden ask all Americans to get involved in anyway they can. Watch the PSAs below, some behind-the-scenes footage, and learn how you can get involved at JoiningForces.gov.

    Watch the PSA, here

  • This week, I travelled with the President to two European countries. As always, this trip was a reminder that travel can broaden our horizons and reinforce longstanding friendships. Just as importantly, travel and tourism are key engines of economic growth.  

    Last Wednesday, I joined several members of the Obama Administration, including Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, at the annual Global Travel and Tourism Summit in Las Vegas.  I was delighted to deliver the keynote address at a session entitled “The New Global Mindset,” and I participated in a question and answer discussion with many industry leaders

    The travel and tourism industry was hit hard during the recession, so I’m happy to report that we’re seeing signs of solid improvement.  In 2010, business travel was up by 16 percent, and 60 million foreign visitors entered the United States.  That’s more than the populations of Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania combined.

  • Cross posted from the Department of Transportation's Fast Lane blog. Read and comment on all 30 agency plans that will reduce burdens and save money.

    Earlier this year, President Obama outlined a plan to create a simpler, smarter 21st-century regulatory system that protects the health and safety of the nation while also promoting economic growth, job creation, and innovation. With an Executive Order, he challenged agencies across the federal government to review rules already on the books and remove those that are out-of-date, unnecessary, excessively burdensome, or in conflict with other rules. 

    The Department of Transportation was happy to rise to that challenge, and today we are pleased to submit our Preliminary Plan for Retrospective Review and Analysis of Existing Rules.

    Almost immediately after the President outlined his plan, through a notice in the Federal Register, DOT solicited comments from the public about rules we should review.

    On March 14, we held a well-advertised public meeting at our headquarters in Washington, DC.  To make participation easier and the meeting's proceedings more transparent, we streamed that meeting live on the internet and phone lines.  We permitted speakers to submit comments either in person or by telephone.

    We also used IdeaScale, a web-based, interactive discussion tool to allow the public to submit written feedback and to comment and vote on suggestions submitted by others.  On the www.dot.gov website, we placed a special button icon designed to draw people's attention and bring them to the IdeaScale site.

    Additional outreach attempts included a media alert, emails to interest groups, and a blog post I published here.

    The point is, DOT beat the bushes to stimulate public participation in our regulatory review. And I hope you'll agree that effort paid off.

  • Vice President Joe Biden talks to Chrysler Dealer Ed Bonneville

    Vice President Joe Biden talks to Chrysler Dealer Ed Bonneville at Bonneville & Son Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram during a visit to applaud Chrysler's repayment of U.S. Government loans ahead of schedule, in Manchester, NH, May 25, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced that Chrysler repaid $5.9 billion in U.S. government loans more than six years ahead of schedule, bringing the total amount of money Chrysler has returned to taxpayers to $10.6 billion. The announcement “marks a significant milestone for the turnaround of Chrysler and the countless communities and families who rely on the American auto industry,” President Obama said in a statement. Next Friday, the President will visit a Chrysler plant in Toledo, Ohio where he will highlight that incredible turnaround.

    Just two years ago, the American auto industry was on the brink of collapse. The President made a difficult decision to provide support to Chrysler and General Motors on the condition that all stakeholders make the sacrifices necessary to fundamentally restructure those companies and put them on a path to viability.

  • Download Video: mp4 (295MB)

    Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week, President Obama embarked on a six-day trip to Europe, visiting Ireland, the United Kingdom, France and Poland to engage our allies in the region on a host of issues. While overseas, the President pledged support for those back home affected by devastating tornadoes in Missouri and across the Midwest. Before leaving, the President met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and went to the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA. That's May 20th to the 26th, or "OCONUS (Outside the Continental United States) III: A Homecoming of Sorts."

    Find out more about the topics covered in this edition of West Wing Week:

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