Our Top Stories
Katelyn SabochikMay 17, 2011
09:45 AM EDT
Yesterday, President Obama travelled to Memphis, Tennessee to deliver the commencement address at the Booker T. Washington High School – winners of the 2011 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge.
Before the commencement ceremony got started, the President surprised the very excited class of 2011.
Check out the video of the President surprising the class here.
Watch the full video of President Obama's commencement address at Booker T. Washington High School.
Howard A. SchmidtMay 16, 2011
03:46 PM EDT
Today, I am proud to announce the United States’ first, comprehensive International Strategy for Cyberspace (pdf). The International Strategy is a historic policy document for the 21st Century — one that explains, for audiences at home and abroad, what the U.S. stands for internationally in cyberspace, and how we plan to build prosperity, enhance security, and safeguard openness in our increasingly networked world.
Today, Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan and I were joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Lynn in announcing this landmark document’s release, here at the White House. The event was streamed live on WhiteHouse.gov, and you can view it here starting this evening.
The International Strategy lays out the President’s vision for the future of the Internet, and sets an agenda for partnering with other nations and peoples to achieve that vision. It begins by recognizing the successes networked technologies have brought us, in large part due to the spirit of freedom and innovation that has characterized the Internet from its early days as a research project. While the strategy is realistic about the challenges we face, it nonetheless emphasizes that our policies must continue to be grounded in our core principles of fundamental freedoms, privacy, and the free flow of information.
Jesse LeeMay 16, 2011
02:57 PM EDT
"Every commencement is a day of celebration," said the President at the commencement for Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, "But this one is especially hopeful." BTW, as the school is known, was the winner of the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge, chosen as a finalist on the basis of its inspiring turn-around story and voted the winner by the public after each finalist school submitted a video making its case. The President continued:
This one is especially hopeful because some people say that schools like BTW just aren’t supposed to succeed in America. You’ll hear them say, “The streets are too rough in those neighborhoods.” “The schools are too broken.” “The kids don’t stand a chance.”
We are here today because every single one of you stood tall and said, “Yes, we can.” (Applause.) Yes, we can learn. Yes, we can succeed. You decided you would not be defined by where you come from but by where you want to go, by what you want to achieve, by the dreams you hope to fulfill.
Supporting these kinds of turnarounds has been a focus of the President’s education policies, from the national Race to the Top contest where states competed to show real reform plans, to School Improvement Grants that demand uprooting entrenched problems, the President has insisted that funding go to states, communities and schools who have refused to give up, and shown their commitment to change so that their kids would be prepared for the competitive world that awaits them after graduation.
Speaking at BTW, where graduation rates went from 55% in 2007 to 81.6% in 2010, the President was clearly inspired to see the faces that represent that kind of change. And as he said, his passion for education is based on his own experience not only as a father, but as a child growing up years ago. He spoke to the graduates on a personal level about the lessons he learned.
May 16, 2011
02:18 PM EDT
Today, the President and Vice President released their 2010 financial disclosure reports.
The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 requires high-level federal officials to publicly disclose their personal financial interests. The public filing system serves to prevent financial conflicts of interest by providing for a systematic review of the finances of government officials. Those finances are set forth in annual disclosures which are reviewed and certified by ethics officials. Neither the President nor the Vice President have any conflicts of interest, and their reports have been reviewed and certified by the independent Office of Government Ethics. We are continuing this Administration's practice of affirmatively posting these forms online here in the interests of transparency:
- View the President's 2010 financial disclosure report (pdf)
- View the Vice President's 2010 financial disclosure report (pdf)
White House staff are also completing their forms and we anticipate they will be available here next month, also in electronic form.
Ambassador Ron KirkMay 16, 2011
10:57 AM EDT
As President Obama has proclaimed this week to be World Trade Week, I would like to take this opportunity to especially encourage small businesses across the country to consider the advantages of exporting to one of our trade agreement country partners. Over a quarter million American small businesses from every state sell goods and services to foreign customers around the globe, and these export sales sustain millions of well-paying American jobs.
In fact, the U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that both direct and indirect exports by small firms which supply inputs or services to larger companies supported four million jobs in the United States in 2007. That is why President Obama launched the National Export Initiative, with the goal of doubling U.S. exports and supporting millions of additional U.S. jobs by the end of 2014.
Most U.S. small businesses which export begin by selling to our neighboring partners, Canada and Mexico. However, the United States has negotiated trade agreements with a total of 17 countries. It can be easier, cheaper, and faster for businesses to sell globally in partner countries due to the reduced tariffs at the border.
To help even more small companies the Administration recently launched a new free online tariff tool. U.S. exporters now have an online resource that streamlines tariff information for goods going to 20 foreign markets with which the U.S. has negotiated trade agreements. This information has never before been available free of charge in one searchable database. This new tool makes it easier for small businesses to grow and prosper through exports.
Katelyn SabochikMay 16, 2011
09:34 AM EDT
This morning, President Obama sent the email below to the White House email list asking for nominations for the 2011 Citizens Medal, our nation's second-highest civilian honor. This year, President Obama is looking for Americans who have performed exemplary deeds of service outside of their regular jobs and provided inspiration for others to serve. Learn more about the Citizens Medal and submit your nomination.
If you didn't get this email, be sure to sign up for the White House email list.
Karen MillsMay 16, 2011
06:00 AM EDT
Happy National Small Business Week to more than 27 million small businesses, their employees, and all Americans! You can read the President’s proclamation here.
The facts are clear: small businesses create about two out of every three jobs in the U.S. each year, and roughly half of working Americans either own or work for a small business.
Today, we released a report that details the many things the Administration has done over the past two years to help small businesses do what they do best: create jobs. It’s called The Small Business Agenda: Growing America’s Small Businesses to Win the Future.
There are seven areas where we’ve made accomplishments, including:
- 17 tax breaks for small businesses through the Recovery Act, the Small Business Jobs Act and other laws
- $53 billion in SBA lending support for 113,000 small businesses at a time when traditional lending was frozen
- Nearly $100 billion in federal contracting dollars annually going to small businesses, with a new tool to help women-owned firms
- Support for small businesses to export their products and help meet the National Export Initiative’s goal to double exports in coming years
- Free and low-cost counseling to more than 2 million entrepreneurs and small business owners
- Targeted mentoring and growth capital for high-growth small businesses – the biggest job creators – through new efforts like Startup America
- More stability and protection in financial markets as well as work to reduce regulatory barriers and costs
But our job is not done.
For example, we need to engage young entrepreneurs who are working to build the next generation of great American companies. That’s why, Tuesday night at 6:30 pm EST, the White House’s Kalpen Modi and SBA’s Deputy Administrator, Marie Johns, are co-hosting a Youth Entrepreneur Summit in New York City. Watch the livestream here.
And don’t forget: Starting Wednesday, you can also watch livestreams of National Small Business Week events and forums happening in Washington, D.C. Take a look at my earlier blog post to see which ones you might be interested in.
As the President said recently, “When it comes to our economy, it’s our small businesses that pack the biggest punch.” Thank you for taking time this week to celebrate small businesses in your community and across the nation.
May 15, 2011
10:00 AM EDT
Update: Read remarks from First Lady Michelle Obama's Commencement address at Spelman College here.
Today, Mrs. Obama will address the 2011 graduating class of Spelman College, a historically black liberal arts college in Atlanta for women who seek to change the world in meaningful and inspirational ways. As a graduate of Spelman, and as a member of the Obama’s staff since 2004, this trip fills me with a particularly special sense of pride.
When I walked through the gates of Spelman College for the first time in 1999, I couldn’t have been more excited about the world of possibilities ahead. Four years later, armed with a spectacular education and a Spelman diploma, I was ready to tackle the world. However, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be returning years later to witness such a magical moment in history; the First Lady of the United States giving the commencement address at my alma mater. And not just any First Lady, but a woman who I am honored and grateful to work for, a woman I admire, and a woman who is a role model for young women like me everywhere.
Spelman College laid the foundation for who I am today. From the professors, to campus life, to the everlasting friendships I made, Spelman taught me the true definition of sisterhood and service. I learned so much from being surrounded by intelligent, goal-oriented, passionate women who have dedicated their lives to giving back to their communities, and it has put me on the path I’m on today – serving as Mrs. Obama’s traveling aide and accompanying her on trips across the country and around the world.
Jesse LeeMay 14, 2011
05:30 AM EDT
Jaime MulliganMay 13, 2011
05:08 PM EDT
You may have seen our post on Monday about First Lady Michelle Obama announcing new collaborations to support our military families and ensure that everyone can get out and get moving. Check out some video from the event featuring the First Lady and members of the President's Council on Physical Fitness, including Dominique Dawes, Chris Paul, Grant Hill, and Billie Jean King:
Pete SouzaMay 13, 2011
04:40 PM EDT
Ed. Note: Sign up for the Daily Snapshot and we'll send you the Photo of the Day first thing every morning.
We’ve just posted a new series of behind-the-scenes photographs from the last two weeks of April. Many elements go into the making of a successful photograph. A good moment, interesting composition, nice light, etc.
This photograph (below) was unusual in that I framed the composition ahead of time and waited for the President to walk into the frame. After the President’s helicopter had landed in Los Angeles, I anticipated the direction he would walk to his car in the motorcade. Lighting sometimes is the key element in a successful photograph.
This photograph (below) was taken in a hallway at a Chicago hotel. The President had a briefing with Press Secretary Jay Carney and Senior Advisor David Plouffe. The hallway was very dimly lit, but the President happened to sit underneath the overhead light, illuminating just his face.
Pete Souza is Chief Official White House Photographer and Director of the White House Photography Office.
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusMay 13, 2011
01:11 PM EDT
Every year, I join my fellow members of the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees to issue reports on the financial health of these essential programs. This year’s reports, released today, show that Medicare and Social Security are strong, but there is far more work to be done. And as we move forward, it is critical that Democrats and Republicans continue to work together to address the long-term solvency of the programs so that we keep the promise of Medicare and Social Security to future generations of Americans.
The Social Security Board of Trustees report shows that Social Security has sufficient assets to continue to provide benefits for seniors and people with disabilities in the coming decades. The combined Social Security Trust Funds have resources to pay full benefits for the coming 25 years.
Arun ChaudharyMay 13, 2011
12:00 AM EDT
Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week the President talks clean energy and gas prices in Indiana, focuses on fixing our broken immigration system in Texas, and honors Top Cops here in the Rose Garden.
Watch West Wing Week here.
Find out more about the topics covered in this edition of West Wing Week:
Jesse LeeMay 12, 2011
03:59 PM EDT
Watch the President's and the Vice President's full remarks here.
It was a beautiful day in the Rose Garden to honor the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) TOP COPS. The Vice President spoke first, reiterating the commitment that he and the President have to supporting America's law enforcement, from giving states the funding they need to keep them on the job, to better communication resources, to supporting their rights as workers. The President spoke to that commitment as well, and also commended the outstanding officers who had earned this year's title of "Top Cops":
Howard A. SchmidtMay 12, 2011
02:00 PM EDT
Today I am happy to announce that the Administration has transmitted a cybersecurity legislative proposal to Capitol Hill in response to Congress’ call for assistance on how best to address the cybersecurity needs of our Nation. This is a milestone in our national effort to ensure secure and reliable networks for Americans, businesses, and government; fundamentally, this proposal strikes a critical balance between maintaining the government’s role and providing industry with the capacity to innovatively tackle threats to national cybersecurity. Just as importantly, it does so while providing a robust framework to protect civil liberties and privacy.
When the President released his Cyberspace Policy Review (pdf) almost two years ago, he declared cyberspace as a key strategic asset for the United States and its security just as vital. This legislative proposal is the latest achievement in the steady stream of progress we are making in securing cyberspace and completes another near-term action item (pdf) identified in the Cyberspace Policy Review.
Nancy-Ann DeParleMay 12, 2011
01:46 PM EDT
Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new report outlining some of the steps our Administration has taken to strengthen the Medicare program, save money and improve the quality of care for our seniors. The report finds that the tools in the Affordable Care Act and other steps we have already taken will save nearly $120 billion for Medicare over the next five years and help deliver better care to people on Medicare.
Many of these reforms were made possible by the Affordable Care Act. The new law rewards doctors and hospitals for providing high-quality care and offers new tools to help law enforcement and the Medicare program crack down on waste fraud and abuse. Other steps like improving care for patients with disabilities and bringing down the cost of durable medical equipment build on initiatives undertaken at CMS that will also reduce costs. And we recently announced the launch of the Partnership for Patients, a new public-private partnership that will help improve the quality, safety, and affordability of health care for all Americans. Already, more than 3,000 organizations, including 1,500 hospitals, have signed a pledge to become part of the Partnership for Patients. This has the potential to save up to $10 billion for Medicare through 2013.
May 12, 2011
11:56 AM EDT
Ed. Note: May is Military Appreciation Month. Find ways to show your support for our service members and their families at JoiningForces.gov.
At an event last week, I was wearing my dress uniform and dozens of people made the effort to thank me for my service to our country. After close to two decades in the United States Army I am used to being recognized, but on the eve of Mother’s Day I couldn’t help but think of those who rarely if ever get thanked for their service and the sacrifices they have made on our Nation’s behalf.
I thought of my Mom, a young Army wife during the Vietnam War who saw her husband off just two months after my sister’s birth. My mom never wore a uniform but that didn’t mean she didn’t have to raise a child alone for a year, nor did it mean that she wouldn’t be responsible for packing and picking up a household twelve times over twenty years. She did all of that, in addition to being a tireless volunteer on behalf of other military families. It was probably because she made Army life seem so rewarding, despite the instability, that my sister and I both joined the service.
Melody BarnesMay 12, 2011
09:34 AM EDT
Over two years ago, when the President and the First Lady first arrived here at the White House they were adamant that they wanted the arts to be alive and well here at the People’s House. And they started inviting artists to visit and perform - jazz musicians, then country music stars, classical musicians, Latin singers and dancers, Motown greats and, just yesterday, America’s best poets and spoken word artists.
But it’s not all about artists coming here to play for the First Family. The President and the First Lady believe it’s imperative that the best, the brightest and the most creative should share their talents, their secrets, their successes – their failures -- and teach and inspire the next generation, like Elizabeth Alexander, Rita Dove, Billy Collins, Kenny Goldsmith, Alison Knowles, and Aimee Mann did yesterday at an afternoon student poetry workshop in the State Dining Room.
The arts are not just for those who go on to become professional artists. Research shows that girls and boys, young men and women who have art classes are more likely to be engaged in their classes, attend school, achieve better test scores, and graduate. In fact, just last Friday, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities released a stellar report, Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools, which details the powerful role that arts education strategies can play in closing the achievement gap, improving student engagement, and building creativity and nurturing innovative thinking skills.
Elizabeth AlexanderMay 11, 2011
06:05 PM EDT
Earlier today, Vice President Joe Biden visited Berkeley, Missouri – a St. Louis suburb severely damaged by a recent wave of tornadoes that swept through the area. The Vice President’s visit came on the heels of Missouri's disaster declaration – a step that will expedite federal assistance to the region as a result of severe storms, tornadoes and flooding.
Joined by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Berkeley Mayor Kyra Watson, Vice President Biden took a walking tour of one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, talking with local homeowners affected by the storms and pledging to help get “roofs back over their heads” as soon as possible. “We know people’s lives are disrupted … it’s all about giving people a shot to repair or relocate,” the Vice President said. “We get it, we understand it, and we’re on top of it.”
From Missouri to Alabama, rebuilding the homes, towns and cities devastated by tornadoes and floods and helping communities recover across the Midwest and the South is a “national responsibility,” said Vice President Biden.
Elizabeth Alexander is Press Secretary for the Vice President
Jesse LeeMay 11, 2011
05:50 PM EDT
The President took part in a town hall on the economy this afternoon, watch it when it airs at 8:00 AM Thursday on CBS.